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Faces of Science
Meet the Faces

Meet the Faces

Photo of Graham Turner

Careers

MEET GRAHAM TURNER, WHO LOOKS FOR NEW WAYS TO CONTROL AND DEAL WITH PERSPIRATION AND USES CHEMISTRY TO DEVELOP NEW DEODORANTS AND OTHER TOILETRY PRODUCTS.

What is your job title and what are the main characteristics of your day-to-day work?

I am the Research Project Leader in a skincare group and currently specialise in formulating new deodorants that innovate in skin care for the underarm. I manage the research team and work with my development colleagues in Leeds and Chicago as well as the brand development team.  Together we ensure that our new products provide real technical benefits (improvements to underarm skin) and provide consumers with products that they want and need.

"I love working in research. So far I have been granted 21 patents."

What area of science (if any) do you use in your current job?

My current job requires an awareness of many science areas. I have a PhD in biochemistry and this provides me with the skills required to understand skin biology and biophysics. Immediately after university, I worked in oral care, then fabric care, and then I moved into personal washing products and most recently into deodorants. As I gained experience I developed a real understanding of product formulation science: processing, rheology, skin interaction and how to “create” a new product.

Do you work in a specific department – if yes, is there a mix of speciality staff?

I work in deodorant research and the department has a mixture of people with different levels of qualification. We have PhD scientists (Chemists, Physicists and Biochemists), degree level Chemists and staff with expert “noses” to assess malodour in peoples' underarms.

What other departments/professions do you work with e.g. production, marketing, sales?

I work very closely with brand development (marketing), as we need to produce a product that they believe there is a market for and to verify the claims they make. I also have to work with process science, life science and multi-category research.

What made you choose your current job and why in the cosmetics industry?

With my background in biochemistry I wanted to work in an area that could provide a great deal of variety and experiences. Working in the personal care industry gave me that opportunity. I have been working in the industry for 23 years and have stayed in a large company, as it provides travel opportunities (we are a global company) and many different product areas to experience. I have worked in different departments and had different roles, and it is fascinating to take part in such a large company.

What are the most exciting aspects of what you do?

"Only one in 5 or one in 10 products we work on ever make it onto the shelves in shops but when they do, it's a real sense of satisfaction."

I love working in research. So far I have been granted 21 patents and written a lot of scientific research papers. Only one in 5 or one in 10 products we work on ever make it onto the shelves in shops but when they do, it’s a real sense of satisfaction. I can walk round the supermarket with my family and say that I developed this new product and that gives me job satisfaction and makes me feel proud of what I’ve achieved. I also enjoy line management (that is, helping people in the research laboratory develop their careers, setting targets and evaluating performance) and find that interesting and rewarding.

Is there anything you don’t really enjoy in your day-to-day work?

I don’t like the internal politics that sometimes arise. Creating new products is great and I prefer to concentrate on new initiatives rather than the politics of the job.

Are there any specific skills that are essential to have in the job you do?

This is a technical job and a high degree of technical knowledge/ability is required. However, it is really important to have people skills as I work with lots of different people with very different backgrounds and skills. Some people understand a lot about the science of what I do and some don’t have that knowledge so I need to communicate in different ways with different people. As a team leader my style is not to dictate to others but to develop ideas and opportunities using the team. Everyone on my team has a lot of knowledge, skill and intellect. I have to be able to work with them to maximise their contribution to their projects.

"We have to analyse the effectiveness of our products and we have a "hotroom" where we test whether/how long the deodorants work for."

Could someone come into your job straight from school?  What skills/qualifications would they need?

We generally only take graduates with a background in Chemistry and then train them in how to formulate deodorants.  There are lots of rules and standards on how products can be manufactured and what they can contain. We have to analyse the effectiveness of our products and we have a “hotroom” where we test whether/how long the deodorants work for and we also have a biophysics laboratory where we are able to measure improvements in skin care. We also run internal courses to train people in the understanding of legislation and patenting which they won’t have covered at university. The Society of Cosmetic Scientists (SCS) run courses that also prepare people to work in our industry.

Women in a hot room Sweat study
Testing deodorant involves people wearing the
product in a hot room
The amount of sweating and the smell can then be examined.

 

Did you receive any special training either before or during your first year of working in your current role?

My new team members demonstrated how our current formulations are prepared at the laboratory bench and in the pilot plant. I also learned how we assess the effectiveness of deodorant products (reduction in sweating and odour production).

Did your previous job prepare you for this one?

All my previous jobs in some way prepared me for this one. Straight from university I worked in oral care and I found it a difficult adjustment to make from the academic arena but when I moved into fabric care I found the job more enjoyable. Working with these products was better and I found talking directly to consumers made the job more interesting.

Is there anything you wished you had studied or done differently when you were younger?

I studied Chemistry, Physics and Biology at A-level and wished I’d done Maths so last year I decided to sit a Maths A-level, which I now have.

At school what did you think you would do for a living? For instance, did you envisage your sciences being used in the cosmetics industry?

"I encourage other students to always be open-minded and to be ambitious, because we all can achieve if we put our minds to it."

I never had any ambition to work in industry. I wanted to stay in academia but my tutor at university told me to keep an open mind and try it so I did and I’m still here 23 years later! I now encourage other students to always be open-minded and to be ambitious because we all can achieve if we put our minds to it. I have been a tutor with the Careers Research Advisory Centre (CRAC) and encourage everyone to be open-minded and ambitious.

What subjects are you glad you studied?  Were there any that were not immediately obvious as useful to your career but now are proving helpful, e.g. languages?

I am glad I chose to study biochemistry, as this is a very broad and challenging discipline. I did an Open University course in French and as this is a cosmopolitan company, that has proved very useful. I wish I could have done more foreign languages and I also wish I’d studied English Literature (although this would be for fun and not my career!).

With your skills and qualifications, what do you hope to achieve next in your career?

I’ve spent a very long time in research and would like to move into a Development role. In this position I would have a more direct involvement in ensuring our new product ideas make it into the supermarkets. I would have closer working relationships with Marketing, Supply Chain, Manufacturing and Legal Departments. I would be responsible for setting the product specifications and making sure any claims that we make are accurate.

How do antiperspirants and deodorants work?

These are two different types of product.

Deodorants do not stop us sweating; they only stop us from smelling bad. Deodorants usually contain a fragrance (or perfume) and an antibacterial agent. Washing removes many of the bacteria on the skin but the antibacterial agents in deodorant slow down the rate of growth of bacteria on the skin. If there are fewer bacteria, there is a reduction in the amount of nasty smelling waste product produced by bacteria living off the oils in our sweat. The fragrance in deodorants is then able to mask or hide the low levels of odour that may be produced with a much more pleasing smell.

Antiperspirants have two functions, they reduce the amount of sweat we produce in the underarms and they stop us smelling badly. Antiperspirants have a double effect. If you look at the ingredient list on the back of the pack you will see that one of the main components is Aluminium Chlorohydrate. This chemical is believed to react with the salts present in sweat and form a gel, which plugs the sweat glands. This reduces the amount of sweat you produce. The antiperspirants don’t clog up the sweat glands permanently: the gel plugs are easily removed with the natural turnover of the skin. The aluminium salts are also antibacterial and so help reduce the offensive body odour in two ways: reduce sweat production and lower the amount of bacteria present. Most antiperspirants also have a fragrance to mask any remaining smell.

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