To finally finish my chemistry studies, I needed to look for a placement in the chemical industry before heading on with my PhD. It was rather coincidental that I joined a cosmetic company for that very purpose. Although I must confess that I already felt somehow attracted by an industry which deals with beauty claims, always trying to develop products that really make difference. Do they work at all?
I really became interested in finding out what’s behind these beauty products of an evolving industry which just started to become globalized in the early 1990s. Perhaps I should add that cosmetic legislation had recently been changed towards mandatory ingredient labelling (INCI). So, it became a little easier to study product compositions of different manufacturers even though the formulations themselves were kept top secret.
I learned a lot about product development, formulation techniques, the importance of using the right fragrances to attract the customer to the final product. And I met people in the labs who were very passionate about what they were doing.
Joining a Hamburg-based, medium-sized cosmetic company named Dralle in 1990, even though it was only for an internship, really changed my view on how this industry actually works. The company was a well-known hair care product manufacturer offering leading brands on both the retail and professional market in Germany. Looking behind the scenes, I was really impressed by the science and technology this cosmetic company used.
It already had a marketing department, but real innovations were driven by the labs. I learned a lot about product development, formulation techniques, the importance of using the right fragrances to attract the customer to the final product. And I met people in the labs who were very passionate about what they were doing. That was, by the way, still at a time when outside the industry nobody took cosmetic science seriously.
I had already gained a lot of microbiological knowledge while working on optimizing antimicrobial products ten years ago, which I am now using to protect the skin’s microbiome.
Nevertheless, I decided to finish my PhD first. So, I went back to the university and almost forgot about my “cosmetic” experience in the following years. Until the former CEO of the hair care company reached out to me offering me a position in his new enterprise, which he set up after selling his former business to L’Oréal. At that time, I was just about to finish a two-year postdoc in Vancouver, BC, which brought me into the field of biochemistry. And even though I was already dreaming about entering the pharmaceutical industry, even staying in Canada, it was an easy decision to make. I decided to return to Hamburg, where I started my career as a cosmetic chemist. In the beginning I focused on hair care applications, including really challenging products, such as perms and dyes. But this was just the beginning of my journey, which took me to different companies focusing on different product concepts. So, over time I became a skin care specialist, learned a lot about the perfume business and colored cosmetics formulations (I even developed oral cosmetics for a while) before entering the hygiene/disinfection business.
Funnily enough, I had already gained a lot of microbiological knowledge while working on optimizing antimicrobial products ten years ago, which I am now using to protect the skin’s microbiome.
I figured out that getting more into the basics of skin biology and creating active ingredient concepts would be the ultimate challenge. Luckily enough, I was offered a position at CLR.
After almost 20 years in the personal care industry, having created formulas/items of almost every imaginable product type, I felt I was ready for a new challenge. I did however like this industry a lot and didn’t want to leave. This was when I figured out that getting more into the basics of skin biology and creating active ingredient concepts would be the ultimate challenge. Luckily enough, I was offered a position at CLR.
I already knew CLR as a supplier to a skin care company which I had been working for as R&D director. Now I was given the chance to support CLR in developing the type of active ingredients I had been searching for when I was still in cosmetic product development. What a nice story! But a real challenge too. Not only because switching from B2C to B2B, you need a different perspective. Also, because I now had to start at the very basics of cosmetic science.
Taking on responsibility of delivering relevant results to the customers instead of demanding more scientifically important data (as I had done before) explains best how I needed to change my approach of setting up product development projects.
When joining CLR in 2013, one of my first projects was to further develop fermentation technology using probiotic bacteria. CLR already had quite a history with bifida ferment lysate, also known as Repair Complex CLR™. So, we were all excited about finding out what else probiotic ferment lysates—or postbiotics, as we call them now—could do on human skin.
In 2015 we launched ProRenew Complex CLR™ as the first postbiotic product with proven activity on rebalancing the epidermal differentiation process. This is not only crucial for a healthy-looking skin but also plays an important role in keeping human skin’s microbiome stable in terms of richness and diversity, as we discovered quite recently.
CLR research and active ingredient development is not only about using biotechnology. We still consider our traditional paths of making use of phyto-based raw materials including proteins to be important assets that fuel our tomorrow.
Having established biotechnological products based on bacterial ferments, we also became interested in the exploitation of marine or freshwater organisms to produce innovative ingredients. We set up a research project on a particular microalga which we hope will turn into a skin care active ingredient in the near future.
But CLR research and active ingredient development is not only about using biotechnology. We still consider our traditional paths of making use of phyto-based raw materials including proteins to be important assets that fuel our tomorrow.
Leading a highly motivated and qualified team such as the one at CLR is a great pleasure. Having access to important key technologies and working interdisciplinarily makes it even more enjoyable. All in all, it is a very fertile ground for more innovative products to be launched in the near future.
Thank you, Heiko!