Episode 39: Ewelina Aiossa, AVP of Marketing at L’Oréal’s SkinCeuticals

Doctor dispensed? Aesthetics? Private label? Ewelina Aiossa, AVP of Marketing at L’Oreal’s SkinCeuticals, pulls the curtain back on the world of physician dispensed skincare. Maybe we should’ve named this week’s episode of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY™ to Where Pharma Meets Beauty…

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey, everybody. I'm excited to have an old friend in the podcast today. Our guest is Ewelina Aiossa. She is the Assistant Vice President Marketing SkinCeuticals at L'oreal. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.
Ewelina AiossaHey, Jodi, thank you for having me.
Jodi KatzYeah, it's so cool to have you here. I love sitting with you, and we get to chat with each other with headphones on and a microphone. That's pretty different for us.
Ewelina AiossaTotally, yes, yes. It's a nice break from a hectic day in the office and going from one meeting to another.
Jodi KatzThat's right. Well, let's talk about your one meeting from another. You have a career specializing in aesthetics. For our listeners who aren't familiar with what that means in beauty, can you tell us about it?
Ewelina AiossaSo the aesthetics in my opinion is actually a part of beauty. It's almost like the art and science of beauty, taking it a little deeper than just beauty for masses. It's beauty for all, but really you are going after very targeted consumers, the consumer who is super educated about the raw material ingredients, what they want from their skincare, high performance, high burden of proof on our end.

So it's definitely a form of art, but it's also about the health of skin and taking care of the health of the largest organ in your body, which happens to be the skin. So I think there's a connection between health and beauty, and I think that aesthetic plays a part in it.
Jodi KatzSo these are brands that are doctor-dispensed, right?
Ewelina AiossaCorrect.
Jodi KatzSo tell our listeners what that means.
Ewelina AiossaThat means that we don't market directly to our consumers and users of our products. We actually go through dermatologists, plastic surgeons, medical spas that are associated with dermatologists or skincare professionals who are licensed, who believe in our product, believe in the science, that it's backed, who's backing our product benefits and claims. And they actually recommend the products, the layering, the regimens, step-up programs to the patients for overall health and beauty of skin and complexion.

It kind of helps them also enhance the procedures and treatments they offer in their practices. So it's kind of like an integrated approach, very holistic, 360-degree view of skin, skin health, beyond just topical skincare. It's different modalities.
Jodi KatzRight, so when I first met, it was many years ago, you were working on another brand, and that brand was a client of ours. It's probably over six years ago at this point, but that was my first experience with doctor-dispensed skincare. And until then, I really had ... it was not on my radar at all. Even though I was in the industry for many years, I was really only focusing on consumer products and consumer brands at the prestige and the masstige level.

So when I started working on this, my eyes are really opened to kind of the landscape of skincare and how there's so many department store brands whose price points are probably even well higher than SkinCeuticals or the other places that you've worked. But the performance can't come close at all, right? The ingredients can't come close, and the regimens can't come close. I saw this as such an opportunity.
Ewelina AiossaTotally, and that's why I feel so privileged and honored to work on those brands because they are truly scientifically and clinically validated and backed. There's a lot of research that goes into launching a product. I'd like to actually consider them innovations, not necessarily just products, a cookie-cutter, a trend-follower. It's truly an innovation, maybe in terms of new ingredients or new application, different modalities, different delivery systems.

It could be a combination of active ingredients, their potency, the strength, the percentage used. They truly make a difference in the skin. When we do testing, we do testing in live skin in terms of SkinCeuticals, proving actually the action of the final finished good formula, not just an ingredient in skin.
Jodi KatzRight.
Ewelina AiossaSo that's quite interesting and quite exciting. But also when it comes to the aesthetics and working with physician partners, it's a higher burden of proof to get them on board and believe and back the brand because their reputation is on the line. If I was creating a product and going after masses, I would probably pull all the trends. And if masking, multi-masking right now is happening and is big on social media, here I come out, put a clay mask together, and I'll put some Amazonian clay or whatever it is, market it, put it in a beautiful jar, and put a nice model face on the marketing piece and go to the market.

