I-TEAM: Scarred by the ugly side of beauty

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:05 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The owners of a local beauty school and adjoining Medi Spa are caught on camera by our I-TEAM packing up less than a week after we exposed complaints against the school.

We also uncovered weak enforcement from the state of Georgia.

We found both are costing students months out of their lives and thousands out of their bank accounts.

Students in the beauty business aren’t the only ones paying the price ... it can cost consumers too.

The owners of Bryan Sexton Esthetics Institute and Rosebay Medi Spa told us they’re moving to downtown Augusta, out of Columbia County, where they’re currently licensed to operate both businesses.

The Medi Spa offers everything from facials and massages to IV therapy and the occasional Botox party. We found the county has no record of a doctor on staff serving as a medical director over the spa - a legal requirement for some of those services.

Candice Harris still bears the scars from her time at Bryan Sexton Esthetics Institute. Emotionally scarred after entrusting the owners with her money and time. Physically scared after entrusting them with her skin.

She tells the I-TEAM she never got her money back. She never got her transcript from her time at the school.

And to this day, nearly a year and a half later, Candice’s arm is still discolored after she says the owner, her instructor, gave her a medical grade peel to try at home- without training or instruction.

“I felt like it was not right when my skin wasn’t like peeling at all,” Candice explains. “And it was just it was like a glue holding down, you know, the dead skin. It just would not.”

The I-TEAM uncovered Liz Bryan or Liz Sexton was not even a licensed esthetics instructor at the time Candice enrolled at her school.

“She is hurting people you know and it is not just students,” says Candice.

Megan Carter tells the I-TEAM she set an appointment for a facial at Rosebay Medi Spa last summer.

“I felt like that I had fire on my face. Like it was burning.”

Megan says Liz Bryan didn’t tell her she was doing a chemical peel until she put it on her face. “And I started to panic. So I hopped off the table, and I’m holding this thing on my eyes, and I am hysterical. I’m like, take this off my face. It’s burning like it hurts.”

Megan recalls there was a mirror right behind the checkout.

“And I look at it, and I can tell that it’s burned all around here… She hands me like this white unmarked jar of like some cream. She says she mixed up, and I’m like, what is it? And she’s like, well, is your post-peel stuff. And I’m like, yeah, but what is it? And she was like, well, I made it.”

Candice recalls similar products.

“It was her product that she formulated and at the time and I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was kind of weird she was putting her own labels on it. I would go in and help her for extra hours.”

Megan, still trusting Liz Bryan, says she took the unmarked product home and started using it on her face. “It is not helping. Like it’s if anything, it’s making it worse.”

Megan showed the I-TEAM where she sent messages and pictures to Liz Bryan on Facebook Messenger when Bryan stopped returning her text messages.

“Do you see what’s happening? Is this normal? Like what is happening?”

“And she was like, well, my doctor will have to write you a prescription for like a medical grade hydroquinone like lightning cream,” recalls Megan. “And I was like, okay, when is the doctor going to do that? She was like, well, I don’t know the doctor’s schedule.”

Megan then went to see her doctor. “He walks in the room, and he’s like, yeah, your face is burned. And I’m just like, really? And he’s like, yeah, it’s burned. Yeah, all right here. Yeah, it’s burned.”

Krystina Carrino is a licensed massage therapist, esthetician, and esthetics instructor. She’s also the owner of Le Salon Day Spa.

“If your skin’s not properly prepped for some of these products, you can cause burning and flaking and hyperpigmentation and things that not going to go away,” Krystina explains.

Krystina took Rachel Jackson as an apprentice after the former student of Bryan Sexton Esthetics Institute graduated in 2021.

“I love Rachel to death, but her first facial, I cringed and she’s well, that’s how Elizabeth taught us.”

Only after spending thousands of dollars and months at the school did Rachel learn her instructor, Liz Bryan, was not licensed to teach. Which meant her students did not qualify to take the state board exam after graduation.

Rachel recalls her experience.

“How are we supposed to learn products and how to use products and how they’re working if nothing is labeled? We’re just going off of what she tells us. She used this one for one, use this one for the second cleanse. You know, we’re just doing what she told us.”

And there’s more. Candice recalls doing Botox parties with Liz Bryan at the school/spa. She says there was no doctor present.

The I-TEAM found the state Medical Composite board requires a medical director, meaning a doctor, to oversee Medi Spas offering services like Botox and fillers.

Candice says in her time, she “never” saw a doctor there.

Megan also was unsure of a doctor there. “I mean, to this day, I have no idea what this doctor’s name is. I haven’t heard from the doctor.”

The I-TEAM asked for the name of the medical director at Rosebay Medi Spa.  Columbia County told us there is no doctor listed in the county’s records.

The I-TEAM found a special posted on Rosebay’s Facebook page in October.

Krystina has serious questions after reviewing our findings. “And so why is she still open? I don’t I don’t even know. I don’t know. I do not understand.”

The I-TEAM’s Liz Owens spotted the owners in the process of moving last week.

Liz Owens: “Hi, Liz.”

Liz Sexton: “Hi.”

Liz Owens: “Where y’all going to?”

Liz Sexton: “Umm buying a building downtown.”

We found the school and spa nearly empty when we went there again this week.

Liz Owens: “The county told me there was not doctor serving as a medical director here even though Botox has been offered.”

Dwayne Sexton: “Alright.”

Liz Owens: “I was just giving you guys a chance to respond or…”

Dwayne Sexton: “I have nothing for you.”

Liz Owens: “You don’t? Okay.”

Dwyane Sexton: “I mean you’re an investigative reporter… besides you just fill in the gaps when you don’t know what’s going on.”

We don’t know where the owners are going. Google now lists a new address for Rose Bay Medi Spa.

But they do not own this boarded-up building on Broad Street. The I-TEAM checked business licenses too. But all we found was an old application from 2019.

And we have this response from Richmond County, “No payment was received. No permit was ever issued.”

“She completely disappeared off the face of the earth,” says Megan frustrated. “When I left that day, she was gone.”

Leaving behind a trail of clients and students scarred by the ugly side of beauty.

Former students tell the I-TEAM an investigator with the state’s Attorney General’s Office contacted them a few days after our previous investigation into the beauty business aired on Jan. 19, 2023. Carrino also told our LIz Owens an investigator reached out to her too.

Carrino’s massage therapy license was flagged by the state after she took on Liz Bryan’s former student, Rachel Jackson. The state told her Bryan filed a complaint against her. Our first investigation into the Ugly Side of Beauty aired in December.

You can look up licensed Estheticians here. You can check laser and medical licenses here.