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Jean-Jaques Étienne, PhD
There are a few vital sensory experiences that lead to a product purchase, and while the visual and tactile experiences are the responsibility of the product formulator, of equal importance is olfaction. Some might consider olfaction solely the job of perfumers, but Jean-Jaques Étienne, PhD, believes it to be the job of perfumers as well as formulators. Étienne has been in the cosmetics industry for more than three decades with Orlane and Parfums Rochas, and in addition to his experience in production, quality control, formulation and raw material development, he also has uniquely been involved with the perfumery industry. Étienne maintains that a formulator should have “one foot on the perfumery side and one foot on the cosmetics side,” and the following interview highlights some of the experiences that have led him to this conclusion.
C&T: Coming from a research background, what was your first impression of the cosmetics industry?
The cosmetic field was [viewed as] something adventurous and lacking seriousness. My boss, who managed my thesis, was a little disappointed that I left the research field for a field that was not as serious, but what I wanted was the opportunity to stimulate my mind, and cosmetics allowed me to do this.
C&T: What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned over the years?
In our field, there are a lot of raw materials that have complicated names and compositions. One formula we developed contained the carbomer Carbopol 940 but when this emulsion was prepared, instead of keeping its consistency, it became thick in the bottles. After asking a lot of questions, we learned the technician was short on Carbopol 940, so he used 941. In the beginning, the product was the same but over time its viscosity changed. I give this example to students to [emphasize] always providing the exact materials being used because this can be the source of many problems.
C&T: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the industry?
Cosmetic products must have a beautiful story but a simple explanation, even if their ingredients have complicated mechanisms of action. Complicated active ingredients are often difficult to explain to consumers. Formulators should make products that are relatively simple, conceptually, and easy to understand their claims and purposes. A simpler system is easier to handle, test and regulate. Avoiding complicated formulas and limiting the number of ingredients can give the formulator a clearer view, so they can easily modify or substitute something. A film technology with which formulators could manage substances that penetrate the skin would greatly benefit cosmetics.
C&T: What has been one of your greatest cosmetic accomplishments?
Nearly 15 years ago, we had the idea to create a blush with the nice after-feel provided by silicone oils and silicone waxes. It was difficult at [that time] because there were no surfactants to made this possible. The water-in-silicone blush that we created was quite original.