I'm not saying it's easy, but when it comes to physicians and going after their patients and their patient needs, you kind of have to fit it into their treatment room and what they do in a practice setting. So typical dermatologists will see a lot of medical patients. They come with different skin types, skin concerns, such as ... It could be aging concerns. It could be wrinkle discoloration. But they also have underlying skin conditions, such as redness, rosacea, eczema, and things of that nature.
Our products have to have the purest forms of ingredients in order to be able to serve those patient needs and not cause adverse reaction and multiple visits to the doctor for the treatment. They also have to fit into the needs of this patient and the expectations. If the physician recommends the product, they really have to believe in it. In order for us to speak the language of a physician, we have to be very scientific, so we have to read peer-reviewed journals. We have to publish our clinical studies in those journals, so they can get the memo about the science. It's not enough just to go to a marketing piece. It's a different language of communication for the physician.
Jodi KatzRight. I'm seeing it as like where pharma meets beauty, right?
Ewelina AiossaExactly.
Jodi KatzLike a lot of the technics of pharma brands in terms of how they market and how they support their physicians that you have to use.
Ewelina AiossaTotally. As a marketer, I almost have three different audiences. I have the physician partners. I have my field force, who actually goes and pitches the ideas and products to physicians. They actually have medical sales they have to walk them through. And then I have different communication strategies to the end-user, which is the patient, the patient that comes into the physician practice. So we have to touch them throughout their journey through the physician practice and so on and so on.
Jodi KatzRight. So thank you for that education, that quick education. Most of our listeners are industry people, but like I said, I didn't even really understand the doctor-dispensed world until I had a client that I needed to learn about.
Ewelina AiossaBecause it wasn't mainstream. I'm sorry for interrupting.
Jodi KatzYeah, please.
Ewelina AiossaTo be honest with you, I think the aesthetic market is growing almost 20 percent year over year, which is crazy when you look at the economy and how fast it's moving. This part of the beauty market, it's actually accelerating sales of [inaudible 00:06:34]. The aesthetic market is growing because different treatments offering are also becoming more mainstream and more affordable. So you hear about cool sculpting, kybella, injectable therapies. Botox has been around for over 10 years. It's crazy when you think about it.

And those companies are coming up with different indications for those modalities. Originally, botox was created to treat migraines for example. Now we know it also helps relax your wrinkles and then you can also contract perspiration and inject yourself under arms. The list goes on and on and on. And we are here to help complement those modalities in the office setting.
So if a patient's getting injectable, and they invested into gallic acid to plump up their skin, obviously they want to have topical agents and ingredients to complement their investment, so it can be enhanced and carried through between their treatments. It's not only enough to perhaps invest into aesthetic procedures. You also want to take care of the complexion and the canvas that people see on a daily basis.
Jodi KatzRight. After learning what I did about dispensing, people would say like, "Ooh, what skincare brand should I buy?" Or "Should I go to this department store and spend this amount of money?" I'd say, "Just go to the dermatologist." Because I really ... at that point, of course you can get a great moisturizer and a nice eye cream and a lip cream or syrup or whatever. But if you really wanted to make a difference, if you really had a need that you wanted to address, there's no point in spending all that money in the department store when you could go to the dermatologist, pay your copay, and get something that's gonna be really life-changing for you.
Ewelina AiossaYeah, absolutely, it's an investment. You're spending $3 or $4 on your daily coffee run to Starbucks. Multiply by 30 days, it's your $120 SkinCeuticals corrective product that really you can see the before and after, and you can see a difference. It's the investment in yourself. But it definitely pays dividends.

