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Cosmetic chemist Jaana Ailus is Head of R&D at Laponie of Scandinavia and the one in charge of 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 science at the University of the Arts London, one of the few places in the world where the subject is taught. My goal was to learn to create the best ever full-coverage foundation for acne-sufferers like me, but during my studies I discovered that no makeup will ever be good enough without appropriate skincare to go underneath it.
What does a cosmetics chemist do?
My primary job is to develop new formulations for products and then manufacture them in the lab. A lot of work and research goes into 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 investigated.
After I finish a trial formulation, we will test it on ourselves with our CEO Kristina, and simultaneously 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. I also keep up to date with the latest cosmetic legislation, and attend regular meetings of the Finnish Cosmetic and Detergent Association, of which Laponie is a member.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
That is when my formulations (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 from growing 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.
Jaana Ailus is a cosmetic chemist who 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. She is currently pursuing a PhD in cosmetic sciences at Liverpool John Moores University.