The Good Face Project: Inside the beauty R&D lab being built in the cloud

It was 2017 and Iva Teixeira had just quit a job in health tech when she came across a huge problem plaguing a booming industry. She was working as a freelance consultant for a very large UK-based beauty company and was tasked with figuring out why customer retention was so low. Speaking with consumers, Teixeira expected to hear complaints about cost, accessibility or even effectiveness; instead, she was faced with a long list of questions.

“They wanted to know what glycolic acid was, when to use vitamin C, if they could go out in the sun after using toner, and if they should share their moisturizer with their daughter or son” , she recalls. “And the questions weren’t just about the ingredients, but also about the impact those ingredients would have on their overall health.”

Teixiera was struck by the extent of the confusion and realized the industry urgently needed more transparency. The clean beauty category was starting to take off, and customers wanted to know which ingredients would deliver the best results for their skin without harming the environment along the way. Yet, there was nowhere to find all of this information in one place. Teixiera shared this finding with Lena Skliarova-Mordvinova, a data scientist she had recently befriended, and the two decided that if there wasn’t a unified, trusted source for consumers to know more about the science behind their skincare, they’d create one.

Teixiera and Skliarova-Mordvinova knew this research was available within the scientific community and its publications, but each ingredient seemed to exist in a vacuum, with no idea how they would interact when finally combined into a product. “So our database idea quickly became more of an ontology because it was really this big network of ingredients that are all connected,” says Teixiera. “We wanted to create something that could constantly learn from other data points around it.”

She and Skliarova-Mordvinova spent the next few years building the platform, referencing over 60 independent scientific databases around the world, and in 2018 they launched the Good Face Index, their company’s first launch, the Good Face Project. The Index, which analyzes the safety and efficacy of approximately 100,000 ingredients in more than 76,000 products, was an immediate success. But even with the consumer-facing app completed, the co-founders remained uncertain about how to add value to the other side of the beauty industry: the brands creating products and the retailers selling them.

“‘Clean beauty’ was becoming a very polarizing term because there was no real agreement on what was good and what was bad,” says Tiexiera. “And a rift was forming between consumers, who were asking increasingly knowledgeable questions about the ingredients, and the cosmetic chemists in the research and development departments actually creating the products, with the retailers stepping into the whole thing.” The co-founders wondered what exactly was happening on the product formulation side and why this part of the industry was so stuck, even as beauty grew exponentially.

Good Face Project co-founders Iva Teixeira and Lena Skliarova-Mordvinova.

Courtesy of The Good Face Project

They discovered that R&D, the most essential part of the business, was severely underfunded, with only 3% of overall spending going to it. “Many chemists were literally creating and storing formulas in Excel spreadsheets,” Tiexiera explains. “It was shocking that this industry, which needed to become more scalable and more transparent, relied on such an underfunded department and outdated technology.”

The Good Face Project co-founders knew something had to change and they were just the people to do it. “Because we focus so much on the individual molecule, its properties and applications, we realized we were perfectly suited to create a tool that would allow cosmetic chemists to drag and drop different ingredients and optimize their formula,” explains Tiexiera.

Using the Good Face Formulator, as it would soon be called, chemists could search for ingredients based on their specific needs and goals, whether it was for a skin-lightening toner under $14 an ounce or a non-comedogenic moisturizer. which will work well for melanized skin. – and build their formulas keeping in mind the scientific ideas and suggestions of the tool. “It takes their work to a level they’ve never been able to achieve before, so they can really focus on real value-added innovation rather than mundane formulation,” adds Teixiera.

After repurposing their cloud-based technology to accommodate the new product, Tiexiera and Skliarova-Mordvinova launched the Good Face Formulator in early 2021. “It’s only been 18 months, and we’re already gaining a new customer every two days, from Fortune 500 companies to smaller, fast-growing brands,” says the co-founder and CEO.

One such client is Hero Cosmetics, a five-year-old acne-focused skincare line recently acquired by Church & Dwight. The brand, which started working with the Good Face Formulator earlier this year, had, like so many others, always used Excel to build and store its formulations. So when the Hero team heard about the Formulator’s ease of implementation and its impressive formula creation and record keeping capabilities, they jumped at the chance to use the tool. And about six months later, the decision has already proven to be an integral part of the brand’s operations.

“The Good Face Project’s ‘clean’ beauty features have dramatically reduced the time we spend tracking formula compliance against retailer listings,” said Tarek Nasser, Senior Director of Global Regulatory Affairs at Hero. But it was the Formulator’s other set of offerings that the skincare brand was particularly interested in.

In addition to the formulation side of the platform, Good Face Project’s tool allows users to monitor over 300 regulatory standards and see how their products measure up. “Traditionally brands would have to have their formula made in a lab, have it checked for regulatory compliance in a completely different department, and then they would apply to sell the product in Europe, Australia or wherever they planned to launch it. says Tiexiera. “But what’s been happening lately is that the speed at which regulatory restrictions are changing is reaching a certain crescendo, and more and more ingredients are being banned or changed day by day. Regulatory chemists simply can’t keep up.

With the Formulator, however, all product creators need to do is indicate which regulations the formula must comply with, and if they drag and drop an ingredient that is not registered or authorized for use in that region, the tool will alert them then and there. “Once you’ve spent so much time developing a formula and a prototype, the last thing you want to do is go back to the drawing board,” Tiexiera adds.

But the tool’s focus on regulatory issues doesn’t stop there; it also includes standards enforced by retailers, for certifications such as EWG Verified and “Clean at Sephora” seals. “I don’t see any signs of the clean beauty trend slowing down, and Hero wants to be seen as ‘clean’ with as many retailers as possible,” says Nasser, noting that manually tracking formulas against the disparate listings of these many retailers and keeping up with frequently changing ingredient policies has been a burden on the brand. “But the Good Face Formulator can easily generate detailed formula compliance reports with dozens of retailer ‘own’ lists.”

With this tool, Hero has not only dramatically reduced the time it spends tracking formula compliance, it has also eliminated the need to spend resources tracking changes in retailer listings and updating them. updated in internal databases. “The question ‘Is this product clean?’ is no longer an invitation down a rabbit hole – we have access to clear reporting that has already done the analysis for us with insights that can be easily communicated to retail customers,” adds Nasser.

A cross-platform breakdown of the Good Face Formulator.

Courtesy of The Good Face Project

And although the Good Face project was born out of a need to make clean beauty more transparent and its standards more universal, the business has since grown to include many out-of-category brands and retailers. “We now have customers who will never present themselves as clean beauty, but formulate in a way that still aligns with consumers of today and tomorrow, who are looking to buy from brands and transparent manufacturers,” says Tiexiera. “Our job is not to tell anyone how to interact with their customers; our job is simply to make their philosophy and strategy faster and easier to scale.

Since its launch, the Good Face Project’s goal has always been to simplify the beauty industry, whether for consumers through the Index or for brands and retailers through the Formulator, but the co-founders believe their cloud-based platform could ultimately have many other uses. “We don’t see ourselves as a cosmetic technology company, but rather as a chemical IT company,” says Tiexiera. “We’re really grounded in data science, and a lot of our algorithms are actually applicable to the whole world of chemistry.”

As the company grows, she and Skliarova-Mordvinova plan to bring the tools they’ve built to other industries that need more transparency and ease of formulation. “Cosmetics is our first vertical, but our technology is very scalable and capable of creating ontologies for the worlds of supplements, agriculture, chemicals used in textiles and fashion, really anything that has a chemical formula. “, says Tiexiera. “But the truth is, we could never have done all of this without the cloud. Having this kind of access and innovation made it all possible.

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