Ever since it was founded in 1851 as an apothecary in the East Village, in Manhattan, New York, this skincare company has acquired something of a cult following. From its evolution as a natural cosmetics shop on what is known as the ‘Pear Tree Corner’ – where it stands even today, displaying vintage apothecary bottles and motorcycles that belonged to past owners – to a multi-million dollar brand with over 250 stores (including 14 stores in India) that offers skin solutions to both men and women, it’s the story of true innovation and out-of-the-box thinking when it came to formulations and marketing.John Kiehl, the original founder of Kiehl’s
Founded by pharmacist John Kiehl, it was taken over by his apprentice Irving Morse, who started producing the very first batches of skin formulations and oils. Many of those original formulas are still popular today, such as the Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. The store then passed on to his son Aaron (a motorcycle enthusiast), who made it a popular international skincare brand boutique in the 1980s. But it’s only after L’Oréal bought the company in 2000, that Kiehl’s went truly global.The exact location of the apothecary on Pear Tree corner
As the brand launches its latest offering, the Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum in India, we speak to Cammie Cannella, Vice President of Global Education and Customer Experience for “Kiehl’s Since 1851”. Starting her career in the brand’s flagship store in New York City almost 25 years ago, Cammie has worldwide recognition, as “the face of Kiehl’s” and spokesperson of the company. Known for her eloquence, she has put Kiehl’s name at the highest echelon of the pharmaceutical and aesthetic world.Cammie Cannella of Kiehl's
Kiehl’s started off as an apothecary in New York City more than 100 years ago – why is its brand philosophy especially relevant in today's times?
Kiehl’s has been in the market for over 100 years because the brand’s philosophy still resonates with the people. The brand believes in trying before buying. This principle of personalized customer service, together with generous sampling, has remained a Kiehl’s tradition for more than 95 years.
You have been a part of Kiehl’s since the last 25 years. What are some of the things that you have noticed – as far as changes in the world of skincare around you – and how did Kiehl’s evolve as a brand?
The importance around skincare has definitely picked up in the last few years. People have always been aware of how their skin should be nourished but recently with the innumerable studies and effects being put out there, the skincare industry has definitely picked up. The world of skincare has started taking a different approach with people becoming much more conscious of what they are using on their body in terms of the products and their ingredients. We are witnessing a skincare movement right now, where consumers have not only become conscious but also wary about the ingredients and the efficacy of the products. Dermatologist solutions have become increasingly popular as they’re targeted treatments and offer better results. Kiehl’s as a brand believes in evolving with respect to technology. All of its offerings have a perfect blend of nature and science, making them highly effective on the skin. Along with its competitive offering, Kiehl’s firmly believes in building Kiehl’s Community which comprises of in-house skincare experts rather than mere sales staff, who can analyse customers skin and understand the concerns and recommend products under the expert’s advice.
And today, what would you say is your chief role, as a skincare celebrity?
My chief role is to help our partners and patrons in all the countries Kiehl’s is present and help them reach out to their communities and influence people in the right way. My advice should simply benefit people for their betterment and provide knowledge for their skin, understanding the root cause and treating it with the right product. This role of mine is one that I do not take lightly. I am in a position where people look up to me, and imparting knowledge that I have has to be done in the right way.
One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of Kiehl’s is ‘trust’ and of course ‘quality’ – what are the things that make Kiehl's so trustworthy, and how has its ‘try before you buy’ philosophy worked with customers?
We have been a brand for over a century and all the credit has to be given to our loyal customers. We are where we are because our customers trust us. We have constantly developed and improved our range and quality to give the consumers the best experience that their skin can receive. Our ‘try before you buy’ philosophy has worked wonders because after trying out a sample and enjoying what the brand can offer, we tend to establish a bigger customer base. They love it when they know that the product they are going to purchase is worth it as they have tried the samples. So the philosophy works pretty well for the brand.
Now, a question about Kiehl’s new Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum – how is it different from your other serums, like the Age Defender Serum?
Firstly, the Age Defender Serum is just for men. Kiehl’s Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum is a Hyaluronic Acid serum which strengthens skin to help resist signs of ageing, while boosting radiance and smoothing fine lines. It is formulated with 11kDa Hyaluronic Acid – our smallest form of hyaluronic acid, which penetrates eight skin surface layers deep – and an Adaptogenic Herbal Complex, our serum neutralizes the effects of external skin-ageing stressors for youthful, radiant skin. It protects against stressors including sun exposure, pollution, and stress, lack of sleep, diet, and temperature that can lead to early signs of ageing.
