Victoria Fu and Gloria Lu met while working at L’Oréal as skincare formulation chemists. Tired of seeing consumers fall victim to skincare marketing, Victoria and Gloria started Chemist Confessions, a skincare science blog. Fast forward a few years later and Chemist Confessions is a full-fledged business with its own line of high-quality skincare products. Victoria and Gloria are also published authors. In March 2021, they published their first book Skincare Decoded.
What’s it like to be a skincare chemist?
It’s very fast paced because project timelines can be as short as 6 months. You also play a bigger role in product development, so you work with all sorts of functions like industrial scale up, marketing, packaging, etc.
I’d say a good 40% of the job is to stay on top of the new ingredients/trends through researching industry newsletters, seminars, research papers, and tradeshows.
Why did you start Chemist Confessions?
We initially started Chemist Confessions because we were pretty jaded by the state of the skincare industry. It was oversaturated and incredibly confusing since most of the education and communication came from marketing.
We ended up being the skincare counselors for many of our friends and family and realized our voices could be helpful for the lost souls out there just trying to do better for their skin.
What skincare ingredient(s) indicate value?
It’s great that top, proven ingredients such as niacinamide, glycolic acid, retinol are now familiar terms. These ingredients may be good initial indicators that the products do something for your skin. However, skincare ingredients are very complex. It’s virtually impossible for a consumer to remember all the good ingredients out there.
We recommend not necessarily looking at the ingredients, but clinical testing. This is different from consumer perception studies where subjects simply do a self-assesment of their trial (you’ll see languages such as x% agree that skin feels better).
Decent Value = brands that test their products using quantitative measurements to track the benefits of their formula. This is because a brand has to invest more time and money to validate their formula works.
What’s an immediate red flag that a skincare product is low-quality?
A poorly written ingredient list. For example, “vitamin C” is not a legitimate ingredient name to put on an ingredient label, instead, you need to specify the molecule (e.g. ascrobic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, etc.). Incorrectly labelled products is a huge red flag.
Which skincare buzzwords do you never want to hear again? Why?
Natural, homemade non-mineral sunscreen is the most cringeworthy one of late. It’s not just misleading like other eyerolly claims but downright dangerous. Skin cancer is no joke!
Preservative-free skincare and any product that touts “carcinogen-free” also bother us. Fear mongering tactics that throw perfectly fine (and oftentimes important) ingredients under the bus gotta go!
You recently published Skincare Decoded. What was the process like?
The project was only supposed to take 6 months but it definitely ended up taking double the time. Honestly, we innocently thought the book would just be a compilation of our blog articles, but the process was pretty brutal.
We wanted the book to be helpful to both novice and expert users, so the book went through several iterations before we were really happy with it. Gloria and I joke that we both wanted to strangle each other at some point.
What’s the most popular Chemist Confessions product?
Our #1 seller is our Aquafix Hydrating Water Gel. It’s our soothing hydrator and is great for all skin types. Customers with the oiliest of skin types use it as a standalone moisturizer while our dry skin types use it as a layer of hydration under their other moisturizing steps. Other more expert skincare users pair it with their high level treatments to minimize the potential for irritation. It’s incredibly handy!
What three skincare products should everybody have?
We talk a lot about the fundamentals: cleanser, moisturize, sunscreen. If you can cover those three that’s about 95% of your skincare right there.
You’re traveling to a new dimension and can take one product. What is it?
Victoria: I know sunscreen is supposed to be #1, but for me it’s a cleanser. I have oily skin and I hate when my skin feels heavy and grimy.
Gloria: Okay, for me it’s definitely sunscreen. Ideally one that’s nourishing enough to double as a moisturizer.
Besides taking care of your skin, what’s the best way to capture the spirit & joy of youth as you get older?
Victoria: Finding the humor in whatever you’re doing. The startup life has a lot of ups and downs and laughter gets me through the downs every single time.
Gloria: What she said. For those of you who have listened to our podcast, being goofballs through it all is really what keeps us going!