Jack Ferguson, PhD, believes that gaining a deeper understanding of consumer needs has propelled the industry forward, and he would know—part of his role is to think like consumers, as he advises on cosmetic product claims for British television. “You have to have better claims and products that work,” says Ferguson, who adds, “and cosmetics are knocking on the borderline of drugs.” He notes that unlike the U.S. marketing rules, in the UK, manufacturers have the opportunity to offer cosmetics that are physiological, so long as there is good support data and the products are safe. This belief for scientific support and products with real benefits echoes that of his early mentors, as the following highlights of his career demonstrate.
C&T: Describe your background and education interests.
Most of my studying was in Scotland at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow. My first degree was in biology and chemistry, then I went straight into my PhD but in bioengineering—a slightly different route. Bioengineering is the application of engineering to biology and medicine, so here I studied with engineers, physicists, etc. My focus was on skin’s structure and mechanical properties, and the effects of substances on the skin. During that time, I also worked with Professor [Pierre] Agache in the dermatology department at the Hôpital St. Jacques in Besançon, France. This was really a nice experience that led me into skin; at that point, it was either go into cosmetics or pharma.
C&T: How did you get started in personal care?
I first got into skin care in 1978 when I went to work for what was then the Beecham Products company in London. It eventually merged with SmithKline Beecham, then Glaxo Wellcome to become what’s now GlaxoSmithKline. Beecham had quite a number of cosmetic products at the time, many in Europe and some in South Africa. There, I measurements the skin benefits of products and ingredients. It was an interesting place to start.