Would you say that the magic ingredient here is hyaluronic acid – why is this so important today in skincare formulations and why has Kiehl’s introduced this now?
Yes I would. Hyaluronic acid is known to hold the moisture in our body. It’s a naturally found acid in our body, but unfortunately with age, the levels of the acid tends to decrease, which can make the skin look lifeless and dull. The hyaluronic acid in our serum helps to maintain that level on our face for it to continue looking ageless and radiant (explained above).
The herbal complexes like the berry, the ginseng and the basil – what are their benefits? How do they work to protect the skin against stress?
All three work absolutely brilliantly in our new formulation. The berry, ginseng root, and holy basil all have individual properties which make our serum effective. The holy basil has soothing properties and that in particular is what protects our skin against stressors while like I said earlier, the hyaluronic acid is what holds the moisture in the skin and helps you achieve that radiant look over a period of time. Our red ginseng ingredient helps in providing energy to our skin cells, which is basically providing strength to our skin.
And where are your products developed – is it in a lab? Is there still a bit of apothecary magic? Are they made in the US?
All our products are researched and developed at Kiehl’s Lab headquartered in the United States, and each formula carries some roots from our apothecary heritage. Yes all are manufactured in the US and distributed to the world.
In these days of sustainability – how far does Kiehl’s believe in being sustainable and cruelty-free?
“Kiehl’s Made Better” is our branded, global communication platform to share with our customers about our ongoing efforts in sustainability across all aspects of our business, from product formulations, packaging, manufacturing and recycling, to our ongoing community commitments. Since 1851, we have been committed to formulating products using the finest ingredients known to us, and we often work hand-in-hand with farmers and producers to source our ingredients in a way that’s beneficial to their communities as well to the planet. We have also always designed our products with minimal packaging to help avoid waste. We use post-consumer recycled materials at our primary manufacturing plant, and we use post-consumer recycled materials whenever possible.
Can you tell us – for Indian women and men who are wary of the sun – which are the best products to product their skin?
Indian skin tones have a wide colour spectrum and each comes with their own set of issues like under the eye, pigmentation, or discolouration, depending upon the geographical location. The products which are however best suited are the Kiehl’s Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum which improves the skin texture under any harsh conditions as I have explained earlier. Along with that I can’t exaggerate enough the importance of wearing Kiehl’s Super Fluid Daily UV Defense Anti-Pollution Sunscreen as it comes in three forms: gel, creme, and serum. It can be picked according to skin type and fits perfectly for Indian skins they face the maximum amount of external stressors like humidity and pollution. Another one I recommend would be Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream as it is the most important first step to keep the skin hydrated and well nourished. This cream not only has adaptogen properties, but is also suited for all skin types, and works best in extreme conditions as well. Especially in India where the sun is extremely harsh and bright most of the year, I would recommend you to not step out in the sun without applying a sunscreen. We have a wide range of products for men and women to choose from. The latest launch, the Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum as well as a range of sunscreens are great products to use for all skin types.
And lastly, what are the three Kiehl’s products you would never leave home without?
Well, that’s a tough one as I love all of Kiehl’s formulas. Each product has been specifically designed to its perfection, with the perfect balance of nature and science, which makes it the number one effective skincare brand worldwide. Every Kiehl’s offering has its own benefits related to different regimes as per type of skin, concern, age group, and gender. However, I do not miss a day without the Ultra Facial Cream which is our iconic formula as it’s not only lightweight but is efficacious in extreme weather as well. It helps my skin feel supple and hydrated, producing 24-hour moisture. Another top formula is the Vitamin C serum which is a Powerful Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate which contains 12.5 percent pure Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, making the skin absolutely ready to take on the world. Also my current favourite is the Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum which is brand new, and one of the most advanced serums to be launched across the globe. This serum tops the charts for me, as it’s a skin immunity booster, and during the challenging times we are all going through, having resilient skin is extremely crucial. It has a unique blend and one can pair it very well with any makeup look to act as a perfect base or primer.
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A luxury and fashion journalist with 25 years of experience in publishing and magazine journalism, I have edited some of India’s top fashion and luxury magazines. I got my BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and went on to receive my Master’s in English and French from the University of Strasbourg, France. I have also studied German and Film. I live in Gurugram, India, and look forward to once again exploring our world with a new-found freedom.
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