In The PathTM, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, and medical aesthetics industries. Here, RéVive Skincare CEO Elana Drell Szyfer shares her road to success.
“The day has 24 hours and sometimes, you need to use them all.” This is just one of RéVive® Skincare CEO Elana Drell Szyfer’s many go-to mantras, and she’s been living up to it for over 20 years. “I coined this one when I went to business school at night and worked full time during the day,” she shares. “It prepared me well for the rest of my life.”
That’s undoubtedly true, because the 50-year-old Maplewood, N.J., native has been extremely busy ever since graduating from her undergraduate degree at ColumbiaTM and her NYU® marketing MBA program. She started from the bottom in the beauty industry as an assistant at Chanel’s holding company, working her way up through roles at beauty titans like L’Oreal®, Estée Lauder®, Lancôme®, AHAVA®, Avon®, and Laura Geller® (phew!), all before taking the helm at RéVive.
You’ll likely be unsurprised to hear that the industrious Szyfer’s mornings begin in her West Orange, N.J. home between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. (if she isn’t traveling, that is). This is sometimes followed by an at-home workout or a ride on her stationary Peloton® bike, then breakfast with her husband and three teenage daughters. This is all before jumping onto the train to work in New York City. After a green juice or coffee, Szyfer’s days often include a mix of team and one-on-one meetings, phone calls, and “unplanned time” to review the overall business.
Szyfer meets with the extended RéVive executive team once each week, takes calls with different retail partners, and spends a lot of time with the brand’s human resources department, but her work life isn’t confined to the office. “When I can, I also go into stores,” she says. Other field trips and activities — like group workouts with her colleagues — take place as well.
Here, in our interview with Szyfer, she shares tips for professional success beyond conference rooms and team building activities. Nothing is off limits — she spills on everything from how she got to where she is and her advice for how others can make their mark in the beauty industry, to fun stuff, too. Read on to get to know more about the CEO!
Spotlyte: What was your big break in the beauty industry?
Elana Drell Szyfer: I got a job as an assistant at L’Oréal working for someone who realized that I had passion and was willing to work hard. He was willing to sponsor me. I also spoke French fluently, which was a plus. I worked for him for a year as an assistant, and then he promoted me into marketing. At the same time, I applied to business school for a part-time program and got my MBA at night.
Spotlyte: Which of your mentors helped pave your path to success?
EDS: I had two bosses at critical times in my career who taught me by example. They invested significant time in me and I learned from them tremendously. The first was someone [who I worked with] at the beginning of my career. He believed in my abilities and gave me an opportunity. He always made time for me, which — now that I am an executive — I realize is so rare and generous. He helped me enter the culture of the first major company that I worked for, and it set the tone and the standard for my entire career.
The second boss was someone [who I worked with] much later in my career, when I took a major pivot to a major leadership role with great visibility. At the time, I was nervous and stressed about everything; I likely projected a great deal of insecurity and fear. She projected confidence and calmness at all times. She taught me that careful consideration was as important a skill and tactic as immediate action. She also taught me that silence was just as powerful as dominating a conversation — sometimes even more so. To this day, if I am stumped on how to handle a decision or situation, I try to envision what she would do because I know it would be the right thing.
Spotlyte: Who has been your biggest supporter or cheerleader? Why was this person significant for your success?
EDS: I can’t limit to one. I’ve had an amazing support network at the inner core, and that’s the ultimate confidence builder and game changer. My father was a huge champion. He always told us that we needed to work hard, and there was nothing we couldn’t do. My mother always worked full-time and still does, [volunteering and advising]. She sets an expectation that with perseverance and optimism, there are no limits. My husband has always supported me and encouraged me.
This trifecta was, and is, a mental game changer. Guilt and doubt are debilitating emotions. Having the people closest to me support and believe in me is a gift that many people don’t have. I am very lucky. I also have a very close girlfriend who I can call anytime and complain to and make off-color jokes with — that’s also super important!
Spotlyte: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the beauty industry, or more specifically, skincare?
