Tell me more about how you found your way to building Cosmetic Chemistry/ Formulation/Product Development. Did you always know you wanted to work in the beauty industry?
My mom was the first person who brought Shiseido to Taiwan back in the 60’s. I have watched her doing facials on clients and developed an interest since childhood ( Early influence is important thus I have brainwashed my son since he’s 2 year old to be in the beauty industry).
I came to the United States when I was 16. I came across Estee Lauder’s re-nutrive lipstick in my auntie’s vanity chest and felt in love. Coming from Taiwan, enrolling in American schools and seeing friends wearing make up is a big fascination. I recalled writing college enrollment assay on how make- up turned me from an ugly duckling to a swan (at least in my mirror). Originally, I wanted to become a make-up artist as it was a new-found love. However, being Asian, it is important to attend formal collages and achieve advanced degrees. My dream of being a make-up artist was soon frown upon. Thus, I declared- Fine, I will major in Chemistry and make cosmetics!
My way of coming to cosmetic product development was a result of culture resistance of being a make-up artist but I never regretted it. It has brought me much joy and passion. (sidenote, to fulfill my make-up artist fantasy, I worked for Elizabeth Arden, Clinique and Estee Lauder at the retail counter and performing thousands of make-overs!)
What attracted you to skin care in particular?
As mentioned previously, I grew up in a “skin-care” environment. I have touched and layered tons of shiseido products on my skin since childhood. Working for Estee Lauder at the counter, I also witnessed first- hand on how women crave to look young and willing to pay for a premium. Women of all ages come to the counter for “help” to make them beautiful. Wow, I felt like a skin doctor. Making people young and beautiful has then become my passion and the best part is now I can make the products myself!
As a chemist developing products for skin, what are some of your favorite ingredients to use and why?
When I formulate, my principle is always using clinically tested ingredients as it’s half the battle. I do not believe in ‘trendy’ ingredients or natural-sounding ingredients. For me to use an ingredient, there must be “scientific proof” that the materials perform and not just a marketing story otherwise every single company will have the same ingredient label. The product aesthetics are also important as it is the “first impression” consumers have when they pick up the product to play. If they do not like how the product look or feel, how do you expect them to use twice a day as in most of the cases. I also tend to look for ingredients that can trigger your very own skin cell to produce more collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. This is a smarter way of formulating instead of just piling on materials that your skin can not even absorb.
Where do you get your inspiration for the products you have developed?
Looking outside of the tool box is the key. Many times skin care chemists only study about ingredient and formulations for skin and hair chemists only focus on hair care materials. When you can leverage materials tested for a certain category for your specific project, often you can come up with better products. For example, in my earlier days of developing hair care products, I was the first one incorporating water-proofing technology from sun care in hair and created the million dollar Ice Spiker Gel for Joico lab. In a layman’s term, Joico Ice Spiker is a glue in a tube with waterproof property. This product has enjoyed over a decade success with many imitations.
What advice would you give an aspiring cosmetic chemist?
It is not easy to get into a cosmetic industry as you do not learn cosmetic chemistry in school. Looking for internship, paid or unpaid, or starting as a lab technician is how most of the people started. For the first job, as for many others, just get your foot in the door and work your way through is still the best advice. For the fortune 500’s, many will require you to have a degree in Chemistry. For smaller companies, as long as you show you have passion and willing to learn and do not care how much people will pay you, you can have a ticket to the world of beauty.