IPG - Formula Masters: 30 Top Beauty Product - Beauty Independent

Formula Masters: 30 Top Beauty Product Developers

Posted on May 15, 2024 (Beauty Independent)

TAYLOR BRYANT

Taylor Bryant

Rachel Brown

At Beauty Independent, we spend a lot of time focusing on founders, the most visible people in the indie beauty ecosystem shepherding brands and products from concept to commerce, but there are numerous people responsible for getting beauty brands and products onto physical or virtual shelves, many of whom are never known to the public.

Last year, to help give them their public due, we turned our attention to some of the lesser known people behind several of the most successful indie beauty brands today by spotlighting rising executives working at them. This year, we’re delving into people at the ground level building iconic beauty products by recognizing cosmetic chemists, product developers and other formula innovators.

Below, 30 architects of beauty products serving indie brands tell us why they do what they do and where they see the beauty industry heading. This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are countless more contributors to beauty products we hope to learn from in the future.

President and Cosmetic Chemist, Simply Formulas Inc.

President, Above Rinaldi Labs

President and Chief Development Officer, International Products Group

Senior Director of Product Development, International Products Group

Director of Product Development, Innovative Cosmetic Labs

Technical Ingredient and Beauty Brand Consultant, Lam Phaure Beauty

Founder and Clean Beauty Cosmetic Chemist, KKT Labs

Founder and Head of Product Development, Holistic Beauty Group

Director of R&D, Cohere Beauty

Head of Research and Development, Cosmos Labs

Vice President of R&D and Regulatory Affairs, Cosmetic Solutions

VP of R&D and Compliance, FP Labs

Cosmetic Scientist

Cosmetic Chemist & Founder, Sula Labs

Cosmetic Chemist

Chief Innovation Officer, Cosmetica

VP of Research & Development

Cosmetic Chemist & Licensed Aesthetician

Master Formulator & President, Naturich Labs

Cosmetic Scientist, Product Developer & Brand Consultant

Chief Science Officer, Prime Matter Labs

Formulation Chemist, Dewolf Chemical, An Azelis Company

Cosmetic Scientist & Product Developer, Ness Knows

Senior Technical Advisor, The Goodkind Co.

VP of Research & Development and Regulatory, The Goodkind Co.

Cosmetics Scientist & Consultant, TSG Labs

Cosmetic Scientist & Co-Founder, Educated Mess

Cosmetic Scientist, The Charismatic Chemist

Senior Chemist, Product Society

Founder, CEO & Cosmetic Chemist, Cindy J Cosmetic Labs

Valerie George

Valerie George

PRESIDENT AND COSMETIC CHEMIST, SIMPLY FORMULAS INC.

What drew you to what you do?

I didn’t intend to get into the cosmetics industry. In fact, it was accidental. I was moving to San Francisco after graduate school to focus on a career in biotechnology. I didn’t realize how cold it was in the Bay Area, and I was looking to escape the cold from West Virginia.

I detoured my trip and wrapped it up in LA, thinking I would never be back again. It was 80 degrees in January, which was exactly what I was looking for. I started looking for biotech jobs in LA and noticed all these cosmetics companies were hiring. I thought, wait a second, I can get paid to make lipstick for a living? The rest is history!

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

The common perception is that cosmetic chemists only work on new products for the market. This is only a small fraction of the work. In fact, there are chemists who only get to work on reformulating existing products, whether it’s for troubleshooting, cost savings or regulatory purposes. There are also a whole other range of roles a cosmetic chemists can have in supporting a brand through a product’s life cycle.

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started? How do you see it evolving going forward?

There is a significant increase in attention on being a cosmetic chemist in media. In fact, when I started talking about my life as a cosmetic chemist online, I was one of the first cosmetic chemists on social media. I even landed the Instagram handle @cosmetic_chemist!

Now, there are a plethora of science communicators online and a huge interest from consumers. This has spurred a lot of great information and a bit of misinformation. I think some communicators are missing industry experience or lack a specific area of focus. There is value and context that can be provided from working at other organizations, with fellow industry colleagues and having a niche area of expertise versus being an armchair chemist.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

What excites me most is that people are paying attention to what happens to their products once they’re rinsed down the drain. I reviewed biodegradability and aquatic toxicity of ingredients before people were talking about it, and now I’m so happy to see it becoming a mainstream point of consideration.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I would like the third-party seals to cease. The organizations founding these seals aren’t really experts in the nuances of ingredient safety or formulation, and they often contradict themselves.

I have been countering one “certification body” that bans formaldehyde donors, yet doesn’t understand that most formulators use a grade of hydroxyethylcellulose that contains glyoxal, which isn’t disclosed on the label as an impurity in the U.S. or Canada. Those brands can get the seal, yet a brand that chooses to make the disclosure is disqualified from getting the seal. The certifying body doesn’t understand my point to them.

Fred Khoury

Fred Khoury

PRESIDENT, ABOVE RINALDI LABS

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

There are a few, but one that I hear the most is that what I do for a living doesn’t involve any science. In all honesty, it’s a blend of science and art, some patience and a little tenacity.

Secondly, since I’m the president of ARL, most people think I’m lounging behind a desk all day reading a newspaper and smoking a cigarette versus in the trenches trying to make the magic happen for brands. I actually don’t even have an office. Instead, I take calls at the dead center of the R&D lab. It keeps me grounded and in tune with every development.

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started?

I have to say that life is more hectic now than it was when I started in the industry 20-plus years ago. I’m not sure if it’s a combination of running a growing company and having a young family at home or if things have just moved to 1.5X speed. Projects are moving much faster than before, and brands need expert help to get things done right the first time.

ARL is much more involved than ever with our brand and supplier partners. We truly feel as if we are their in-house innovation hub. Besides formulation development and manufacturing, we are mapping brand product pipelines, fine-tuning launch strategies, training internal marketing and education teams on newly developed SKUs, and have even gone as far as presenting to retailers from a technical expert’s POV.

Our technical team has also been leading something similar, but on the ingredient side of the industry. Helping to fortify new ingredient trends so that suppliers can develop ingredients that will be relevant upon launch. We are also running application work on new and novel compounds to build out data files and secure IP. This is work that is taking place three to five years prior to new ingredient launches.

I’m not sure if other facilities are involved at such a high level, but we are showcasing our expertise and technical knowhow in every avenue possible. We have been known for curating the most influential indie brands in the industry, and these added offerings solidify the fact that ARL is relevant and an important stakeholder in our sector.

How do you see it evolving going forward?

In the next five to 10 years, our company will be at the forefront of even more NPD as a full turnkey beauty brand incubator, offering emerging brands financial capital in partnership with the industry’s top PE/VC firms. This will help propel our brand partners into motion rapidly, finding the white space and filling the voids fully armed for success.

With all of the formulation lab and contract manufacturing acquisitions taking place over the years, the big-box CMO mentality leaves a lot on the table. Brands are looking for nimble partners that will mold their offerings to the brands needs.

They deserve true innovation and novelty, a personalized codevelopment experience from concept to commercialization, and most importantly a founder-to-founder connection. The big CMO machine can’t tick all of those boxes based on the feedback we have received over the past 20-plus years.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I wish for brands to stay true to their beliefs and to continue growing their brand with the same positive principles and merits that they had from the start. Outside investment plays a huge role in the changes that take place internally, some might be positive allowing for more growth, but at times can cause brands to forget the main reason why they ventured into this space. It’s tricky when you are marching to the beat of someone’s else’s drum.

Secondly, more transparency in ingredients and their manufacturing practices. On the brand level, there is still room for improvement on substantiating actual product performance claims that the consumer can rely on.

Lastly, we in the industry need to put a stop to over-formulating products with insanely high levels of active ingredients just to have an impactful numerical value on the front of the pack. Marketers need to wake up and read the data that has been published by the scientific community on that specific ingredient.

The practice of over-formulating is eliciting a skin sensitivity in certain populations due to this mismanaged practice. Moreover, it is not necessarily better folks. We need to stop trying to “one up” the next brand.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

The use of software tech for the advancement of the industry. We are leveraging this internally to help us develop better products in a fraction of the time it used to take us.

ARL and our partners at In House Software Studio created the first-ever skincare ingredient API. Developers were missing a global ingredient resource, so we built one where anyone can access data on countless beauty ingredients. This feeds into our internal formulation software as a valuable resource to pull data from.

We also built a reverse INCI name lookup tool that allows product developers to match INCI names with ingredients in our database within seconds. At the same time, we are able to analyze ingredient functions and claims, helping our team formulate faster and smarter. Lastly, with the power of AI, we are able to dive into online beauty forums to predict the next big trends. This has been instrumental in our new developments.

Tish Poling

Tish Poling

PRESIDENT AND CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTS GROUP

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

Skeptics might think that beauty products are trivial. At IPG, we believe that beauty is an integral part of consumers’ happiness, well-being and confidence. When done well, these products absolutely have the power to transform one’s appearance and the way one feels about oneself.

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started?

With the advent of social media, startup brands have a more defined vision and receptive audience. At IPG, we are spending more time in the early part of the development cycle to ensure we bring the founder’s vision to life.

Also, there are so many more clean, efficacious ingredients to work with versus when we started IPG 20 years ago. There is no excuse for a brand to launch a product that is not clean with world-class performance.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

The focus on diverse product needs and the Black-owned Brands movement at Sephora. Twenty-five percent of our customer base are diverse owners and products that address specialized consumer needs.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

The advent of inner health and outer beauty, the power of the gut-to-skin connection, and the importance of beauty and overall wellness from the inside out. At IPG, our mission is to develop solutions that make you feel good on the inside to illuminate the healthy glow on the outside.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

With the introduction of MOCRA, the mom-and-pop manufacturers who are not cGMP will have to close their doors, narrowing the playing field for a lot of product development, formulation and CM professionals. With increased regulation in the beauty category, it will be much harder for the founder-led indie brands to thrive if they do not have ample startup money.

Megan Poling

Megan Poling

SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTS GROUP

What drew you to what you do?

Product development is in my blood. I learned from the absolute best, my mother Tish Poling. I remember falling asleep beside her desk when she was an executive at Bath & Body Works. She would let me sit in on high-level meetings and bring me along to corporate dinners, and it has been an environment that surrounded me from a very young age.

In a sense, I never considered any other industry, and beauty has piqued my interest from the very beginning. I started interning the first chance I could, and as soon as I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to excel my career in product development and marketing within the beauty and personal care industry.

What’s a common misconception about what you do?

I think a common misconception about product development is that anyone can do it and that it’s easy. And, sure, on the surface, anyone can do it, but there’s a difference between developing award-winning, iconic formulas and creating another me-too for the market.

At IPG, we strive to make every product a must-have award winner, and we do that by immersing ourselves into the brand, absorbing as much information as we can about innovative ingredients and truly conducting our research before getting pen to paper and batching formulas in the lab.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

I have been fortunate enough to work on some high-profile projects in my time at IPG. Working in product development across many categories requires you to be a bit of a product junkie and expert.

