In this edition of Meet the Chemist, we talk to Gloria Song of Gloria the Kemist and the Cosmetic Reporter. Gloria shares her industry opinions and insightful knowledge about product formulating.
1. What inspired you to get into the cosmetics industry?
I was exposed to cosmetic products pretty early on because of my mother and my own skin/hair issues. Over the years, I collected many questions in my head such as ‘why this cream is white? And it has oils and water together?’, ‘why my hair gets so slippery after conditioning’ and ‘why some lipsticks are shiny but some are not?’
I picked chemistry as my major in university as I wanted to do chemical sales/marketing and my dream company to work at was DOW Chemical. I quickly realized sales/marketing is not for me as I enjoy spending time in labs and experimenting and, ultimately, creating things. The same night I almost decided to quit college, I sat myself down to do some google search as I did not know what I wanted after realizing I didn’t like the career decision I made. Whenever I am anxious or experiencing self-doubt, I play with my makeup. Young Gloria finally linked chemistry and cosmetics together and decided to move to NJ and study Cosmetic Science and the rest is history…After years of developing and envision the perfect career path, I am finally able to answer all the questions I had as a kid! It’s also a great honour to be able to experiment with DOW chemical products on daily basis.
2. What kind of impact do you want to have on the industry?
To be heard more and to help consumers to make smart choices.
Most consumers absorb information from online ads, influencers and marketers, but not from the chemists that develop the products. Please note I am NOT undermining the importance of other sectors in this industry as it takes a village to turn an idea into reality. However, chemists know ingredients the best. We know the efficacy, application and interaction among things. We also know the dirty and hard truths when it comes to ingredient selections. I take my job very seriously to answer questions or correct people when appropriate as the world is filled with misinformation and impossible expectations, which is why I started Cosmetic Reporter and consulting to guide people as much as possible.
3. What is the most difficult aspect of running a business in the USA? Any advice to cosmetic startups?
For startup brands and even manufacturers, there are two main challenges in my opinion. First of all, the market is getting more and more saturated, especially in the colour cosmetics sector. Branding is key to overcome this. I’d recommend companies to spend more time on the brand image before pursuing R&D. The second one, which is the most important one, would be the lack of understanding of chemistry., R&D/manufacturing or the industry in general. Many companies often undermine or ignore safety and regulatory issues for ingredients and finish goods which could lead to product recalls, delayed launching and manufacturing. The biggest advice I could give any startup, whether you are a brand or manufacture, would be investing in safety and regulatory personals and equipment.
4. What is your opinion on sustainability in the cosmetic industry?
I have seen many new and encouraging sustainable packaging options out on the market such as using bamboo, hemp fibre, recycled plastic and sugar cane. I also love to see many big industry players developing sustainable packaging and formulations. It’s one of the biggest driving forces in the cosmetic industry. I’d love to see companies being more transparent in informing consumers of their processing steps and plans to reduce waste.
5. How important are ingredients? Do you keep up to date with innovations in raw materials?
As a chemist, ingredients are the most important. We rely on ingredients to create formulations and to keep the product safe and effective.
I do regular meetings (now Zoom meetings) with vendors and learn and connect. I’d also sign up for webinars from vendors or organizations to intake new trends. I also love industry magazines and literature as I think they are important historical documents as well as the most credible resources. I also love browsing in stores, not just beauty stores. It’s stimulating and fun and at the same, I get to learn a lot about the market and different applications of chemicals.
6. What is one thing that you could change in the cosmetics industry?
Put safety as an absolute priority. It seems like using preservatives is becoming somewhat controversial on the consumer end. People like claims such as ‘preservative-free’, ‘food grade’ and ‘all-natural’ but often ignore the reasons and the chemistry behind using a good preservative system. Even though 100% preservative-free is achievable for certain systems, it’s largely unacceptable in my opinion. I love how Europe tightened the regulations on ‘preservative-free’ products as you can only make such claims if there are no preservation systems in the product, excluding new anti-micro technologies.
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Canadian Cosmetic Cluster Team
Uniting Canadian Cosmetics and Bringing it to the World