Women scientists — not models — are the stars of this empowering new skin-care campaign

Dana Oliver
Beauty Director
Female scientists, including therapist Hadia Zarzour, geneticist Yael Joffe, and Sophia Yen, co-founder of Pandia Health, are fronting a new skin-care campaign by Perricone MD called Born Seekers. (Photos: Jack McDonald/courtesy of Perricone MD)

Movies such as Star Trek and Hidden Figures, as well as children’s picture books like Ada Twist, Scientist and Count Girls In, have helped to illuminate positive images of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and encourage young girls who are curious about careers in these fields. Now one skin-care brand is doing its part to advocate for women in these male-dominated industries.

Perricone MD has unveiled its Born Seekers campaign, which honors the trailblazing accomplishments of female scientists and coincides with the brand’s revamp of its popular skin-care collections, including High Potency Classics, Cold Plasma Plus, and Vitamin C Ester.  It has also incorporated a philanthropic component, partnering with the Scientista Foundation to donate $100,000 in fellowship funding to pre-professional women in STEM fields.

Putting money where its mouth is to support this cause isn’t just a nice thing to do; research shows that the gender gap in STEM still exists. Although women hold nearly as many undergraduate degrees as men overall, they make up only about 30 percent of all STEM degree holders, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And in 2015, they held only 24 percent of STEM jobs.

According to Perricone MD’s chief marketing officer, Robert Koerner, selecting scientists as the faces of the Born Seekers campaign made sense because “scientific research has been a cornerstone” of the brand for the past 20 years. “The accomplished female scientists in this campaign share our passion to push the boundaries of science and positively impact the world.”

What also makes the Born Seekers campaign stand out is the fact that it features real women — not models — fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and all. Koerner says that for decades, beauty and skin-care brands have relied heavily on “imagery that signifies perfection in order to market their products, and this type of imagery is still the norm.”

Everyone can spot an overly retouched model image from a mile away. Everyone knows these looks are unachievable overpromises, but we all seem to suspend disbelief and buy the promise anyway,” he explains. Koerner admits that Perricone MD relied on model imagery in the past. Now, however, the brand is communicating in a way that is more holistic.

“Our new Born Seekers campaign features women who are doing amazing work in STEM-related fields, and their stories are what we want to bring to life with heroic imagery,” says Koerner. “We didn’t feel the need to enhance these images, since our proof points — our promises — come from the proven results we deliver.”

Mental health therapist Hadia Zarzour wants to motivate women to do anything or be anyone they want. (Photo: Jack McDonald/courtesy of Perricone MD)

Born Seeker and therapist Hadia Zarzour, who hails from Syria, doesn’t take the visibility she’ll gain from sharing her journey lightly. She hopes it will inspire women to do anything they want. She tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “There was a stigma against studying psychology in Syria, especially as a woman. However, my desire to help people has helped me to overcome this challenge and has allowed for the work I am doing to be rewarding and inspiring.”

Dietician and geneticist Yael Joffe wants to challenge the way nutrition is taught and practiced beyond the kitchen. (Photo: Jack McDonald | Courtesy of Perricone MD))

Fellow Born Seeker Yael Joffe, who is a pioneer in the scientific study of nutrition and genetics, believes changing society’s idea of what constitutes an appropriate career for a girl to aspire to is one of the greatest challenges in breaking barriers in STEM. “This starts when our children are very young and is reflected in their school curriculum and even their reading books,” she says. “We need to go back to the beginning and see through what lens our children are being exposed to STEM careers.”

Sophia Yen of Pandia Health believes the lessons of STEM education can be applied to almost every industry. “There are lots of women in STEM. We welcome you and will support you,” she says. (Photo: Jack McDonald/courtesy of Perricone MD)

When asked what targeted actions need to be taken to support women and girls in STEM, Born Seeker Sophia Yen, MD, the CEO and co-founder of accessible birth control company Pandia Health, presents a list:

“1) Show them the #SheHeroes in the world. 2) Make sure that for every panel you see, 50 percent are women. 3) Institute a policy that for every position, in the final two candidates, one is a woman. 4) Check out the companies that you support/buy from. Are they led/founded by women? 5) Ask what companies are doing to increase women in positions of leadership. 6) Have more family-friendly leadership meetings; for example, not at 8 a.m. when someone has to drop off or pick up. Don’t have a meeting at 5 p.m., when families need to be eating. Do it at noon.”

Now this is a roadmap for advancing women and girls in STEM. The onus is now on those in positions of power who can make a change, and Perricone MD is proof that skin-care brands can really make an impact.

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