Why Working at L’Occitane (or any cosmetic giant) is the worst

I am not ever going to work for any corporate cosmetic giant again ever.  Why? That industry is just really, really fake.  From the fake smiles from management, to the fake unnatural ingredients and scents in products, I just never seem to like these corporate conglomerates that spew goo onto the masses and say that it’s skincare, that it’s beautifying.  What it is is actually taxing. To our minds, bodies and souls.  Not one of them is good. There is no difference between L’oreal, Body Shop, Bath and Body Works, and even the classy, upscale philanthropic L’Occitane En Provence. They are all about the bottom line, semi-decent products, and they don’t value their employees at all.  Most recently I gave L’Occitane a chance, and in the past I have also worked at Bath and Body Works, and you can hear about the gripes here in another article.

Okay, so I still have their sales apron...but I didn't snag it. It was actually because they were not clear when my last day would be, and I had optimistically taken it home thinking I'd be there again...
Okay, so I still have their sales apron…but I didn’t snag it. It was actually because they were not clear when my last day would be, and I had optimistically taken it home thinking I’d be there again…

When I got the seasonal position at the French cosmetic company L’Occitane last holiday season, I was optimistic about their business model.  I wanted to learn about the cosmetics industry on a corporate level, and compare it to what I did in my own cosmetic studios at dreamecosmetics, and well, my findings were just disillusioning.  Like I mentioned before, it doesn’t matter which corporation is running the show, but all of the cosmetics industry is about profit, and none of it is about self care, healing or learning. They all want to “seem” beautifying, but with a focus on profit, market shareholders, and too many corrupt people in management, it is impossible for them to fill that mission.

Things I learned at L’Occitane that is probably true of all Cosmetic Conglomerates:

  1. They only care about making sales, and it doesn’t matter how: When I was on the sales floor as a seasonal rep, management was always nervous about me helping customers.  Like I would negate a sale, and that their other permanent reps would do better.  Well, what about letting me learn, and earn my keep there?  No, they preferred that I defer customers to other staff rather than I learn how to sell their product. Short term gains over long term investment in educating me to be part of their team. Typical.
  2. The products were over priced, over hyped, and just idealized too much.  L’Occitane’s hair care, skin care, and perfumes were at least triple the price of most common name brands at the pharmacy, and they did little to justify the cost of them.  Instead we had to focus on the heritage of the company, how it was a beautiful region of France that it originated from, and how this magically meant that a hand cream could be $32 a tube.  Well, even if they were slightly better in quality, did we really have to believe that it was made of rainbows and centuries of heritage from the south of France?  No, obviously not.  But we had to pedal that image to customers, or face the wrath of being sent to the stock room. Which leads me to point 3…
  3. I got sent to the stockroom to do menial tasks more often than not. I was really good with customers and had knowledge about skincare and fashion, but instead of using this knowledge, they put me in the backroom to unload stock for most of the day, then sent me back to the sales floor, then sent me back to the stock.  I wasn’t treated like I was a valuable part of the team. Why hire seasonal sales staff if you are not willing to treat them well for the short time they are there? I cut my fingers deeply twice during the time that I worked there, because of the menial tasking they delegated to me…and I was not hired to be a backroom stock person, seasonal or not.
  4. Management fakery: This was the main reason of all my stress there.  Because head office only spoke with the managers and only looked at the bottom line, a crappy manager could get away with a lot, and even get a promotion (which she did during the time I was there to District Manager).  The manager for L’Occitane told me I had a good chance at getting a permanent position after serving my seasonal one, but also hired another seasonal staff that I felt I had to compete with.  Even though I felt I was the more qualified one (ie. years of retail experience) the other seasonal eventually became permanent.  In hindsight, I doubt that the manager ever wanted to put me as a permanent staff.  She just wanted to use me for the short period and then drop me the minute she could…which is what she did in the most unprofessional manner: She didn’t even tell me that they would not be renewing my contract.  I had to assume this when she sent me a staff schedule that didn’t have dates past my contract end.  That’s right…I was just supposed to shrivel away….and disappear.  As if!
  5. They had the laziest permanent staff: I never saw a more lazy sales team than that of the permanent staff at L’Occitane.  They complained about standing around with nothing to do.  They chatted and gossiped at large about nothing in particular, and the worst of their problems was who would get the early shift the next day.  Customers were annoying to them, and they often didn’t even like the products they sold and were dispassionate. They barely shared information with me about what they knew about the company, and often compensated for their professional distance with asking personal questions about my private life.  All in all, it was not cool, and I have never felt less useful as a worker in my life.  And this was at a posh store like L’Occitane.  It’s sad, really.
  6. Brand Image Hypocrisy: Because of the high prices/high end image L’Occitane held in the marketplace, they had to have a more “philanthropic” image to show to the public.  They often talked about how they donate to noble causes such as associations for the blind, and “Dress for Success”; an initiative that gave second hand clothes to marginalized women so that they can get jobs.  Now here is the irony: I’m sure L’occitane hires a lot of women in need during the holidays as seasonal sales.  And well, what would of been nice of them to do was not only to pay our temporary wages, but to instill management to treat the seasonal staff with more respect–it doesn’t cost the bottom line. If a company wants to support under-served women and community…why not start with their staff?  I am a long time retail worker, I could use a bit of respect on top of the meager wages any day.

After finding out the hard way that they didn’t renew my contract, I was obviously upset. The manager encouraged me to keep in contact with the company and the store, so that they can keep having a relationship with me as a worker.  But honestly, corporations that alienate the work force have little to no chance of a relationship with me. If I was a valuable member of their sales team last holiday, then ultimately it’s their loss, and not mine.



