This Cosmetic Chemist Is On a Mission to Make the Beauty Industry More Diverse
Erica Douglas is leaving no stone unturned as she creates clean beauty products that work for a diverse community and inspires young women and minorities.
“I could never find products that helped my really sensitive skin and thick, curly hair,” says Erica Douglas, a cosmetic chemist, a founder of mSeed, and the brain behind @sisterscientist on Instagram. “I was very aware that I looked different and didn’t have the same experiences as my peer group which made me self-conscious.”
She would try the beauty products they were using on their hair and skin and saw that they didn’t work for her.
Then she discovered the world of cosmetic chemistry, and it gave her the power to create her own solutions. “This was during the renaissance of celebrating natural hair and embracing your own authenticity — and it was amazing to be at the forefront and in the mix of all of that,” she explains. But it wasn’t easy: Douglas worked for years in research and development for a beauty brand, after which she got her M.B.A., so she could start mSeed, a manufacturing company that helps brands formulate and market beauty products.
After years as the only Black woman working with mostly white men, Douglas makes it a priority to hire female chemists. “The cosmetic chemistry field is dominated by men, but 70 percent of the products we make are for women,” she says. “Our lab is 85 percent women.”
Douglas and her team focus on creating hair and skin products for one of the buzziest categories: clean beauty. Definitions of clean vary from brand to brand, but Douglas puts her trust in safe, effective ingredients. “I use as many natural ingredients as possible until there’s no natural alternative left,” she says. “Anything else we use has a history in safety.”
She also stresses the importance of creating products for a diverse audience. “I tell my clients that you have to see the world through other people’s eyes,” she says. “Successful brands understand that their consumers don’t just come from one demographic or set of experiences.”
Douglas also uses her Instagram platform to reach a wide audience as well. “I want to expose young women and minorities to the field of science through beauty, so they can see the tangible ways science plays a factor in their everyday lives — it’s all around them, it’s not just about being a doctor or dentist,” she says.
She wants to break the stereotype of what a scientist has to look like, connect with consumers, and teach them how to make informed choices about what products they’re using. “I help them look out for the right ingredients and products.” Her motto? “I separate the fact from the crap.”
Here, some of the products that get her pro stamp of approval.
Douglas' Top Clean Beauty Picks
“I love that it won’t strip hair of hydration. Alodia Hair Care Nourish & Hydrate Conditioning Shampoo (Buy It, $7, alodiahaircare.com) coats each strand to boost moisture but rinses away easily.” (Related: The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo, According to Experts)
Do-It-All Face Oil
“Beauty by Africa Miranda Facial Elixir (Buy It, $98, beautybyafricamiranda.com) is packed with antioxidants like vitamin E and maracuja oil — to fight free radicals — and rose hip oil, which brightens skin while reducing inflammation.”
Hydrating Hair Treatment
Shape Magazine, September 2020 issue