It’s safe to say that the pandemic has played an important role in the rebranding of beauty in terms of public perception. Over the last 18 months, beauty has proved itself to be a vital commodity, with supermarkets having to ration hair products and body care essentials to ensure everyone had access. Beauty conglomerates switched up production lines to plug the shortage of vital hand sanitiser in hospitals and care homes. At-home beauty treatments served as integral moments of self care, helping to boost our moods in dark moments. Beauty’s billion pound contribution to the economy was finally acknowledged in parliament, following nationwide campaigns to support salons and beauty professionals throughout the lockdowns.
These various displays of excellence proved beauty is anything but basic and never deserved to be considered a superficial or simple pastime. Someone who embodies this message in totality is scientist Barbara Paldus, PhD. While her most recent venture is Codex, a skincare brand that offers consumers a newfound level of transparency with results of the clinical trials printed on the packaging itself, her earlier work was pivotal to the roll out of the international vaccine programme against Covid-19 that has saved millions of lives.
“I started a company that manufactured everything from cancer therapeutics to vaccines,” says Barbara. “Before we started, people were manufacturing things by writing everything down on paper – there was no automation or data digitisation,” she says. “They were mixing formulas in these huge vats (a bit like big beer fermenters), which had to be monitored 24-7, adjusted manually and if there was a bad batch, the whole vat had to be cleaned by hand with hot water and steam. The whole process was incredibly time consuming and difficult to control.”
As the rollout for under 25s begins, here’s every Covid vaccine question you have, answered by a doctor
To solve these issues, the industry started using gamma-radiated plastic bags, which were totally sterile, for production of therapeutics. “The issue was that the bags had no sensors on them to monitor things like temperature, pH and oxygen levels. We created new optical sensors that were able to do that, as well as software that could be used remotely to tweak the conditions inside the plastic bags.” Suddenly scientists who had been sleeping in the lab for weeks on end in order to make manual adjustments could tend to the formula from their phones in the comfort of their homes. “When we installed the first system in 2007, the technicians started crying with relief.”
The technology was picked up to enable mass production of the Ebola vaccine during the 2014–2016 breakout in Africa. “We engineered a system that scaled up production from five litres to 500 litres, allowing them to make one million doses specifically for that outbreak.” The same technology can be used as a cookie cutter and applied to any other vaccine development, including Covid-19, providing vast quantities at speed as well as 100 times cheaper. “If we hadn’t scaled the manufacturing process using this technology, it would have taken two years to achieve the same vaccine rollout that we achieved in six months during the pandemic.”
So, how did she wind up in the world of skincare? “My son was diagnosed with ADHD and he needed me to be there for him rather than working 100 hours per week.” Barbara’s son has also developed a rare allergy to phenoxyethanol, a common preservative used in baby products and skincare, which led to her questioning the industry and looking for answers. “I couldn’t believe how little information was available to the consumer,” she says. “I thought, we’ve got to do better and when my son was old enough, I decided to start a skincare company that is backed up by data, clinical studies and information.”
All of Codex’s formulas have been subjected to clinical trials and all the data are printed on the packaging. “I wanted to show consumers the results and put the power in their hands. If someone is going to pay good money for a product, they have the right to know that it works.”
As for other beauty brands? “I’ve shown them mine so they better show me theirs. And if they don’t show me theirs, they’re either hiding something, they’re lying or they just don’t have the data to back up their claims.” Here, here!