When Dermalogica founder Jane Wurwand came to the U.S. in the ’80s, going to an esthetician and embracing a multi-step skin-care routine were almost unheard of for the average customer. Born in Edinburgh and raised for most of her life in England, she was inspired by the skin-care industry in Europe. She set out to change the U.S. market, and her brand Dermalogica was born in 1986. On Tuesday, she released her first book with HarperCollins called “Skin in the Game,” reflecting on her life, career and experience turning Dermalogica into the skin-care behemoth that was acquired for an undisclosed amount by Unilever.
Glossy spoke to Wurwand at Dermalogica’s L.A.-based headquarters to hear her thoughts on the book’s inspiration, the history of professional skincare in the U.S. and the pandemic’s effect on the industry. This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
What inspired you to write the book?
“Two or three years ago, I decided I wanted to write a book. I could write a skin-care book, but someone else could write that. [So] I wanted to write a book about, ‘How do you make a major reset in your life?’ You’re doing something you feel just isn’t right [and thinking], ‘I should be doing more, I should be doing it differently. But I don’t really have the tools. I don’t know what I should be doing.’ How do you find that bigger ‘Why’ of what you want to do?
It’s not really a memoir, and it’s not just a business book. The whole thing is about, how do you reset where you’re going in your life and in your career? And how do you dare risk and grow, which is my mantra as an entrepreneur? I think it’s absolutely prescient for people who are thinking, ‘I don’t want to go back to a new normal. I want to go to my new next.’”
Who is the audience?
“I don’t like to be too gender-specific, but predominantly women. I’ve spent my life in an industry that’s 98% women, so I tend to always think in that way. But [I was also] thinking of a person that was at a stage in their life or career, where they said, ‘It’s not that I’m doing badly; I’m doing OK. I just don’t think this is my biggest idea. I don’t think this is my biggest life. It’s comfortable; it’s not scary. But I don’t feel it’s everything I could be.’ If you’re having that thought, I wrote the book so that you can explore that and see if there is something else.”
Do you think a lot of women are currently rethinking their careers and looking for advice like this?
“For quite a long time, people, especially women, have been unhappy with the lack of flexibility their careers have given them. What’s happened now is those people have said, ‘You know what? I’m not going back to that. I want to have time with my family, I want to have time with my kids, I want to have time for me. And I also want to have more flexibility in where I work and what time I will work.’
The key element [moving forward] is going to be, ‘Can I live my life?’ And forget work-life balance, because that is a binary and a separation. I really think we’re in an industrial revolution that started before the pandemic. But the pandemic gave us that shove.”
How has the pandemic changed professional skincare?
“Salons outperformed any of our retail channels. We’re in Ulta. We’re in Sephora. We’re in retail channels around the world where there is a skin therapist or someone to advise professionally, but none of them were open for services. And even though many of our independent salons were not open for services, they showed growth in their product sales because they were doing virtual consultations. When we come through this, we’re going to see more skin-care salons adding this virtual element. And it’s going to change our industry for the better.”
In the book, you go into the history of professional skincare. How did you aim to bring the U.S. market up to speed with Europe at the start of your career?
“[I wanted] to create the industry that I’ve been trained in and to fill the gap between a few hundred hours of training, which was standard [for estheticians in the U.S.], and the two-year, full-time training with an apprenticeship that was standard in Europe.
At the time, if you opened up a [U.S] magazine, there was never a skin-care article. It was all makeup, it was all hair. I would go to pitch editors, and they would say, “Yeah, every few months, we run something on skin care, but never on professional skincare. ‘Is that really a thing? Do people really do that?’ Most of the states didn’t have a license. So the first years of the brand, we were very grassroots, word of mouth. We just kept plugging away with sharing the information, seeding the product and teaching at every trade show booth we could.”
When did the multi-step skin-care routine become mainstream?
“Not soon enough. We launched with the double cleanse, then we launched with products called serums, and boosters. And we took a lot of heat for [around] 15 years. People kept saying, ‘No one understands the word serum. What are you talking about? That’s like body fluid. What does that mean?’
I used to teach extensively in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. And when I first went to teach in South Korea, which was in about 1985, the multi-step Korean skin-care routine was not in place; there was a very nascent industry. The multi-layering routine came into the mainstream maybe 10 years ago, [though] people might think it was five years ago. And thank goodness, [because] we can finally be understood for what we’re doing. What really helped was the internet and social media. People went online and showed how they were using [products] and what they would do. There was this [new] idea of not covering up skin irregularities with makeup products — and actually treating the issue and not the side effect.”