One of my most memorable and proud accomplishments was being asked by a client to speak and teach about the formulas on live television for a home shopping network. It was nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at the same time. It certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone and provided a unique opportunity.

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started?

Technology has certainly played a large role in the evolution of product development and formulation over the last decade. Ten years ago, we didn’t have AI to help guide formulation.

As a product developer and formulator, I relied heavily on my regulatory experts to tell me if a formulation was compliant or not. Now, at the push of a button, I can screen my formulas for regulation and compliance. The way I think about formulation has completely evolved over the last few years.

Although technology has been a great asset when it comes to regulatory and compliance, I am cautious how AI may take the place of product developers and formulators in the future. We’re already seeing AI experiment with reverse formulation and de-engineering. It makes me fearful of the impact it could have on brands intellectual property and iconic formulas go forward.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I would love to see more opportunities for diverse brands in the industry. There is a huge opportunity for people of color, men’s, tween and menopause categories.

Nathalie Roux

Nathalie Roux

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, INNOVATIVE COSMETIC LABS

What drew you to what you do?

I started my career in 1988 when I decided after working for a really cool toy company who made all the Disney toys in downtown LA. I discovered the workplace was for me. I enrolled in a local college and received my AA degree in business, all the while learning about toy manufacturing, purchasing and inventory control.

One day, I pick up our local newspaper, which was the way to find a job, and I looked for a purchasing agent position. I interviewed with Rachel Perry Cosmetics and was hired. I spent 10 years with the most eccentric woman I had ever met. She took me under her wing and opened the doors to creating beautiful products.

Her artistic abilities memorized me as a young lady! I traveled, managed brokers, led trade shows, negotiated deals and was finding out who I was and wanted to become as a career woman. When I left the company, I had climbed the corporate channel to general manager, all before the age of 30. I was blessed to be around MBA graduates that took me under their wing to teach me everything.

French is my native language, and I was raised by my very chic French parents and spent my summers in the South of France. I was exposed to so many beautiful, charming towns and discovered pharmacies with products of all sorts, everything was an amazing experience naturally. Products were as fresh as the food I was eating.

What’s a common misconception about what you do?

It can be glamorous with a lot of hard work attached to it. I would never have thought what goes into developing a product. For example, I took it for granted that it was on a store shelf ready for me to buy

To this day, three decades-plus into it, I am in awe of all areas of the beauty industry. I literally learn something new daily. Just like we need food to survive, we need products to look and stay beautiful. Self-care is not a chore, but a desire to truly love the person you are.

My days start in the bathroom and end in the bathroom. I have my finished goods laboratory as I call it, a little of this a little of that—heaven!

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

I am a leader and not a follower. When you have the capacity to lead, doors open, people listen, opportunities get your inner creativity to a true level of desire, and you’re stimulated and noticed. That’s what happened when I met Richard Carieri, owner of Lifetech Resources.

I worked alongside him for 17 years and was responsible for growing the company and taking it to new levels because I was given the opportunity to do it.  He was not only my boss, the greatest mentor and confidant, but a friend who shared, “In life we must have a vision and always remain curious.”

He also said, “If were not having fun, we’re not doing it right,” so we made it fun and found a creative way to address the lash and brow business. Together, a new era was born and products to support it: NeuLash and RapidLash. We literally came up with these names on an airplane during a business trip.

Richard taught me everything about contract manufacturing, business, finances and to not make emotional decisions when it came to business. Save your emotions for product development he would say.

I also loved the opportunity to drive the creative business for many well-known dermatologists when the market shifted and derms wanted their own brands. Yes, that was me behind those scenes, and I am often behind the scenes and that’s OK!

What product do you wish you played a part in creating?

I love L’Occitane, all of their products and what they represent. My family has a restaurant to this day in the charming town of Bormes les Mimosas/Le Lavandou in the South of France, and one of their executives dined one evening, and while my tati (auntie) offered to introduce me, I was ironically a bit shy, so I opted out and just said, “Hello,” but I have no regrets!

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

So many new people, new opportunities, new ingredients, new technologies, new literature to read almost daily, it’s all exciting and endless. Moreover, I want to pay it forward to the next generation of young industry professionals.

Laura Lam-Phaure

Laura Lam-Phaure

TECHNICAL INGREDIENT AND BEAUTY BRAND CONSULTANT, LAM PHAURE BEAUTY

What drew you to what you do?

From my teenage years, I have always had a love for beauty and the personal care industry. Every job that I got, every skill I obtained was in an effort to elevate myself to make sure I could get my foot in the door in the beauty space and make sure I was here to stay.

From being a makeup artist, going to FIDM for beauty industry merchandising and marketing to getting my bachelor’s in pharmaceutical sciences, cosmetic science and formulation Design, my passion for creating, developing and using beauty products is filled with genuine love.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

One major misconception people have about being a cosmetic chemist is that it’s a glamorous, well-paying job. It’s not, but you do it because you love it.

You are working with top brands in the industry, but you are also standing over hot vats of creams and lotions that can have a strain on your mind and body. Being a chemist is a job of love and passion, not of glitz and glamour.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

I am really excited to see gen Z starting to take on managerial roles and integrating their already vocal opinions into their work as they are starting to obtain decision making power. I do believe they are going to trailblaze and change this industry.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

A big industry technology that impacts what I do is the various formulation software that have been developed to help chemists create products. This software can help reverse engineer products on the market, perform regulatory audits and overall streamline the product development process. Behind the scenes, these softwares can really help brands launch more efficiently which is a win for everyone.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

I see more brands having their own labs to create the innovations they desire and use contract manufactures as a means to scale up. Right now, a lot of brands rely on their contract manufactures for the latest and greatest technologies and innovations, but brands lose the ability to be unique in their product assortment that way since contract manufactures will show their innovations to most of their customers. I see brands taking control of their own formulas not only to gain creative freedom, but to obtain immediate formula ownership.

FOUNDER AND CLEAN BEAUTY COSMETIC CHEMIST, KKT LABS

TECHNICAL INGREDIENT AND BEAUTY BRAND CONSULTANT, LAM PHAURE BEAUTY

What drew you to what you do?

I had been working as a cosmetic chemist specializing in clean beauty for over 10 years before establishing KKT Labs. While formulating for brands and cosmetic manufacturers was an incredible opportunity to learn and grow, it also exposed what I saw as a major gap in how products were developed.

At that time, new developments in product formulation were primarily driven by the manufacturers and industry trends. For those looking to do something out of the box, navigating the road from ideation to market ready was understandably overwhelming. From ingredient efficacies and interactions to their environmental fate, I found myself fielding questions from brand founders wanting to make a difference, but without the support they needed to take them through the process.

I was so inspired by these founders and their passion to push the industry forward. Wanting to help but limited under someone else’s roof, I decided to venture out on my own. In 2020, KKT Labs became the first-ever concierge R&D lab focused exclusively on clean beauty products and the people behind them.

What sets it apart is the fact that KKT Labs was born without the backing of loans or investors, yet has flourished from its inception, proving to be profitable right from the start. This accomplishment underscores not only my entrepreneurial spirit, but also the viability of our mission to redefine clean beauty standards.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

The biggest misconception is that, when formulating clean, one can simply replace a restricted ingredient with a more sustainable alternative and the product will work just as well. It’s not that simple! At KKT Labs, a lot goes into picking a viable alternative. We analyze interactions, review scientific papers, safety reports and conduct formula studies to ensure what we create is safe, sustainable and as effective a product as the conventional version, if not better.

Another common misconception is the belief that clean beauty is simply a marketing gimmick rather than a genuine concern for health and the environment. Clean beauty isn’t about fear-mongering, but about transparency, sustainability and informed ingredient choices. As a clean beauty chemist and expert, I am deeply invested in dispelling these misconceptions by highlighting the scientific rigor and sincere intentions behind clean formulations.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

Collaborating with renowned, globally recognized brands to craft award-winning formulas has been an immensely fulfilling aspect of my career. These partnerships have not only allowed me to showcase my expertise in formulation, but have also provided a platform to elevate the conversation around clean beauty and its transformative potential.

To be featured in various esteemed magazines and recognized as an influential voice in the clean beauty space has been both humbling and empowering. Serving as a member of esteemed councils such as the Blue Beauty Council and the Credo Clean Beauty Council alongside holding leadership positions in professional organizations like the Society of Cosmetic Chemists has afforded me the opportunity to amplify my advocacy for sustainable, green initiatives.

As Vice President of the diversity and inclusion committee at the national SCC and a member of the NSF joint committee for personal care products, I am privileged to contribute to meaningful dialogue and drive tangible progress toward a more inclusive and environmentally conscious beauty industry.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

I really wish I could say I had a hand in creating the iconic Biologique Recherche lotion P50 toner. This stuff is a game-changer, blending just the right mix of exfoliating agents to give you that unbeatable glow. People all over the world swear by it for radiant skin. Being part of the team behind such a skincare staple would have been beyond amazing.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

It’s an exciting era for the beauty industry. With massive growth over the past decade and a growing number of retailers prioritizing green standards, sustainability is now a must-have. And sustainable chemistry is booming, thanks to biotech methods driving innovation in ingredient technologies like fermentation, regenerative farming, exosomes, bacteriophages, liposomal delivery systems and stem cell tech in skincare and haircare.

Because of this growth, there is more investment in sustainable and green research which enables several global suppliers to focus on researching greener alternatives, all driving us forward.

Robyn Watkins

Robyn Watkins

TECHNICAL INGREDIENT AND BEAUTY BRAND CONSULTANT, LAM PHAURE BEAUTY

What drew you to what you do?

I’ve always had a calling towards beauty and wellness that intersected with my personal and professional life. I had a knack for all things beauty and aesthetics. I drew inspiration from pioneering supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks and learning makeup techniques from Sam Fine’s book “Fine Beauty,” all before online tutorials existed.

Assisting my mother with her Avon side hustle provided a hands-on understanding of beauty products from a young age. From a wellness perspective, I sold vitamins as a teenager and spent a lot time in herbal apothecaries with my father. My formal path was shaped at FIDM, where encounters with major brands like MAC Cosmetics, Chantecaille and La Mer solidified my path as a product developer.

For me, beauty is not just a business, it’s an integral part of our culture, history and human experience, especially as women.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of building, scaling and leading a new generation of product developers at Holistic Beauty Group. We’ve been up and running for six years and have had an incredible run specializing in conscious product development for leading, emerging and high-profile brands. We’ve set a new bar of product development excellence. I’ve laid the groundwork for so many of my peers, and I’m extremely proud of that.

At Holistic Beauty Group, we’ve had too many wins to count, so I’m grateful for all of them. If I had to pick one, I’d say the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the founders of Cécred on the recent brand launch.

