L'Oréal President Carol J. Hamilton at CEW Women in Series Seminar


Does working in makeup as a beauty executive sound like your dream job? Beautylish attended the Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) Women in Beauty Series-West Coast seminar last week to find out more about the beauty industry—from the business side. L'Oréal Luxury Division President Carol J. Hamilton was the noted guest of honor, and discussed life as a beauty executive in an informal panel moderated by lifestyle expert Martha McCully.

Carol is a powerful influence in the industry, standing behind a 26 year relationship with L'Oréal. She's the driving force behind some of your favorite beauty brands: Giorgio Armani Beauty, Lancôme, Kiehls Since 1851, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, Viktor + Rolf, Diesel and Ralph Lauren Fragrances. "I have a deep belief that beauty is the most personal expression of how a woman feels about herself," says Carol. "It's a reflection of social and cultural trends with boundless opportunities—it's all encompassing and ever-changing." 

But Carol's roots weren't always so beautiful. She worked in some not-so-glamorous environments before finally turning to the industry she loves: "I put myself through college [Vassar] and worked 40 hours a week as a waitress at Friendly's and McDonald's. It was a horrible job. I even had to do hamburger inventory on raw meat patties—yuck! But it was 1974, and that was the worst economy the country had seen since the Great Depression! I got rejected from Bloomingdale's as a buyer, so I eventually found my way to Grey Advertising, working for eight creatives on the Revlon account. I became familiar and comfortable with the creative process, and worked there for four years. I learned skills in product management and decided to stay in the beauty realm. I transitioned to L'Oréal and I've been here ever since—it's an amazing place to work."

While at L'Oréal, Carol's transformed her brand portfolio and has been named one of Advertising Age's 50 Most Powerful People in Marketing. "I travel a lot, learn about every aspect of beauty, and work with very talented and demanding individuals. When I first started at L'Oréal, I was motivated by the phrase, 'Because I'm worth it,' and I still believe it."


1. Believe in your job.

"Find a business and a brand that you really care about. I work hard and it's stressful at times, but I really love my job. Believe that what you do helps others."

2. Tailor your skill set.

"Whether New York or California, find a company whose values you believe in. It doesn't matter whether you're working for a start-up or a large corporation. If you work at a big company, think like an entrepreneur—you'll bring in a fresh spirit and new ideas that separate you regardless of bureaucracy. If you work at a small start-up, you might be frustrated in a structure-less environment. You can become so flexible that you don't have focus or direction. It's a yin and yang—set rules for yourself to stay on task."

3. Go global.

"We're living in a global economy now. You'll become a better leader by working with others from different cultures and countries. Broaden your horizons."

4. Listen and absorb.

"The most important quality of a leader is their listening skills. If you truly hear and understand feedback from your team members, the general level of work only improves."

5. Be a team player.

"L'Oréal runs as a team. It's not a place where you work alone on projects. I love contributing ideas and always welcome feedback."

6. Have fun.

"Why bother to come to work if you can't have a good time? Bring in a positive energy. Work hard, play hard."

7. Demand more from yourself.

"When I'm hiring new team members, I look for people who are results-oriented. I see what they've accomplished in the past—they don't necessarily have to be from the beauty industry. I want team members who demand more from themselves, are active listeners, and people who are happy. In the beauty industry, it's vital to have a passion for the visual arts: culture, travel, fashion—they love things that are beautiful in the world."

8. Keep the work/life balance.

"A successful career is great, but you need to have time for yourself otherwise you'll burn out. Off-work hours are the time to reinvigorate yourself and clear your head. I'm in the office by 8:30 every morning and unless I have an event, I go home for dinner by 7:30 pm every night. I have a weekend house in Connecticut where I love to garden and play with my kittens. My advice: Create your own boundaries at work, articulate them to your peers, and stick with the schedule."

Cosmetic Executive Women, Inc. (CEW) is a nonprofit professional organization that advances the professional growth and leadership in the cosmetic industry through development and networking, industry insights, access to leaders, recognition of achievement and innovation and its philanthropic foundation. For more

information, log on to www.cew.org.