“French brand Biologique Recherche‘s Lotion P50 needs no introduction. The exfoliating toner has become a cult-favourite product among skin-care and beauty fans — not to mention a ‘hero’ product in the company’s lineup — with users raving about its results. (No, really. Google it.)
Speaking recently with the company’s chief executive officer, Pierre-Louis Delapalm, he was happy to explain why the Parisian company’s “clinical approach” to beauty has proven to be so popular with international shoppers. In Vancouver recently to announce Biologique Recherche’s partnership with the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel Willow Stream Spa as its first Canadian hotel spa provider, Delapalm talked branding, business and what makes it better:
Q: How did the brand begin?
A: More than 40 years ago, Yvan and Josette Allouche — he was more the biologist behind products and she was a physiotherapist behind the skin treatments and diagnoses — they wanted to create a skin-care methodology that could adapt to any skin problem. They already had some customers and they observed that, not only is everyone different, but that even for their customers, over time, their skin was changing quite significantly. First, because the skin is renewing itself every 25 to 36 days, but also because of the weather, their stress and their food habits. So, they really wanted to do personalization — but to the extreme. And that was quite brilliant because, now, everyone is talking about personalization. But, imagine 40 years ago, it was really new and visionary.
Q: How, if at all, has it changed since then?
A: One of the strengths of Biologique Recherche today is that the vision has been kept intact. Even though they have both passed away, that vision was so right and so simple in a way, that we really kept that obsession with personalization and with results. We bought the company 11 years ago with my partner, but the son of the founder is still with us. (Philippe Allouche) is a medical doctor.
Q: The head office is on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Are the products developed and made their too?
A: The flagship is where we have all the treatments and we have a training room, as well. And the factory and lab are almost in Paris, roughly 20 minutes away from the Champs-Élysées, and everything is developed and created and manufactured there and then sold to, now, almost 75 countries.
Q: When did it launch in Canada?
A: Five years ago.
Q: What made Canada the right fit?
A: The truth is, we have been in the U.S. for many years and it’s been very successful. The U.S. is our No. 1 market. So, it made sense that Canada is different, but it’s close in many aspects, in terms of habits and needs.
Q: French skin-care and beauty brands seem to be at the forefront of scientific skin-care brands. Why is this?
A: There is a long tradition in France for beauty and cosmetics. It has been around for such a long time that it is almost an ecosystem. To be honest, the American brands did a great job recently. They are more innovative … in the way they sell to the customer. But, what they create, in terms of a product, is different. In terms of the product itself, Europe is still more obsessed with what you put inside the product. How does it work? What is the measurement? Maybe that’s why. But, for sure, how we formulate the product is very important. The name of the brand is Biologique Recherche, so the research part is very important.
Q: What made Willow Stream Spa a good fit for the products?
A: This is our first hotel in Canada that will have Biologique Recherche. It was just a good partnership because they have very experienced therapists, which is key. The reason is that we really need to see the skin, to test the skin and check the skin before we can tell our customers what they need. We don’t want people to, because they have heard of P50, to buy P50. We want to check which P50 is right for them, and teach them how to use it. That’s why we don’t sell on the internet and why we don’t sell in places that aren’t doing the diagnosis and treatments. It is a limitation, but it’s part of our DNA.
Q: Which product is the ‘hero’ product?
A: The answer would be the P50 because it is the most-known product and it is the pillar of our philosophy, which is to bring the epidermis back to a balanced condition. At the same time, our philosophy is that you need all the steps to get the results. We have a lot of products, because there are a lot of different needs. But sometimes the ‘hero’ product is the one that is good for you, but isn’t necessarily the bestseller.
Q: And how much has the product lineup changed since the beginning?
A: We launch two-to-three new products every year, but the rest is pretty stable. Over 40 years, every time we have a new skin problem that we discover and need to solve, we create new products. Year-after-year, it is becoming more complex because the skin is becoming more complex.
Q: What is the price range for products?
A: It goes from around $40 for a cleanser, all the way to La Grande Crème, which is our highest price point at $790 for the moisturizer.
Q: Lastly, what might surprise people to learn about the brand?
A: The first surprise can be, when they try the brand, is the smell. Because we don’t use perfumes. Since the creation of the brand, the founders decided perfumes are useless for the results and they can react with the skin or the other ingredients in the product. So, they decided to use no perfumes, ever. And we respect that. So, the ingredients, they smell. When you smell P50, the smell is very … special.”