EDS: I’m a big believer in “knowledge is power,” so study up! Read as much as you can about the industry, the companies, the products, the retailers, the people, the trends, etc. There is more information than ever for free. Take advantage of it! Contact people, ask to meet them, learn their stories. Network, offer to work for free, and learn as much as you can. These methods work.
The industry is very welcoming and always in search of talent. Most importantly, if you want to work in beauty, make sure you are passionate about it — that’s the fuel that will keep you going for a lifetime.
Spotlyte: How did you treat your skin before stepping into the beauty industry? Any mishaps?
EDS: While I had my share of “summer tan” moments, my mother did educate us from a very early age to wear sunscreen, cover up and stay out of the sun. I suffered from acne as a teenager. My mother sent us to the dermatologist and also to get facials.
Spotlyte: Where do you get facials now?
EDS: Of late, I have subscriptions at two different places and really love the facials there. The first is Naturopathica®. [I go there] for amazing European style facials incorporating steam, extractions, and facial massage. [I also get] different types of treatments [there] like Hydrotherapy and light therapy.
I also recently started going to Silver Mirror® Facial Bar. I’ve had the Anti-Aging Facial, which I thought was incredible and very different from facials that I’ve had in the past. It focuses on drainage, muscle and collagen stimulation, and red light treatment.
I’ve been getting facials since I was a teenager. I went to the [now closed] Georgette Klinger® Salon on Madison Avenue and 52nd Street for years and saw the same facialist. Since then, I have seen lots of different people, but always prioritize facials as an important part of my skincare routine.
Spotlyte: What’s in your personal beauty closet?
EDS: As you can imagine, I have a plethora of product. I always use the products of the brand that I am working for, so my regimen is heavily RéVive Skincare, but I use other things as well. I am constantly trying new products from competitors to keep my knowledge base current.
Spotlyte: What products do you use in your morning beauty routine?
EDS: I am very good about my daytime routine: always a serum, moisturizer with SPF, eye cream. Sometimes I use two serums for face, an eye serum, and face, eye, and neck creams — all RéVive.
Spotlyte: What does your evening beauty routine entail?
EDS: Nighttime gets more iffy. I remove my makeup with a micellar water. I am someone who considers it to be an accomplishment if I manage to get the makeup off and my face washed before I fall asleep — and I don’t accomplish that every night. I should be using a serum and a night cream, at a minimum. I’d say that happens three times a week on a good week. I do manage to do at least one mask a week, if not more. I travel with the ReVive VitalitéTM Energizing Mist and our Masque Des YeuxTM Eye Mask, which makes you look like you slept, even if you didn’t.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on anti-aging?
EDS: This one has been hard for me, as it’s a term we’ve always used in the industry. I understand the dislike of the term and the negative reaction to it. I think I’m just desensitized, so it doesn’t have a charge for me — it’s how we’ve always codified products with results. Interestingly, it was never really a term used at RéVive. In terms of the philosophy, I’m pro taking care of yourself and using products and services to help you feel your best — and if that’s by looking your best, great. I want my outer appearance to reflect my drive and energy.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on cosmetic injectables?
EDS: I’m very pro injectables. Sometimes people are surprised that I say that for two reasons: I work in skincare, and it doesn’t look like I use injectables. [My doctor] has a [subtle] touch.
Spotlyte: Have you tried injectable wrinkle reducers?
EDS: I have, and am a regular user. I get treated in my forehead and around the eyes [crow’s feet].
Spotlyte: Have you tried injectable filler?
EDS: In my nasolabial folds — I think it works wonders.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]
Spotlyte: What other treatments have you tried?
EDS: My go-to dermatologist for all procedures — injectables, fillers, pulsed light and laser — is Dr. Jeffrey Roth in New York City. I’ve also seen him for pulsed light and cold laser for collagen production around the eyes. I also go to Skin Laundry® regularly for their laser and light facial, as well as their Ultra Fractional Facial.
Spotlyte: Which in-office treatments do you like the results of the most?
