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Robert Oppenheim- A Legend in Aesthetics
Untitled Document
Robert Oppenheim- A Legend in Aesthetics
Mar/Apr 1986

Robert Oppenheim is Chairman of Clairol's Professional Products Division. Has He ever had anything to do with skin care? Lots.

The story goes back to Bob starting his career in the salon industry at the Clairol Company. Later he was asked by Revlon to take over their hair color division. Subsequently, he was promoted to Revlon's "mainstream", cosmetics. He immediately enrolled in a makeup course at Wilfred Academy in New York where he studied under Mark Traynor. Whenever he could, he visited salons, an activity he pursues to this day. ("If you have any questions about any part of the salon business, go out and call on beauty salons. That's where the truth is. That's where the answers are.")

In the course of his travels he was introduced to Christine Valmy who invited him to visit her salon and school. He was reluctant because he felt Revlon might subsequently be in competition with Ms. Valmy, and he didn't want to be in a position of seeing any "secret" products, procedures, techniques or what-have-you. Ms. Valmy insisted, saying if anything he saw would benefit the tiny skin care industry; he was absolutely welcome to it. No problems, no conflicts of interest. The guided tour through the entire Valmy operation got him hooked on skin care. The year was 1968. He went back and spoke to the great Charles Revson himself about the possibilities and potentials of professional skin care. Revson agreed on the potentials but felt the investment would be to great, and the wait for profits too long. Subsequently, Oppenheim left Revlon and went out on his own, engaging in a number of activities. He published a newsletter, was a marketing consultant to any number of companies, and wrote, lectures and produced trade shows and seminars. It was while producing the National Beauty Show in Las Vegas for NHCA in 1973 (incidentally, the first beauty show ever held in Las Vegas), that he realized there were no skin care manufacturers exhibiting at the show. This meant there would probably be no aestheticians at the show. This triggered a whole series of thoughts which culminated in the idea of a skin care seminar. He asked his longtime friend and veteran show producer, Harry Robins, to join him in the endeavor.

Having only his enormous interest in skin care, and his great ability as a communicator/motivator, he decided he had best see how the world's greatest skin care commercial/educational program was run.

He called the seminar, "The First American Skin Care Seminar", the faculty read like a Who's Who of aesthetics with pioneer leaders of the day, as well as prominent dermatologists and plastic surgeons friendly to the cause of aesthetics. The keynote speaker, speaking entirely in French with a simultaneous translation into English, was none other than the great Pierantoni himself. Pierantoni was so impress with Bob Oppenheim's enthusiasm and sincerity of purpose while he was in Versailles, that he agreed to appear for the first time on an American program. At the end of the three-day seminar, Pierantoni paid Oppenheim the supreme compliment. He told him The First American Skin Care Seminar was second in content only to his own skin care congresses!

The great success of Oppenheim's seminar led him and co-producer Robins, to schedule another within months at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. This too was a triumph, and they scheduled still a third seminar in New York less than a year later. The whole field of aesthetics was now launched into anew orbit. Regional skin care associations started to be formed. Other individuals and groups started sponsoring their own educational programs. Oppenheim proceed no further seminars, but was a frequent attendee and popular speaker at other skin care seminars.

Oppenheim's role in skin care was not to end there, however. As regional aesthetics associations grew, their individual purposes sometimes abraded one another and were counterproductive to national aesthetics growth. It did not take long to get to the point that there would have to be some sort of merger, consolidation or federation of these desperate groups lest they begin to work against one another rather than for skin care. Bringing them together would be no easy task because of the differing regions, purposes and personalities. In these delicate negotiations the person who could always be counted on by all to be neutral and a friend of all courts, was Bob Oppenheim. Bob was the common denominator. The federation became a reality, and from this came the affiliation with NHCA and the formation of Esthetics America. For his services on behalf of skin care and the formation of the Federation of skin care an association, Mr. Oppenheim was given a special award in recognition of is contribution.

And that's why the Chairman of the Professional Products Division of Clairol is featured on the cover of a skin are publication.

PostScript: In 1983 Robert Oppenheim was elected President of NBBMA (National Beauty and Barber Manufacturers'' Association). His experience in dealing with differing factions within an industry stood him in good stead. He was the prime mover in merging both organizations, and in 1985 was elected the first President of ABA. The American Beauty Association. This is an association of manufactures of all sizes, as well as manufactures' representatives. As you cane see, Bob's service to the industry continues at a high level.

In the interview regarding this article, Bob was referred to as a legend in his own time. He waved this aside with a laugh and said, "I'm not even a Legend in my own mind". Asked how he would describe himself and his relationship to the business, he replied without hesitation, "Just say I'm a guy who's absolutely in l-o-v-e with this industry". From where we sit, we'd say the industry feels the same about him.


CONGRATULATIONS to Robert Oppenheim for being featured in Dermascope in its series A Legend.