Our chemist, Irina, is a superstar when it comes to cooking up clean formulas. Scroll on for some juicy insight into her process, why Kosas is different from other clean beauty brands, and how she’d describe our formulas in emoji form.
Can you give us some insight into your formulation process?
The goal is to create products that are clean and easy to use. There are so many products out there made by brands with large followings and big names, but the problem with them is the ingredients. Kosas is different. We care about the ingredients and make sure each one has a purpose. The Tinted Face Oil (TFO) foundation is what made me fall in love with Kosas. I’ve created many products , but I've never made anything like TFO. When you think of the traditional foundation, it's filled with silicones, emulsifiers, waxes, butters, oils, preservatives, water, stabilizers, and pigments. The beauty of TFO is its simplicity. It’s a combination of oils and iron oxides (pigments) hand-picked by Sheena herself. She's truly a visionary for creating TFO.
How did you get started working as a cosmetics chemist?
Like most people, I had no clue what I wanted to do when I was younger. As a daughter of immigrants, my parents hoped I would be a doctor or lawyer. Lucky for them, I've always liked getting my hands wet. My favorite class in college was Introduction to Organic Chemistry Lab. I remember making soap and wondering what else I could make. I continued studying chemistry throughout college and learned about cosmetic manufacturing jobs through recruiting agencies. I had the opportunity to learn and work alongside other R&D chemists throughout my career and have been in this industry for 7 years now.
Do you find it more challenging to create a great product with clean ingredients as opposed to ingredients used by other brands on the market?
Creating a great product with clean ingredients is challenging, but it's totally possible to create something clean and stable. So many companies are moving away from certain ingredients and presenting cleaner alternatives.
What is the most challenging part of creating formulas for Kosas products?
Kosas is unique because we’re trying to merge cosmetics and skincare. It’s not so much challenging as it is new. This means it’s hard to follow a traditional path when making a formula.
What is your process for the beginning stages of product formulation?
After you have a good idea of what the product will be, and what key ingredients are going to be used, you start creating a rough skeleton of the formula. After that, it’s just a matter of trial and error. There are Cosmetic Chemistry Databases that can be used to understand the functions of ingredients as well as their usage levels.
How long does it typically take to find the perfect formula?
Honestly, the process can take months--typically around 3-5 months. First, I sit down with Sheena and the Product Developers to better understand what they want, and what key ingredients must be in this product. Then I start reaching out to different suppliers and vendors to get samples of those ingredients. Once the ingredients are in, I begin the formulation process. I usually run around 10 to 20 trials of a formula to make sure it is stable. Throughout this process, Sheena, the Product Developers, and I are constantly testing out the product. Once there is a green light from everyone, we pass the project along to our cosmetic manufacturers.
How do you think Kosas formulas are set apart from other brands?
I’ve touched on this before, but we truly are unique. We are merging skincare with makeup. Our Lipfuel and Lip Oil is filled with goodies to help moisturize and plump the lips. Our Lipstick and Cream Blushes are so nourishing -- they’re filled with butters and oils to give you a creamy, non-drag, non-drying application. The oils in the TFO really complement the skin. Our 10-Second Eyeshadow contains natural mica over the synthetic mica, and it still looks great and lasts long. The beauty of Kosas is we don’t sprinkle marketing ingredients into our products, we actually use them at recommended usage levels.
What does "Clean" makeup mean to you?
Everyone has their own definition of “Clean”, and it changes from company to company. I think Credo’s Clean Standard “Dirty List” and Clean at Sephora does a great job isolating the bad/toxic ingredients. As a chemist, I like following guidelines.
In your opinion, what are some ingredients we should all stay away from in cosmetic products?
I would stay away from anything made out of microplastics. Here are some common microplastic derived ingredients used in cosmetics: Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Polyurethane, Acrylates Copolymer. Each time we wash out our makeup, these tiny plastics end up in our oceans. They don’t degrade easily, making them harmful to aquatic life.
What are some common myths being marketed to consumers by the green beauty industry that you think we should be talking more about?
A lot of the time I get asked if Kosas use synthetic pigments in their products. Almost all cosmetics brands use synthetic pigments. Yes, iron oxides are natural because they can be mined from the earth, but they contain traces of heavy metals that are also found in the earth. These natural pigments go through rigorous treatments to get rid of the heavy metals. It is actually safer to use synthetic pigments because they go through less chemical treatments. A list of all approved pigments can be found on the FDA website. Just search for cosmetics pigments.
Favorite ingredient to use and why.
Octyldodecanol! I just love the slip and glide it gives to formulas. Jojoba oil is pretty great as well. We use it in most of the Kosas Products and I love how nourishing it is. I use Jojoba oil on my face on a daily basis.
Describe Kosas formulas in 5 words or less.
Clean and Easy to Use
Ok, Kosas formulas. 3 emojis. Go.
🙌 = The best feeling products out there
👄 = Kosas, keeping your lips plump and hydrated since 2016
🌱= Our combination of oils and butters creates a unique creamy texture, giving you that Kosas glow