Sienna Gerdeman (SG) is a graduate of the University of Toledo with a B.S.P.S. in cosmetic science and formulation design, and a minor in chemistry and business administration. She currently works for Wacker Chemical Corp. as a formulation and development chemist in the personal care lab based in Adrian, Mich., USA.
Cosmetics & Toiletries (C&T): What interests do you have, or what work are you conducting, that is relevant to cosmetics R&D?
SG: Wacker is a silicone supplier to the personal care market, and my job is to create finished products across the entire personal care portfolio, which includes skin, hair and color cosmetics. The prototypes I create showcase the benefits of our silicones for retailer purposes.
Color cosmetics and sunscreens are my favorite to formulate because they can be the most challenging but are the most satisfying once they are complete. I am currently working on a project to enhance shampoos and conditioners by providing hair combing force reduction. I am also working on the development of new innovative silicone gels for premium skin care products.
C&T: What do you like most about your work? What do you find most challenging?
SG: What I find most challenging is also what I enjoy most about my work. I studied cosmetic science and formulation design, which prepared me well for formulation work. I have the opportunity to formulate prototypes for trade shows and customers visits, and I absolutely love it. The combination of science, creativity and basic trial-and-error is what makes formulation work so exhilarating.
However, with this job, I also work on the product development of silicone enhancers, with which I had no prior experience. It was a challenge to understand everything that goes into silicone chemistry and I am still learning. As a new chemist, synthesizing an innovative silicone technology for the personal care industry is intimidating but I feel like I'm really making an impact in the industry.
C&T: Describe one of your biggest achievements or “A-ha!” moments relevant to cosmetics R&D.
SG: My most prominent “A-ha!” moment happened during my internship at Wacker in the summer of 2016. I was tasked with making a clear body wash using a new phenyl-modified silicone. I attempted several adaptations while recording my findings closely; however, making it completely clear proved to be a challenge.
Many trials later without success, I ended up putting a batch into the Sonicator to reduce the foam after mixing. The resulting body wash was clear! It was concluded that the heat generated from the vibrations produced by the Sonicator proved to be the key, and I was then able to replicate this by adding heat to the process itself.
My first solo project as an intern was a success as I analyzed the trials, determined the root cause and effectively created a solution to produce a perfectly clear body wash.
"I think that customization is an untapped area in cosmetics. We live in an era of the individual, where people want to stand out and show their own unique personality." —Sienna Gerdeman
C&T: What about the cosmetics and personal care products industries excites you?
SG: I appreciate the fact that the cosmetic and personal care industry is continually changing and evolving. There is always something to learn. There is never a time where you can say you know everything there is to know about personal care.
Another great aspect of this industry is that it relates to everyone. Men, women, young or old, the personal care industry affects them in one way or another.
C&T: How would you like your role in the industry to evolve? What concepts do you want to explore?
SG: I want to become a well-rounded professional in the industry. I don’t want to limit myself to just one area of expertise, especially since I have only been in the industry for one year. I know I have a long way to go and I am eager to learn as much as I can and gain more experience. I also want to do more networking and become more active in the SCC.
C&T: What areas or technologies do you think are untapped for cosmetics R&D?
SG: I think that customization is an untapped area in cosmetics. We live in an era of the individual, where people want to stand out and show their own unique personality. There are a few personal care companies that understand this concept and have stores where consumers can create products uniquely fitted to them. I believe these types of products will become more popular because not only do they cater to the specific need of the consumer, but the companies make it fun to create and use the products.
C&T: How do you envision the cosmetics/personal care industry of the future?
SG: I believe consumers are becoming more concerned about how the products they buy affect the environment. Earth is a great planet and we must treat her well. I envision many companies of the future doing everything that they can to make their ecological footprint as small as possible.