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started? How do you see it evolving going forward?

I think my job requires deep intersectionality, intuition and connection to the consumer more than ever. The role of product development has transitioned from being artist-led to trend-driven, then data-driven and now community-driven. This shift emphasizes creating authentic, community-focused brand experiences that don’t just compete but resonate on a deeper level.

Looking forward, I see a blend of technical expertise, strategic thinking and artistic vision becoming essential as we develop products that educate and connect with consumers.

What’s a favorite product that you’ve worked on?

I was a part of the original team that concepted the Gel nail polish at Orly. That was a super innovative era in my career. This project was at the forefront of nail technology, blending chemistry and creativity to innovate within the nail care segment. I managed the R&D team and the test salon. It was kind of a dream. I was in the room in when we actually debated on acrylic versus regular nail polish. Why not make a hybrid? The rest of history.

Another favorite was the Pattern Styling Cream and Strong Hold Gel. I learned so much about hair and styling preferences among textured curly hair consumers. It was a super fun and rewarding ride!

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

I’m going to say Nars Orgasm. Such a game-changing, category-defining product that finally gave us deeper tones and a new way to play with highlighter, bronzing and blushing. That had to be super fun.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I advocate for increasing the representation of Black textured hair chemists at the contract manufacturer level. This would greatly simplify the development process as my team frequently needs to educate suppliers on the intricacies of textured hair.

Given that Black consumers purchase three times more hair products than the general market, it’s crucial to have adequate representation in the lab, particularly in this category. Initiatives like the Spellman Cosmetic Science program can play a vital role in addressing this gap.

Christina Valle

Christina Valle

DIRECTOR OF R&D, COHERE BEAUTY

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started?

I have seen the industry evolve over time: for example, focusing on “natural,” which then evolved into “clean.” I have seen brands become so ingredient-restricted that the performance of their products was severely affected. Formulators can search for alternative ingredients, but these alternatives typically come with a price tag, which can be very cost-prohibitive.

Recently, I have started seeing the shift back to less restrictive “no-no lists.” I predict this will continue, especially as inflation runs rampant and consumers become more educated on the proven safety of many supposed “taboo” ingredients.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

The power that indie brands hold. It’s great to have brands that have endured for many years, but I’m excited to see so many entrepreneurs bring unique ideas to life. I love seeing the directions these emerging brands take and helping them define their brand by developing products that bring their brand visions to life.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

There are some products on the market that are smoke and mirrors. They contain few if any functional ingredients, and a lot of times contain those ingredients below the clinically tested level. As a formulator behind the scenes, I would like to see brands be more transparent in their marketing information about their ingredients and what they can do to benefit the consumer.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

Consumer awareness and demand for transparency are here to stay. Consumers will no longer just take a brand’s word at face value, they want to see proof to substantiate the marketing claims.

They have learned how to dissect ingredient listings, and their understanding will only continue to get deeper and ultimately shape the future of product development. This is important for beauty brands to be aware of as it will affect how their brands come to life and whether or not they are accepted by the consumer.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

Clinical testing will continue to evolve and become an even greater part of the process to better substantiate the claims. I believe retailers will demand it.

This will make the product development hurdles more difficult and expensive for up-and-coming brands, but will give consumers more confidence in the products they are purchasing and greater transparency as to what the product will actually do for them.

Thus, I believe it will make it more fulfilling for formulators to develop products they can feel confident will truly do what they say they will do. We will really be challenged to include meaningful ingredients at the right levels to benefit the consumer.

Gajan Haas

Gajan Haas

HEAD OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, COSMOS LABS

What drew you to what you do?

After graduating from Cornell University in 1997, I was trying to land a job for the interim before returning to higher studies to pursue a Ph.D in molecular biology. I happened to apply at a contract manufacturer in the beauty industry based in New York.

As I worked there, I found myself enjoying the industry and the product/formula development. I started out by trying body wash, body lotion and hand cream formulas. It was intriguing to find how formulas were developed, and I wanted to learn more. I’ve been in the industry ever since.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

Most people don’t realize how much effort, research and formula/product development has to happen before the product is put on shelves for consumer use. Product stability, preservative efficacy and safety testing should be conducted prior to the launch to ensure safe use for consumers. Many think it’s a simple process.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

The current atmosphere in the beauty industry is very fast-paced and hectic. It can easily feel out of control, overwhelming and oversaturated. However, the new and innovative products that come to life makes up for all the stress and chaos. I get that sense of fulfillment when one of the formulas I developed is launched in the market and turns out to be very successful.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I’d like to see more transparency with materials and stop unproven negative statements about a safe material used for decades similar to parabens, silicones, coconut oil and sulfates.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do, that you believe has staying power?

The use of peptides and biotech-based technology will outlast the others. Peptides can be used to target specific areas for excellent performance. With epigenetics, peptides can even be further fine-tuned for a more efficacious product.

Odalys Gonzalez

Odalys Gonzalez

VICE PRESIDENT OF R&D AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS, COSMETIC SOLUTIONS

What drew you to what you do?

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of science and creativity, and cosmetic formulation perfectly blends those elements. The idea of creating products that enhance people’s appearance and well-being through the careful selection and combination of ingredients is incredibly appealing.

I was hooked when I put together my first emulsion 30 years ago. Once the water and oil phases came together and formed a beautiful cream, I could not think of anything else I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Plus, the beauty industry is always evolving, offering endless opportunities for innovation and discovery. So, the chance to be part of that dynamic field as a cosmetic formulator was something I couldn’t resist!

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

One common misconception about the cosmetic industry is that all products are created equal, and that price correlates directly with quality. In reality, the price of a cosmetic product can be influenced by various factors beyond its efficacy or safety such as branding, marketing and packaging.

Another misconception is that natural or organic cosmetics are always better or safer than synthetic ones. While natural ingredients can have beneficial properties, it’s important to remember that not all natural substances are safe and not all synthetic ingredients are harmful. The safety and efficacy of a cosmetic product depend on its formulation, regardless of whether the ingredients are natural or synthetic.

Additionally, there’s sometimes a belief that cosmetic companies are not transparent about their ingredients or manufacturing processes. While transparency varies among companies, many reputable brands are committed to providing detailed information about their products, including ingredient lists and manufacturing practices. That said, it’s always a good idea for consumers to do their own research and ask questions if they have concerns about specific products.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

One of the most exciting aspects of the beauty industry right now is its increasing emphasis on inclusivity and diversity. More and more brands are recognizing the importance of catering to a diverse range of skin tones, skin types, genders, ages and cultural backgrounds. This shift towards inclusivity not only fosters a sense of empowerment and representation, but also opens up new opportunities for innovation in product development and marketing.

Additionally, the beauty industry is becoming increasingly conscious of its environmental impact. There’s a growing demand for sustainable and eco-friendly beauty products, leading to innovations in packaging, ingredient sourcing and manufacturing processes. This focus on sustainability aligns with broader global efforts to reduce waste and protect the environment, making it an exciting time for eco-conscious consumers and brands alike.

Lastly, the rapid advancements in technology are revolutionizing the beauty industry. From AI-powered skin analysis tools to customizable skincare formulations, technology is enabling personalized beauty experiences like never before. This convergence of beauty and technology has the potential to transform how we approach skincare, makeup and overall well-being, offering exciting possibilities for the future of beauty innovation.

I also see how MRNA advancements and the ability to design very specifically targeted molecules will soon be revolutionizing skincare.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do, that you believe has staying power?

AI and neurocosmetics are relatively new trends making their way into the beauty industry. Neurocosmetics are really centered in self-care and the psychological effects of one’s care and appearance on a physical and mental level. The growth of cultural consciousness towards neurocosmetics has been changing the way we think and develop products. With a focus on active ingredients that function similarly to the same chemicals created by our own skin, Neurocosmetics is going to be blurring the line between cosmetics and medicine, with promising future applications.

AI is still a bit of an unknown, but the value of the technology as a predictor for more personalized care and products is also really promising. Artificial intelligence can help tailor cosmetics to fit the needs of skin types, allergies and genetics more specifically, not only making cosmetics more accommodating but also more accessible to those who would have otherwise struggled.

Kristi Vinkemeier

Kristi Vinkemeier

VICE PRESIDENT OF R&D AND COMPLIANCE, FP LABS

What drew you to what you do?

I love chemistry in general! I like to understand how things work. I began my career as an intern with Estée Lauder as an R&D scientist. After graduation, I explored a few other industries before finding my way back to beauty with another opportunity at Estée Lauder.

The smell of beauty and the opportunity to create products that make people happy and feel good about themselves as a simple luxury makes me happy.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

I think people underestimate how much science goes into beauty products and how regulated it is. OTC products are a very regulated commodity. Legislation like the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022 (MoCRA) should have been in place a long time ago.

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started?

The cost of compliance has only increased. Compliance is not cheap! Having all the checks and quality assurance tied to a product will make manufacturing beauty more expensive. Similarly, the implementation of MoCRA will leave a lasting mark on beauty. The need for competent contract manufacturers will only increase in the coming years.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I would like to see a better consolidation of laws and regulations. Right now, we have competing regulations that I believe will cause issues down the road. The limits some states put on elements down the road may be extensive. It will be interesting to see where MoCRA lands as the new standard and how states respond in kind.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

I believe the clean and natural beauty focus along with the minimal ingredient trend will continue. We keep that in mind every day as we do formulations. I also expect the trend of getting more analytical—using analytical testing to support sensory and tactile appearance with unbiased data—will only continue.

Amber O. Evans

Amber O. Evans

COSMETIC SCIENTIST

What drew you to what you do?

An early fascination with hair products and styling, coupled with the appeal of using science to help people look and feel good, led me to a technical career in the beauty industry. I am passionate about impacting the consumer beauty care experience and positive self-image through the creation of high-performing products. I am also passionate about empowering people through education and professional development, especially within the scope of cosmetics.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

From a service perspective, leading the influential NYSCC has been a fulfilling experience as it has granted me the power to impact the progression of the cosmetic industry. My proudest accomplishment has been creating the NYSCC Internship Program, a new initiative that supports college students in gaining hands-on experience in the cosmetic industry. Internships were invaluable in my path into the cosmetic industry, and I am very excited to empower the next generation of cosmetic industry professionals with the same.

From a product perspective, I am most proud of contributing to the launch of award-winning haircare products and a hairstyling product that is poised for awards and cult-favorite status. It’s nice to know that my efforts and expertise contributed to someone having a good hair day.

Lastly, I am proud and honored to be an inspiration and resource for aspiring and current cosmetic industry professionals alike.

What’s a favorite product that you’ve worked on?

