Mia Hartmann is a dedicated skin care developer at YG Laboratories and formulates high-performance products. She applies a fresh, innovative perspective to cutting edge technologies in the personal care industry. Hartmann is a part of YG’s educational team, dedicated to researching and educating clients, peers and skin care professionals on ingredient technologies. She is also a devoted member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and strives to share her excitement for advances in high performance skin care.
C&T: Who are/were your mentors?
MH: Working with YG Laboratories has been more than just a career for me. I work for Irena James, who has not only taken the role of a mentor, but also a role model in my life. She pushes me to work hard and encourages many opportunities so I can succeed in my career. She is a strong, passionate woman with many dreams. She always tells us, “I will sleep when I’m dead,” because she conquers her goals relentlessly and without mercy. She motivates by inspiring us to be proud of our work, and always keep an eye out for the next project. It’s important to find someone who inspires and guides you so you can stay motivated to make a difference, just like she does.
Solving the Puzzle
C&T: What interests do you have, or current work are you conducting, that relates to cosmetics?
MH: My desire to join the cosmetic industry really began with my interest in science and chemistry. My first memory that inspired me to succeed in the sciences was an elementary school assembly encouraging children to study math and the sciences—yes, it actually worked on me.
A woman stood before us conducting exciting experiments that produced amazing reactions that fizzed, turned colors, smoked and lit on fire. Throughout school, I was determined to be that student who could play around with those kinds of advanced experiments. As I grew older, I became passionate about the sciences. Chemistry appealed to me because it was fun; for me, it was like solving a puzzle.
Formulating requires problem-solving skills and the ability to conduct research. These skills leverage my experience in chemistry to make a direct connection with cosmetics. Chemistry challenges me, so applying it to my role as a cosmetic formulator keeps me engaged and inspired to create some amazing products.
Pushing the Envelope
C&T: What do you like most about your work? What do you like least?
MH: The most exciting aspect of the cosmetic industry is the push for new and innovative technologies. The market is vast and encourages us to push the envelope, forcing our industry to constantly evolve. A phrase I often hear when describing up-and-coming personal care products/ingredients is “this isn’t your grandma’s skin care.” Generation-to-generation technologies have advanced greatly over the last few decades. Market trends from various countries around the world are being adopted globally, providing end users diversity in their products inspired by many cultural trends. It’s really a world market in this generation.
On the other side of the spectrum, since this market touches nearly everyone in the world, there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about personal care products. All too often, especially in social media, I hear wrong information about ingredients, or general statements about the industry. It’s no lie that this industry has had its ups and downs in the past. It it’s no wonder, considering cosmetics date all the way back to 5,000 years ago. However, as technology has advanced, so has the ease with which information can be shared.
Marketing trends have unfortunately promoted some bad behavior by applying scare tactic marketing and generating more negative lists than positive ones. Our market is so driven by what we don’t want in our products that I feel the end user is missing the point by not investigating the technologies they do want to use. My sole focus is to deliver a functioning, and most importantly safe product, that the end consumer enjoys using.
Enhancing Beauty Naturally
C&T: What do you find most challenging about your work?
MH: My passion is ingredient technology and learning how cosmetics enhance beauty naturally and noninvasively. The most challenging thing I face, however, is taking all the technical aspects of a formula—i.e., “This active has X mechanism of action, while the emulsion breaks just that way due to...” and translating that information into a language the market would find appealing.
My daily laboratory view of skin care is technical and, from that point of view, it is challenging switching modes to really promote products in a story that the end user will appreciate and find appealing. As a consumer, my favorite parts of purchasing products are the marketing story, packaging and the first impression of the product on the shelf. Although these are challenging aspects of my work, they also are interesting processes and I want the opportunity to work with them, too, some day.
C&T: Give an example of an observation you’ve identified that has potential application in the cosmetics industry.
MH: As we go through life, we start to feel pressure to eat healthy. Yet every day, we’re faced with easy, not so healthy alternatives and have to adjust and teach ourselves to find a healthy balance. In my efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I have been tempted and I’m not always proud of my choices. Learning to incorporate healthy choices into my lifestyle often led me to think about all the foods I was trying to avoid, rather than what was available to me. If I instead focused on the positive list of things that were good for me, I found it easier to be satisfied.
I would apply this lesson to the personal care industry by restructuring the way we promote ourselves and our products. Making positive claims about ingredients rather than stating what’s not in the product will help educate end users to focus on what’s good about a product. I also bring this mentality when formulating in the lab. It forces me to focus on ingredients that I find desirable. This approach allows me to pick positive alternatives that I can be excited about and add to the product rather than focusing on the negative ingredients for no-list claims.
C&T: What about the cosmetics and personal care products industries excites you? How would you like your role in the industry to evolve?
MH: To me, this industry sticks out more than the rest because from the first day I was introduced to it, it was evident that this is a tightly knit community where individuals are happy and welcoming. I have found many people eager to direct me when I am faced with questions or in need of support. They listen when I have ideas, and encourage me even though I’m new to the industry.
It excites me to be part of a community that supports each other, and gives lots of room for new ideas and growth. With this flexibility, I want the ability to keep engaging in my passion of ingredient technology and formulating, but hopefully one day represent others in designing amazing product lines and be a credible source for educating about the technologies I so love.
C&T: How is the industry helping to make this evolution happen? How could assistance improve?
MH: The personal care industry is very supportive. I have all the resources at my fingertips to gain experience and grow. I thrive on challenges, and at this stage in my career, I have a lot of experience to gain and challenges to overcome. Finding an outlet into my industry to meet with people outside my company and get involved in the industry helps me to improve.
It’s important to the evolution of my career to utilize not only the resources my company provides, but also what the industry has to offer. It allows me to talk to people who have made a difference in this industry and learn about their experiences. I have the support of others in this industry, and I know one day I will be of assistance to inspire others to reach their goals.
Microbiome, Performance and Changing Lifestyles
C&T: What areas or technologies do you think are untapped for cosmetics R&D?
MH: Science is a moving target, and as new discoveries are made, this industry adapts and finds what wealth of information can benefit us by these advances. In this generation, I am most impressed with the conception of a microbiome and its role not only in skin care, but health in general. This discovery, I believe, will redefine the way the end consumer perceives products—by adopting this powerful way of potentially influencing healthy behavior in our skin.
This area is almost completely untapped due to a handful of challenges it brings to the personal care industry. The microbiome is technology that acknowledges that each person has their own ecosystem of good and bad bacteria that is not only within your body, but also covers your skin as a second defense to maintain healthy living. There is a relationship between our cells and our microbiome that hasn’t yet been fully explored.
Yet research has been conducted that shows a disruption in this microbiome leads to a disruption in the equilibrium of healthy skin. Ingredient companies have only begun to consider this technology and slowly introduce the idea of good microorganisms. Being a new technology, there are many questions and opportunities to expand on, but this is no doubt a powerful tool that will be integrated into personal care in the coming decades.
C&T: How do you envision the cosmetics/personal care industry of the future?
MH: I believe that this industry will always be fast moving and innovative. In the future, I hope that end consumers engage in new technologies and continue to demand high performance in such a competitive market. This is an evolving industry; it is clear there is a strong influence from our environment and our ability to adapt. With ongoing changes, more modern problems will arise and there will be a demand for modern solutions.
The future, especially with urbanization and technology development, will demand that our consumer adapts their skin care products to accommodate their changing lifestyles. This evolution has already taken place in areas such as China, where there is an awareness about their environment and how it directly affects the skin. I believe our consumers are interested and ready, especially as our world becomes a smaller and smaller place in the future.