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Jaana Ailus is the head chemist at Laponie of Scandinavia and the one in charge of our product development in our laboratory in Otaniemi, Finland. We talked to her about getting into cosmetics chemistry, about the most interesting parts of her job and also about the challenges of creating simple, yet effective skincare.

How did you get into cosmetics chemistry?
After high school I briefly studied visual arts, but decided it was not for me. I wanted to find something that would combine my love for science with something creative. At the time my primary interest was makeup, so to be able to create new makeup products seemed like a dream come true! I was already living in the UK at this point, so I applied and got accepted to study cosmetic chemistry at the London College of Fashion, one of the few places in the world where the subject is taught.

What does a cosmetics chemist do?
My primary job is to develop new formulations for products and then manufacture them in the lab. But a lot of work and research goes in to the development process both before and after formulation creation. All potential raw materials must be researched to make sure they are fit for purpose and at Laponie, their origin and sustainability is also checked.

After I finish a trial formulation, we will test it on ourselves with our CEO Kristina, and at the same time I will conduct ongoing stability tests on it. It can take up to a 100 test formulations before a product is deemed suitable for the market since we want our products to be perfect in functionality, skin-feel and stability.

Although a large part of my job is done in the lab, I also meet with raw materials suppliers and go to industry conferences to keep up with the latest trends in raw materials and to find new inspiration for formulations.

What is the most interesting part of your job?
That is when my formulatoins (which are pretty much like my babies) are released into the world. I will most likely have worked on the formulation for over a year, and to finally see it ready and available to the customer is both exciting and nerve-wrecking.

What is the biggest challenge in creating skincare?
Preservatives! If a product has water in it, it will need a preservative system to keep it free from microbes. Unfortunately the most common preservatives in cosmetics are either possible hormone-distruptors, known sensitisers, or have negative (and often mis-informed) media-hype linked to them. Some preservatives have solubility and compatibility issues, so to find ones that work well and are mild on the skin is always a challenge.

We just launched two cleansers that you formulated, can you say a few words about them from the chemists point of view?
Everytime people use to term ”squeaky clean” about skin I cringe. Skin should never be ”squeaky”, because that means it has been stripped of its natural lipids. Many people make the mistake of over-cleansing their skin, which causes the skin to produce more oil to compensate, leading to dryness and breakouts.

Laponie’s cleansers are wonderfully mild, so they won’t strip the skin or cause irritation. The Milk Cleanser is an emulsion that due to its oil and emulsifier ratio cleanses the skin efficiently but gently. The Gel Cleanser is not your usual cleansing gel since it works by solubilising dirt and makeup. This is why it is low foaming (foam is not an indicator for cleansing power, only something people have grown accustomed to) yet strong enough to remove even silicone-based makeup.

Read more about the new cleansers Milk Cleanser and Gel Cleanser.

Jaana Ailus (BSc (Hons) Cosmetic Science and MSc Analytical Chemistry) has worked in the cosmetic industry since 2007 in Finland and in the UK. She has worked both in-house for cosmetics brands and creating private label brands.

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