Lab Rap: Goop’s Head Of New Product Development And Innovation Akshay Talati

Goop’s Akshay Talati, a pharmacist, is a leader with an established track record of 30 years in cosmetics and dermatological research and development for 22 distinct brands for three of the largest multinationals, Estée Lauder, Unilever, and L’Oréal. He has championed global innovation for hundreds of products valued at billions of dollars that have immensely impacted the personal care industry. He currently serves as vice president-elect on the board of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, where he has previously held positions of the committee chair of scientific affairs, area director, and chapter chair. He is an executive advisor, speaker and writer for several trade shows and publications, and actively engages in mentoring professionals seeking guidance in the beauty industry. In addition, Talati is co-founder of Skindie, a trusted resource and newsletter generating authentic beauty intelligence and accessible science. Currently, as head of new product development and innovation for Goop, a trending wellness and lifestyle brand, he leads expansion beyond skincare into several other product categories.

Happi: What drove you to enter the cosmetics industry?

Talati: This is a journey I love telling as it not only brings me back to my roots but also inspires new entrants into the personal care industry. I come from an entrepreneurial family of pharmacists that ran a small size pharmaceutical company in Mumbai. I was always scientifically inclined and, although my ambition during my school and college years was in the path of becoming a doctor, my heritage played a role in choosing the journey into pharmacy.

I completed my bachelor’s at KLE College of Pharmacy in Belgaum, India which instilled in me the foundational core basics of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry and pharmaceutical sciences. I came to the US to pursue a Master’s degree at Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy, Long Island University. During this time, I first studied topical therapeutics through research in transdermal drug delivery. This allowed me to easily transition into my first job at Clay Park Labs, now known as Perrigo Pharmaceuticals.  I started on the laboratory bench creating topical OTC and prescription products and learned the basics of formulation. During the same time, I also obtained my license to practice as a pharmacist. However, my passion was always to stay in the field of research and development. Having exposure to formulating dermatological products in my early career gave me an edge when I transitioned over to cosmetics starting at Estée Lauder.

The transition to cosmetics was a defining moment from where I built my career in the beauty industry during the past three decades, working on 23 brands for Estée Lauder, Unilever and L’Oréal. In these three global beauty powerhouses, I brought to fruition hundreds of innovative and award-winning skincare products.

Happi: You’ve been very involved in the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. How has that helped your career?

Talati: I joined the Society in the mid-90s through the Long Island Chapter which is always highly supported by Estée Lauder and encourages employees to attend scientific and networking meetings. However, the nudge to run for office came from two of my mentors at the time who probably do not require much introduction to most readers—Henry Maso and Guy Padulo—both past presidents of the society. I am currently Vice President-Elect of the society and have held several roles of Chapter Chair, Election Committee Chair for the local chapter, Area Director, and Chair of Scientific affairs.

Volunteering with the SCC opened the doors for me to an amazing new network worldwide of some of the brightest minds in the industry. The exposure helped me build my visibility and skill set as well as grow my leadership. More importantly, the positive exposure I received has enabled me to now share my valuable and unbiased knowledge plus experience to guide entrepreneurs, formulators, brands and chemical manufacturers in their quest to succeed in the cosmetic industry. Paying it forward is rewarding and brings me inner joy because I made a difference in someone else’s professional life.

My advice to those on the fence about getting involved; go out there to attend meetings, make new connections, and get out of your comfort zone as this is a safe platform even for introverts to learn new skills or build a strong network within a surprisingly small and interconnected personal care industry.

Happi: You’ve worked at some of the leading companies in the personal care space. Is there a particular person who influenced you the most?

Talati: There have been many who have influenced me, both inspirationally as a confidante, and aspirationally, as a role model. I credit my journey and success to my mentors whom I have fortunately had throughout my career, who have understood me and who nurtured my abilities along the way to visualize my true potential. Mentors to me are not necessarily from the workspace but have been from my friends, family, and industry network. At every stage of my career that required an important decision, I was fortunate enough to be supported by a mentor who ultimately shaped my path. My growth at Estée Lauder was through several mentors but specifically want to mention Gavin Kaplan, who personalized it and took interest in making me realize my capabilities. He did not take on the role to just check a box. Going out of your comfort zone is always scary at first thought, but becomes just a tad bit easier when someone believes in you and pushes you out of that boundary line. I took an ex-pat assignment in Asia through the recommendation of Harvey Gedeon and Ralph Vitale. It did wonders for my exposure to international markets. Joining Murad/Unilever in California required some sacrifices but was one of the best decisions of my career inspired by Lise Jorgensen and eventually venturing into entrepreneurship through an inspiring talk from Dr. Howard Murad.

The one piece of advice I give the readers is, always play the dual role of mentee as well as a mentor. Even today, I still consider myself a mentee, as learning never stops. During every career guidance call that I have with a new entrant to the industry, I learn something new about the person, the industry, or a new way of doing things. And remember the mentor will only show you the path and shine the light but will not actually dig the road for you. That is your job!

Happi: Tell me about Skindie, your newsletter to bring “authentic beauty intelligence,” to the subscriber. How long has it been published? What are your goals for the newsletter?

Talati: Four like-minded beauty nerds from different facets of the industry connected in late 2020 with a common philosophy to spread the truth in beauty, put the spotlight on science, and develop a vision to inspire and help beauty enthusiasts make better decisions when it comes to their skin. Giving birth to Skindie was unfamiliar territory for all of us. We ventured into writing and blogging part-time during our weekends and built the website from scratch. Our first newsletter was released in Jan 2021 and since then, we have written 39 newsletters covering interviews with brand founders and industry leaders. We also evaluated hundreds of products to come up with authentic product and brand reviews, plus written technical articles that are consumer friendly.

We have received encouraging feedback from new entrants, brand founders and marketers as well as fellow scientists in the industry. As we live in an age of “power of voice,”, where consumers want information transparency, sincerity and authenticity, our readers love that our content is highly informative, largely unbiased and that we provide context (subject areas are supported by specific examples or references of what is going on in the market). So far, we are self-funded, all the products we review are purchased by us and there are no advertising dollars that influence our content. Thus far it was a test-and-learn phase with a focus on growing our reader base within the beauty industry. Moving forward in the second half of 2023, we plan on revamping our website, putting in some aggressive marketing plans to expand our footprint and increase outreach to consumers through social channels.

Happi: Tell me more about Goop, your current company. It started as a newsletter company. Last year, it was recognized as the top skincare brand (based on average monthly searches). What areas are you exploring for Goop now?

Talati: This year Goop will celebrate its 15-year anniversary. The company initially started as a newsletter and has evolved into a multi-vertical lifestyle brand. Goop is a contextual commerce platform led by Goop-owned offerings and supported by multi-brand curation. It’s an indispensable resource for optimizing life and making choices that are additive and powerful. Last year, we were recognized by WWD/Beauty Inc as Brand of the Year for our efficacious, luxurious skincare and body products.

I oversee the product development and innovation team for beauty and wellness with a focus on expanding the brand beyond skincare. Our innovation process is driven by an entrepreneurial mindset, backed by science, and taps the best of internal and external resources without cutting any corners. My decades of experience bring a wealth of knowledge to Goop and gives me the freedom to explore and adapt to the resources available internally while also leveraging my expansive external network. In a smaller organization, you get intricately involved in so much more—from creating a three-year calendar, fostering external partnerships and contracts, ideating product names, design, language and product activations, as well as gaining entrepreneurial insights through hearing pitches from brands keen on partnering with us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *