In the e-commerce age, the importance of beauty services is increasing, but the amount of skilled workers to provide them isn’t.
Dermalogica chief executive officer Aurelian Lis detailed the number of accredited undergraduate schools for licensed beauty professionals — such as aestheticians, makeup artists and hairdressers — that is declining. The pay for graduates from the shrinking number of schools is feeble. He beseeched members of the beauty industry to wake up to the reality that they might find themselves without enough capable professionals to support their offerings.
“The need for licensed individuals is going up substantially and has gone up yet the supply is not there. So that, as an industry, what I feel is that we’re actually heading to a crunch time, which is not very pretty, but we have the ability to get out of that and do much, much better,” Lis said.
He suggested the supply-and-demand discord should garner greater attention because the relationships between aestheticians or makeup artists and their clients can’t be replicated digitally, and services remain a significant draw to brick-and-mortar locations. On top of delivering services, licensed professionals can speak knowledgeably about products, one reason why Lis mentioned that Whole Foods is adding them to its Whole Body departments to improve consumer education and interaction.
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“We all desire this physical connection. It’s huge,” said Lis, adding, “Why in 10 years from now do we need a physical store at all if there’s no service there? I don’t think we do. Even the last reason of having a physical store for instant gratification could possibly be eroded by the fact that within two hours you can get the product to your home.”
Adequate vocational training for licensed professionals also affords women with ample job opportunities. Lis noted licensing programs often have placements in excess of 80 percent. “We see vocational training as the pathway to financial independence for women,” he said, emphasizing that empowering mission drives Dermalogica’s foundation FITE or Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship.
Financial independence for licensed beauty professionals is threatened by low pay in the jobs they obtain. “Eleven dollars an hour is not going to cut it in the long term. We’re not going to have long-term employees who are building a career, who are proud of what they do, if they can’t feed, never mind their family, but even themselves,” he said. “We have to pay decently.”
As he pled for beauty industry leaders to boost pay and help support licensing programs, he underscored the issues that have stymied new cosmetology schools. Lis doesn’t believe online programs, possibly cheaper options to develop and attend, are good substitutes for one-on-one learning. And a complex web of state regulations is difficult to sort out for potential programs, a dilemma that’s deterred Dermalogica, a specialist in post-graduate education, from building an undergraduate curriculum.
“We’ve experimented with that, and it is quite difficult,” said Lis about Dermalogica stepping into vocational training. “We find it more productive to entrust and to delegate to very capable partnership schools.”