Q&A: Dermalogica CEO Aurelian Lis

Aurelian Lis was made chief executive of Dermalogica in January 2016 and has big plans to breathe some fun and theatre into the trusted skincare company. After five years at cult make-up brand Benefit Cosmetics, as general manager of the Americas, and as a self-confessed “nerdy physicist with a love for cosmetics”, he could be just the man to take the brand to the next level.

What attracted you to take the CEO role at Dermalogica?
The loyalty consumers have to the skincare therapists and the brand is what makes it exciting because that gives me such a strong base to build on. You can actually be more innovative with a brand that’s got trust and a history than with a new brand.

Also, I may have spent a few years in the make-up world, but before that I had my own skincare company [medical line Prescribed Solutions], and having studied physics, I’ve always loved the scientific side of skincare. Skincare brings science and emotion together more than any category I know; it’s a very exciting place.

What new product development can we expect from Dermalogica in 2017?
We’re drastically increasing the amount of innovation. Our commitment is to launch at least four major product innovations each year. In recent years it’s been more like one or two. One of the new things that’s quite exciting about these launches is they will be simultaneous in the UK and the US.

Therapists told us, ‘We want to know about newness the moment you have it; we don’t want to hear about it through customers who read about it online’, so Phyto Replenish launched on September 1 on the same day in both countries. That was the first, and the next [Daily Superfoliant] we announced on December 15 at 5pm.

There’s a lot of structure – I’ve got German background, I’m a bit Teutonic. Then every quarter we’ll be launching one new product that uses the new levels of research we have access to at Unilever [which acquired Dermalogica in 2015].

One area we’re working on now is the concept that over-exfoliation causes inflammation, which leads to ageing – we call it ‘inflammageing’. We already have products, such as Daily Microfoliant, that help, but there will be more products on the way targeting that.

What about developments in treatments?
On an annual basis, therapists can expect to see at least two major service innovations a year by 2018. One new concept, which is being piloted in 20 locations in the UK and 30 in the US, is called Facefit. It’s a 10-minute treatment for £10 and is a fun way to bring a bit of theatre to the salon or store. The first one was flash hydration, next is dewy skin, and we’ll change those seasonally.

It’s about the concept of coming outside the treatment room. If you’ve got a bit of excitement going on up the front then you’ve got chances to upsell into your longer treatments.

What changes do you think we’ll see in the salon market as a whole next year?
There’s a role for the therapist in public, so this idea of bringing therapists out into the retail area or a less private place is a big trend. Other retailers in non-beauty sectors now are hiring therapists, too. I’ve seen stats that say by 2020 there will be a 25% increase in jobs for therapists, so education becomes even more important, to get good people through.

Meanwhile, loyalty is becoming increasingly important as consumers have more choice. You sell a product and one out of four customers will come back to you; sell a service and one in three will return, but if you sell products and services together than two out of three will come back. So, as loyalty becomes integral to the individual customer relationship, it really is vital that we help therapists to retail.