Skin Care Blogs

A Top Cosmetic Chemist Answers Your Skin Care Questions

If you’ve ever tried to concoct a DIY face mask and ended up with a Pinterest fail, you can appreciate the work of cosmetic chemists. These scientists are the brains behind our favorite products, and without them, we’d all be wearing mashed avocado on our faces rather than the real-deal active ingredients that actually work.

Ron Robinson is a master of transforming said ingredients into highly effective skin care potions. After 20 years developing products for the likes of Clinique, L’Oréal and Avon, the veteran cosmetic chemist founded BeautyStat Cosmetics when he discovered a breakthrough technology to stabilize vitamin C. (The patented formula is available in BeautyStat’s best-selling Universal C Skin Refiner serum, which is now available here at Dermstore.) We caught up with Robinson to get his take on the best glow-boosting actives, why some products are pricier than others and more.

Dermstore: What’s one thing most people would be surprised to learn about how beauty products are formulated?

Ron Robinson: Formulation is a lot like cooking. Depending on the formula, you might heat ingredients, stir them, mix them, purée them, combine them, etc. all in an extremely precise and documented manner. Every ingredient level and percentage is accurately measured, and how they are processed is recorded so it can be easily reproduced. And some chemists might make hundreds and hundreds of batches before landing on a final formula that eventually goes to market.

Which under-the-radar ingredient should more people be using, and why?

Many consumers take for granted the importance of hydration, especially as it relates to rebuilding their moisture barrier. Ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid and squalane should be staples in people’s regimens as these ingredients help them better retain moisture (by repairing the skin barrier), which is ultimately how we can maintain healthy skin.

What’s something most people don’t know about vitamin C in skin care?

Most consumers don’t realize that vitamin C can address almost every skin care concern (that’s why I love formulating with it)! Most consumers know that it helps to even out skin tone and address hyperpigmentation, but it’s also adept at improving skin texture, as well as wrinkle fighting (via stimulating collagen) and skin firming. And because of its ability to firm skin, it can reduce the look of pores, too.

BeautyStat products on a vanity

“Vitamin C can address almost every skin care concern (that’s why I love formulating with it)!”

Okay, we’ve always wondered this: How long should you wait between applying different steps of your skin care routine to maximize the products’ effectiveness?  

It depends. Water-based formulas may need a couple of minutes to dry down before applying your next step. Waterless formulas (since there is nothing to evaporate) can be applied, then move immediately to applying the next step.

Tell us: What’s the real difference between expensive products and less expensive “dupes”?

Balance and sourcing matters. I see a lot of inexpensive products that have launched on the market that show off their high percentages of active ingredients. This type of transparency is great. But often those formulas are not balanced or combined with other ingredients to help make them more efficacious or aesthetically pleasing. And some might be downright too strong and can irritate the skin. Or the source of the ingredient is not the best and this might also compromise efficacy and aesthetics. Furthermore, most of these inexpensive products lack the independent clinical testing to show that they deliver results.

The number of beauty products on the market can be overwhelming. How can consumers educate themselves to shop smarter?

Consumers should try to get a good understanding of their skin type and specific concerns, then look for products that are best suited to treat that concern. This will prevent them from getting overly excited about trying every new/trendy product or ingredient that is gaining buzz and rather focus on the ones that are going to work best for them.

Dermstore Content Manager

Wendy Rodewald-Sulz

Wendy Rodewald-Sulz is Dermstore's Content Manager and a lifelong skin care and beauty devotee. She graduated from cruising the drugstore aisles for Lip Smackers as a teen to a career as a beauty editor, where she learned her antioxidants from her AHAs by interviewing top dermatologists. Her skin care must-haves include hyaluronic acid and sleep.