Skin Chic reflects on a humble history

Cindy Duncan and Jennifer Clouse don’t believe the rumor that beauty is solely skin deep, despite their devotion to dermal aesthetics and care. 

As co-owners of Skin Chic, located in the Southgate Mall, Cindy and Jennifer have made it their life’s work to help bring a person’s natural radiant glow to the epidermal surface. 

From day one, Skin Chic’s goal has been unwavering: exfoliate, unclog, peel, and reveal. 

In 2001, Cindy founded Skin Chic with the unique ambition of creating a “living beauty magazine.” Her vision took the shape of a walk-in boutique spa that doubled as a hub for trustworthy information on skincare, a professional space to consult before seeking a prescription.

“You go to the bookstore and you read twelve different beauty magazines telling you twelve different things,” explained Cindy. “I wanted Skin Chic to be an accessible place for everyone to get education on skincare without sacrificing our quality.”

Skin Chic’s initial downtown location covered the living beauty magazine concept in every way aside from accessibility. Located in the Hammond building’s interior L-shaped shopping arcade, Skin Chic was a windowless, 400 square-foot boutique that lacked the foot-traffic exposure granted to Higgins’ street-side shops.

So, Cindy got creative.

While the current Southgate Mall location is known for walk-ins, Cindy had to take Skin Chic to the streets to get the word out in the early days. By applying Iron Horse waitresses’ makeup and offering makeovers at Runner’s Edge marathons, Cindy elevated her small business’ organic word-of-mouth status, allowing her to eventually move across Hammond’s hallway to a larger space, roughly 1,800 square feet, overlooking Higgins, the current location for Mary’s Mountain Cookies.

From Hammond’s hidden building hallway to Higgins street-side, Skin Chic’s own inner beauty emerged, attracting Skin Chic’s current co-owner Jennifer Clouse.

“When I moved to Missoula from Spokane in 2007,” Jennifer explained, “I looked for esthetic work, and I saw the only boutique that had ‘skin’ in its name.”

“She walked in and I stole her immediately,” Cindy added with a laugh.

Soon after, Cindy and Jennifer moved the boutique’s location to the Southgate Mall, introduced medical services to Skin Chic, involved staff nurses and trained estheticians, and opened the Montana Skin Academy, a much-needed esthetic school in Missoula that would give aspiring aestheticians a place to get a hands-on education locally.

Having worked with local models, photographers, and florists, such as Jennifer Horsley of Habitat, Skin Chic has become a staple of the Missoula community since opening eighteen years ago.

And now here we are.

In retelling Skin Chic’s history, Cindy spoke in what she playfully referred to as “Cindy Lou-Lou” language—a joyful verbiage that revealed her breezy, fun, Florida origins.

“I’m always two streets over, never right on,” Cindy jokingly self-deprecated.

To me, the Cindy Lou-Lou dialect is less a grammatical, verbal shift than an enthusiastic, giddy tone. That sunny, infectious intonation that overtakes a voice when someone describes something they love—that’s the essence of the Cindy Lou-Lou language. It’s attractive and a verbal advertisement for what Skin Chic is at its very core: genuine.

Jennifer shared Cindy’s enthusiasm, especially when discussing the nature of her work.

“I know that people need their alone time to recharge from work,” Jennifer explained, “but coming here is my ‘alone time,’ so to speak.”

Cindy and Jennifer liken their staff to a “big family,” and they prefer to work together than compete for clients. This has a splash effect on the Missoula community at large. Rather than safeguard their proprietary secrets from each other and from other businesses, Skin Chic offers free medical consultations and makeup education to their clients.

They even help the Montana Skin Academy’s entrepreneurial students with their business plans.

“We’re here to support Missoula’s esthetic community,” Jennifer explained. “If we’re training our competition, that’s okay.”

“The more you give, the more you get,” Cindy confirmed.

As an ultra-hip medical spa that grew from a small, hidden, windowless boutique, Skin Chic has done what they promised to the community, and that’s drawing inner beauty to the surface. 

This summer, Skin Chic looks to grow further, returning to its downtown roots with the opening of the company’s second location in the new Mercantile building.