A lot goes into the development of your favorite John Paul Mitchell Systems® products. And Valerie George is behind many of them. Working at JPMS™ for nearly half a decade, George, Senior Chemist and Technical Director of Research and Development, has had a hand—very literally—in the development of many of your favorite salon mainstays. These include new favorites from the Paul Mitchell Blonde and Tea Tree Special Color collections.
So, who is the woman behind many of John Paul Mitchell’s innovative recent and future offerings? Valerie took some time out of her busy schedule—spent working on exciting and very top-secret new products—to give us the scoop on how and where your favorite products become a reality. (Spoiler alert: a really awesome lab in Santa Clarita, California.)
JPMS: What got you into chemistry and what drew you to the beauty industry in particular?
Valerie George: I always knew I wanted to be a scientist. I got my first microscope when I was 8 years old, and it was love at first sight. Every hobby or school activity after revolved around science. I was particularly drawn to chemistry in high school. It’s a discipline that makes a lot of sense to me. When I moved to LA years ago, I was looking for positions as a scientist, and noticed lots of cosmetic companies hiring chemists. I thought, “I can get paid to make lipstick for a living?” and was instantly hooked on my first job. I love that I get to mix science with beauty.
JPMS: Can you give our pros a little background on the Product Innovation Center?
VG: The Product Innovation Center was built in 2012 to marry science and artistry through the stages of product development. It started as a facility to create hair color, before a team of chemists were added in 2013 to work on the development of salon hair care products. When you first enter the PIC, you enter a salon that has five full-time stylists who evaluate products on salon guests. Gazing through the salon, you can see the back wall has a series of glass windows, through which you can see the chemists creating products in beakers. That’s our laboratory. This is where our products are designed, small-batched and tested before they head out to the salon floor.
JPMS: What’s the Color Lab like?
VG: The Color Lab is a secure room that is dedicated to color product development. Color work is often smelly and messy with the dyes, so it’s a private space set away from the other labs. If it’s a product with dyes in it, it’s made in this room. Hair color involves a little more lab equipment than the other labs, so it’s also full of special scales and analytical equipment to evaluate the color. Overlooking the lab is an office with a bulletin board full of colorful hair swatches. I like to hang the hairs there to look at them while I’m working on a project.
JPMS: What does an average day on the job look like for you?
VG: What I love about being a cosmetic chemist and leader of an R & D team is that each day is completely different! It’s a highly collaborative environment, so I like to spend the morning reviewing formulations and projects with our brilliant team of chemists or receiving feedback on product performance in the salon with our talented stylists. Product development is highly task-focused, so I meet regularly with our project manager and marketing team to ensure we’re on track for launch and fulfilling their vision. In the afternoon, I might put on my boots and hairnet and head over to manufacturing to check on the products we’re producing or help troubleshoot a manufacturing problem. I also travel frequently to our other manufacturing facilities or tradeshows around the world. And, when I can, I set aside plenty of lab time for myself so I can keep doing what I love most: making hair color!
JPMS: Do you have a favorite product you’ve helped develop?
VG: I am particularly partial to The Demi. It is my first color line that I developed for Paul Mitchell®. I’m okay being called biased!
JPMS: Generally speaking, when it comes to the development of a new product, what does the average process look like from conceptualization to fruition? What’s the timeline like?
VG: Product development, like Research & Development, is highly collaborative. Sometimes our R & D team is presenting product concepts to marketing, or marketing is presenting product concepts to our team. We work with Salon Development to make sure the product is fitting the needs of the salon professional, and then we get to work. It takes over a year and a half to bring a product to market—and that’s provided there are no challenges. If you think about that today, it means we’re working on products you’ll get to see in 2020!
JPMS: What’s your favorite part of the job?
VG: I enjoy coming to work and getting to see my team every day. I try to empower them to learn and grow as much as they can—I’m a huge believer in continual education. It makes me so happy when I see them utilizing knowledge they’ve learned from a past discussion or lesson.
JPMS: What does the future of hair care look like?
VG: We’re going to see a new golden age in hair science. It’s been quite overlooked for the last few decades, with most research being dedicated to skincare and makeup. Companies are starting to push the boundaries with ingredients and technology. These discoveries will take hair to the next level, and of course, we hope to be a part of that at the PIC!
Check out the latest innovations from Valerie George and our R & D team here.