And it's never too early to start. As I mentioned, I believe that Instagram and the selfie generation prompt us to look in the mirror at an earlier age. I think 20 years old is no longer too young to actually seek aesthetic solutions. I think, back in the day, if you spoke to a plastic surgeon, the usual patient profile demographics was a lady in her, I don't know, 50s, 60s, 70s. I don't want to discriminate, but they would go and get a nose job, face lift, eyebrow lift, and so on and so on.
Now, instead of going super invasive and getting nipped and tucket, they can do liposuction, or they can inject themselves. And we see younger and younger population going and knocking on the door. Do they need corrective treatments? Probably not, but they want to start preventing in order to make sure they don't have to correct too early on. And SkinCeuticals and other dispensing brands have a portfolio of offerings with kind of those pillars of correction, prevention, and protection. I think that's the difference between us and the mass market and the [luxe 00:09:21] market that over-promises and never delivers, in a sense.
Jodi KatzRight, right. Yeah, well, the brands that I've used from dispensing have been incredibly powerful and have actually solved problems that I lived with for years as a teenager and never thought that there was gonna be a solution to.
Ewelina AiossaGreat.
Jodi KatzSo it's kind of incredible the power. But let's back up.
Ewelina AiossaSure.
Jodi KatzLet's figure out how you got here on this path. Take us through your childhood a little bit. Where did you grow up?
Ewelina AiossaI grew up in Poland. It's a little country in Europe. We used to have a king and a queen back in the day and some castles and Old Town. Now it's obviously a part of the European Union, so it's more progressive. Yeah, it's a beautiful country. We have the sea, and we have the mountains, and you've got the lake area, and you've got the little desert, so a little bit for everybody. It's quite diverse nowadays. The boundaries are open.

Back in the day, it was still Communist Poland when I was growing up. But I went through the transition during my elementary school. I was forced to, I think, take Russian, so I know how to read and write Cyrillic alphabet, and I think I started taking English in my high school. Yeah, so that all started in Poland. And then I got a scholarship to come to the United States and study.
Jodi KatzIn high school?
Ewelina AiossaThat was after high school, so when I was applying for colleges, and obviously it was just an application, didn't mean anything. I applied at many universities. It's very common for Europeans to travel to other countries, such as France, England. Many of my friends graduated from Oxford University. Just because there were sistership agreements, partnership agreements for exchange students. So it's very common.

But to come to the United States, it's an ocean away so it was a hop and a half. But it was an adventure, and I was up for it. I love to travel. I love to test the waters, try different cultures. So it was definitely eye-opening, and I fell in love with the country. And next thing I knew, I wanted to get out of rural Pennsylvania because it's where my school was based, and see the United States for what it really is, what you see in the movies.
Jodi KatzRight.
Ewelina AiossaSo next thing you know, I'm booking a train ride to New York City. I figured, hey, I don't need a car here. I don't need much investment, and there's probably transportation. There's an airport if I have to fly back home and get rescued by my family. But yeah, it's kind of like in a nutshell. I spent 18 years of my life in Poland, and then next thing I know, I'm here. And it's been almost 20 years. I'm 100 percent American with a heavy accent that doesn't want to leave me.
Jodi KatzAnd what was your first job when you got to New York?
Ewelina AiossaActually, I worked for a real estate company doing marketing for them.
Jodi KatzWas it hard to get a job?
Ewelina AiossaWell, it wasn't easy. It was the era where internet was just starting up, so I would go to a public library and search job postings and still knock on doors and go with my resume in hand. So it was kind of ... circa 2001, 2002.
Jodi KatzDid you have aspirations to be in the beauty industry?
Ewelina AiossaAlways, always. I mean, I always loved fashion and beauty. I think beauty, from a young age, I was always, I don't know, drawn, attracted, captivated by beauty. Could be in nature, could be a painting, architecture, just beauty in a baby's face and proportions and things of that nature.

