The woman who revolutionised beauty
VOGUE SPAIN July 2022 Author Carmen Melgar
Valérie Taupin is one of the most celebrated independent businesswomen in the wrinkle filler world. The founder of Teoxane knows better than anyone how to turn hyaluronic acid into your best beauty ally.
Since establishing her company in Geneva in 2003, Mrs Taupin, with her entrepreneurial spirit and great vision, has brought happiness to millions of faces. She has achieved this through sophisticated hyaluronic acid formulations, developed by a team of experts working hand in hand with doctors on projects lasting between five and seven years.
She started out in the world of beauty in the late 1980s, and that experience led her to single-handedly create Teoxane almost two decades ago. Based on the principles of innovation, independence and excellence, the essence of the company hasn’t changed, but its numbers have.
Today, the vision that Taupin brought to life in a Rue de Lyon office occupies seven floors, 75% of the very same building, having expanded from occupying 500 m2 to 8000 m2. She has been able to hold onto the central location by employing more than 300 employees (of the 500 that the company has) who watch over, design and manufacture the 20 million syringes sold in more than 90 countries. These staff members make up her team, that she cares for and motivates, and are the people responsible for creating effective and safe products with the same type of hyaluronic acid that the human body produces.
Reserved and outwardly understated, but ever curious, Valérie Taupin leads her team with approachability, diligence, confidence and decisiveness. We talked to her about the evolution of the world of beauty in the digital age, how the public is overcoming its fear of injections, and staying independent in a sector ruled by large corporations.
How did you get into the world of beauty?
In my case, it was through my first job, at the age of 21. It was in Germany and I had to open the office of a French company related to cosmetic surgery. That’s where I came into direct contact with doctors, and where I learned everything, from setting up an office to finding customers, explaining the technical details of a product, etc. I have to say that, above all, I loved talking to the doctors and learning from them. I realised that this was my world, it was the perfect environment for me to thrive, and that’s why I never left it.
After that you launched Teoxane, why?
Because it was very important to me to monitor all the processes. Manufacturing is critical, it’s key, but design, for example, is also crucial. And I wanted to be able to do everything, so I made sure we reached a high level of quality. That’s why I’ve always wanted to be independent, because independence means freedom, to be able to decide on your products, as well as to streamline, make decisions and speed up all processes. We also rely on excellence, we try to be the best, not just in terms of innovation, but also in terms of manufacturing and training doctors. We always say that a good product in the wrong hands doesn’t work. That’s why we focus a lot on helping doctors use the most advanced injection techniques.
To reach those standards, and to have such a successful business you almost need to be a superwoman...
No, just a normal woman (laughs). Seriously, it’s a lot of effort and, of course, if you want to achieve a certain level of success, you have to put a lot of yourself into it. For a long time I’ve had to work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. But it’s never been a problem, it was normal... I’ve never complained about it. It’s something I’ve done so I can be free.
How do you lead a team of 500 people?
I try to instill the values I envision for the company in everyone. That means transmitting the three core values: the culture of excellence, independence and innovation. That way, everyone is aligned on these values. I also try to hire the best professionals, because without the right people you won’t achieve anything. I look for people with passion and entrepreneurial spirit. This is very important, and people that come from big companies sometimes don’t understand our culture. But I help and guide them.
What is the key to making everything work?
I work directly with ten departments and I talk to them a lot to make sure we’re all going in the same direction, which makes everything faster. I’m very approachable, that means anyone can call me or send me an email. I reply immediately. There are no formalities, we don’t hold too many meetings. We have that startup spirit.
Earlier, you said that a good product in the wrong hands is no use. How do you make sure that doesn’t happen?
Our medical education department is very strong. We’ve developed the Teoxane Academy, which focuses primarily on training doctors in facial anatomy. A lack of understanding in this area may lead to mistakes when using injection products and techniques. We always think from the patient’s point of view. We don’t want to change who they are, but rather we aim to enhance their look.
How has the pandemic affected the perception of beauty?
I think there has been a “Zoom effect”. I don’t think anyone likes these kinds of applications because I’ve heard a lot of doctors tell me that their patients call them because they don’t look good, to ask if they can do anything about it. A lot of people are getting a bit depressed by this, and there’s nothing better for morale than an injection because you can look five years younger in 30 minutes. That’s why a lot of people want to have them. So, if you ask me whether the pandemic has helped, at first no, of course, because it was a difficult time, but now a lot of people want to look better.
This also means overcoming their fear of injections...
Yes, 10% of the Western population has had an injection at some point, and this number is constantly on the rise. Of course, some of them are always going to say they are a little bit scared, but now everything is very safe, and it’s increasingly popular. People are increasingly interested, more curious. It has become a normal beauty procedure. It’s like good makeup, it’s very effective, because, while it’s not surgical, it has an immediate result.
Are you changing patients’ perceptions of time?
A lot of people go to the doctor’s because they don’t want to look tired, but others go because they feel younger than the person looking back at them in the mirror. They want their age to match their spirit.
And how does hyaluronic acid help them?
We have a wide range of products, because every need is different. For example, it’s interesting, but there’s a lot of demand to remove laugh lines around the mouth, and the lines on the upper lip, which can sometimes even make it difficult to put on lipstick. Sometimes patients want a very subtle result, while others want something that stands out more. Either way, we have everything we need to achieve what they’re looking for.
How do you see the future of beauty?
I’m realising that younger patients want to be, let’s say... perfect. Absolutely perfect. I think it’s because of selfies, they want to look like they do in photos with filters. At the last IMCAS congress in Paris, we had a symposium on the Instagram look, and it was very interesting because a doctor said just that, that we couldn’t get the filter effect with injections. His advice was that the result be natural.
Are people no longer looking for naturalness?
A lot of patients are, but sometimes new generations are influenced by personalities that are a bit on the extreme side. For example, we have ‘Russian lips’, which are very extreme, but a very small percentage of patients ask for them. Most of the time patients want subtle and very natural results. And that’s how we work.
What are the main differences between generations?
Younger patients love modifying their lips, making them fuller. They are also interested in remodelling their face, including their nose. This is very different compared to older patients. In their case, I would say that the highest demand is related to the loss of volume in the lips and facial contours. Also the filling of bags under the eyes, which are accentuated with age and make you look tired.
Is it hard to ask for help in terms of beauty?
Everyone has their own beauty, but there are also people who want to look better if possible. So I wouldn’t say it’s a help. We see patients who are very good-looking but just want to improve.