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Meet Our Scientists: Rhiannon Johnson

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Name: Rhiannon Johnson

Title: Research Scientist 1

Hometown: Born in the U.K., grew up in Sumter, SC

Your CV: I have a BS in chemistry and biochemistry from the College of Charleston; my first Masters Degree is from the University of Wisconsin in organic chemistry and my second Masters Degree is from Boston University in biomedical forensic science. I started at Pharmaceutical Product Development as an associate chemist working on insulin analysis methods and then moved on to Merck as a process chemist. At Merck, I focused on large scale organic synthesis for three years.

How long have you been at Living Proof? 5 years

Why work in beauty? First and foremost, I’m a scientist so I came to Living Proof to do great science, no matter what field I was working in. I knew a chemist at Living Proof and I wanted to try something different from big pharma, so I gave it a shot.

What’s the best part of your job? Every day is different! Part of the job is doing routine quality work, except it’s never actually routine because you’re working with different products, different questions, and different collaborators. Plus, I get to solve problems and answer questions, which I love. A question could be as simple as “why did this mixture turn yellow?” but behind every simple question is a complex organic reaction that we can piece together to determine the cause and how to prevent it.

What’s the most challenging part of your job? Having enough time and resources to do all the things I want to do. There are always things I want to do more of or do faster, but that’s not always humanly possible.

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What products were your favorites to work on? Satin was very satisfying to create. We had a tough problem to solve and we were able to do it.

What do you think the biggest misconception is about working in beauty? That the science is not rigorous. The way I think about it, science is science, whether I’m working with shampoo or curing diseases.

What Living Proof products do you use on your own hair? I’m currently using a collection of top secret products that haven’t hit the shelves yet – stay tuned! Besides that, I like Full Thickening MousseBlowout Styling and Finishing SprayInstant Texture MistAmp Instant Texture Volumizer, and Flex Shaping Hairspray. I especially love the texture of my hair when I use any of our products containing PBAE.

Your daily uniform: lab coat + what? Jeans, flats, and hexagon jewelry. Why hexagons? Because they come up a lot in organic chemistry, and I’ve spent a lot of time drawing them.

Project you’re most proud of? One of our goals was to make the analytical department more efficient. We achieved this by transferring methods from HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography) to NIR (near infrared spectroscopy). HPLC separates components based off of different chemical interactions. Think of black ink on a piece of paper. If you drop water on your writing, the different pigments in the ink will separate out on the paper. NIR is 90% faster, as the technique creates a fingerprint of all of the components in a sample – no separation is needed.

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What’s a little known fact about you? I have a hobby baking business, Whisk & Beaker, where I whip up treats for friends and family. I love making royal icing cookies and cupcakes. I’ve even baked for some Living Proof staff members’ special occasions!

Outside of work, what’s your passion? I love art. I used to paint, but now I put a lot of my creative energy into baking. I’m also very passionate about my tuxedo cat, Penelope, who I named after Pepe le Pew‘s love interest.

Follow Rhiannon to drool over her amazing baked creations @whiskandbeaker.