Thursday, 9 August 2012

Avon: so much more than a brand your mum used to sell

My mum used to sell Avon when my sister and I were young. I am sure a lot of you had mothers who did similar. I guess, because this was my introduction to the brand, plus the fact that it's main mode of being sold is via mum entrepreneurs I have never really thought of it as a cutting edge brand. Sure the products were nice enough, but I never thought of them being in the league of the big Department Store brands. Today, my perception of Avon was completely and utterly smashed!

I attended a round table discussion with fellow bloggers and Avon's Head of Skincare Research and Development, Anthony Gonzalez at the Balla restaurant at The Star (formally known as Star City). Anthony discussed some of the research that Avon is conducting and it is absolutely mind blowing. They are currently working on a line tabled to be released in 2015 (though he wouldn't tell us any more about it...can't let the secrets out!). We were shown images of their research facility - the Global Research & Development Facility in Suffern, New York and I think that I might have had a science-gasm. It was exactly the type of lab I would have loved to work in - row after row of pristine white benches, loaded with some seriously high tech equipment.

Anthony started by telling us the back story behind Avon. Avon was founded in 1886 by a gentleman named David McConnell, who was a travelling book salesman. Book sales were slow so he started mixing alcohol with flower petals to create perfumes and essences which he gave his clients as a gift when they purchased his books (perhaps the first gift with purchase!). Soon his clients no longer wanted his books, only the perfumes, so he did away with books and thus Avon was born. From this humble beginning, Avon has gone on to become the third most successful cosmetics house in the world.

Each of Avon's skincare lines has an amazing scientific discovery behind it. Avon's scientists study all research papers that are being released across various fields and then determine whether any of the findings can be applied to cosmetics and skincare. I will go through the science behind each line as I review them; however, I want to share with you the story that resonated with me most - the discovery behind the Anew Genics line.

Around the world there are certain blue zones or blue spots. These are areas where the population that resides within it have much greater life expectancy than in other areas. One such blue spot was discovered in a rural town in Italy. In this town there were over one hundred residents who were of good health and were aged 100 or older. Scientists researched this population and discovered the gene that was responsible for their longevity. This gene released proteins that protected the cells contributing to their longevity. We all have these gene's but they are not necessarily turned on - they need to be exposed to a trigger to be turned on. In this population, the gene's were all turned on and produced the protective protein. Avon scientists read this paper and contacted the scientist involved in the research to determine whether skin cells may also contain this gene. They then obtained skin samples from the population, grew them in a petri dish in their lab (this technique is called cell culture) and were able to identify that skin cells do in fact have this gene. They then had to discover what trigger, or substance, activated (turned on) the gene to make skin cells start producing the protective protein. It turned out that it was an Australian botanical (that I have damn well forgotten the name of). They then bought a plot of land in northern Australia and grew a crop of this botanical. The skincare line was tabled to be released in 2009; however, kangaroos ate the entire crop so they had to replant it and grow it again! I find it hilarious that Avon can do all of this impressive cutting edge research, only for the release of their product to be delayed by a bunch of hungry kangaroos! But this story goes to show just what a global company Avon is - from Italy to America to Australia to create a skincare line.

I know you all would previously have heard of Avon but what were your perceptions of the brand. Were they like mine, before today, or were you aware of just how cutting edge the research they do is? They really are one of the big guns in the field of cosmetic research.

Do you currently use any Avon products? Did your mum also sell Avon when you were young?