Inteview with Giorgio Dell‘Acqua
Chairman, New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the work of chemists in the cosmetics industry?
The coronavirus pandemic has affected the role and work of cosmetic chemists in many different aspects. Chemists who were used to going to an office had to learn and adapt to working from home and away from their peers and colleagues. Those who worked in a lab were left in limbo at times waiting for their labs to reopen. And every chemist experienced supply chain disruption, ingredients shortages, as well as delays in manufacturing and shipping. Although our professional and personal lives were disrupted, I am proud and impressed how fellow cosmetic chemists and NYSCC Chapter members have adapted and grown during this unprecedented time.
There were some restrictions and delivery bottlenecks. What did the US have to contend with during this time?
The US have not only federal regulations but also state by state mandated regulations. This added a complex layer of restrictions and, depending on your state of business, dictated when you were allowed to go back to work and how – with some states requiring increased safety and hygienic protocols. There were some labs that were allowed to stay open with very limited disruption of business due to emergency status since they produced reagents and chemicals useful for fighting the pandemic. Delivery bottlenecks and supply chain issues were problematic for cosmetic chemists and their companies, especially if they were sourced from other countries. A localised supply chain became a good back-up plan for those in the industry.
To what extent have the customers’ requirements for cosmetic products changed during this time?
At the beginning of the pandemic there was a big demand for hand sanitisers and cleaning products. Once settling in, consumers started looking for products to increase their well-being and self-esteem due to the isolation and high stress level. Hydrating creams, hand creams, body creams but also products to achieve healthy nails and hair started to be in demand, as well as in-home care routines and DIY kits.
Also, Covid-19 did instil a new appreciation and respect for scientific expertise, and this was evident with consumers of beauty and personal care products. Consumers became more knowledgeable and informed about the ingredients and formulations used in creating and manufacturing the products they purchased.
What role does sustainability play and how does it affect the work of chemists?
Sustainability has been growing steadily as a key concept for the cosmetic industry for the past ten years. The recent pandemic has broadened sustainability to environmental protection and social equity issues. Consumers are demanding products and ingredients associated with a sustainability success story. Formulators are listening and developing products sourced though sustainability standards (including certifications and adhering to CSR guidelines).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the natural ingredients that customers often demand?
Natural ingredients are centrepieces in current products and formulations and are often used to communicate the product itself. The main advantage and attraction of natural ingredients is that most consumers perceive them as safe. Natural ingredients have also been developed into active, standardised ingredients, with scientific claims and proven efficacy. Even if standardised, the main disadvantage of natural ingredients could be their long-term stability in a formulation. Also, their properties do not always match their synthetic counterpart as well as in a cost per use comparison.
What can so-called “green” or “clean” chemistry achieve here?
Green or clean chemistry and its twelve principles is a growing and significant trend for our industry. It is about environmental responsibility. It is being driven by consumers becoming increasingly conscious, better informed, and more concerned about the safety of product manufacturing and its impact to the environment. Once the synthetic process is optimised to reduce toxicity and waste and adopted on a large scale, it will be a game changer for us and the environment we live in.
“Chemistry is bad – natural is good” These or similar opinions are firmly anchored in the minds of many consumers. Why does “green” or “clean” chemistry play no role for end customers? Shouldn’t more educational work be done here?
There is misinformation in the beauty industry and consumers do get confused by erroneous crowd-source information about some chemicals and led astray by false marketing claims. However, with the rise of the clean beauty movement, and consumers increased interest in learning about the ingredients and the science behind it all, they are getting a better understanding that chemicals and naturals can safely be together in formulas and be effective.
What are the current trends in cosmetics?
Besides natural and clean beauty I see digitalisation, sustainability, customisation, holistic beauty, and the supplement market for beauty from the inside out as big trends. Also, hair care and products that combat stress related to hair loss will be big. There are also more products being developed for people identifying as non-binary and expanding the market in a very interesting way that is addressing people on an individual basis and putting our industry at the forefront of acceptance and inclusivity.
What is already demanded that may not yet be implemented now?
I think more technology in the green products category is needed as well asits increased accessibility. Scientific testing, which is so important needs to be more affordable so that all brands, no matter their size, can benefit.
What are current research topics?
There has been a big push on the use of artificial intelligence to develop solutions for consumers, both in product development, speed to market, and in testing. Also, new testing models for ingredients and products are being studied that mimic the clinical settings to facilitate scientific validation. Finally, the understanding of the effect of ingredients on the different mechanism in our body, as well as the interaction with the exposome and the microbiome is another interesting area of study and exploration.
Which trends will be showcased at NYSCC Suppliers’ Day 2022?
The theme for this year’s Suppliers’ Day, 3rd – 4th May in New York is the destination for science, sustainability, and sourcing solutions. This will be evident on the exhibit floor and woven throughout the conference program. NYSCC formed a diversity and inclusion committee that will be involved in programming and activities at Suppliers’ Day to engage all attendees in conversation about scientific ideas that provide leadership in the cosmetics community around diversity and inclusion.
We cannot just be focused on the science of the ingredients and formulations without considering the impact of their sourcing both on the environment and society.