Irena James is vice president of YG Laboratories and instructor at the UCLA Extension Cosmetic Sciences Program. James brings a unique perspective to the world of skin care, merging her expertise as a prolific product developer, skin care therapist, former Professor of Esthetics at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada, and Director of Business Development for Spa products and Esthetic Devices in the EU. As a current member and a former board member of Beauty Industry West and the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, James remains dedicated to increasing the awareness of advancements in the Cosmetic Sciences.1. In one word, describe yourself!
2. Who is your role model and why?
Leonardo da Vinci, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity”and one of the most fascinating and diversely talented humans that have ever lived. I have always been fascinated with his ability to develop the knowledge and expertise in many different areas of science and art.
3. What’s your personal mantra?
The only constant thing in life is change, therefore never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion!
4. What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
Café Late and Pellegrino – my old Euro-habits - anytime, anywhere.
5. How do you spend most of your time?
I am a workaholic who spends most of my time on work–related activities, which include formula development and R&D, as well as endless review of the new research in cellular biology and ingredient technology. I also have a very dynamic “international family” that includes parents and extended family who live abroad as well as 4 children, one of whom lives in Europe. Carving out enough time for the family and regular communication taking into consideration different time zones is a daily priority. Despite my hectic schedule, I always find the time to fit in my hot yoga practice 3-4 times per week.
6. Favorite type of skin care product? Why?
Targeted Serums, they are usually lighter in texture but packed with super potent actives and can be layered over one another which provides extra potency and quicker results when needed!
7. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I am the “supertasker” - one of the 2% of global population that thrives and can only successfully function while multitasking.
8. How would you describe your leadership style and how has it benefited you throughout your career?
It has always been a combination of a visionary, pacesetting and coaching, depending on the department and teams I work with. It is important to be adaptive and choose the style that works the best for a given project and/or a team. There are times when teams need to be inspired and mobilized toward the vision, but in order to ensure that the vision became a reality, high standards for performance need to be set. It is also important to engage in coaching competent employees in order to further develop their skills for the long-term strength and improved performance. This approach fosters higher level of self-motivated teams, promotes accountability and a higher retention rate of highly skilled and effective employees.
9. What’s most important to your business: mission, core values, or vision? Why?
Having been involved in our family’s skin care development and manufacturing business for over 15 years has definitely reaffirmed the importance of some of the core values set forth by the predecessors in our business – our client’s success is our success! Constantly re-evaluating what it takes to succeed in today’s climate includes re-evaluating of our client’s needs and new ways to improve – a process, a product, a protocol or a skill.
Our core values also include the notion that one should never grow complacent and never lose a sense of curiosity. Getting complacent leads to low job and life satisfaction and poor performance at both. Curiosity undoubtedly leads to new discoveries, new solutions and ultimately new ways of adapting to the next round of change that life inevitably throws our way.
10. What’s one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? Why?
Decisiveness, with the willingness to accept the possible consequences. As Warren Buffet once said: “It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.”
11. What are the biggest trends in the spa industry?
Anti-pollution technologies for both indoor and outdoor environments, microbiome research and “heathy bacteria” for the skin, innovative night care and beauty sleep, screen-aging & blue light protection, personalized genetic testing and DNA-based skin care, soft-focus & line blurring actives for “selfie-skincare”, and increased demand for natural alternatives to traditional formulation chemistry in the area of preservatives, emulsifiers and actives.
12. What is the biggest challenge facing the industry today?
Fast-changing trends in products and treatments, and consumer demand for more instantaneous results than ever before due to our ever-growing “selfie culture”. These factors sometimes push manufacturers into jumping on the bandwagon before they have all of their ducks in a row. In formula development world that means, having thorough studies on new actives that are being included in products because they are trending on social media, or having appropriate safety studies before well studied and proven ingredients are replaced with “new & natural” versions that may not have long term studies. So many new technologies are becoming available daily and maintaining a balance between those ingredients that have already gained traction and that clients are familiar with and trust and incorporating new, exciting ingredients that are yet to spark consumer’s interest can get challenging at times.