Q&A with Our Formulator (Part 1)

lab beakers

Pili Ani strives to create all-natural skincare and wellness products that deliver incredible results. In addition to utilizing only the best ingredients from mother nature, Pili Ani enlists the services of expert formulators to help create high performance products from natural ingredients including the amazing Pili and Elemi Oils.

We sat down with Pili 
Ani’s Formulator to learn a little bit more about her and what made her want to pursue this career path. 

What sparked your interest in becoming a cosmetic chemist?

Ever since I was in high school, I was very much interested in fragrances. I would enjoy going to the department store with my mom to sample all of the fragrances my nose could handle. I remember saving up for a bottle of fragrance that I loved. It was a love at first whiff kind of thing. This interest in fragrances sparked my curiosity in formulating cosmetics thus I chose Chemistry as my undergraduate course. However, we really did not dwell into the science of cosmetics in the university. Nevertheless, my strong background in Chemistry helped me understand how cosmetics work and eventually, I learned how to formulate them.

Why did you decide to focus on natural cosmetics?

During my time in the university, I was drawn to the chemistry of natural products. The field of natural products is vast and it would really take a lot of time to study the chemistry of one plant. In my university, the usual end goal for an investigation of a plant was for pharmaceutical applications, but I ventured into exploring its use for cosmetics applications. This led me to looking for a job that would do research and development work on natural cosmetics.

Would you say that it’s more challenging to find natural ingredients that work well together?

I would say that formulating with natural ingredients is quite challenging and very tricky.

Issues in establishing the correct aesthetic and product stability are the major formulation woes I encounter. In the beginning, first trials would lead me to rock solid lip balms that wouldn’t glide upon contact with the skin or creams and lotions that are too thin or worse, the mixture would eventually separate.

What motivates you to formulate a product?

I get excited to formulate a product when I have new materials to work with. I love reading through different product catalogues from the suppliers and I would look at the results of their research and clinical studies. These studies are very vital for me in formulating products. I want to formulate a product that really works. It is important for me that a bottle of cream or face oil would address the problem a consumer wants to address. If I see the product that I have formulated worked, it motivates me to create more.

What is your definition of clean or natural beauty?

Clean beauty for me is making use of ingredients that are not toxic to both humans and the environment. Natural beauty on the other hand is basically, utilizing natural ingredients in the products.

From a scientific standpoint, what does “clean beauty” mean when someone reads it on a label?

This means that the product is created with ingredients that are not suspected to be toxic. Bearing in mind that even synthetic ingredients can still be used as long as they are considered safe. I hope that we can get the message across that using natural ingredients does not automatically mean that your product is clean and safe. All ingredients, even natural plant oils, have a potential to be reactive on the skin.  It should still undergo safety evaluation and regulation.

Sometimes when we read a label and it says “all natural” there are some words we can’t even pronounce—why is that? And are there some natural ingredient combinations that are actually made inside the lab? And does this still make it all-natural?

For natural cosmetics, we utilize ingredients that are natural, meaning it comes directly from the source with only minimal physical changes happening. These physical processes can be cold pressing of oils, distillation of essential oils, and even solvent extraction using ethanol, water, or glycerin. Other physical processes are used to ensure that the ingredients are refined to remove the impurities. These processes can involve filtration, sifting, etc. 

Aside from using natural ingredients, there are also ingredients that are derived from 
nature. These can be categorized into two groups: derived from nature with minimal processing and derived from nature with complex processes or processed using synthetic chemicals. These are all made in the laboratory. Ingredients derived from nature with minimal processing are still considered natural. On the other hand, ingredients derived from nature with complex processes or processed using synthetic chemicals are no longer considered natural.

What are some ingredients that you should stay away from when reading a label?

More than reading the label, it is the ones not seen in the label I am more wary about. These are other chemical contamination such as heavy metals, phthalates, toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde that are considered really harmful and toxic. I think it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that all the products are free from these contaminations. 

Read Part 2 of this interview here!