Cosmetic Innovators Dilemma

During my last few years working for a corporation in the cosmetic industry I focused most of my effort on innovation.  We were always on the lookout for new technologies that could revolutionize cosmetic products.  Of course what we mainly found were things that could lead to incremental improvements, but that is the life of corporate innovators.

In truth, if something is really innovative your company will likely reject it because they won’t know how to sell it.  This is a dilemma for all cosmetic formulation innovators.  I recall sitting in a meeting showing our marketing team a powder shampoo technology.  One of the marketers said, “That’s great, but if we can’t put it in our current bottle with our current dispenser, we won’t be able to sell it.”

Eventually, a product with that technology was launched.  This was primarily because other companies had already been selling versions of a powdered shampoo so there was at least some proof that it could be done.  But there were a number of technologies that our innovation group presented which went nowhere.

That’s what I always think about when I see really cool new technologies like this self healing skin.  This material is a synthetic skin that has microspheres embedded in it that will help “heal” any cuts or breaks in the skin.  It’s very cool.  I distinctly remember reading about a technology like this back in the mid-1990’s but this one is a little further along.  I always thought that technology would be excellent for a styling polymer.

Start your own

Alas, it will be a number of years before anything like this makes its way into the cosmetic industry.  The forces maintaining the status quo are too strong.  It will take a small, unknown company with passionate people to take a technology like this and make it a reality.  After they make some significant sales then the big corporations might take a look.  This is good news if you are an entrepreneurial minded cosmetic chemist.  A little distressing for the corporate cosmetic chemist.


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