The Moroccanoil Frizz Shield Spray is a favorite of my career. I worked with an amazing team, and the launch of the award-winning product was beautifully executed. I enjoyed making key contributions to the ingredient story, hands-on claim substantiation testing and scientific communication. There was so much internal excitement for the formula throughout the development process, I really looked forward to consumers experiencing that same excitement once it hit stores and salons all over the world.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

I would have loved to play a part in creating Olaplex No. 1 Bond Multiplier and K18 Leave-in Molecular Repair Hair Mask, the latest disruptive products based on new-to-the-world technologies. Olaplex pioneered a new category of hair products (“bond-building”), and K18 utilized biotechnology to elevate hair repair. I’m always a big fan of brands centered around ingredient innovation, and their impact in haircare is undeniable.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

The product development and formulation process of the future will be more streamlined and specialized. The growing use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data will enable improved prediction of formula stability, efficacy, regulatory compliance as well as identification of new chemistries.

With advancements in biotechnology and growing focus on the environmental impact of beauty product production and usage, more options for sustainable ingredient technologies and packaging will be available.

AJ Addae

AJ Addae

COSMETIC CHEMIST AND FOUNDER, SULA LABS

What drew you to what you do?

I am a trained cosmetic clinical researcher, formulator and chemist. I do what I do because, throughout my roles in beauty R&D, I noticed inclusivity gaps in efficacy and receptiveness among melanin-rich consumers. I am also a PhD chemistry student at UCLA researching how to make zinc oxide more effective and cosmetically elegant for underrepresented consumers. You can check out my peer reviewed papers.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

A common misconception about Sula Labs is that we are mainly a “formulation lab.” While we’re most known for our awesome formulations, we are a strong team of scientists ranging from analytical chemists to clinical researchers to even a dermatologist.

We perform clinical trials, consumer trials and analytical testing that provides claims on products which are tested on those with melanin-rich skin. Additionally, we develop raw materials that demonstrate efficacy towards the melanin-rich consumer.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

The accomplishments that I’m most proud of are my research papers. They are literally my babies, and I’m being so serious. As scientists, I think that we have a social responsibility to experiment and publish results that ultimately bring us closer to the truth.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I often hear people say that cosmetic science is “not an exact science,” and I couldn’t disagree more. My job is to make cosmetic science an exact science by using clinical research and chemistry as primary tools.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

To put it simply, research and data. Hopefully, the days of misconceptions around efficacy from beauty products will be further behind us because there will be more concrete research that proves certain concepts right. No more guessing on what is the best order to apply skin care products. Ideally, we’ll have actual research and experiments that give us definitive answers.

Jane Tsui

Jane Tsui

COSMETIC CHEMIST

What drew you to what you do?

I’ve always had a passion for chemistry growing up, but I was also a dancer who loved makeup. I figured there had to be a field that combined my love for makeup and chemistry and ended up pursing cosmetic chemistry.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

People often think that cosmetic chemists put all these “bad chemicals” in your skincare, and they’re harmful for you when, in reality, we’re very careful and meticulous about what we do. Safety is a top priority for us. We want to develop safe and efficacious products.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

Being able to teach students at NYSCC Suppliers Day. It was so rewarding to be able to share my knowledge and be in a room full of engaged students who want to enter this industry.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

Tatcha [Indigo Overnight Repair Serum]. It’s a reverse emulsion that feels wonderful, and the texture is incredible. I’ve reversed engineered it a few times, but I have yet to perfect it like Tatcha. They can’t be copied.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

I think the beauty product development process will require more technical people. Product development has almost always fallen under marketing, but I think that will shift with the rise of cosmetic chemists and formulators who want to move into PD. This is great because we’ll probably see more intentionally formulated products and fewer crazy claims from brands.

Alessandro Mendes

Alessandro Mendes

CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICER, COSMETICA

What drew you to what you do?

I’ve been captivated by the world of math and chemistry for as long as I can remember. I have always been fascinated about the natural world and how its phenomena can be translated into scientific models.

My journey into chemical engineering began with a deep fascination for the intricate mechanisms governing chemical reactions and processes. From the simple experiments in my school laboratory to the complex theories I encountered in textbooks, I found myself drawn to the elegance and precision of chemical principles.

During my time at university in Germany, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in a co-op program at a renowned cosmetic industry laboratory. It was there that I experienced firsthand the magic of chemistry applied to everyday products. I’ll never forget the moment when I first peered through a microscope and saw the intricate structures of emulsions forming. The realization that different compounds’ chemistry could result in vastly different emulsion textures was nothing short of magical.

That experience left an indelible mark on me, and I’ve been passionate about the cosmetic industry ever since. Working in research and development of cosmetic products allows me to combine my love for chemistry with my fascination for innovation and creativity. Whether it’s formulating new skincare solutions, exploring sustainable ingredients or pushing the boundaries of product efficacy, I find endless inspiration in the dynamic world of cosmetics.

I continue to be intrigued by the profound benefits that cosmetic products can bring, from fulfilling basic hygiene needs to addressing physiological needs like hydration and serving as a catalyst for improving self-esteem and overall well-being.

Since that first work experience, I’ve witnessed the enormous evolution of the industry. Advancements in alternative methods such as in vitro testing have paved the way for more ethical and efficient product development. There has been a radical increase in the usage of sustainably extracted natural-derived ingredients, driven by consumer demand for eco-friendly products. Additionally, the improved science-based regulations globally, though varying in advancement and alignement, have created a more standardized framework for product safety and efficacy.

Furthermore, the development in biotechnology has opened up a new avenue to innovate and discover new ingredients, leading to groundbreaking formulations with enhanced benefits. The transition of high-throughput screening methods commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry to the assessment of thousands of endpoints for hundreds of molecules of cosmetic interest has revolutionized raw materials development, allowing for more comprehensive evaluations and faster iterations.

Moreover, there has been a radical improvement in the carbon footprint of formulations and packaging, driven by advancements in sustainable practices and materials. From ingredient sourcing to production processes, the industry has made significant strides in reducing its environmental impact, reflecting a growing commitment to sustainability and responsible stewardship.

Ultimately, my journey from university co-op to professional career has been guided by a passion for chemistry, a fascination with cosmetics and a commitment to leveraging science for the betterment of society. I’m excited to continue pushing boundaries, exploring new frontiers and making meaningful contributions in this ever-evolving field.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

A common misconception people often have about cosmetic chemistry is that it’s solely focused on mixing chemicals to create superficial beauty products. However, the reality is far more complex and multifaceted.

Cosmetic chemistry encompasses a wide range of disciplines, including chemistry, biology, dermatology, pharmacy and material science. It involves not only the formulation of cosmetic products, but also the understanding of fundamental scientific principles and the application of these principles to solve real-world problems related to skincare, haircare and personal hygiene.

Cosmetic chemists play a crucial role in developing safe, effective and innovative products that meet the diverse needs of consumers. This involves rigorous scientific research, meticulous formulation processes and adherence to stringent regulatory standards to ensure product safety and efficacy.

A good cosmetic chemist must possess a broad set of skills. They need to have a deep understanding of skin and hair physiology to develop products that are compatible with the body’s natural processes. Additionally, knowledge of color and hue theory is essential for creating products that meet consumer preferences and trends and adapt to the diversity of complexions.

Understanding the chemical structure of molecules and the function of ingredients is also crucial for formulating effective products. Cosmetic chemists must be well-versed in the latest research on ingredient efficacy and be able to interpret clinical studies to demonstrate product benefits.

Moreover, they need expertise in safety assessment to ensure that products are safe for consumer use. This includes knowledge of regulatory requirements and the ability to navigate complex legal frameworks governing cosmetics.

Furthermore, a strong commitment to sustainability is essential for modern cosmetic chemists. They must consider the environmental impact of ingredients and formulations as well as explore sustainable alternatives to traditional materials.

Overall, the field of cosmetic chemistry in the cosmetic industry is far more nuanced and impactful than commonly perceived. It requires a diverse skill set, a dedication to scientific rigor and a passion for innovation to create products that not only enhance beauty but also promote health, well-being and sustainability.

What’s a favorite product you’ve worked on?

One of my favorite products that I’ve had the opportunity to work on is a sunscreen formulation that was developed to address specific challenges and cater to diverse consumer needs. This project was particularly memorable for me due to its multifaceted challenges and the innovative solutions we were able to implement.

One significant challenge was to develop a stable formula that was PEG-free and silicone-free, catering to the growing demand for clean and sustainable beauty products. Additionally, we aimed to create a luxurious sensorial experience, ensuring that the sunscreen would feel indulgent and pleasant on the skin without the use of traditional silicones.

Furthermore, achieving a high SPF value using only inorganic (mineral) filters posed a challenge as these filters can often leave a noticeable white cast on the skin. We were determined to create a sunscreen that would blend seamlessly into all skin tones, leaving no trace of white residue upon application.

Moreover, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements was another significant challenge. We needed to navigate complex regulatory frameworks to ensure that our formulation met safety and efficacy standards while also adhering to labeling, packaging and manufacturing requirements.

To overcome these challenges, we conducted extensive research and testing, exploring innovative formulations and novel ingredients. We carefully selected a combination of inorganic filters with high photostability and broad-spectrum coverage coupled with UV protection boosters, ensuring optimal sun protection without compromising on safety or efficacy.

Additionally, we leveraged advanced formulation techniques to enhance the texture and sensorial experience of the sunscreen, using natural emollients and botanical extracts to create a luxurious feel that rivaled traditional silicone-based formulas.

One of the most rewarding moments of this project was when we achieved our goal of developing a sunscreen that catered to the diverse needs of consumers, offering reliable sun protection without any compromise on aesthetics or skin feel. Seeing the positive impact that our formulation had on individuals of all skin tones, allowing them to enjoy the sun safely and confidently was incredibly gratifying.

Overall, this sunscreen formulation remains one of my favorite products that I’ve had the privilege to work on, not only for its technical complexity and innovation but also for the positive impact it has had on consumers’ lives.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

What excites me most about the beauty industry right now is its unprecedented potential for innovation and positive impact. We’re witnessing a transformative shift towards more inclusive, sustainable and science-driven approaches to beauty, and I find myself energized by the endless possibilities this presents.

One aspect that particularly excites me is the growing emphasis on inclusivity and diversity within the industry. There’s a heightened awareness of the need to celebrate and cater to diverse skin tones, hair textures and cultural backgrounds, which fosters a sense of empowerment and representation for individuals of all backgrounds.

Furthermore, I’m inspired by the increasing focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility. Consumers are demanding more eco-friendly products and practices, and the industry is responding with innovations in sustainable sourcing, packaging and manufacturing. It’s heartening to see companies prioritize ethical and environmentally conscious practices contributing to a healthier planet for future generations.

Another aspect that excites me is the intersection of beauty and technology. We’re witnessing remarkable advancements in areas such as AI, augmented reality (AR), devices and personalized skincare diagnostics. These technologies are revolutionizing how consumers interact with beauty products, offering personalized recommendations, improved product performance and immersive experiences that enhance engagement and satisfaction.

