Dermalogica’s Jane Wurwand’s New Book Is a Must for Skin-Care Enthusiasts

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The way we approach skin care today is so vastly different any other time in the past, one might wonder when our obsession became so intense. While we might have middle school students today who can recite their multi-step routine without hesitation, that wasn’t always the way. We can trace back the cultural shift from barely knowing the basics to understanding how to treat our specific skin type to the late the 80s, when pioneers like Dermalogica founder Jane Wurwand set out to help others learn more about their skin health.

In 1983 Jane Wurwand arrived to U.S. with her husband Raymond and found a void for skin-care education. Within just three years, after not finding a place for professional skin therapists, they started Dermalogica and the International Dermal Institute together with just $14,000 of self funding. In her new book, Skin In the Game: Everything You Need Is Already Inside You, she revisits that timeframe and reflects on how she built a cult-favorite brand from the ground up while promoting education for both aestheticians and their clients around the world. Here, Wurwand shares with us her biggest takeaways and how she’s seen the industry change since she began following her dreams more than 40 years ago.

Back in the 80s, skin-care options were so limited. We were using things like St. Ives Apricot Scrub and Noxzema no matter what our skin type was. Now, we’ve had this cultural shift where people are more invested in knowing what they’re using and how it works. What’s it like being a part of that shift?

“As always, there’s the very best of education out there and there is the very worst of education out there. You must have a certain level of knowledge to be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff. I remember when I came here, Bonne Bell was really popular. Preparation H was being used as a face cream and dermatologists were recommending putting Crisco on your skin after a dermabrasion. I remember, Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion 3 had acetone listed as the second ingredient. I would tell my students, if you’re using Clearasil, don’t smoke!

There was also the department store, the salon, and then Avon and Mary Kay. It was all so neatly packaged into those boxes, but everything was everywhere. Education today is much more complete. There’s so much more good information out there. It’s like anything, there’s food and there’s fine dining. Even if using the Crisco is your thing, you do you. You have to find out what works for your body and your face. It’s the ritualization of the application of the product—it’s ancient, it’s traditional and every single culture in the world has that ritualization with touch. I think that’s magical and that’s certainly where my heart lies. It’s the same stuff, it’s just different plumbing. It’s just bigger because we’ve got it on the internet now and it’s more widespread. There’s always been the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Why was it important to write a book? You have such a great following who you speak to frequently. Why a book and why now?

“I wanted to get the story down about what the entrepreneurial journey was like and especially how Dermalogica got started. I wanted to write a love letter to the industry. First, I thought maybe I’ll do a coffee table book, which is not about the story, but a visual book. However, I had a student, Susie, who’ve I mentored over the years and one day at lunch she said to me, what do you think about starting a podcast? She said, ‘Jane, I was there when there were only 12 of us in a room when you started teaching in Marina Del Ray, and what you taught us was to be strong and to have courage. We all took serious notes, but I wish that everyone could have been in that room with the 12 of us.’ And then she sent me Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, and I was inspired. I started writing and as I got into it, I started to really enjoy the process and I realized, I want to write this for everyone, whether you’re starting a business, or you just want to be entrepreneur. I want it to be something that hopefully helps someone go forward and grow and when people read it, they say, ‘Oh, so that’s how it’s done.’ I see it as putting the baton into the next hand, something that’s concrete and real that can get passed to the next level.”

I love this story in the book about the other hair-care brand that tried to stop you from using the name Dermalogica.

“Yes, if their threats came a little earlier, we would have changed the name, but we had had everything designed and approved and so when they came to us with this, it was too late to change it. We had 25,000 tubes with the name already printed on them. We were terrified, and we weren’t Proctor & Gamble, so we could not take another path and start over. So, literally, without realizing it was a strategy, we waited them out and did not have to change the name after all.”

Do you still have that same passion for skin-care ingredients and formulating, or is your passion for helping other entrepreneurs with your FOUND/LA organization your primary focus?

“I’ve always received great blessing from the industry, and I feel a responsibility to give back to my community by helping others achieve their dreams. But I’m more excited now about skin-care formulations than I ever was. Actually, I’m a bit bummed I’m not becoming a skin therapist now. I remember talking to the people I worked with saying I wish I could specialize in just eczema and dermatitis, or cystic acne. Now I could! I could work with the dermatologists and nutritionists, and I could do consultations, virtually. I would only take the clients that are the most challenging because I’m interested in the people that are at their wit’s end and really need a partner to bring their skin back to optimum help. Now, we have more information on how the human biome is so critical to how it all works and our is impacted by the damage to the gut. So I feel more excited about all of that now.

I am 63 and I must define the different ways that can be sharing my knowledge. It’s never been a better time to get into this industry because we are the antidote to the breakdown in connection. We’re connected electronically but that causes an opposite effect, the demand for in-person connection and touch is at an all-time high.”

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