Faced with an image of themselves on a screen, untold numbers of Americans have, of late, wondered: needle or knife? “You can do filler, Botox, get a face-lift—fine,” Mark Stanlein, the C.E.O. of the skin-care company QMS, said the other day. He sat at a table at the Palm Court, at the Plaza Hotel, wearing a blue suit, an expression of sublime equanimity on his very smooth face. “That won’t change the quality of your skin. Greasiness, oiliness, dryness, eczema, large pores—none of those procedures will change that.”
He is pushing another option: spackle. “Your cells are bricks. The cement between them is collagen,” he said. “You have to start adding cement after eighteen, nineteen years old.” QMS uses bovine collagen, which our skin absorbs more readily than its popular alternative, marine collagen. “They are cold-blooded, fish,” he said. “If you put a cold-blooded ingredient on a warm-blooded person, the ingredient decomposes.”
QMS wants to win over men. Among those who’ve used the stuff to smooth the cracks: Daniel Craig, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Timothée Chalamet, all of twenty-six. Donald Mowat, the makeup artist for “Dune,” used it on the actors in the film. Mowat particularly likes the company’s “pollution defense” gel (a hundred and sixty dollars). “The fact that you dispense it by pressing down a plunger that releases the product—post-COVID, that is huge,” Mowat said.
A native of Amsterdam, Stanlein, fifty-four, began by selling packaging to cosmetics companies: “bottles, pipettes, paper, bags—boring,” he said. A stint at a local Shiseido office led to a job as a brand manager for La Mer, where he oversaw the launch of a three-week, three-tube, at-home treatment that cost twenty-nine hundred dollars. “The first buyer was a twenty-one-year-old woman,” he said. “It was about status.”
Now, he said, “people are getting more selfish: It’s my skin, what can this product do for me?” He joined QMS, which was founded by a German surgeon in 1994, two years ago. (“I haven’t had Botox since,” he said.) He targets his collagen at C.E.O.s, managers, and people who are “very well groomed and dressed but not necessarily showing off,” he said. “We’re mostly on LinkedIn.”
Because the pandemic stalled the brand’s rollout in the American market, Stanlein had flown to New York to pitch spas on using QMS for facials. One spa director, Verena Lasvigne-Fox, of the Four Seasons in Philadelphia, travelled in for a meeting. She wore a tweed blazer and had shoulder-length blond hair. A shared language was discovered (German); oolong tea was ordered. Business commenced.
Stanlein said, “In Fort Lauderdale, we personalized the naming of the treatments to the theme of that Four Seasons,” which, according to the hotel’s Web site, was “the infinite waterways that weave through Fort Lauderdale.” Stanlein asked, “Is that something we can also do with you?”
“The thing is, our spa concept is about the healing energies of crystals,” Lasvigne-Fox said. “There are no crystals in your treatment.” She wanted to avoid anything “gimmicky,” explaining that her spa used only prestige products. “We don’t want to find them in Sephora.”
Stanlein asked what the spa does to retain its customers.
“I send our very best customer flowers to his home,” she said.
“It’s a him, huh?” Stanlein responded. “Men are really investing a lot in skin care. But you need to communicate so differently with them.”
“They need to feel that it’s for them,” Lasvigne-Fox said.
“More technical. Not romantic.”
“Matte skin. Very important.”
Common ground achieved, they agreed on a tentative rollout date for QMS facials in the spa. Then they turned to shoptalk.
“Are you ever sleeping during a treatment, or no?” Stanlein asked. “I never fall asleep.”
“Oh, yeah,” Lasvigne-Fox said. “With a massage, I personally allow the therapist to knock me out.” She added, “If I don’t fall asleep in a facial, I feel like I’m missing out.”
Stanlein said, “I feel, I’m lying there as the C.E.O. of QMS. Maybe I’m worried that someone will say that I fell asleep—‘He didn’t even pay attention.’ ”
“But the therapist would be proud if you fell asleep,” Lasvigne-Fox said.
“Probably,” Stanlein said. “Perhaps I need to let go.” ♦