Moreover, I’m excited by the growing convergence between beauty and wellness. There’s a recognition that beauty is not just about appearance, but also about holistic well-being, encompassing physical, mental and emotional health. As a result, we’re seeing a surge in products and services that promote inner and outer beauty, from skincare infused with botanical extracts to mindfulness practices integrated into beauty routines.

Additionally, the evolving regulatory framework is another source of excitement for me. Regulatory bodies are increasingly providing clear guidelines and support for stakeholders in the industry to make the right decisions with emphasis on safety and sustainability, which not only instills confidence in consumers but also drives innovation and responsible practices within the industry.

Overall, what excites me most about the beauty industry now is its capacity for positive change and innovation. It’s an incredibly dynamic and fast-paced industry, and I’m thrilled to be part of a community that is dedicated to pushing boundaries, challenging norms and redefining beauty for the better.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

A decade from now, I envision significant advancements in the beauty product development and formulation process. One of the most notable changes I foresee is the integration of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into every stage of product development.

AI algorithms will be able to analyze vast amounts of data on consumer preferences, skin types and ingredient efficacy to tailor formulations to individual needs with unprecedented accuracy. This personalized approach will lead to more effective and targeted products that deliver superior results for consumers.

Furthermore, I believe there will be a greater emphasis on sustainability throughout the entire product life cycle. From ingredient sourcing to packaging materials, companies will prioritize eco-friendly practices and renewable resources. We’ll see advancements in biodegradable and compostable packaging as well as innovative ingredient extraction methods that not only minimize environmental impact, but actually regenerate ecosystems.

In terms of formulation techniques, I anticipate a shift towards bio-inspired and biomimetic approaches. Drawing inspiration from nature, cosmetic chemists will explore novel ingredients and formulations that mimic the biological processes of the skin and hair, resulting in products that are more compatible with the body’s natural functions.

Additionally, I believe there will be a greater convergence between beauty and wellness. As consumers become more health-conscious, there will be a growing demand for products that not only enhance appearance, but also promote overall well-being. We’ll see the rise of “beauty-from-within” products that focus on nourishing the body from the inside out as well as holistic approaches to skincare that address both physical and emotional aspects of beauty.

Moreover, I envision advancements in delivery systems that enhance the efficacy and penetration of active ingredients. From microencapsulation techniques to transdermal delivery systems, cosmetic scientists will continue to innovate ways to optimize the delivery of key ingredients for maximum benefits.

Overall, I believe the beauty product development and formulation process of the future will be characterized by innovation, sustainability, personalization and a deeper understanding of the intersection between beauty and wellness. By embracing these trends, the industry will continue to evolve and thrive, offering consumers an exciting array of products that cater to their individual needs and values.

Kate Duffy

Kate Duffy

VP OF RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT, ELEVATION LABS

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

There’s a common misconception that contract manufacturers merely slap different labels on the same formulas for various brands. While that does happen in the industry, so many CMs are committed to genuine innovation.

Research and development involve plenty of trial and error, where we learn from failures and make new discoveries. We actively address customer challenges using technology to tailor solutions to their needs.

By benchmarking against the latest discoveries, studying competitors and listening to consumers, we ensure our approach isn’t just about rehashing old ideas with a new spin. Instead, we strive to create truly unique products that bring our brand partners’ visions to reality.

What’s a favorite product you’ve worked on?

Early in my career, I created a series of face washes for an emerging brand that was reimagining facial cleansing as true skincare. Formulating cleansers is a personal favorite of mine, and the brand’s innovative approach to tailoring the cleansing experience to individual skin types and situations was inspiring.

We designed a range of five cleansers, each offering distinct textures and benefits to effectively cleanse skin under various conditions. I still use them today.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

I’m excited to witness beauty consumers embracing a more holistic approach to skincare. The lines between physical and mental well-being and beauty are blurring, leading to the development of products that emphasize overall skin health rather than empty promises of quick fixes or overnight miracles.

This change offers product developers more creative freedom and challenges us to deepen our understanding of skin and consider the long-term impact of our products. We’re driven to create products that consumers genuinely enjoy incorporating into their daily routines.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I really hope to see the FDA making strides in updating sunscreen monographs. The last approved filter was avobenzone in 2014. Product developers in the U.S. are limited by access to the latest UV filters, which hampers innovation in sun protection.

Additionally, this lack of access leads to transparency issues for consumers, especially with mineral sunscreens relying on UV boosters that closely resemble chemical filters to achieve a smoother application experience. As an industry, we have a lot of work to do here, and the more involvement from all industry players the better.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

We’re witnessing a shift from “clean beauty” to “conscious beauty,” and we’re currently navigating the transitional phase, with retailers leading the charge. This shift isn’t merely a passing trend. Consumers are now asking more insightful questions about product safety and effectiveness, challenging us as product developers to be increasingly deliberate in our decisions throughout the development process.

While “clean” lacks a clear definition, “conscious” embodies more of a mindset than a mere claim. We’re prompted to consider why we choose certain ingredients and their broader impact beyond functionality. Ensuring product safety is now the baseline expectation, as it should be. The next generation of consumers seeks products that not only deliver on claims, but also align with their values on a deeper level.

Esther Olu

Esther Olu

COSMETIC CHEMIST AND LICENSED AESTHETICIAN

What drew you to what you do?

What drew me to my path today can be traced back to a deep-seated curiosity for the unknown, especially in relatively unexplored realms. Cosmetic science was very niche and not as well known years ago compared to today. From a young age, I was intrigued by things beyond what was conventionally understood or accepted. This innate curiosity often led me to venture outside normative ideals and explore unconventional paths.

As I matured, I realized my passion for science was intertwined with a love and appreciation for beauty. I saw the potential to merge these seemingly disparate interests into a cohesive whole.

Becoming a cosmetic chemist and a licensed aesthetician allowed me to bridge the gap between science and beauty in a nontraditional way. It offered me the opportunity to delve into the intricacies of skincare and cosmetics, understand the underlying science behind their efficacy and innovate in ways that marry science with aesthetic appeal.

In essence, the chance to pursue my passions in a manner that defied conventional expectations drew me to this profession. It allowed me to carve out a niche where I could indulge my curiosity, merge my love for science and beauty and contribute to an industry that is constantly evolving and pushing boundaries.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

A common misconception about cosmetic science and beauty is that it’s purely superficial or frivolous. Many people may perceive it as solely focused on vanity or appearance, overlooking its significant scientific and technological aspects.

In reality, cosmetic science involves a complex understanding of biology, chemistry and materials science. Formulating effective skincare and cosmetic products requires in-depth knowledge of how ingredients interact with the skin, how formulations are stabilized and how they deliver their intended benefits. Cosmetic chemists often spend years studying and researching to develop products that enhance appearance and promote skin health and well-being.

Moreover, the beauty industry plays a vital role in boosting confidence and self-esteem for many individuals. It’s not just about looking good on the surface, it’s about feeling good from within. Skincare and beauty products can have tangible effects on mental health by providing a sense of self-care and empowerment. So, while some may see beauty as superficial, it’s important to recognize the scientific rigor and positive impact that the field of cosmetic science and beauty can have on individuals and society as a whole.

Another common misconception about the cosmetic industry is the belief that cosmetics are not adequately regulated. Some people may think that because cosmetic products don’t require pre-market approval from regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, they are not subject to any oversight. However, this is not the case. While it’s true that cosmetics do not undergo the same rigorous pre-market approval process as pharmaceuticals, they are still regulated by governmental agencies to ensure their safety and labeling accuracy.

Furthermore, many countries have their own regulatory bodies that oversee cosmetics, imposing strict guidelines on ingredient safety, labeling and manufacturing practices. For example, the European Union has established the Cosmetics Regulation, which sets product safety standards and bans/limits certain ingredients’ use. While the regulatory framework for cosmetics may differ from that of pharmaceuticals, it’s important to recognize that the industry is not operating in a regulatory vacuum. Measures are in place to safeguard consumer health and ensure that cosmetic products meet certain safety standards.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

Reflecting on my career, I hold several accomplishments dear to my heart, each representing a milestone in my journey as a cosmetic chemist and licensed aesthetician. First and foremost, I take immense pride in my commitment to lifelong learning. With five degrees, an aesthetics license and various graduate certificates, I consider myself a perpetual student, always hungry for new knowledge and skills. This dedication to continuous education has broadened my expertise and fueled my passion for innovation in the field of cosmetic science.

Seeing the products I’ve developed on the shelves of retailers or featured on e-commerce platforms is gratifying. It’s a tangible reminder of the hard work, creativity and attention to detail that go into formulating effective and aesthetically pleasing skincare and cosmetic products.

Receiving messages from followers who have been inspired or influenced by my work is incredibly humbling. Knowing that I have positively impacted others and motivated them to pursue their passions in this field fills me with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Equally meaningful are the words of praise from mentors and professors who have guided and supported me along the way. Their encouragement and belief in my abilities have been invaluable, shaping me into the professional I am today.

Lastly, being accepted for a teaching role at my alma mater holds special significance. Not only is it an honor to impart my knowledge and expertise to the next generation of cosmetic scientists, but it’s also a milestone in representation. As the first Black woman to teach cosmetic science on the West Coast, I am proud to be a trailblazer, paving the way for greater diversity and inclusion in the field.

Each of these accomplishments serves as a reminder of the journey I’ve undertaken and the impact I’ve had both personally and professionally. They motivate me to continue pushing boundaries, pursuing excellence and inspiring others in the world of cosmetic science and beauty.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

Two iconic products that I wish I had played a part in creating are SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. These groundbreaking formulations have been raved about for years, earning cult status within the skincare community. I admire the innovative formulations and the transformative effects these products have had on countless individuals’ skin. Both of these products represent pinnacle achievements in skincare innovation, and I can only imagine the sense of pride and fulfillment that comes with being part of their creation.

While I may not have been involved in their creation, these products inspire my work in cosmetic science and aesthetics. They remind me of the importance of pushing boundaries, embracing innovation and striving for excellence in every formulation I develop.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

One of the most significant changes I would like to see in the beauty industry is a greater emphasis on transparency and integrity in marketing and product claims. It’s crucial for brands to use accurate information and refrain from spreading false or misleading claims solely for the purpose of making a sale. Consumers deserve to make informed decisions about the products they use on their skin, and this can only happen when brands prioritize honesty and authenticity.

Additionally, I strongly advocate for brands to substantiate their claims with scientific evidence. Too often, we see exaggerated or unfounded claims about the efficacy of products, leading to unrealistic expectations and disappointment among consumers. Brands should be held accountable for the claims they make, ensuring that they are supported by credible research and clinical studies when feasible.

