Application/Category Sponsored by
Robert Hefford, PhD
Although hair is technically dead, the hair care industry is alive and well thanks to the skill sets driving hair care brands—and no one knows this better than Robert Hefford, PhD. Although he has formulated in other categories, Hefford is a true hair care expert, having conducted basic research, formulating, testing, package design, scale-up and more for some of the industry’s top brands. Here, he recounts some of his experiences over the past three decades.
C&T: How did you first learn about cosmetic science?
I started in basic science at Unilever, where I investigated how to prevent things from sticking to surfaces, such as bacteria from sticking to teeth. In those days, Unilever had an academic environment, and I was lucky to start there. I gradually moved into applied science with hair care and later into product development. It just sort of happened, really.
C&T: What was one of the first products on which you worked?
The first product I ever opened up to look at was Head & Shoulders. I was researching deposition of zinc pyrithione on hair to formulate anti-dandruff and 2-in-1 shampoos, which Unilever discovered, so it had been researching the deposition of complex polymer coacervates on hair. That was something Bob Lochhead started.
C&T: What has been one of your toughest transitions in personal care?
Getting used to working on scale-up from the lab into the production facility was a big challenge. In the Clairol factory, a pump at the bottom of a tank had given way and one foot of 35% hydrogen peroxide in this bund was bubbling like crazy over the manhole covers. I said, “Don’t smoke near it. Wait.” It was bubbling as it decomposed to oxygen and water, which was catalyzed by the iron in the manhole covers, but if you wait long enough, it just turns to water.
C&T: What was one of your biggest surprises in personal care?
The Herbal Essences brand of shampoos and conditioners became too successful too quickly. Before the relaunch of the brand, Clairol had closed the factory in California where all the shampoos and conditioners were made. No one ever expected it to succeed; but it had a good formula, great packaging by Joe Periera, a wonderful fragrance and the When Harry Met Sally commercial in the shower. When the product reached Wal-Mart, [there was such a large demand for it] we could not fulfill it in Stamford and had to go to third parties for manufacturing. I was told that every bottle sold made by the third party lost the company money.