EDS: Injectable wrinkle reducers, fillers, and the laser around the eyes have made the biggest difference.
[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment, medication, or supplement.]
Spotlyte: You have three daughters. What have they taught you about beauty, if anything?
EDS: My daughters are all very into the beauty industry in different ways. They also all look different from me and from each other, so there is a great deal of variety at home and a great deal of individual “style.” They all know how to use so many more tools than I do expertly — the beautyblender®, different brushes, etc.
My oldest, 18, is a huge consumer of YouTube makeup application videos. She is also a big sample box subscriber. As a result, she has amazing makeup application skills and technique. She has fair skin, with blond curly hair, and blue eyes. I also admire how she has embraced her curls and wears them naturally.
My middle daughter, 16, is very focused on her best features: her eyebrows, her cheekbones and her large lips. She knows how to apply makeup with a transformative hand that still looks very natural.
My youngest, 13, also has a real talent for makeup application and takes risks that I don’t, like orange shadows and red lips.
Spotlyte: What do you teach your teenagers about skincare?
EDS: In terms of skincare, they have been wearing sunscreen since they were babies. They also get facials, have full cleansing and moisturizing regimens and love a good mask.
Spotlyte: Do your kids wish to follow in your footsteps, or be involved in the beauty industry?
EDS: Right now, I don’t think any of them are interested in the industry. Their interests span writing, politics, history, art, and musical theater.
Spotlyte: When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing for fun?
EDS: I frequent New York galleries and museums, I spend time with my family at our pool and at our dinner table, or cooking — them, not me — in the kitchen. I also love to travel for pleasure. I like to read, but often fall asleep doing so. I read the New Yorker® and many non-fiction books. I listen to a few podcasts, have a few favorite TV shows, like Billions. I love the movies, and listen to all kinds of music with a focus on classic rock, Motown, ‘70s disco, and first wave. I am admittedly a huge Beyoncé, Madonna, Cardi B, and Ariana Grande fan. I also like to work out.
Spotlyte: You've said in interviews that you're a fitness veteran, having tried it all. What is your go-to fitness class or routine at the moment?
EDS: Last year, for Mother’s Day, my family bought me a Peloton bike. I use it about three to four times a week. The access to their enormous library of classes, which is also available online, is great when I travel. On the weekends, I will do a bootcamp for 50 minutes, and then Peloton at home for 30 to 45 minutes.
Spotlyte: What does your bootcamp class entail?
EDS: I have a standard “bootcamp” that I’ve been doing every Saturday and Sunday morning at 8 a.m. with my husband for the past six years. It’s at a boutique gym near my home, run by a former personal trainer and Muay Thai boxer. I have been training with him for about 16 years. His philosophy is “never the same.” Each class is different.
Spotlyte: Do you exercise with your co-workers?
Spotlyte: Do you have a mantra?
EDS: I actually have a lot of mantras. My teams have coined them “Szyferisms” over the years.
“The day has 24 hours and sometimes you need to use them all.” I coined this one when I went to business school at night and worked full time during the day. It prepared me well for the rest of my life.
“Life is like a rubber band — it expands when it needs to.” Sometimes you just have a little “extra” and you need to be flexible and just “expand” whether that be time, mental capacity, strength, patience, whatever.
“This is time limited.” My mother used to tell us all the time. It helped put tough periods in perspective.
“You have to know when to poke, and you have to know when to stroke.” My father used to say this to us, in reference to dealing with people: employees, friends, children. It’s about when you push an issue or when you let it go and be supportive.
“You can always look up, but you can always look down.” In other words: you may think things could be better – but they could actually be worse. My mother also used to say this because her father said it to her.
“Leopards don’t change their spots.” A very important mantra my father taught me. He said it to me in reference to a boy. He was right. It made me realize we can’t change others. They can only change on their own.
“You can never go wrong by doing right.” A very close friend taught me that. I use this one when torn and making tough decisions.
“You got this, I believe in you!” This is something that my husband says to me and our children all the time — before a big day, test or presentation.
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