Their work could be compared to that of an artist using a paint palette and combining the colours to form brand new shades. It is only possible to achieve a good overall composition if the individual shades are in harmony with one another. When composing a formulation, the developers introduce themselves to the people for whom the product is intended. After all, they are developing the product to meet their needs.
Some of the medicinal plants required are cultivated in our medicinal herb garden and on our Demeter farm, the Sonnenhof. We also procure further organic raw materials with the assistance of the raw material buyers from our subsidiary naturamus. The staff in the scientific departments analyse each of the raw materials to ensure that they meet our high quality standards, are well tolerated and comply with legal requirements for cosmetics and natural cosmetics. Sometimes, we even start by researching a new raw material so as to fully understand it.
At the same time, the Packaging Procurement department searches for a suitable container for the new product. Doing so is extremely challenging as we do not use any synthetic preservatives in our natural cosmetics. Many of our products require airtight packaging that protects them from the light. For the highly sensitive, purely aqueous Intensive Treatments, we have even developed a special spray head that only allows sterile-filtered air into the container. Normal ambient air would affect the product’s shelf life. Sometimes, however, the packaging is determined by very simple user needs. For instance, the trays in our Eye & Brow Palette are different sizes. This is because experience has shown us that users tend to get through far more of the light shade than the dark one.
These users also test newly developed products before they go on the market – but only after these have already been tested by our Dr. Hauschka estheticians and have passed the tolerability tests. The assessments and comments from these voluntary testers are extremely important to the development team, which may further adapt the formulation based on them. After all, the same rule again applies: customer satisfaction is our number one priority.
An interview with Marie Calas
Group Head of Cosmetics Development at WALA Heilmittel GmbH On the development of Regenerating Hand Cream and what makes Dr. Hauschka Make-up special
Ms Calas, you work with a team of 10 people to develop the formulations for new Dr. Hauschka products. From where do you get the ideas for these?
Marie Calas: It differs greatly. Some ideas come from the Marketing department, some come from us. Whatever the source though, the users’ needs always come first. For instance, we frequently had people tell us that they wanted more support at night-time. We responded to this by developing Night Serum as the third night care step.
What is the average turnaround from the idea to the finished product?
That depends. If we are just talking about how long it takes to implement a product idea, then the answer is about three years. However, if we are also talking about finding new raw materials for the new product, you can add a further two to three years to this.
So it can take up to six years to develop a new Dr. Hauschka product! Why does it take so long to find new raw materials for the formulations?
To find something, I have to consider specific questions and be open to the answers. That is not something you can plan for. Once we have selected a plant, a lot of hard work begins. This often starts with growing the plant. It is therefore easier if we have chosen plants that grow locally. We try to grow the plant in cooperation with our medicinal herb garden. Harvest time comes and we start to conduct our tests on the little plant material available to us. Our colleagues obtain extracts from the new plants, which we use in our formulation. We look at whether or not it works. Then we have to wait a full year for the next harvest. That is why it takes so long. Incidentally, we have to use the basis of the product, for example the cream base, to form a bridge between the plant and the user. To do this, we need to understand the language of both the plant and the skin.
The cream base acts as a bridge between the plant and the user? The language of the plant and the skin? Can you elaborate with an example?
Let’s take Regenerating Hand Cream. At the start of the development process, we sat down and considered the needs of the people who we envisaged buying the product, or their skin. The regenerating products are aimed at people with mature skin. In other words, people upon whom life has left lasting impressions. These impressions are increasingly visible in the skin, for example in the form of wrinkles, as the vitality and regenerative ability dwindle with age. As a result, the protective function is weakened and the skin becomes thinner and more sensitive. The skin tells us this. We have to meet its needs through the formulation and look for the perfect ingredients for it. Which plants or minerals can best support mature skin and meet its needs? Which ingredients in the formulation best reflect our idea? And which cream base best transfers the plant’s effects to the skin? It is only later that we try to develop the formulation in the laboratory.
Which ingredients did you find were best for mature skin?
The guiding principle for the regenerating skin range comes from red clover. This is a species of clover that we are familiar with from our local meadows, which grow lush and green. Red clover clearly represents vitality and renewal. Its energetic growth is not even slowed when it flowers. There is one other special feature that makes it the perfect plant for revealing the individuality of people with mature skin. Red clover leaves bear an individual white pattern. Every clover plant has its own pattern, its own personality. Red clover can act as a model for a mature, vibrant personality.
Is red clover the only medicinal plant in Regenerating Hand Cream?
