By  on March 9, 2012

Before a recent photo shoot, Gina Boswell grabbed a bottle of Nexxus Frizz Defy Hair Spray from her desk, casually spritzing it into her dark, shoulder length hair. Minutes before, she had deftly defined Unilever’s beauty strategy and its integration of the Alberto Culver personal care portfolio, which, incidentally, includes the Nexxus brand. Boswell’s dexterity at extolling product virtues one moment and talking big-picture strategy the next make her a triple threat in beauty industry terms: a strategy, marketing and finance guru rolled into one. Boswell, who joined Unilever as executive vice president of personal care through its acquisition of Alberto Culver in May, currently oversees a $4.5 billion personal care business with a portfolio of brands such as Dove, Axe, Vaseline, Pond’s, Nexxus, VO5, TRESemmé, St. Ives, Noxzema and Simple skin care, which was recently introduced into the U.S. market.

How do you see the beauty industry evolving?
Even over the most difficult years, the beauty business has continued to grow. People want to feel good about themselves and beauty products are an accessible way of doing that. Those sort of small indulgences are what has kept us recession- resilient. There have been some very interesting developments in terms of new-to-the-world type product categories. From a portfolio standpoint, we are poised to grow from both sides—you’ve got the legacy Unilever brands, which are incredibly successful in their own right: Dove, Suave, Vaseline and Ponds, and the Alberto Culver brands of TRESemmé, Nexxus, St. Ives and Simple, a new launch. We’ve got a real breadth of brands across categories and price points.

What opportunities excite you the most?

One of the things that’s really exciting is how we are creating ways to help our consumers reduce their environmental footprint once they take a product home with them. We did an amazing partnership with Wal-Mart together with Recyclebank called Turn Off the Tap. You challenge yourself to take a four-minute shower. For me, four minutes is an eternity because I’ve got to get out and get moving. For my 16-year-old daughter, it is a challenge because she’s got the whole ritual that happens in the shower. But the whole point of a sustainable living plan is to recognize that our everyday behavior consumes quite a bit of the world’s precious resources. We measure the environmental impact from the beginning to the end of a product life cycle.

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