I think beauty's such a universal language. It doesn't have any boundaries. Everybody can kind of speak it. You can look at a person in Africa or in Asia, and you know that this other person's taking care of their image in a sense. It also kind of transcends time. When you think about beauty, you think about Cleopatra bathing in milk and those [inaudible 00:12:47], and you think about French beauty as a standard. And then you think about [key 00:12:51] beauty, Korean beauty, nowadays.
For me, beauty is just a very timeless industry, in a sense, very international, very creative. And I'm very creative, so it was an outlet for me. It's a sustainable industry, kind of stands the test of time. Even in a down economy, people are willing to spend $5 on the lipstick-
Jodi KatzRight.
Ewelina Aiossa-just to make themselves feel a little bit more beautiful or better about themselves. So I feel like, hey, it would be a good investment to stick around beauty. Beauty's also very agile, invites trends. I wanted to be the mover and shaker, in a sense.

I also like fashion, don't get me wrong. But I feel like fashion is more vain than beauty. Beauty, again, I was able to bridge the beauty with the health of the skin. And I'm still loving it. I'm very passionate about it.
Jodi KatzHow did you end up getting your first job in the industry?
Ewelina AiossaI actually got contacted by [Topics 00:13:51] Pharmaceuticals, who's a private label contract manufacturer. It was just an easy interview, and from what I remember, the person who hired me then said that my name stood out on the pile of resumes for a reason because it's quite hard to pronounce. When I showed up, I guess, I already had some experience working for evaluation consulting companies in Manhattan. That job was based in Long Island, so I think I was bringing this metropolitan aspect a little bit.
Jodi KatzRight.
Ewelina AiossaAnd Polishness to the firm. And I turned around their marketing. I kind of did like the housekeeping from the ground up, built it up. So it wasn't easy. It was very hands-on. I learned the industry from the grounds up, as I said. The contract manufacturing, bringing products to the market, from conception to visualization to go-to-market strategies, dealing with physician partners, also doing private label but also promoting the brand.

So it was omni-channel and multifaceted, quite, quite interesting. It was my first love job. I still have a love affair with the company.
Jodi KatzOh, that's so nice.
Ewelina AiossaYeah, I do, I do. Fond memories, definitely. It was a hard place to leave.
Jodi KatzI think that the idea of private label is really interesting, and maybe a lot of our listeners who are new to the industry don't really understand exactly what that means. Can you explain a little bit about what a private label brand looks like for aesthetics?
Ewelina AiossaSure. So a private label is an offering where a contract manufacturer will produce a product and, at certain quantities, make it available to a physician partner at the cost to apply your name on the products. So you might be buying an eye cream by Dr. Jodi Katz.
Jodi KatzSounds good.
Ewelina AiossaIt's not necessarily your property or formulation. You could choose to go that route if you do contract manufacturing. But when it comes to private label, it's usually, the formulation is owned by the company, by the contract manufacturing. We just apply the label, and you can create your own line with your name on it. It's easier to promote obviously because then you're promoted from online sales. You can be found on Amazon, online, on eBay, or discounted. The patient will come in to seek your expertise and knowledge about your products. You can guide them when to step up to certain prescription-level strength and things of that nature.

So sky is the limit. There's a huge portfolio offering. You can pick and choose products you want to bring under you privately, whatever brand that fits your patient needs and their skin concerns. Let's say if you live in sunny Florida and you're exposed to sunlight [inaudible 00:16:20], you know that you're gonna have a lot of patients with discoloration concerns. So you may want to invest into a few products and see if it takes off, based on the needs of your market.
And if you live, like us, in the northeast, come winter it's seasonal. You might encounter dryness. And then come summer, you want to protect from the sun. You can bring more broader or robust portfolio of products under your name. So it's quite interesting. It's quite exciting. Obviously, the marketing part has to be handled by the practice, by the office, so it's a little bit different from selling a brand that already has brand awareness and an established reputation and PR machine behind it. That's the case of the brand that I'm working on currently.
So private label requires more effort, I guess on the physician's part to market the product and explain it. But it's an option. It's definitely an option.
Jodi KatzYeah, I like the sound of the Dr. Jodi Katz line.
Ewelina AiossaTotally.
Jodi KatzWhat would I be a doctor in?
Ewelina AiossaI would buy.
Jodi KatzLet's talk about some tips for people seeking careers in beauty. Since you've been in so many different positions within this side of the business, tell me what people looking to enter the business would find in aesthetics from a marketing point of view and what to learn versus maybe working with a consumer brand.
Ewelina AiossaRight. So I think the beauty of the mass beauty is definitely liking the professional component or the connection that a professional expert can bring in. And to be honest with you, the aesthetic industry or aesthetic brands, you are connected to the end user through your physician partner. So you get kind of insides and intel through them.

