Professional skin care reimagined: a conversation with Image founder and CEO Janna Ronert
Way back in the very early ’00s, Janna Ronert harboured a dirty little secret. The Nebraska farm girl wanted to be an æsthetician. What’s so shameful about that? Well, with a university degree in business and a career climbing the corporate ladder, beauty school was not supposed to be on her to-do list. So she had to keep her skin ambitions in the closet. Or in Ronert’s case, in her kitchen sink.
A long-time sufferer of rosacea, Ronert tried every product and facial treatment on the market to no avail. Harsh chemicals abounded in most products, including those that claimed otherwise. Well, ‘If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em,’ became Ronert’s mantra. And the kitchen sink was put to better use than washing dishes. It became her cosmetic laboratory.
Armoured with an æsthetic licence and plastic surgeon husband Marc Ronert, Image Skincare was born in South Florida as the first ‘clinical clean’ skin care brand available to spa professionals. Two decades and stellar business awards later, including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Image is now recognized as the preferred brand in over 25,000 spas around the world and growing. The Vital C collection is among the best selling in the industry with 1·9 products sold every minute. Not too shabby for a farm girl with rosacea, a kitchen sink, and some big ideas.
Lucire Rouge: What products were you using that irritated your skin so much?
Janna Ronert: I was using the best professional products available at the time. I thought they were designed for rosacea and redness, but they were full of chemicals.
As an æsthetician, did you witness similar skin conditions with your clients?
Yes—all day long every day. They used super-expensive brands that promised to reduce redness and did the opposite. Proper education is required to treat this skin condition—it consists of really understanding the physiology of the skin.
What are the steps needed to create a skin care brand?
Having a deep passion for skin care and solving skin problems, plus being an ingredient geek. Understanding how to choose clinically proven ingredients and create formulas that have clinical studies to support the claims. Lastly, the power of building an army of evangelists that fall in love with your brand. It was very humbling to start in my apartment with only one employee. Anything is possible!
What mistakes did you make along the way?
I never call them mistakes, but learning experiences. I’ve learned to follow my gut. Your instincts are very strong and you should listen to them and act. When I have made a decision against my gut feeling, generally, it was a mistake. As a leader and entrepreneur, lead with confidence and don’t lament over mistakes. Move on.
How is a spa skin care brand different than those at retail outlets?
Professional brands have more concentrated formulas with active ingredients. These products can penetrate much deeper in the skin, which creates a more results-oriented outcome. Professional brands offer medical-grade treatments that complement and augment the at-home products—a complete 360 approach to skin health with scientifically proven results.
What was lacking in spa skin care when you started?
A blend of medical and botanical that smelled good was missing in the industry. I am a consumer that smells everything—it’s part of my nature. As an æsthetician, I want to offer products that are effective while creating an experience with naturally derived botanicals. It is a feeling that our fans describe as amazing. Every formula offers multi-dimensional textural experiences that elevate consumers’ daily routines. This makes me really happy to hear that our unique philosophy has resonated with so many customers in over 60 countries. Education for and by æstheticians was also missing. We have a sales team of almost 100 per cent æstheticians. We know skin, and we love it!
How has the beauty industry changed?
So many things have changed, and that’s why this industry is so exciting. Product innovation with new delivery systems, new global sourcing of sustainable ingredients, reaching a global consumer through social media, and last but not least, my favourite is the trend of ‘clean clinical’ that Image is known to be. It’s hard to keep up with all the new innovations, but I am most proud of leading the way in with exceptionally efficacious, ingredient-driven, and clinically proven formulas for all skin types and concerns. There is no skin condition that Image cannot treat.
Are more people taking better care of their skin than they did a couple of decades ago?
No, but I think the consumer is savvier about real results versus fancy marketing. Great packaging and Instagram followers do not necessarily mean a great brand. The consumer wants transparency with ingredients, sourcing, clinical results, and a company that truly cares about people more than profit.
How can a brand truly resonate with consumers, especially younger ones?
There are so many skin care lines popping up every day, but in the end, your product really needs to do what it says it will do. The results need to be quite immediate today or the consumer loses faith in the product. The new generation believes in more than what is in the bottle. Our female-driven and diverse company understands the responsibility we have to our consumers to provide the best of everything.
The Image Prevention + line is one of the best in the industry. How are you and Image getting the word out about the necessity of sunscreen and the danger of excessive sun exposure?
The skin care platform has always been about practising safe sun, as 90 per cent of all ageing is due to the sun and environmental damage. We have had an award-winning moisturizer with built-in sunscreen since day one. If you could buy only one anti-ageing product in our portfolio, it should be a sunscreen moisturizer. Prevention is the key. Every day, no matter if the sun is shining or not.
Why do you think Image has made it to the top?
There is so much that goes into being the number-one spa professional skin care in the US. It takes a combination of highly effective and experiential products and a team of professional, passionate educators. A company that inspires and motivates to be your best self with integrity and honesty. Last, but not least, the perseverance to stay the course. I believe that the slow and steady win the race. We have been committed to the professional from the beginning, and have not wavered in our loyalty. This has created a trust in our brand that money can’t buy.
Any new or future launches we should know about?
We are constantly in product development and clinical research. Our new MD Power C Serum, launched in the spring of this year, is our best selling launch of all time. A cocktail of vitamin C, that lightens, tightens and brightens in one bottle. This is truly a miracle in a bottle. Our new Prevention Plus + Daily Perfection Primer SPF 50 débuted in July.