Furthermore, I believe it’s essential for the beauty industry to actively promote and uplift brands owned by people of color (POC). Despite the growing diversity within the consumer base, there’s still a lack of representation and support for POC-owned brands in mainstream beauty spaces. By increasing visibility and opportunities for POC entrepreneurs and creators, the industry can become more inclusive and reflective of the diverse needs and preferences of all consumers.

Prakash Purohit

Prakash Purohit

MASTER FORMULATOR AND PRESIDENT, NATURICH LABS

What drew you to what you do?

My journey into the world of startups, particularly at Aveda, was driven by a unique convergence of my academic and professional aspirations. Holding a background in both organic chemistry and business, I found myself drawn to opportunities where I could meld these two distinct, yet complementary areas. Aveda, known for its pioneering approach to natural beauty products, presented a perfect platform.

What initially attracted me to Aveda was the company’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, values that resonated deeply with my own. In the dynamic environment of a startup, I saw the chance to apply my knowledge of chemistry directly to product development, while also leveraging my business acumen to navigate the complexities of a growing business in a competitive industry. This dual application not only allowed me to contribute effectively but also to grow and adapt within an evolving market.

Moreover, working at Aveda provided an exciting challenge: the opportunity to be at the forefront of the green beauty movement, which was just beginning to gain traction at the time. My role involved not just building formulas in a lab, but also strategizing marketing efforts that communicated the science behind our products to a broader audience. This blend of science and strategy was exhilarating and incredibly fulfilling, confirming that joining Aveda was a pivotal step in my career trajectory.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

A common misconception in the beauty industry, particularly among smaller brands, revolves around the nature of marketing claims and the perception of ingredients. There is a prevalent belief that natural ingredients are inherently good, while synthetic ones are universally harmful. However, this dichotomy oversimplifies the science of skincare and cosmetic formulations.

The truth is not all natural ingredients are beneficial for all hair and skin types. For instance, certain natural components can be irritants or allergens, depending on individual sensitivities and the conditions of use. Conversely, certain synthetic ingredients provide the utmost performance of a product for its specific application and are also safe (low toxicity) to use and do not have much of a negative impact on the environment.

The industry challenge, then, is not merely in choosing between natural or synthetic, but in fostering a well-informed consumer base that understands the nuances of ingredient efficacy and safety. This knowledge empowers consumers to make choices that are best suited to their individual needs and environmental values.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

One of the highlights of my career that fills me with immense pride is the development and patenting of innovative uses of essential oils as preservatives. This breakthrough not only advanced natural product formulations, but also reinforced sustainable practices within the industry.

Additionally, I take great pride in my role of successfully creating hundreds of formulas for multiple global brands, many of which have become their flagship products.

These achievements reflect my commitment to excellence and innovation in cosmetic science. They underscore my ability to blend scientific rigor with creative problem-solving, leading to products that set new standards in the market while catering to eco-conscious consumers.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

One significant change I would like to see in the beauty industry is the balancing of regulatory requirements and expectations. Currently, some regulations, while crucial for maintaining safety and efficacy, can inadvertently slow down innovation. These restrictions often require extensive time and resources to navigate, which can stifle the creative processes essential for developing new and innovative products.

Moreover, the financial burden imposed by these regulations disproportionately affects smaller and mid-size companies, potentially limiting market entry and reducing the diversity of products available to consumers. We advocate for a more streamlined regulatory process that maintains high safety standards but allows for greater agility and creativity. Such changes would enable us and similar companies to innovate more freely and bring new products to market more efficiently, ultimately benefiting consumers and the industry as a whole.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

In the next decade, beauty product development and formulation will undergo transformative changes driven by biotechnology and artificial intelligence. As an R&D expert, I see personalization as the future, with products tailored to individual genetic profiles and specific skin needs, thanks to deeper insights into human genomics and the skin microbiome.

Artificial intelligence will revolutionize the speed and precision of formulation, allowing us to quickly simulate and optimize products for various skin types. Sustainability will also become integral, with a shift towards biodegradable ingredients and zero-waste processes, employing biotech to create eco-friendly alternatives to traditional ingredients.

Additionally, digital tools like augmented reality will enhance consumer experiences, allowing for virtual product trials that predict outcomes before purchase, streamlining selection and reducing waste. Overall, the future of beauty formulation is set to be highly innovative, personalized and environmentally conscious, fundamentally changing our approach to product development.

Julian Sass

Julian Sass

COSMETIC SCIENTIST, PRODUCT DEVELOPER AND BRAND CONSULTANT

What drew you to what you do?

Cosmetic chemistry is the perfect blend of art and science. Since I came into the industry as both an avid consumer and a scientist, the technical aspects make the work intellectually stimulating, but all of the sensory and more artistic aspects make the work very fun.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

That it’s easy and that we’re just “throwing ingredients together.” I think because the industry is intrinsically tied with beauty and appearance, plus our industry caters mainly to women, people do tend to devalue it, unconsciously or not. But cosmetic chemistry is like any other scientific field and has so many technical aspects that you need to have an understanding of in order to do this work.

How has what you do and the job you’re in more generally evolved since you started? How do you see it evolving going forward?

I started in this industry with a background in biology, statistics and math, and a lot of my work was focused on clinical trials and claim substantiation. Since then, formulation has taken up a larger part of my work than I ever thought it would when I started, but it’s work I love to do.

I think that, as time goes on, claim substantiation will become more and more important, especially as consumers get more savvy, and that will take up a larger portion of the work that I do.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

Cotz Flawless Complexion. I’m a huge sunscreen nerd, and as someone with darker skin, mineral sunscreens generally do not work for me. However, Cotz has somehow created something that blends so shockingly well into my skin tone while still being a fully mineral sunscreen. It’s an incredible product.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I would love to see more of the industry taking a stand in the science behind what we do rather than caving to consumer pressure. We are a consumer-driven industry, so I know that will never be completely possible, but we see so much misinformation being started by consumers, which then drives the industry to adopt that misinformation, which is always sad to see.

Jennifer Hurtikant

Jennifer Hurtikant

COSMETIC SCIENTIST, PRODUCT DEVELOPER AND BRAND CONSULTANT

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

I am most proud of building my career to the point where I started my own custom formulation business, which was later acquired by Prime Matter Labs. Now, I manage the entire R&D department as the chief science officer at Prime Matter Labs. Formulation has always been my passion, and for the early part of my career, I spent all my time in the lab. I loved it and always wanted to be on the “bench” because that is where I tested new ingredients and techniques and was able to be creative.

To learn more about the business, I went into technical sales for a better work-life balance. I met with R&D groups mostly, so I was able to keep track of all the changes and advancements in the industry. Having these experiences gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of starting my own formulation house.

While running my own business, I had the best of both worlds. I was able to work on a very personal level with brands and share my passion with them while still working in the lab. At Prime Matter Labs, I am still able to work closely with brands, although with less time on bench, and mentor my team to create products that meet the needs of our brand partners.

What’s a favorite product you’ve worked on?

One of my favorite products that I helped create for a brand partner at Prime Matter Labs is an SPF lotion that uses a new technology that enhances the feel of the lotion. Essentially, we use a technique that ensures smooth and even application with no white cast, leaving the skin with a velvety feel after feel.

Traditionally, SPF lotions tend to be greasy and leave a white hue on the skin but this formulation breaks the mold. We apply this new technology to the manufacturing process and are able to create the unique texture we set out to achieve. We’re all very proud of this award-winning formula that customers love.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

I love the Cooling Water Jelly Tint from Milk Makeup. It has an amazing texture, and I deeply respect the work that went into creating something both rigid yet bouncy. It’s not easy! It’s great because it feels cooling upon application and is easy to spread. The tint provides a natural pop of color for both lips and cheeks. It’s a functional and fun product. Kudos to the cosmetic chemists who created it!

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

There are many new tools and technologies that we have now that we’re leveraging to improve the product development process. One technology that is not only changing the way we ideate, but also how we formulate is AI.

For example, on the regulatory side, there is so much information that needs to be collected and processed, and in the past, you had to go through it manually. Now there is an AI technology that scans the documents and pulls out the key information helping to reduce time and errors significantly.

I’m also intrigued by new tools that allow chemists to reverse engineer a formula. This process used to take an extensive amount of time with many trials and errors. This tool has changed the approach and reduced time significantly.

There is also new AI software can predict the stability of a formula. While we still test our products in traditional ways, AI helps to provide an additional layer of detail to help us bring a product to market faster with our brand partners.

Our product development platform, Element, not only helps our customers manage the process, but also helps the cosmetic scientist clearly understand the feedback and create better product samples. It’s exciting to be in a technology forward time and at a company using technology to improve the product and brand partner experience.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

While I am excited about new technologies, there are some that are not quite there yet. For example, AI has some impressive benefits that have helped to expedite and simplify processes, but it still can’t capture the full experience of creating a product. The touch and feel of a product is so critical to the process as well as simple trial and error.

I do get concerned that the excitement over new technologies pulls us away from traditional research, and I think it’s important cosmetic scientists leverage and blend old and new approaches.

Amanda Lam

Amanda Lam

FORMULATION CHEMIST, DEWOLF CHEMICAL, AN AZELIS COMPANY

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

A common misconception people have about being a cosmetic chemist is that we are just mixing things together and making makeup. There are a lot of complexities with formula development, and it can be very multidisciplinary. It is important as a chemist to not only understand from a chemistry standpoint how the formula behaves and is stable but how it works on the hair/skin/body from a pharmacological view.

What’s a favorite product that you’ve worked on?

My favorite product I have worked on was a lip oil prototype that was launched at NYSCC Supplier’s Day in 2023. At the time, lip oils were at the start of popularity, and I was able to develop and launch the formula while it was still trending, so I feel proud I was able to do some trend analysis and tie that into formula development at the right time.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I would like to see less fearmongering and other unethical marketing techniques. Having consumers fear certain ingredients without providing substantial evidence to support does not do this industry justice. Proper education in a way that is digestible to consumers is key in reducing misinformation.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

This isn’t really a trend or technology, but I think the way social media (TikTok, Instagram) has completely changed how trends develop and last is going to have staying power. Trends move so quickly due to social media, and it is important to stay on top of micro/macro trends to maintain relevancy. There hasn’t been another type of media that drives the industry the way social media does.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

I hope the industry slows down a little and becomes more intentional with what is being launched. Not every brand needs to launch a lip balm or a skin tint and not every product has to look like one that already exists.

I also would like to see more science-based marketing for better education to consumers. This will help reduce the fear surrounding some ingredients and therefore chemists do not have to work with such tight parameters for formula development.

Manessa Lormejuste

Manessa Lormejuste

COSMETIC SCIENTIST AND PRODUCT DEVELOPER, NESS KNOWS

What drew you to what you do?

I was drawn to the beauty industry out of pure curiosity. For my undergraduate degree, I studied chemical biology at Rutgers University. During undergrad, I was unsure of what career field I wanted to pursue. After extensive research on my career options as a chemistry major, I discovered cosmetic chemistry.

