Have you ever wondered who the scientist behind your skincare is? We're excited to introduce you to Lauren Trahan, Mother Dirt's Director of Product & Innovation. Lauren’s job is to develop (and perfect) our formulas by combining nature's best ingredients and probiotic extracts into microbiome-friendly formulas for radiant, healthier-looking skin.
To learn more about her and her role at Mother Dirt, we asked Lauren to sit down with us to chat about her background, what she does in her position, the most challenging part of her job, and more...
1. How did you get started / what is your background? Is this what you always wanted to do?
I have a degree in chemical engineering, which I wanted to get into because I was told it was the hardest of the engineering disciplines and I love a challenge. At the time (late 90s), I assumed I would get a job either refining oil, synthesizing chemicals or working for a pharmaceutical company. But I landed an internship working for Procter & Gamble at their color cosmetics division and I’ve been working in personal care ever since.
2. How would you describe what you do?
I say I’m like a chef creating a new recipe -- like Bobby Flay. I pick ingredients and figure out how to combine them to create the end result I have in my head. The difference is, instead of taste, people experience my products through sight, smell, and feel. And, unlike a meal which you eat instantly, my products need to last much longer. I need to be concerned about both the stability of the product, making sure it’s packaged well to keep it free of bacteria and mold, and make sure that it’s not just safe to use on your skin but also beneficial to your skin and the bacteria on it.
3. What does a typical work day look like for you?
It varies. I do a lot of research -- reading the latest journal articles to keep up with product safety, ways to impact the skin, new bacteria -- networking with vendors and labs to find new ingredients. I spend some time in the lab either batching (mixing up a new product) or running experiments on samples. Some days I spend time with Marketing trying to verbalize all the great things our products do.
4. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Sometimes, I have to develop products that I’m just not excited about. I have to put my personal opinion aside and give it the same effort as any other project. But, it’s definitely easier to develop when it’s a product or idea I’m passionate about.
5. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love seeing a new product when it launches. I love seeing how consumers react to it. I read every review -- especially the negative ones -- to better tailor future products to what consumers want.
6. How long does it typically take to formulate a new product?
From coming up with the idea to when it starts selling, about 14 months. But, only a fraction of that -- about two months -- is the formulation. The majority of time is testing -- stability testing, packaging testing, product safety testing, micro testing to ensure that the product won’t grow mold if it’s sitting in your humid bathroom, efficacy testing to prove it gives the amazing results we intended it to.
7. What is most important to you when working on a product?
It’s hard to pick just one. Ultimately, performance and consumer satisfaction are my primary focus. But, I have to do that without sacrificing safety, our brand ethos -- to be clean and cruelty-free. I wouldn’t consider the product successful if I can’t deliver on all of the above.
8. What is a common misconception about what you do?
That cosmetic science is pseudoscience. There are a lot of amazing scientists in this field who have spent years understanding the physiology of the skin and the impact different ingredients have on it. Even how you design a formula -- the emulsifiers you use -- can dramatically alter the delivery of ingredients on the skin.
9. What moment in your career are you most proud of?
Ironically, it’s not really a moment in my career. I’ve had a few opportunities to mentor colleagues. The moments I’m most proud of are seeing their achievements and knowing I had an impact -- however small -- on their professional growth.
10. What would be your dream Mother Dirt product to formulate?
If I told you, it wouldn’t come true ;-)
11. What's your favorite MD product at the moment?
I’ve stopped using my usual moisturizers -- I used multiples to combat acne and dryness -- in favor of just the Acne Lotion + Mist. I’m amazed at how great my skin looks and feels. And, it simplified my routine.