If there’s one thing we can rely on the French to do well, it’s skin care. French pharmacies have long been the place where locals can mine for advice and discuss their products with a trusted expert, and it’s this personal touch that has made Parisian brand CODAGE such a popular range throughout Europe. We spoke to co-founder Julien Azencott about ready-to-wear skin care, ditching the term ‘miracle product’ and why education is much more important that marketing hype.
I started my career at L’Oréal and this is where I really fell in love with the skincare industry. I then went to work in a lab, developing products for private label brands and designing skin care ranges for pharmacies, so I could really understand how the formulation process really operated. After a few years, I created my own brand CODAGE with my sister Amandine. We grew up in a very medical environment – our dad is a heart surgeon and our mother is a dentist – so we understand the importance of nutrition and education when it comes to the body. Growing up in that environment leads us down a very obvious path to beauty and skincare.
When we first started, we had no finished products. Instead, we set up our contemporary apothecary concept store in Paris where we stored fresh ingredients and could create a formula just for you, a service which we called My CODAGE. We opened our lab and got together with a pharmacist and started to create products for people and their skin’s needs. Everything changed when we were asked to create some formulas for the Cannes Film Festival by Rolls-Royce. Clients started asking for products for dryness and rosacea, so we decided to launch a ready-to-wear line of products, alongside our more haute couture formulas, in 2012.
The skin is like a machine and at times a machine doesn’t work well. We have all the resources in ourselves to maintain hydration, to detox, to create elasticity, but sometimes life, stress, whatever it is, can change things so you need to bring the nutrients back into your body to make this machine work better. To do this, we believe in a complete formula. It’s not only one star ingredient that is going to deliver results, it’s a mixology of components.
At CODAGE, we don’t believe in miracle solutions at all. We believe in helping people to understand their skin first before understanding what products you need to use. This is why we call ourselves CODAGE – it means code, it means formula, and we let you get inside the formula of our products so you can truly understand everything that is inside, then you can really focus on your skin and take the best care of it. The market is so saturated now, so we wanted to bring out a range of advanced cosmeceuticals with amazing formulas that were also enjoyable to use. It’s a beautiful thing to take care of your skin, your products shouldn’t look like medicine and they shouldn’t be filled with silicones and fragrance – it isn’t make-up, it’s skin care so it has to be clean, pure, active and about delivering results.
We consider ourselves true designers of beauty and we work in the same way a fashion designer would work. We love to create formulas ourselves, it’s a true pleasure for us, and we want to manufacture the products ourselves because we want to make sure the quality is going to be maintained. Our formulas are always changing, every year we bring out a new collection of ingredients, and our customers know that they are benefiting from the best advances in cosmetology. I don’t believe in selling customers the same product for ten or 15 years; there’s none of this ‘my hero product’ stuff that my grandma used for years and the formula hasn’t changed.
A brand needs to be fully transparent and accountability is so important. We don’t believe in crazy marketing; word of mouth, for us, is key because if you build your customer base naturally, it grows in a more organic way and becomes stronger. We believe that you are not just an age and a skin type; your skin has multiple needs and is going to change all year long. Our range of products allows our customers to become true cosmetologists at home; for example, they may think ‘today my skin is tighter than yesterday because I was travelling and I’ve been drinking so I’m going to add this serum into my daily anti-aging routine’ or they might think ‘I need radiance today so I need to do a peel today.’
The best feedback I’ve ever received from a customer is ‘you’ve changed my life.’ I’ve even had one customer cry in front of me because she had been dealing with a big patch of inflammation on her cheek for three months and nothing had worked, so I applied some of the Serum No.1 Intense Moisturizing Serum on one side and I put the Serum No.7 Soothing & Anti-Redness Serum on the other and within four minutes it started to change colour. Things like that are so rewarding and make us feel like true artists.
We have lots of new products coming soon, in fact, we want to launch too many products! Sometimes we will bring out a temporary collection as we like to create formulas for seasons, for specific events, for moments in life, for collaborations. We just did a collection with the Four Seasons hotel in the French Alps – we formulated a highly nutritious repairing hand cream together – but as for new products, it’s a surprise. Although I can tell you we have a few new lines planned and one major launch coming very soon. We’re very excited!
Article from Skin Health Magazine