Glycerin is your new BFF when it comes to having glowing skin!

A skin rescuer for powdered make-up users...this setting spray only takes three ingredients; rose water, distilled water and glycerin!
A skin rescuer for powdered make-up users…this setting spray only takes three ingredients; rose water, distilled water and glycerin!

So about a year ago, one of my good friends told me about the skin trend in Asia particularly Korea, where the young girls not only have perfect skin, but they also have shiny, dewy baby skin, like no other in photos.  At first thought, I figured that the look can be achieved by exfoliation, followed with a tinted moisturizer, and no use of face powder, but that didn’t explain the “flawless” glow of the dewy shine trend.  How that look can be achieved, I figured out recently is with the use of a setting spray.  Make-up has a nicer real skin effect when slightly dampened, and the misting of a setting spray (water based) over foundation and powder will make your face look more hydrated, and give you the dewy shine that you crave even after it’s dried.  That’s right, shine can be pretty as long as it is not a greasy slick over your face. Another bonus is it increases the staying power of make-up that is applied.

What’s even more amazing? I found out there is a DIY home recipe for a setting spray that will make you wonder how you could have done without it for all these years! It is super easy to make, hydrating and smells awesome. A homemade spray that is just as good as any $20 spray on the market, but better since it is super affordable and preservative free.  There are different ways to use a setting spray, as in before make-up application (for adhesion and colour intensity) or after (to get rid of the powdery look and build shine)…  I mist the spray all over my face after my foundation and powder but before I do my eye make-up. That way, I get better adhesion and color intensity for my eye shadow, and it prevents my powdered foundation face from looking too powdery by giving it a healthy dewy glow.

A bottle of glycerin from the local pharmacy! Not hard to find and so good for the skin!
A bottle of glycerin from the local pharmacy! Not hard to find and so good for the skin!

Recipe for DIY Rosewater Glycerin Setting Spray:

  • 1 part distilled water
  • 1 part rose water
  • 1/8th part Glycerin** (you could use less if you find it too sticky)

**For those of you who don’t know…glycerin is a thick liquid compound that is a sugar alcohol. It is put in many products in the food industry for keeping things moist and sweet.  Since it is food grade, if you spray any of it on your lips and lick it, it’s totally safe! It’s also known to be great for your skin as it draws water to it and has other benefits too!

Put all ingredients above in a small clean spray bottle.  Shake it to mix it and spritz a fine mist over your make-up or under your make-up depending on the result you want as I mentioned above! I like to use enough that my face feels moistened, and takes about two minutes to dry.  And then start welcoming the pretty shine and dewy glow that using a setting spray imparts!

It's hard to see in photos, but the hydrating and glowing effect of using a setting spray is worth it, even as it covers the back of my hand!
It’s hard to see in photos, but the hydrating and glowing effect of using a setting spray is worth it, even as it covers the back of my hand!

Staying pretty while on vaca is harder than it seems…

There are so many obstacles to a regular make-up/face care routine while on vacation.  An inspired routine is even more difficult on the go.  At first I thought all I had to do was pack my toiletries into small bottles and choose carefully which make-ups to bring.  I didn’t factor in weather (rain, wind, sun) and I also didn’t factor in the time.  Travel and vacation trips are often about doing the most with the amount of time you have, making powdering your nose, while in the bathroom something you can justify skipping.  At the end of the day, my make-up was all smudged and barely there, my skin was tired and aching for hydration, and my body was drained.  I’m sure I didn’t look that bad, but I was hoping to get some great photos with me looking all cute riding various rides at Disney, or having a fun, while having a smokin’ hair day at Universal, but…well, I think I was only semi-successful.  I’ll post up some photos and allow you guys to judge. (but be nice!)

This was the second or third ride that day! It’s a small world after all! And my make-up is giving good coverage so far!
Monsters Inc. too cute! I can’t believe this photo turned out well. This is the end of the day when my make-up was literally gone. I can see some smudging on the top liner…but otherwise, it’s not too bad.
The only day of good weather while we were there! My makeup is ALL smudged in this photo because of a water ride.

What I think I did right was my choice of makeups.  I went simple. Foudation/powerder to set. I pared down colours, opting for a lavender pink shadow, and a light white shimmer–if I felt like getting fancy.  Then it was black eyeliner and black shadow for smudging it.  Mascara, brow definer, and blush.  I know this seems like a lot but it actually isn’t.  It fit in a small pouch that looked like a pencil bag.  And top it off with a bit of home made lip gloss!

What were my mistakes?  I needed to carry make-up remover, or some lotion, to wipe away smudges.  I had a lot of them sometimes at the end of a rainy adventure filled day, and smudged liner at the base of your eyes makes one look tired, and it makes bags more noticeable.  Another mistake was I carried no powder.  This is because on a regular day, I am not as active as on a vaca day.  I was in and out of rides at them parks, and the wind blew off everything that I had on.  At the end of the day, I’m sure I had a bare face, which is not bad, but considering I wear gentle make-up that is not made to last, I needed to reapply some form of face make-up to take the last days photos while still looking perky and revitalized.

All in all, I know vacations are not about looking your most fashionable, but then again, the photos you keep are what help you remember the trip. I know I would prefer to look my best in them.  In a way vacation grooming and present-ability is important because even if it was one disaster of a trip, your photos you keep and show to your friends can say otherwise.  They can say, “damn, my hair looked awesome that day!”