Cosmetics marketing pro extolls medical advancesBeeswax lipstick? No, thank you.
Facelift in a jar? Why, yes.
Patent-pending lotion? Better.
The latest cosmetics make use of science by employing labs, launch parties at plastic surgeons’ offices and distribution at dermatology clinics and pharmacies.
For years, make-up was sold with emotional pitches. But with science-based cosmetics on the rise, skin care is increasingly being presented as a logical approach based on thorough research, although the skeptics still doubt many of the claims. Just browse at a typical department store cosmetics counter. More and more lotions use patented ingredients.
Lee Young-hee is one of the visionaries in “medicinal” cosmetics. The 38-year-old general manager of the active cosmetics division of L’Oreal Korea is one of only two Korean women on the 14-member L’Oreal management committee here. The rest are French or Korean men.
After earning a masters degree in advertising and marketing at Northwestern University in the United States, Ms. Lee worked for Leo Burnett, a Chicago-based advertising agency. She was transferred to Korea and was successively lured away to Unilever Korea, then to S.C. Johnson Korea and then to L’Oreal.
She now manages a staff of 36, with equal numbers of men and women. With their help, she oversees Vichy and La Roche-Posay, two medicinal cosmetics brands in the L’Oreal stable. Vichy is distributed through pharmacies and La Roche-Posay through dermatologists. There are 48 products in the Vichy line. La Roche has 32.
The JoongAng Daily spoke with Ms. Lee about her work in the active cosmetics division of L’Oreal.
What is behind the rise of medicinal cosmetics?
Consumers are becoming more specific and more demanding. There’s a small market for women who prize value. We know it’s a small sector, but we don’t want to miss those women.
Also, competition is heavy. The cosmetics industry is saturated with image and packaging. In order to make it happen, you have to have technology. At L’Oreal, three percent of total revenue goes back into research and development.
How do Vichy and La Roche-Posay differ?
Vichy is for healthy skin, and based on spring water from Vichy, France. La Roche-Posay is for problem skin, and comes recommended by dermatologists. Even the classifications sound serious ― acne skin, sensitive skin, photo-sensitive skin.
What the two have in common is a rational campaign. Cosmetics has long been about dreams and hopes. Women have their own dreams, and they are each different.
What is it like as a Korean working for a French company?
Culturally, the values are different from the values that I grew up with. L’Oreal has a strong French color, but there’s also a L’Oreal color that I had to adapt to. But I came on board toward the beginning of Vichy’s launch, so I helped make the rules of the game and how to play. We have to change ourselves or we will be changed by external factors.
What is it like as a woman?
The cosmetics industry desperately needs women managers like myself. Cosmetics are used every day by women. We really understand the consumer.
What’s your work philosophy?
People very often say I must be very aggressive in terms of career development, but I’m rather a simple person. I enjoy the current moment. I never look back on the past. I always do my best to fulfil my life today
Will vanity disappear?
No. Make-up is a ritual for women, especially Korean women. The day begins with you sitting in front of the mirror applying toner then essence ... You cannot take that away.
There’s technology, but there’s hope. Women dream and hope to be beautiful.
by Joe Yong-hee
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