The idea of creating beauty products had never really crossed my mind as I just assumed these were made in factories. It became clear to me that, before they are made on such a large scale, there are scientists who create and test the formulas we come to love. Ever since discovering cosmetic chemistry, I’ve been obsessed! I furthered my education by completing a master’s of business and science with a focus on personal care also from Rutgers. This degree formed a bridge between the technical side of the beauty, and the business acumen I needed to succeed.

Over the years, I identified a technical gap across many of the product development teams I worked with. I leverage my experience from the lab, where I gained a deep understanding of the technical aspects of formulation development, into a strategic pivot to brand-facing product development. I get to use many aspects of my personality as a #girlynerd in the meaningful work that I do. I am able to be technical, creative, strategic and innovative simultaneously in my approach to work.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

We’re not magicians. Science, though complex, often involves extensive trial and error. People forget that time is crucial in perfecting a formula because you need time to try multiple approaches and repeat your process if it works. Even with the best ingredients, formula instability and technical challenges are common.

Beauty products, in their final form, represent a combined feat of chemistry, physics and material science. The constant emergence of new brands overshadows the delicate balance of art and science needed for a truly successful product.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

There are several things I am proud of in my career to date. Most notably, I am very proud that I started my career at L’Oréal USA. Having made my foundation in beauty at the largest beauty company set me up for a trajectory of success I wouldn’t have had elsewhere.

Since starting at L’Oréal USA, I’ve had the ability to work across a breadth of different beauty companies. In doing so, I have worked on every product category except color cosmetics, which is a level of experience that takes most people twice as long to accomplish.

Lessons learned from one category carry over to others and have led to an overall professional evolution where I’ve been able to build a very thorough expertise base. Using my learning over the past seven years, I am now the founder of a product development consultancy called LORM·CO.

What’s a favorite product you’ve worked on?

Seeing the success of the CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser on the market, especially its 2021 Allure Best of Beauty Award win, made all the challenges worthwhile. This project holds a special place in my heart as it was one of my first launches after transitioning into skincare.

Despite the challenge of stabilizing the formula due to the high concentration of salicylic acid, I was not only able to find a solution but also played a key role in scaling up the product, further solidifying my learnings. As a senior scientist at the time, this project helped me grow tremendously.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

There are two major changes that would significantly improve the beauty industry. Firstly, I believe there needs to be more diverse representation within product development teams.

In today’s age where inclusion is imperative for brands, there are instances where the teams responsible for deciding which products to launch and those reviewing formulas lack diversity. This often leads to significant oversights that result in products missing the mark and alienating consumers. When product development teams are more diverse, there is a variety of perspectives and community representation that mirrors the real world. Moreover, this is also a way to prevent negative backlash on products that were not designed with genuine inclusivity in mind.

Secondly, I’d like to see greater efforts towards packaging sustainability and increased accountability for brands to utilize materials with lower environmental impacts. I am eager to witness packaging evolve beyond the current status quo of post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials and glass for primary components. I believe the industry should embrace more regenerative materials, such as mycelium, for secondary components to reduce reliance on paper and minimize overall environmental impacts.

Andrew Koenig

Andrew Koenig

SENIOR TECHNICAL ADVISOR, THE GOODKIND CO.

What drew you to what you do?

I started my career in medical devices synthesizing organic compounds for specific medical applications, and although this was interesting and innovative, the pace was very slow and highly regulated. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to move into personal care, contract manufacturing more specifically, which exposed me to a much faster paced environment, allowing me to really push the boundaries of innovation in a much more dynamic way.

The quick pace, the direct contact to customers, stylists, aestheticians and to the raw material suppliers allowed me the freedom to express creativity in the form of a product. So, I would say it’s innovation and the ability to be creative that drew me in to what I do, and it’s the challenge to drive business opportunity through innovation is what gets me up in the morning.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

From a product standpoint, I’m most proud of combining product efficacy with product texture and sensory experience. In other words, being able to develop a 360 holistic approach to innovative products that provide the actual look and feel of the efficacy you are intending to deliver.

An example would be a product that is designed to deliver hydration, enhance barrier function and reduce TEWL. From a consumer standpoint, that kind of product should have a feel that is more nourishing. It should be wet to the touch to feel more hydrating as if you are putting water on your skin. It might be interesting to have the emulsion break on application into water droplets that you can physically see in order to enhance the perception of water/hydration being applied and penetrating the skin.

I’m proud of being able to marry texture with performance and efficacy. It was something that I was very passionate about in my last role as head of R&D for the brand Murad, which is a derm-driven clinical skin care brand with an incredible history of driving efficacy. From a broader business perspective, I feel great satisfaction in seeing how my work can directly impact brand growth, and I feel fortunate to have worked with many amazing people.

What’s a favorite product you’ve worked on?

I have a few favorite products that I’ve worked on over the years. One of them is from a visual standpoint. I really enjoyed working on a tri-phase mist that had shimmer suspended both in the top phase and a version that had shimmer suspended in the middle phase. I guess you could say I liked it because of the visual aspects. I thought it just looked cool, and in addition, the challenge of the chemistry to be able to suspend materials in the middle phase was not easy.

Another product that I would consider one of my favorites would be something I developed for a very high-end skincare brand that never went to market, but was later picked up in a masstige line that was very successful. The product was a whipped body souffle that was originally developed almost 20 years ago when these types of products weren’t really in the marketplace, and it was originally developed to look and feel like a marshmallow, but would break into a soft almost velvety cream.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power? ?

Performance clinicals are and will continue to drive the market giving consumers enhanced performance while leveraging natural, upcycling and more sustainable performance and more effective results with less aggressive ingredients.

From a technology perspective, you’ll see continued growth in exosomes as well as growth in the microbiome space, understanding how your microbiome can be leveraged to impact clinical performance at an individual level. I think we are on the cutting edge or right on the cusp of truly understanding how to eliminate certain skin conditions like acne and possibly eczema.

By understanding and leveraging real time data of your skin’s microbiome, we can utilize your skin’s natural microbiome to create a “mini bio-factory” to feed and generate active ingredients to deliver critical efficacy. In addition, we are starting to leverage viral technology to target specific cells to deliver specific targeted personalized efficacy.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

I think the beauty industry a decade from now will continue to push the boundaries of innovation through technology and AI. We will be able to develop formulas quicker that will be more targeted and more personalized in their approach.

I think we’ll continue to push hard on biotechnology (green, white and blue) driving clean, sustainable sourcing. In fact, clean and sustainable will no longer be a point of difference. It will be part of common practice and all formulas, and most packaging will be designed and developed as sustainable with better transparency and for better performance.

I think the future will bring the incorporation of smart devices, which will allow us to measure in real time and deliver product performance in real time at an individual level.

Regulations will continue to evolve as well as safety evaluation will continue to evolve and the test methods we use to enhance our ability to detect and understand what is inside our raw materials will continue to evolve. This will continue to drive better consumer transparency and improve product and environmental standards.

Cassandra Patterson

Cassandra Patterson

VP OF RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATORY, THE GOODKIND CO.

What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?

As a formulation chemist, one of the most challenging aspects of the job is contending with public misconceptions about ingredients and products. Very often ingredients are falsely demonized due to misinformation. On the flip side, consumers sometimes believe that some ingredients are inherently better despite the lack of supporting scientific data or even data that proves the opposite.

When developing a new product, formulation chemists face the dilemma of not being able to solely prioritize performance and efficacy. Instead, they must also consider consumer perception and use ingredients that align with consumer beliefs, even if they may not be the most effective or sustainable options.

What’s a favorite product that you’ve worked on?

One of my favorite products I ever developed was a styling product specific for air-drying wavy hair. Through extensive consumer research, my team was able to identify a growing trend towards more natural hairstyles and a desire to not use heat tools that can be damaging. The product solved an unmet need for this consumer and won an Allure product award since at the time no other styling products existed specific for this application and hair type.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I want to see the industry continue to become more focused on sustainability, including the environmental impacts of raw material and finished goods manufacturing, and reducing waste. There have been a lot of improvements made, but there is still much more that can be done.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

Consumers have increasingly high expectations for product performance and efficacy and want products with multiple benefits. They are also not as loyal to brands as consumers in the past. They expect immediate and “Instagrammable” results and will quickly move on to the next new thing if product performance is subpar.

Any “active” ingredients need to have substantial supporting clinical data. This has overall led to a higher quality for products on the market that I believe will continue for the foreseeable future.

A decade from now, how do you envision the beauty product development and formulation process will be different from how it is today?

I believe that being sustainable will no longer be a choice but a consumer expectation. I expect that there will be much more scrutiny on transparency in manufacturing practices and material sourcing to ensure sustainable practices are being followed from “cradle to grave” of the entire product lifecycle.

I also believe that AI will spur technology advancements at a faster rate for cosmetic science. It should also allow for shorter product development timelines for finished products. I think it is likely that AI will also lead to the improvements in predictive models used for product testing and safety assessments.

Desiree Mattox

Desiree Mattox

COSMETIC SCIENTIST AND CONSULTANT, TSG LABS

What drew you to what you do?

I have always taken my haircare and skincare routines very seriously. Growing up I had an uncle in the cosmetic industry that would send my sister and I all of his latest product launches. When it was time to get serious about choosing a college and a major, I gave my uncle a call to find out what I had to do to have a career like his.

When he advised me to major in chemistry it was such a light-bulb moment for me because chemistry was my favorite subject in school. What better title for a girly, science nerd than cosmetic chemist.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

Fifteen years ago, I was fresh out of college and excited to begin my career as a cosmetic chemist. I had begun actively applying to positions with major players like L’Oréal, Revlon, Avon, etc., when the industry went into a hiring freeze due to the recession of 2008/2009. It was at that point that I decided to bet on myself and start my own company five years ahead of my 10-year plan with no money and few resources.

I’ve worked with many notable brands and created more products than I can count in the past 15 years, but I am most proud of what I have built as the founder and lead chemist of a leading product development and formulation firm. Dreams are real, and I’m proud to have made my own come true.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

I really wish I was a part of the PD/formulation team for Cecred. To work with Beyoncé and Ms. Tina would be an absolute dream! But fandom aside, the ingredients lists for the products and the results-driven, salon professional marketing focus are so on brand for me as a cosmetic chemist. I think my formulation style would bring a little extra magic to the brand for sure.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

There is so much discourse in our industry when it comes to science, safety and formulation. I would love to see us get to a place where all viewpoints and preferences can peacefully coexist.

You can be pro-traditional without being anti-clean, you can be pro-clean without being anti-traditional. The two are not mutually exclusive, and there is a basis for both. As long as we are all formulating effective products that prioritize the safety of our end users and operating in integrity, then we’re all doing our part.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

Biomimetic technology is a trend that I’m really loving right now because it can have such a major impact on the efficacy of both skincare and haircare. As more emphasis is placed on skin barrier support and scalp care, utilizing ingredients that are specially designed to work with the natural biology of the skin and scalp is a game changer. Consumers want results, and that’s what biomimetic technology has to offer. I believe it is here for the long haul.

