While most skincare companies rely on the influence of celebrities to promote their products, this French ‘dermo-cosmetic’ brand lets its strong 300-year history—and, oh, over 300 supporting clinical studies—speak for itself

MANILA, Philippines — Different industries in Europe may be teetering on the edge of a precipice because of the current global economy, but not where beauty and specialized skincare is concerned.

According to Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmétique (Pierre Fabre), a company that manufactures and markets dermo-cosmetic skincare products for the care and management of sensitive skin, there are still a few sectors in Europe that remain unaffected by the current crisis. “In this situation we are really lucky,” shares Frédéric Charles, ASEAN Area Manager of Pierre Fabre, “because dermo-cosmetic is really still increasing. In France, we are rising about eight percent, and that’s good considering the period we are in.”

It’s really about people understanding the difference between ordinary cosmetics and dermo-cosmetics, says Charles of the particular industry segment Pierre Fabre’s main brand, Eau Thermale Avene, finds itself in. “Dermo-cosmetic” products are cosmetic products formulated for all types of sensitive skin, and have proven effectiveness supported by biological and pharmacological medical studies. “Our main brand, Avene, is, in a way, a medicated cosmetic,” explains Charles, adding that, at its core, Pierre Fabre is a pharmaceutical company. “Pierre Fabre’s net worth today is roughly around two billion Euro for the whole group, and we reinvest 10 percent of our turnover every year for research. Our main areas are oncology and dermatology,” he says.


Healing Water

Eau Thermale Avene originated from Avene, a small town in the south of France, which is famous for its thermal spring water with medically proven healing properties.

“Avene thermal spring water has a rich history that dates as far back as 1736. Doctors in the surrounding regions used it to cure their patients’ skin disorders. A Hydrotherapy Center was eventually built by the town of Avene in 1743, and its fame eventually crossed the French frontiers when it was used to successfully treat the third degree burns of victims after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, a tragic part in American history,” narrates Lenard Tiongson, brand manager for the Philippines.

The Hydrotherapy Center temporarily closed in 1965, but in 1975 reopened when the spring became the property of the group created by Pierre Fabre, a pharmacist and industrialist at Castres, France. The acquisition eventually led to a period of clinical and pharmacoclinical evaluation of the properties of Avene thermal spring water, and the dermatological benefits of Avene was recognized.

The brand Eau Thermale Avene was officially launched in 1990, and all the products created under the brand are enriched with the Avene thermal spring water, which have medically proven healing properties. While some may think Pierre Fabre is yet another company offering a bogus claim, Charles asserts that there are more than 300 clinical studies to back it up.

According to French dermatologist Dr. Didier Guerrero, who was recently in the country to introduce the brand before its official launch fourth quarter of this year, Avene has an adapted answer for every degree of skin sensitivity. It is known to cure skin disease like Atopic Dermatitis and Psoriasis. “In Avene Center, we treat patients for three weeks, which is according to the French guidelines. After the treatment, we found that there is a change in SCORAD (Scoring for Atopic Dermatitis), a specific index to evaluate the severity of Atopic Dermatitis. There is a decrease in severity by 40 to 45 percent,” shares Dr. Guerrero, adding that Atopic Dermatitis is “the most sensitive skin condition you can find. And if a cosmetic product is well-tolerated on Atopic Dermatitis, you can use it on sensitive skin and all different skin types.”


Creating A New Market Segment 

Avene may have the power of healing water in its arsenal, but how will it fare in a market like the Philippines where most beauty companies promote their products using expensive celebrity endorsements? “As yet, we do not have direct competition here in the country because dermo-cosmetic is a new segment in the market, and we will be the first official dermo-cosmetic brand in the market,” shares Digna Payumo, dermo-cosmetics head of Orient Europharma Co., Ltd., the company bringing Avene to the country.

The main challenge is to be accessible to the people, shares Charles. Pierre Fabre offers its products at an average price of P1,500, something a price-conscious market might find intimidating. “Initially, because of our price, we will deal with a specific part of the population, but slowly, we hope to increase and educate people. In the Philippines,” he says, “you spend a lot of money on products that may not be very efficient, and we want to convince you to get a more appropriate product that may just be a little bit more expensive but one wherein you will be happy with the result.”

As for celebrity endorsements, Charles asserts that Avene will not tread the same route. “While we do have celebrity fans, what is really more important for us is the dermatological aspect. It’s that fact that almost 90 percent of dermatologists in the country already know about the product; 75 percent have been prescribing Avene. We are not a marketing brand; we are a scientific brand,” he assures.

Eau Thermale Avene will be available in selected Mercury Drug outlets.


Published September 9, 2012 in the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin.