What really happens before your skin care hits shelves

What really happens before your skin care hits shelves

Hands up if you’re crazy about beauty products? All of you? Thought so. Which is why I thought you might find it pretty interesting to know what actually goes on behind-the-scenes to get that moisturiser from a science lab into your bathroom cabinet.  According to David Khoo, Olay Skincare Scientist, it can take, on average, two to three years for a product to go from conception to the final variant that lands on shelves. Sometimes, though, it can take decades, depending on the technology being developed and the dedication it needs to make an exciting new discovery. Plus, research and development doesn’t always happen in a nice, easy and linear fashion, which can cause setbacks.Take the Olay Regenerist Miracle Boost Pre-Essence for instance. While it’s only hitting our shelves now, P&G have actually been working on it for over 10 years – and that involves over 50,000 hours of clinical testing across four continents.  And while you may think ‘research’ is just formulating and testing, reformulating and testing and so on, there’s a bit more to it. Especially over at the P&G Singapore Innovation Centre, which I was lucky enough to visit earlier on in the year. So the very first step for Olay isn’t, “Let’s make a moisturiser!”, or “I feel like women probably need some kind of serum”. They actually bring in consumers to determine what women are concerned about and what their routines are missing – there’s no guesswork about it. And instead of putting these women in a cold, impersonal room, they bring them into an area that looks like a typical apartment to make them feel more comfortable and at ease. There, they tap into a whole variety of issues – different types of consumers, skin care regimes, frustrations with skin care, what works, what doesn’t, what they really want. They gather tons of consumer research and then spend hours translating that insight into technical measures to create a prototype formulation. Then there’s the skin measurement lab, where very fancy, very scientific equipment works to measure different aspects of skin, including moisturisation levels, skin elasticity and skin barrier function, and that helps the skin care gurus to really drill down on what consumers skin issues are and what can be helped. That info is then taken to the formulations lab, where the scientists work with a whole bunch of ingredients to create the first prototype. Then, there are hours of testing (it took three hours for one batch of the Olay Regenerist Microsculpting Cream) and playing around with ingredient combinations. And just FYI, the ingredients Olay uses are top-notch. The final products are friendly to your bank balance, but it doesn’t mean they’ve skimped on ingredients (or the research, for that matter). Once the formulation is perfected, it’s time to work on the fragrance. Whether you realise it or not, fragrance plays a huge part in how women choose their products, which is why Olay has an in-house million-dollar ‘nose’ (who knows about 7000 notes off the top of her head) to create the scents for each product. She tried over 100 combinations of scents before settling on juicy citrus, apple and pineapple for the Olay Regenerist Miracle Boost Pre-Essence. Oh, and there are also thorough checks to test if the fragrance combos will cause reactions (but Olay have also developed fragrance-free variants for sensitive skin). Then there’s the packaging design, where complicated computer programs can create a 3D prototype that’s chopped and changed a million times before the final version is decided upon and a physical version is made. And because consumers are at the heart of what Olay does, they’re constantly involved in the process and giving feedback – on everything from how the formulation feels and smells, to what they do and don’t like about the packaging. All of this happens – a few times over, even – before any clinical testing, so you can see why a skin care product isn’t always just a quick creation that happens in the blink of the eye. Did you realise there was so much involved in creating a skin care product? Are you interested in the science behind your beauty products?

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