Alex Padgett

Alex Padgett

COSMETIC SCIENTIST AND CO-FOUNDER, EDUCATED MESS

What drew you to what you do?

I was always interested in chemistry because it just made sense to me. When I was in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do because most bio or chem majors that I knew were wanting to do med school, but then I started having issues with acne. I got obsessed with learning about skin and skincare products. When I was younger, I did always love to do pumpkin masks and spa nights with my mom, but I’d never really thought about the fact that developing those products was someone’s full time job.

A lot of acne products I would try would not work well with my eczema-prone dry skin. I started buying Manuka honey from New Zealand and making little at-home masks with cinnamon or crushed-up aspirin. I don’t recommend this, by the way. It was so fun, and I was fascinated with how different things can interact with skin. I realized there was a graduate program at Fairleigh Dickinson for cosmetic science, so I applied and ended up moving to New Jersey after I finished undergrad.

For my first job in the industry while I was still in grad school I was working with an active ingredient supplier, and that was a really cool experience because I was seeing how a supplier can test their ingredients to then pitch them to chemists for formulations. Before then, I didn’t really understand how contract manufacturers worked. Then, I worked at L’Oréal as a temp in the claims substantiation department, and I hated that job so much. Regulatory stuff is so annoying.

I applied to a million jobs in Texas and California since those are the other two hubs I’d see for cosmetic chemist roles. One of them ended up being a contract manufacturer in Dallas, where they hired me as a formulation chemist. Within a week, I was obsessed with the job and found a passion I didn’t know existed inside me. It’s like the perfect blend of art and science in my opinion.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

By far the accomplishment that I’m most proud of in my career is starting my own brand. I am not a business-savvy person and never saw myself as someone who would start their own company, but I also hate being told what to do and struggle with authority, so it kind of makes sense. I got extremely lucky to meet the yin to my yang who is so good at all the things that I’m so bad at.

I handle the formulation and a lot of the TikTok networking and marketing, and Catherine [Chick] handles everything else. It was a massive risk for both of us, and if I’m being honest, we had no idea how to get where we wanted to go when we started out. It started out slow, which is honestly a blessing in disguise because, had I not been desperate, I never would have stepped out of my comfort zone and tackled my imposter syndrome to start posting on TikTok about skincare.

I genuinely did not think anyone would care what I had to say. If we had started out with a huge launch or a viral product that didn’t require me developing a rapport with an audience about my skincare expertise, I never would have gotten to build such strong and positive relationships with other brand founders and with other influencers. I also think TikTok has been an amazing source of market research for our brand. I genuinely learn something new every single day, and I feel so incredibly lucky.

What’s a favorite product you’ve worked on?

My favorite product I’ve worked on is the Hair of the Dog fizzy mask from my brand Educated Mess because it’s so unique and fun. The idea is that it can help your skin appear more radiant and awake, even if you haven’t gotten a lot of sleep (or you are a bit hungover). That’s where the name “hair of the dog” comes from.

It’s a pain in the butt to manufacture because it begins fizzing upon contact with oxygen, so the production team has to be super careful and quick with the transfer of product as soon as the final ingredient is added. Since we wanted it to address a dull, fatigued appearance, we incorporated brightening gold-stabilized vitamin C and energizing glycoproteins in addition to brightening and soothing turmeric. It’s also super hydrating with glycerin and hyaluronic acid for dehydrated skin, and then the product form helps deliver oxygen as it fizzes up upon application.

Not only is it fun and unique, but I feel like it really encapsulates everything that my brand Educated Mess is about. You can be a little messy in some areas of your life, you don’t have to be perfect, but our products can help reduce the likelihood that your skin is showing the signs of your lifestyle.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

One product I wish I played a part in creating is Experiment Beauty’s Super Saturated serum. Before this brand, chemists always knew glycerin was effective, but it often got swept under the rug as it’s not quite as sexy as the exaggerated claims you’d hear about with hyaluronic acid for hydration. I love that this brand focused on educating consumers on the better ingredient, and that they prioritized results rather than marketing fluff.

There’s typically a pretty substantial disconnect between the chemist and the consumer or between the formulation and the marketing, and I love that Experiment is helping pave the way for other science-backed brands to help bridge that disconnect.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

One change I’d love to see in the beauty industry would be for them to make the Yuka app illegal and really any other sites or apps that exploit irrelevant “data” and push their own incorrect opinions disguised as scientific analyses. I’m all for freedom of speech, but can we please stop pretending that untrained peoples’ misunderstandings of toxicology, biology, chemistry, etc., should be taken as fact?

Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson

COSMETIC SCIENTIST, THE CHARISMATIC CHEMIST

What drew you to what you do?

I stumbled across the cosmetic industry while conducting undergraduate research on the synthesis of flavors and fragrances for graduation. I was instantly drawn to being a cosmetic chemist because it combined all the things I love: beauty products, art and chemistry.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

My contributions to the advancement of product formulations, specifically for the Black community. Most of the products I have created are not really marketed to Black people. However, the products do work for Black people because a Black women formulated it. I am proud of the impact I have had on the industry as a whole by empowering the next generation of Black cosmetic chemists and developing amazing products with my community in mind.

What’s a favorite product you’ve worked on?

This is so hard to answer because I love my color cosmetics equally. However, I loved working on a serum foundation for a clean beauty brand. It was so fun being innovative with the formula to get it just right.

During color matching, I spoke about the importance of offering more deeper shades at the launch of the product versus later, very bold of me, but it was a challenging project overall, so I thought, why not? They ended up launching a beautiful range of shades that made me so proud. This moment really showed me that, although I was very small in the company, my voice can transcend through the industry from that space.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

I wish I had a part in developing the Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. The formula is timeless, well received and genuinely makes people happy when they wear it.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

I would like to see more brand owners and CEOs interested in product longevity. No one likes when their favorite product is out of stock or, God forbid, discontinued. More education surrounding business practices on how to create quality products that can last a full life cycle is what I want to see.

Julianne Carlson

Julianne Carlson

SENIOR CHEMIST, PRODUCT SOCIETY

What’s a favorite product that you’ve worked on?

I enjoy working with oil gellants, and I worked on an anhydrous SPF 50 oil gel. I had to figure out how to work with the polymer, trial the different textures I was able to achieve with it and then narrow down on what is best for the brief. I got preliminary approval on first submission as we waited for in-vitro testing so that felt good as well. It’s not launched yet, so here’s hoping it makes it to market.

What’s a product you wish you played a part in creating?

I love Glossier After Baume: The thick texture, the feel on the skin, the seafoam green glass jar with baby pink metal cap, all around it’s perfect to me. I admire the formulator’s choice of using phytosterol esters because they are a personal favorite.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

I recently really enjoyed the collaboration between E.l.f. Cosmetics and Liquid Death to make the corpse paint makeup set. That must’ve been fun to work on, and I’m here for more untraditional collaborations and unusual products for the beauty industry.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

As consumers get more informed about raw materials, I would like to see an increase in knowledge from a science-backed standpoint and not a fear-backed standpoint. Many ingredients have been blacklisted based on fear. It can be limiting, but it also shapes how we as formulators move around it and still produce innovative products.

What’s a big beauty industry trend or technology that impacts what you do that you think has staying power?

I’m noticing a large increase in new companies that are disrupting every aspect of the industry: formulation software, regulatory, supply chain, etc. All these disruptors help me formulate and get product to market faster. I’m curious to see how small teams using new technology will keep up with larger companies.

Cynthia Johnson

Cynthia Johnson

FOUNDER, CEO AND COSMETIC CHEMIST, CINDY J COSMETIC LABS

What drew you to what you do?

Because I was fascinated with my hair and skin, my professor saw chemistry in my future. I, on the other hand, saw basketball and volleyball on a professional level. He saw I was putting time into learning more in the laboratory setting. My parents knew I would go far in life, so they equipped me with skills that molded me into the young woman I am today. I told them, “Instead of working in someone’s laboratory, I am going to build my own.”

While tackling courses like organic chemistry and studying on the road, I maintained a healthy balance physically and mentally. My foundation as a student of the game helped me overcome obstacles and break barriers as a Black woman scientist. After graduating with my master’s in cosmetic science, I started Cindy J Cosmetic Labs to help Black women beautypreneurs gain access to product development resources and gain knowledge in their custom formulated product.

What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?

My biggest accomplishment is creating The Cosmetic Concept Planner to help entrepreneurs map out their plan in creating beauty products. The process of having the planner printed or mass produced, creating a marketing plan and determining pricing were my biggest challenges. However, the planner has been received exceptionally well by my target market.

I am also honored to have the opportunity to teach women about the ingredients that go into their prospective products. If I can help one beautypreneur take their idea to concept to launch, I have fulfilled my goal for the year. We have clients who have been featured in beauty magazines, the Home Shopping Network, J.C. Penney Beauty and a host of other platforms.

Our clients have the freedom to explore innovative ways to market their product and educate their community on ingredients that set their products apart from others in the industry. This level of control allows them to create unique beauty solutions tailored to the needs of their customers.

What’s a favorite product that you’ve worked on?

My favorite product that I have worked on is the Rebalance Conditioning Treatment from Naturally Drenched. Jamila Powell, the founder and CEO, allowed me to be creative with her project in regard to texture, ingredients and claims. Jamila kept an open mind on the science behind the conditioning treatment, and she understood the importance of stability testing. I am super excited to continue to witness her journey with Naturally Drenched.

What excites you most about the beauty industry now?

I am thrilled about the various opportunities and platforms created for Black women chemists. For example, Spelman College, which is a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), has taken the admirable step in creating a cosmetic science program. Our community has historically been underrepresented in STEM fields, including cosmetic science.

The increased focus on developing opportunities for Black women in chemistry is a positive step towards diversity and inclusivity. Mentorship and support are super important when it comes to empowering Black women chemists. Encouraging our youth in education and pursuing careers in chemistry can help bridge the gap and create a more diverse and innovative community.

What changes would you like to see made in the beauty industry?

We have to utilize our beauty professionals such as cosmetologists, aestheticians, hairstylists, barbers, etc., when developing specific claims on ingredients and formulas. The listed beauty professionals have access to consumers more than testing facilities. They have raw conversations about what works with a person’s hair and skin needs every day.

At times, a raw material supplier is interested in selling their ingredient to a chemist or manufacturer without a wide range of data and testing. Creating a bridge between beauty professionals, testing facilities and formulators can greatly benefit the beauty industry by considering knowledge sharing, collaborative workshops, testing and feedback and continuous education.

By Published On: May 20th, 2024Categories: News

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