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How She Did It: Jane Wurwand, Founder of Dermalogica and Natalie Byrne of FITE Trigger World Change for Women Through Skin Care

Choosing a skincare line to use can be daunting. With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to discern which regime will best improve your skin and not harm your health. 

Thankfully, Jane Wurwand literally disrupted the professional skin care industry and made the maintenance of our skin that much easier when she launched the product line Dermalogica, which is now revered as the number one choice of skin care professionals worldwide.

With products that are used in more than 100 countries, the UK born skin therapist was able to revolutionize the industry through focusing on skin health as opposed to just beauty. Rejecting the pressure to push for fancy packaging, she instead placed focus on the education of licensed professional skin care therapists through the creation of the International Dermal Institute, whose students would then be able to provide top notch guidance for consumers when it came to product selection. 

Taking her entrepreneurial vision to empower and improve the lives of women on an international level one step further, she and her team established the foundation FITE (Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship) which enables women to realize their own entrepreneurial dreams. Through providing funding and education to women who might not otherwise have access to tools necessary to transform their dreams into a reality, the organization is breaking down barriers and helping thousands of fabulous women realize their full potential. Hillary Clinton has even taken notice of the tremendous efforts of Dermalogica and FITE, and their impact is only growing stronger. 

In a recent interview, MOGUL had the chance to sit down with Jane Wurwand and Natalie Byrne, Director of Global Impact at Dermalogica, to discuss their inspirational paths and the significance of increasing career opportunities for girls across the globe. 

Jane Wurwand, Founder of Dermalogica and Natalie Byrne, Director of Global Impact at Dermalogica

MOGUL: Jane, what inspired you to found the leading skin care company Dermalogica? Had you always had an interest in this area?

Jane Wurwand: At a very young age, my practical English mum told me that it was important that I learn how to “DO” something. My mother was a skilled nurse and had instilled in me the importance of vocational skillset training. So I always knew I would choose any industry where I would need to use my hands.

My very first job was coincidentally my first introduction to the professional salon industry and how I began my career. At the age of 13, I was hired by a local salon in my neighborhood in the UK as a “Saturday Girl.” This job consisted of me sweeping up hair cuttings from the floor, picking through vast boxes of hair cuttings and retrieving the hundreds of hair-pins, which were then disinfected and re-used. When I was promoted to shampoo girl, I was over the moon!

Ever since my first job as a “Saturday Girl,” I knew professional skin care was the industry I was meant to be in and I’ve never looked back. This industry, which is comprised of 98% women, opens more economic opportunities for women than any other. This fact alone makes me incredibly proud to be a part of this ‘Tribe.’ I also know that when someone’s skin is in its optimum health and condition, we can literally ‘face the world’ with more confidence and courage. The fact that so many people around the world, more than 100 countries, trust their skin health to Dermalogica, gives us a huge sense of responsibility.

Jane Wurwand reveals how her mother was a huge inspiration in her life and how she helped shape her into who she is today.

MOGUL: Jane, what was your plan of action once you decided to launch the company and what tactics did you use to build the brand into an internationally recognized product line?

Wurwand: My plan of action has always been and will continue to be focused on our core founding principle, which is to bring respect and support to the professional skin therapist by providing the industry’s gold standard education and creating skin care products that deliver results. We do not rely on salespeople or expensive packaging to impart our message; we rely on the expertise of licensed professional skin therapists. This is the critical point of difference that distinguishes Dermalogica from other skin care brands. Our educational programs are the bedrock of our success and we train our Skin Therapists to be the best in the industry.

With this basis, early on we made the decision that Dermalogica would not buy advertising space or air-time in consumer media. We received a lot of push back from advertising firms who wanted to represent us. But in order to maintain our authenticity and be true to our core mission, we had to defy the norm. Instead, we staked out a unique piece of territory, claimed it and owned it, without spending one dollar on paid consumer advertising.  We achieved market dominance by identifying ourselves with skilled professionals who are passionate about skin health. This is why Dermalogica has been the world’s number one professional skin care brand for 30 years.

Jane Wurwand goes into her day-to-day operations as founder of Dermalogica, and reveals how she tests each product before it goes to market.

MOGUL: Jane, what was the process of launching FITE, and how do you envision the initiative growing over the next few years?

Wurwand: As with the development of the Dermalogica brand, the formation of the idea for FITE came about quite naturally. The professional salon and skin care industry creates opportunities and opens doors for women of all backgrounds around the world. It is literally an economic powerhouse for women. This industry taught me early on that women’s empowerment, beginning with basic financial emancipation, is the surest path out of poverty. By giving women the opportunity to start or grow her own business and earn money, it changes not only her life, but her family and the community at large.

Several years ago, I read the New York Times best-seller, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. As I read the book, I felt that Kristof and WuDunn were taking the words right out of my mouth: girls and women are not the problem, they are the solution. Through the extraordinary stories they shared of women in developing countries overcoming incredible adversity, these writers shed a new light onto the great potential of women as an economic and cultural force.

Since Dermalogica as a company has always supported independently owned businesses within the professional skin care industry, many of which are owned by women, we knew that our social impact piece would support budding women entrepreneurs. In 2011, we officially launched FITE, Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship (, which worked with Kiva in providing small loans to women entrepreneurs located in more than 50 countries. Today, FITE has supported the businesses of more than 56,000 women worldwide.