What else is different? I think the knowledge of the newest and the coolest technologies in the market that comes with the aesthetic industry is amazing because you get the right of first refusal to see previews or pilot tests, different delivery systems, different devices that are on the market, different indications for those devices, laser therapies. The list goes on and on and on. You get different indications for existing solutions.
It's kind of like a 360-degree approach and overview of everything the beauty industry has to offer. So it's beyond skincare, beyond topical. It's the lasers, it's the injectables.
Jodi KatzRight. And that must be so incredible to actually not be a physician, if you don't want to be a physician, but to be able to be on the front lines of all those innovations and be having conversations on a daily basis with the people who are moving this type of device or tool or technique forward.
Ewelina AiossaYes.
Jodi KatzIt's the best of the physician/dermatology world, if you didn't want to go to medical school.
Ewelina AiossaAbsolutely, yes.
Jodi KatzDid you ever want to go to medical school? Was that ever an interest of yours?
Ewelina AiossaI did. So actually, my mom gave me two choices, either to be a lawyer and a physician. And I was like, "Ooh, I would love to be a physician." But I faint when I see blood. And I didn't know that I could be like a physician researcher, and I think I would be so amazing at it because, as I mentioned, I am a geek at heart. I love to understand what goes into final formula. I want to understand the composure of the formulation, why certain ingredients exist the way they exist, why they complement each other or not.

So yeah, so being able to tap into this knowledge and kind of bring the power together of the physician and the marketer in me, the two point of views, two mindsets, we are better together because we are able to enhance patient outcomes. We are able to identify needs and gaps in the market that they have, but they don't even realize we have. Just by having a natural conversation, I can pick ideas or things that they are not even voicing, but it comes out as a secondary message.
I can't tell you how many times I was ready with a go-to-market strategy and a launch plan for a product, and a month earlier, we would pull everything out and change our strategy because we identified that, hey, having a secondary visual for this product launch would benefit us in an amazing way. Or changing a position or maybe changing a word, launching a device. Instead of promoting the device, promoting a treatment because that's what you are pretty much going after, the treatment market.
It all comes from hosting advisory boards and being able to connect with the physician partners. And they are super open and eager to share their knowledge. They are extremely passionate about the industry. So at the institutions, as I mentioned, we have the point of contact for us for the patient, for the true end user. And the end user, at least for SkinCeuticals, is quite sophisticated. She's the mover and shaker. She's willing to try new things. She wants to test and learn, and she really relies on knowledge and expertise of the physician. So without them, we wouldn't exist, in a sense. And I wouldn't have a job. I wouldn't have a purpose. It's a two-way street. It's a nice partnership that we have.
Jodi KatzDo you think that the physicians get overwhelmed by the noise in the beauty industry, the way that a consumer would? You know, how cluttered it is and how many messages there are. Do you think that they get overwhelmed?
Ewelina AiossaI'm sure they are. They also get bombarded because they are consumers as well.
Jodi KatzRight.
Ewelina AiossaAnd with the digital media and digital marketing and programmatic campaigns and audience targeting, I think they are also be targeted as possible consumers. It's nice to kind of declutter and just go after what is true and they believe in.
Jodi KatzAnd you have, in your role, direct contact with these physicians?
Ewelina AiossaYes, yes, absolutely.
Jodi KatzSo you're able to have just person-to-person conversations with them and not really marketing conversations necessarily, but just conversations?
Ewelina AiossaYes. And I visit them in practices, or we host advisory boards or insider programs where we'd fly them to an offsite location, wine them, dine them, but also obviously have topics to cover. Present them ideas, concepts, get their feedback to see if it fits their practice needs, where the future of the industry's heading and so on and so on. It's quite insightful.

