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Few in the cosmetics R&D industry have not heard of Paul Thau, who after more than 50 years of formulating, still actively attends personal care events to mingle with new people and keep on top of new technologies—truly a picture of what has made him and continues to make him an innovator of his time.
Although his education was in pharmacy, Thau joined the cosmetics industry after he was told about its opportunities for pharmacists. He joined Revlon in 1955 as a junior chemist and has been with the industry ever since. Thau has formulated products in nearly every personal care category except for color since, as he explained, he is red-green color-blind. The following excerpts are taken from an interview with Thau.
C&T: What was one of your first formulating challenges and how was it resolved?
I joined Bristol Myers-Squibb in 1957 where I had an opportunity to work on a lotion. The product was already on the market but it had a technical issue: Over a period of time, the viscosity would drop. One of the problems was that the emulsifier (a nonionic ester) would break up at low pH levels. It was reformulated with a more stable emulsifier (an ether), and it finally led to a much more stable formulation.
C&T: Who were some of your mentors? How did they shape your career?
So much of my progression depended upon the immediate person with whom I was working. I was lucky to have Herb Edelstein guide me at Revlon. He was a born teacher and provided me with a good education. He was also very open and encouraged me. A lot depended on having someone who was willing to teach and share his knowledge. I also worked both with Marty Rieger and Charles Fox, at my time with Warner-Lambert, two gems and wonderful mentors.
I learned later on that it was my responsibility to pass that knowledge on to future cosmetics chemists. All too often today, cosmetic manufacturers have to bring in outside consultants to educate employees about cosmetic formulating. Fortunately, there are more courses in cosmetic chemistry today—although there is still no substitute for a senior person who is willing to share.