It’s good to be spontaneous sometimes. I ran into Barbara Brockway at Making Cosmetics. Nobody in the industry needs to be told who Barbara is – she has worked at the Body Shop and several other companies and is now the ideas person at IMCD who are one of the biggest suppliers of speciality chemicals. If all that weren’t enough, she is the current president of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists here in the UK. She is also a very dedicated scientist, so it didn’t surprise anyone when she put together just about the most scientific symposium programme in the society’s history.
I was chatting to her about it when the idea popped into my head to try and video the conversation – I happened to have my video camera handy. The result was not exactly a polished high production job. We were in the corner of a busy trade fair with lots of background noise. But nonetheless I hope you find it interesting. I should add that Barbara had no time to prepare for this at all, and was game enough to talk straight off the top of her head. She did a stirling job.
BB I’m very proud to be the SCS president this year. If people didn’t know me at the beginning of my presidency I hope they know me now because we’ve been communicating things through the newsletters and making changes which I hope have been positive changes.
CS One of the things you hear in the media is that science is a very male dominated business – that hasn’t been my experience in the cosmetic industry.
BB Definitely not. There’s just as many men as women working in the area. And we have scientists from every discipline. We have to have experts in volatiles for fragrance; we have to have experts in emulsions obviously for making creams and even psychologists. There is a reason people like using cosmetics. It is that delightful feel. You’d have to be a neuroscientist or specialist to know that sort of thing. We cover everything, we are a real hard science.
CS What is your personal background?
My subject is enzymology. My PhD is in the post translational modifications of proteins. I was looking at a particular enzyme. We didn’t think it was a very important at the time but it turned out to be a chaperone protein. This one of the class of proteins that are made inside the cell but are transported outside the cell where they are transformed and folded into shape. Of course one of the most important of these external proteins is collagen. Having worked on an enzyme that was involved in the synthesis of collagen I found myself in an industry that values expertise in skin and skin functions. If you are talking about anti-ageing how collagen and elastin are formed correctly are key to that youthful skin elasticity. So you never know when you start out. I have no idea I would end up in this industry. But I wish I had known – maybe I would have got where I am faster.
CS It is also a good illustration that you can do good science in cosmetics.
BB Very much so. What people don’t realise is just how much strong science is done in cosmetics now. And the Society of Cosmetic Scientists would say to all scientists in the industry that if its a career that you’ve got you should really be a member of the society.
CS A good example of science playing a big role in the industry is the symposium coming up in May. (Strictly speaking the last day of April – Ed)
BB It is. This is something that is very close to my heart. One of the nice things the president of the society gets to do is to choose the speakers for the symposium. I wanted to do something a little bit different, so what we’ve done this year is well, the first thing is put this optical illusion on the leaflet.
We’ve asked experts in all the areas that touch on our area. We touch on stem cell technology. What is stem cell technology. We have a world renowned speaker whose going to tell us all the advances that are happening. It was only quite recently they found out that skin cells when they are put in citric acid at pH 5.3 they can become stem cells. So we always regarded pHs around 5 as ideal. It turns out we might have been working with stem cells without even realising it.
We are going to have experts in 3D printing, not just talking about printing solid components but also about printing cells. Very recently someone had their face reconstructed using 3D printing well we are going to get a talk about how that was done and what else is happening.
Nanotechnology, smart materials for self healing and big data. How is all this going to affect our industry? We have got two neuroscientists who are going to talk about what is touch? We talked about the fragrance industry, well what is smell?
They are going to tell us about the latest advances so that we in the audience as early adopters – one of the nice things about our industry is that we do take these ideas on quickly where other industries might not. Hopefully we’ll be inspired to go out and make new innovations with this information.
We’ve got a futurologist who will sum up the symposium and give us some insight on how the world is going.
Thanks due to Belinda for helping set up the camera.