Like I said, we wouldn't exist or be as successful if it wasn't for them, to be honest with you.
Jodi KatzRight. In the aesthetics/dermatology world, I feel like the missing treatment is a pill I can take so my hair is not gray, right?
Ewelina AiossaMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzSo dermatologists, you know, that's the scalp and hair is part of their domain, right?
Ewelina AiossaYes.
Jodi KatzWhy do you think that this hasn't happened yet?
Ewelina AiossaThat's a great question. I would have to contact our labs and recent innovation team. I have no idea. I think we are stuck with the hair coloring for a while.
Jodi KatzI know. Shouldn't there be a way around it by now?
Ewelina AiossaThere should.
Jodi KatzWe have solutions to so many things. If I can just take that vitamin and my hair just stays brown, I don't have to run the salon. This would be amazing, right?
Ewelina AiossaYeah.
Jodi KatzThis is a billion-dollar idea.
Ewelina AiossaTotally. I think it has to do with some melanin production and maybe some enzyme that would trigger it. I don't know. But it's definitely skin-deep, so it's a good question.
Jodi KatzYeah, maybe we'd have tons of hair all over our bodies then. Like everything would be dark.
Ewelina AiossaRight. Well, back in the day, I used to plug my eyebrows. Now eyebrows are in, and I have to spend five minutes before I leave the door to make sure that my eyebrows are painted perfectly. So guess what, I think Latisse works on this culprit, right?
Jodi KatzYes.
Ewelina AiossaFor the lashes and the eyebrows. But I don't think we can afford Latisse for the entire scalp.
Jodi KatzWait, but I don't want more gray hair. I want brown hair to grow.
Ewelina AiossaYou're the writer.
Jodi KatzFor our last question, let's talk about what you look for in a team member. You have a lot of people working under you. You're part of a really significant brand. What are the qualities that you look for in hiring new people?
Ewelina AiossaOkay, so by the fold, you just mentioned a team member. I need a team member to be a team player in the first place. Our brand, I believe, and also L'oreal attracts an amazing talent, and these are all Type A personalities. I need a person to have self skills. That's really important nowadays, especially in the super agile environment that we are working with. We're going 100 miles an hour, and deadlines are always due yesterday. You don't have time to prep and prepare.

So I need the person to be super flexible, meaning exercise flexibility when I ask them to do one thing over another, which may not fall into their scope of work or natural job description. They have to have first of all knowledge because I believe you need to be on top of trends and stay ahead of the curve in order to be competitive in this industry today.
So somebody who's willing to take initiative, be a team player, but also be very independent, doesn't need much direction. They can just get things done. That's half of the battle and half of the process. And have a plan, plan for you life. I don't want you to come and just practice things on my team or under my supervision, just to figure out that, hey, this is not what you want to be doing. I want you to already know that hey, three years from now, I want to be advancing to this level. I want to be responsible for this part of the business. I want to run the brand. I want somebody who's super ambitious because I don't have time for anything less than that.
Jodi KatzEwelina, this is so interesting and exciting, and I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom with us today.
Ewelina AiossaMy pleasure.
Jodi KatzYou can all find Dr. Jodi Katz skincare at basebeauty.com. If you have feedback for the show, please go to iTunes and write a review. Find us on Instagram at basebeautycreativeagency. Thanks, Ewelina.
Ewelina AiossaThank you, Jodi.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

Want to sponsor the pod?

Available On:

Apple Podcasts