No. The red clover is supported by bryophyllum and quince seed extracts. Both of these stimulate renewal and moisture processes. Attention also has to be paid to the protective aspect. In this regard, heat-permeated fatty oils are beneficial. We refer to these as thermal oils. One example is macadamia nut oil. However, fruit oils from plants that concentrate fatty oil in the juicy fruit rather than in the dry seeds are also important for mature skin. Examples include olives and avocados. In addition to their protective and caring properties, fruit oils also bear the vitality of the fruit. This is naturally perfect for Regenerating Hand Cream.
Thermal oils? That sounds unusual. Can you explain?
To a certain extent, fatty oils are representative of their environment. In many cases, the chemical composition enables us to tell whether the oil plants grew in an area where they were exposed to particularly high levels of light or heat. In the Tropics, a plant experiences more heat; in the Nordic regions where summer days can last up to 22 hours, they naturally experience more light. These qualities are stored in the oil and analytically detectable. They benefit people through the composition of the cosmetics. We use several different oils in our formulations in the same way as you would use different colours for a painting or sounds in music. It is all about the composition.
When you talk about product development in this way, it sounds like the work of an artist. Do scientific findings actually play a part?
Oh yes. I genuinely regard the process of development as an artistic process, but also as one that involves a great deal of intuition. However, intuition is not without basis. This is something that is often misunderstood. True intuition requires a lot of work and knowledge. This naturally includes scientific training and extensive knowledge of the ingredients used. At WALA, many people are involved in phyto-chemical research and analysis. The knowledge obtained by our colleagues provides us with the foundations we require. It completes the picture when we are trying to understand a plant. Scientific research is a piece of the puzzle in an overall context; nothing more, nothing less. As such, we have a great deal of knowledge. However, our wealth of knowledge then has to take somewhat of a back seat. Intuition is the moment when we are working on a project and the answer to something suddenly comes to us, as if out of nowhere. For example, the idea for a plant comes from a wealth of knowledge that was no longer at the forefront of our minds. However, this wealth must still be created and developed.
After selecting the ingredients for the formulation, what were the next steps in developing Regenerating Hand Cream?
We moved on to composing the ‘work of art’ from the carefully considered ingredients. Developing hand care products is generally challenging. On the one hand, they need to be rich, moisturising and protective, while on the other hand, they have to absorb quickly and not leave a greasy film. This is precision work and requires a lot of experience. The first versions of Regenerating Hand Cream that we developed were far too rich and therefore sticky. We developed about 100 different formulations to eventually obtain the perfect result. As a developer, you have to cope with the fact that 99 percent of all attempts are unsatisfactory.
Did you select specific ingredients for the Dr. Hauschka Make-up products like you would for the skin care products?
Of course. After all, the Dr. Hauschka Make-up line is quasi the fourth skin care step after cleansing, toning and moisturising with a Day Cream. The finely regulating ingredient anthyllis can therefore be found in almost all of our Make-up products, just like it is in almost all of our facial care products. For the same reason, many of the Make-up products for the complexion contain an extract of refining witch hazel. And in the eye make-up products, eyebright soothes the area around the eyes. Rose, quince... a whole array of supportive medicinal plants are found in the Make-up range. One last very special example is the cane sugar used in our Volume Mascara.
Cane sugar in the Volume Mascara? So, quasi candied lashes?
Yes, sort of. To create volume with the Volume Mascara you need something to coat and shape the fine lashes. We chose cane sugar, and are possibly the only ones who use this ingredient for this purpose. If any form of sugar is used, it is usually beet sugar. But we consciously opted for cane sugar. This is obtained from the energy-packed, green leaves and stalks of the sugar cane. Unlike the sugar beet, this grows above ground, in the light, and is therefore far better suited for the eyes.
What products would your team like to develop?
Recently, the developers were all given the opportunity to spend a year working on not only the jobs from the Marketing department but also a product idea of their own. This produced some very different and very interesting results. This was extremely important. We have to constantly re-assess our possibilities and step outside our comfort zone. That is not just a question of developing formulations.
Has the Marketing department adopted any of your ideas?
Yes, but we cannot yet reveal which product that it.
Is there anything natural cosmetics can do that conventional cosmetics cannot?
It is more the other way around. I think that natural cosmetics can now offer everything that conventional cosmetics advertise. However, natural cosmetics are also ecologically and socially sustainable.
From the idea to the product: the development process
A large team comprising staff from various departments is involved in the development of each new Dr. Hauschka product.
The idea; the identification of a human need
Define the right ingredients Develop the formulation
Medicinal herb garden
Try to grow new plants
Raw materials purchasing and development
Check the availability of raw materials
Quality assessment of all raw materials
Safety and quality assessments on the raw materials Is compliance ensured with the NATRUE criteria and Cosmetics Regulation?
Find the right packaging
Dr. Hauschka estheticians
Advice, initial tests