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Lab Lessons—Wise Words From the Bench With George Deckner
By: Katie Anderson (Schaefer), Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: January 5, 2012, from the January 2012 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
Formulating a personal care product requires understanding both the science behind the ingredients and the chemistry needed to combine those ingredients. However, according to George Deckner, research fellow at Procter and Gamble (P&G), the key to being an innovative formulator is knowing material science. “Materials are what lead formulation innovation. The formulation stuff is easy to get when you understand material science.”
Fittingly, Deckner began his 40-year personal care career in material science when he joined Onyx Chemical. This landed him at Revlon in quality control, followed by Charles of the Ritz where he worked for about 10 years as a senior chemist and developed products. After Charles of the Ritz was sold to Revlon and P&G bought their Bain de Soleil sun care line, Deckner continued developing formulation technologies and new material science. In 1985, an exploratory formulation and new material science development group was created, in which Deckner has a integral role.
C&T: What is one major lesson you learned in your first job in cosmetics?
One of the biggest challenges is getting useful information. The really good stuff you do not read in a textbook. At that time, I learned about the industry from courses on raw materials and formulation, and by reading industry magazines. There is a lot of information out there but not much knowledge. Knowledge provides perspective; it is easy to get information but not knowledge.
C&T: How would you recommend gaining industry knowledge?
If I had advice to give, it would be to find a mentor. Somebody that can teach you makes your job a lot easier. I really didn’t have one and I learned things the hard way by reading a lot of information and referencing it in the lab. Formulators at supplier companies can be a good knowledge source. The key is to find out which supplier formulators are good.
C&T: How can a formulator find innovative information?
The real breakthroughs come from understanding how other industries solve similar problems and reapplying this to personal care. We at P&G call this innovation by analogy. That is how you get really strong patent positions and breakthrough products.