 We have added a further empowerment piece to FITE called “FITE Future Entrepreneurs”, which will secure vocational training for women who wish to pursue a career within the professional skin care industry. This initiative was recognized at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, where Secretary Hillary Clinton personally announced the FITE commitment, and said how much she loves it!

Lastly, we continue to share the FITE message to thought-leaders around the world through our participation in key advocacy programs carried out by several notable organizations including the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative.

Jane Wurwand accentuates the importance of the beauty and professional skin care industries.

MOGUL: Jane and Natalie, do you have any advice for other young women who might want to follow in your footsteps as entrepreneurs and social change advocates?

Wurwand: Since embarking on my journey of entrepreneurship 30 years ago, aspiring entrepreneurs have often asked me questions and advice on how to start or grow a business and what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

There are two important questions to ask yourself when starting a business. The first is “What makes me happy?” Do something which gives you joy – in other words, meaning. Find purpose in your passion, and the money will come.

The second question to ask yourself is “Do I really want this?” When starting a business, you have to really want it. You have to be willing to take the big risks and endure opposition, rejection and failure. If you really are passionate about your business, this opposition will only sharpen your love. If you are embarking on an entrepreneurial journey to try to make a fast buck, you will not only end up broke—you will end up broken-hearted, too. You have to be in it for the long haul. You can’t be launching on your journey to please someone else. When you are on the path which you know to be your destiny, the approval and disapproval of other people bear no meaning. You will keep going because you feel that you have no real choice and your goal has become your purpose.

In regards to becoming a social change advocate, anyone can do it. If you are interested in making an impact, first identify which cause most aligns with your passions and interests. Once identified, learn about the cause and how you can get involved. And most importantly, stay informed on the issue.

As it relates to companies, I do believe that every company should embed a social impact piece that is intrinsically part of their brand’s DNA. And if the company markets to women, then its social impact piece should give back to women in whatever capacity it can.

Natalie Byrne: Rather than focus on the issues, focus on solutions. Work as hard as you can, and take your time learning about what you care about most. Hard work is the key to success. Being able to look yourself in the mirror each day and say - today I gave my all, I was the best person I could be, I showed up 100%. You are the only person who will know if that’s true. And at the same time don’t be afraid to make mistakes and make it up as you go. My career has been a winding road with off the beaten track adventures, but if you live without boundaries and let go of the walls other people place in front of you, you will emerge truly happy and doing exactly what you were born to do.

The most important part of the process is self-discovery. Go inside and find out what motivates and drives you, discover what you like and don’t like and listen to that voice in your head – I believe it actually lives in your gut and when you listen, it speaks to you. Your authentic voice is the most powerful tool that exists. Stay true to yourself. Speaking out, telling your story and standing up as a leader in your community is imperative, especially as a young woman. My dream is to help women around the world tell their stories, sharing the challenges they have overcome in efforts to inspire the next generation because in that collective experience, we learn and move forward together….And we have to bring the guys along with us!

MOGUL: Natalie, as the Director of Global Impact for Dermalogica, had you always had an interest in advocating for social change?

Byrne: Absolutely! I was a young activist and storyteller. The first time I remember standing up for a cause was with my mom. I was nine, we took the train to Washington to march for women’s rights and I remember being one of the youngest in the crowd and treasured my protest sign for years. My mom tells the story of how I took her hand full of excitement and without knowing made her run through the police barricade to take us to the front; we got to march near then Presidential candidate Bill Clinton with over 750,000 people.

I was an avid reader of books, biographies, the newspaper, the encyclopedia (this was pre-Google) and I would write stories and plays about what was happening, and how things could be different. Later when I started thinking about a career, I navigated towards journalism, hoping that my passion for new ideas, thoughts and stories could shift culture and that my writing could impact the world. I was a young columnist for our college paper, a journalist for the Irish Times, a playwright and a poet. I grew up directing groups of my friends, acting out monologues and reciting great works, and was obsessed with inspiring speeches. I wanted to use storytelling as an avenue for change but I quickly realized that I could only do so much alone, so I shifted this into other mediums like film and television to expand the influence and reach of awareness. I truly believe that brands, art, entertainment, influencers can all be activists.

Natalie Byrne discusses her journey to becoming Director of Global Impact at Dermalogica.

MOGUL: Natalie, as a social impact and brand strategist, what tactics do you use to engage leading brands in various industries?

Byrne: The key to successful social impact initiatives is embedding them into the core of the company’s business and tying to the bottom line. It is important to take the time to set a strong foundation that will lead to long, lasting and impactful efforts that are authentic and focused rather than quick fixes. I work within industry networks and in partnership with government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help create valuable initiatives not only for the company, but for the world. When we shift from corporate social “responsibility” and trendy media campaigns and dig deep into what is truly needed by the communities we want to serve, then we can move the needle and ultimately build something of value that is essential to staying strategic and relevant as a brand.

Whether working in music, fashion, beauty, media or with influential voices who want to use their celebrity to make a difference, the process involves taking a deep dive to find out what is at the core of the work; often, this is found in a company's values and mission or a founder’s inspiration behind their start. To think that social impact work is only to “do good” while using words like charity, responsibility, philanthropy is outdated - this is about smart business and being conscious that we live in an interconnected global society and economy. Creating a better future where all people thrive is what will truly sustain us and increase opportunity across the board.

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