The products are used by over 100,000 skincare professionals in over 100 countries worldwide.

By Erin Lukas
Updated Dec 17, 2019 @ 6:45 pm
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Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.

If a serum is a staple product in your skincare routine, you can thank Dermalogica for that. When the professional skincare brand launched in 1986, it introduced serums to U.S.-based skin specialists. "When we introduced serums, we made them slightly thicker and more silky by using more humectants in the formulas," says Dermalogica founder Jane Wurwand. "At the time, U.S. skin therapists were using manual techniques like massage rather than electrical currents."

With a background in skincare education, Wurwand quickly noticed the lack of training available to skin therapists when she moved to the U.S. from South Africa in 1983. By the end of that year, she opened the International Dermal Institute in Marina Del Rey, Calif. to provide extensive education to skincare professionals. Three years later, Wurwand created Dermalogica as a response to her students asking, "What products should I use in my salon?" Today, the brand's professional-grade products are used by over 100,000 skin therapists in over 100 countries worldwide, and are also available at major beauty retailers like Sephora.

Here, we caught up with Wurwand to chat about how the internet has changed the way people get educated on skincare, how she approaches making products for both professional and personal use, why she hates the word "beauty," and more.

Tell me how you got your start in the industry.

My career started when I got my first Saturday job when I was 13 years old. I worked at a local hair salon doing the laundry and getting everyone lunch. It wasn't glamorous, but I fell in love with the industry. When I finished high school, I went straight to studying skincare to get a beautician’s license. The two-year training program covered theology and chemistry and included a one-year apprenticeship. I also got my teaching credentials, too. Then, I moved to the U.S. with my husband in 1983. We landed in California where there was very few skincare salons. I realized pretty quickly that skin therapists in the U.S. weren’t receiving the same extensive training as in Europe. I saw there was an opportunity to fill this gap in education by opening a training center, so I founded the International Dermal Institute. At the time, only seven out of the 50 states even had licenses, so people were flying in to get trained.

Pretty quickly students were asking me what products to use. There were no salon-professional American skincare products so they were using European products they were shipping in and paying import taxes. In 1986 we launched the Dermalogica skincare line, and it pretty much took off right away because all of these students now needed a product line to use in the salons they were working in.

How have you seen skincare education change in the U.S., especially with the internet? People turn to Reddit and Facebook groups for skincare advice rather than seeing a professional.

As with anything, there’s great information and poor information out there. I think the internet is a great resource because we can reach people instantly and provide professional training online. But, there’s no substitute for a professional seeing your skin and talking to you about it. We introduced a free program called Face Mapping where you can have your skin analyzed by a licensed skin therapist and get products recommended to you based on your skin type and concerns. The skin is an individual living organ and you can’t treat it like a commodity and guess what’s right for your skin or buy what your friends are buying. It’s changing everyday, so the products you were using a few months ago might not work because its needs can vary from season to season.

How has starting off as an education company influenced your approach to making skincare products?

It affects everything. When we develop products, the first person using it is the skin therapist in the salon. For example, because double cleansing is the professional way of cleansing, we had to formulate cleansers that can stay in contact long enough with the skin during a 10-minute cleansing session, but can also be used for 30 seconds by a consumer in their bathroom. Our products are developed for professional use, but when our skin therapists sell them to clients, they’ll get results. If not, those clients won’t come back.

Why do you hate the word beauty?

I don’t like the objectification of people — especially women. The idea of pretty or phrases like “half day of beauty” trivializes our work and it’s not true. It also tends to be gender and age-specific. I had so many conversations with clients while working behind the chair who were suffering from conditions like acne or rosacea and the word was so damaging to them. They would ask me to help them because they didn't feel they could be beautiful, and my heart would break. The word is used in a way that’s so “othering.” I made a determination early in my career that I wasn’t going to use that word applied to people, especially women. I think it’s time to let it go. I can’t believe we’re still using it in this context!

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What Dermalogica products are you most proud of?

It’s a bit like naming your favorite child. To someone who’s never used the line, I always recommend a product that delivers quick, almost immediate results, but will also change their skin with continued use over time. We have several of those products, but one of my all-time favorites is the Daily Microfoliant. It’s a powder exfoliant we developed 15 years ago, yet it’s still always in our top three best-sellers and has won multiple awards. It exfoliates skin thoroughly so you really see a difference in one use. Since it’s powder, it’s completely stable, long-lasting, and easy to tavel with. Like all of our products, it has a tactile element because our brand comes from the birthplace of human touch.