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SoChic Stories

Interview with Rupert Schmid, Co-Chairman of Biologique Recherche

May the quintessence of my passionate years of hard work and research serve as a tribute to the beauty that you embody.
Yvan Allouche, Biologique Recherche founder

What is Biologique Recherche’s story? How it started?

Biologique Recherche started 45 years ago. It was created by Dr Allouche’s parents, his mother was a physiotherapist and his father was a biochemist. 45 years ago, the French cosmetics industry was more or less not existing, L’Oréal just started to grow and at that time a lot of companies were offering a couple of products to the market and what we now call the spa business started to grow too. The problem was that professionals, therapists, and nurses had no product to work with. So Yvan and Josette Allouche, at the same time, were doing treatments and were able to create some products. It started with them, 45 years ago, when they started to create some products for the professionals. Over the years, we have created more than 100 products for the face and the face business is representing a large part of our own business, but we also have products for body and hair. However, even if I am talking about products, at the end of the day what we are offering are treatments which can be fulfilled in spa and need to be also done at home.

The real business is not just getting a treatment at the spa, the real business and the real important thing is how you take care of your skin every morning and every evening. When you do that, there is a real product consumption to hotels spas, medical spas and doctors. The guests are not only always able to buy products, but they get a real personalize advice and diagnosis. It’s when they start to understand the need of their own skin and that is when you can personalize. You always need to personalize your skin’s needs or what we call the Skin Instant. This is what Biologique Recherche offers, it’s the essence of the business, it’s what we have grown over for the past 45 years.

15 years ago, Pierre-Louis Delapalme and myself would took over the business in partnership with Dr Allouche to grow Biologique Recherche. Philippe Allouche is the genius creator and doctor but to be successful in the business, you not only need to be a genius but you also need to have some management and financial skills especially when you are working in a brand that requires a lot of long-term investments.

What are the values and missions of the brand?

What we want to achieve is to enable everyone to have the healthiest skin. 10 years ago, we would say to have a better skin but now we say the healthiest skin because we consider that this is the way to have a long-term great skin. To achieve that, we need to grow on 3 pillars:

Having the best R&D team, knowing that it’s not fundamental research. We are working with research institutes in France and all over the world to take the best of the fundamental research to apply to the cosmetics business. This is something we have done very successfully because there are some products that we have which nobody else has in terms of ingredients and formulation. 2 examples are that Biologique Recherche was the first company to create a slightly exfoliating lotion which is called P50 and before this product, no cosmetics company had it and now every cosmetics company have the slightly exfoliating lotion as it helps the skin to renew. We also have a Second Skin product mask which no one on the market has because it’s very low molecular Hyaluronic Acid so it helps to fill the wrinkles without any injection.
The second pillar is education. We are not selling directly to the public; we want to educate the public. We, ourselves, want to educate our network. We are present in more than 80 countries and more than 3000 spas so we consider that we have more than 3000 therapists all around the world to educate as we need them to be the skin experts to be able to work with our brand.
The third pillar is to have a strong brand. It’s about what we want to achieve: to enable our guests to have the healthiest skin possible.

How is ‘human capital’ important to Biologique Recherche?

We believe that without people, you do nothing. First of all, the people within the company are the people who are building, keeping, growing the company alive. We really believe that, at the end of the day, they are the sore asset we have. We have the brand name and we have our people. People working with Biologique Recherche in our HQ in Paris and our subsidiaries are people we try to take care of in a lot of different ways. This is key and we do it in many ways: emotionally, ethically and financially. Then our first goal when working with us, is to educate them because if we educate them, they will be long-term sustainable and self-empowered and this is true for each therapist.

We are also very active in NGOs. In Africa, we sponsor a cosmetics school in Benin where we have zero market so it is pure help, mostly for girls who have to grow out from poverty and be self-sustainable. ‘Human capital’ so people, are everything to the company and it should be the same in every company, sometimes people forget.

What makes Biologique recherche special and unique?

Cosmetics business is a huge jungle. Each time I go to a store, I discover new brands but some of them are trendy and the thing is you are trendy until you fall back again into the big jungle. Most of them are driven by retail, overinvesting in communication and we do exactly the opposite. We have never invested in communication, we do not buy advertising pages but we do invest a lot in education.

What makes us special is our network of therapists. These people around the world are the ones who know the most the skin and how the skin is working and due to this, they can give you top advice and prescriptions. Each treatment in the spa or at home is personalized. People now are willing to be more responsible and healthier so we help them to pursue that way and we help them with our own product because we believe in our products. This is what makes us different, as each of us is unique and we want to address each person with its unique DNA, way of thinking, habits and skin and offer them the most personalized treatment. Another thing is that we are consistent worldwide. Most of the brands have slightly different positioning in different countries but being consistent worldwide give you a unique strength as you do not have to think about the different persons with who you are talking to. We only talk to professionals working in spas and it means that our packaging is fairly simple.

Val Tan, Director of the MBS retail store added: We have a very unique protocol. We believe in preparing the skin before treatment in a unique way and it’s a special protocol that other brands don’t have compared to Biologique Recherche. We have a totally different concept and technique that we follow and do on customers.

Does Biologique Recherche engage any actions in terms of sustainability?

We take a lot of different actions. We are the first company member of the Global Compact, the first cosmetics company adapting all our treatments for people who have cancer and for 5 years now, we are also probably the first company paying back all our CO2 emissions done by travels to an NGO to rebuild the forest and it was in Brazil last year. At the end of the day, it’s a state of mind, it’s how each person in the company take care of details. If you look at cosmetics companies 5 years ago, very few had a CSR report, even listed cosmetics and wellness companies had no CSR report. Biologique Recherche had done it without even being force to do it and 5 years ago nobody was aware like now. It’s in our DNA and one of the reasons is the average age in our company which was 34 years old last year. It’s a very young company and everyone is motivated by taking care of the planet which is wonderful.

What are your well-known products?

Lotion P50 is an iconic product worldwide but so are Crème Masque Vernix and Masque Vivant. These are our world-class favourites and Seconde Peau is a very powerful well-known treatment used by doctors all over the world, especially in Singapore, it’s the top and the best with an immediate result.

Why did you choose to open a store in Singapore?

Val Tan answered: We really wanted to do a retail store like a VIP concept for our guests who actually purchase our products. We are the first in Singapore that have a full test and bar because a lot of them often like to know how the texture of the Biologique Recherche’s products is as we have so many products for all skin types. In a way, Biologique Recherche’s products are very addictive. Once you start your first treatment, you want the second, the third and so on. The problem is, when they want to start the other treatments, they want to feel the products first and not many of them would like to invest in testers so our store in Singapore actually have these free testers to let our customers come and really try and feel the products. We also have a new exclusive centre where we are closely following every step of the protocol original from France.

Mr Schmid added: It’s the first retail store opened by our distributor. Having a flagship store with Biologique Recherche on the door really elevates the awareness of the brand in the city and the country. The idea is to have a Biologique Recherche store in all the major cities of the world like this one in Marina Bay Sands even though our real business is with spas.

What is the strategy going forward with geographical expansion?

We are already in more than 80 countries so we have no hole left. Actually, we are not in Mongolia yet but we will have a flagship store in Ulaanbaatar in the beginning of next year so we’re already very present worldwide. The challenge is to grow the different markets worldwide to be consistent with the DNA of the brand and it requires efforts, contacts and training.

Thank you Mr Schmid and Val for your time and this interview! – So Chic Team

French Shopping, Dining & Lifestyle guide in Singapore