Liliana George peers out from under her signature chestnut bangs and says in a gentle Romanian accent, “You are a scientist because you are curious. You have to constantly challenge what you know and explore the boundaries.”
As Executive Director of Strategic Developments in The Estée Lauder Companies’ Research and Development lab in Melville, N.Y., Liliana spends her days creating “green technologies” that can be used in new products. Green technology -- an area receiving much attention – refers to the design of chemical products and processes that are environmentally friendly. “We have some very good ways to make products and the science is constantly evolving. It’s a challenge, but you have to have the guts to walk away from the old models,” she explains.
Liliana, who has a Ph.D in organic chemistry, joined the Company in 1998 and began by dreaming up products women might desire. One of her biggest technological breakthroughs was used in the original version of what’s now called Day Wear Sheer Tint Release from the Estée Lauder brand. How did she get the idea? Since she “isn’t really a foundation person,” Liliana wondered if it would be possible to create a moisturizer with hidden pigments that would even out skin tone. The Estée Lauder Companies was the first beauty company to introduce hidden pigment technology, which launched a product category.
“From ideation through the innovation process, a new idea mushrooms. We are good at finding technologies to create prototypes,” she says.
She also gets ideas by “listening to the consumer and being aware of unmet needs. You have to identify the white space and be fast to market.” She believes The Estée Lauder Companies is a good fit for women scientists because its products, across its many iconic brands, are created mostly for women. “We should know instinctively what we need,” she says. Her team works to create breakthrough technologies for luxury, high-performance products, which generate loyal fans worldwide and take the industry to a new level.
Earlier in her career here she worked on developing a technology that would create skin care products with a lighter texture. “Consumers in Asia like to use many products in their daily routines, so you need products that can layer easily on top of each other,” she explains. “We created technologies based on high-pressure emulsification to make products featherlight.”
Liliana is also interested in ingredients that come from nature. While traveling in Brazil, she visited tourist shops that displayed huge arrays of semiprecious stones with highly reflective surfaces. Always on the lookout for new ways of using materials, she decided to experiment with gemstones for cosmetic applications. One of these materials was incorporated in a cream that lightens and brightens the eye area, La Mer’s original Eye Balm, which was the first cosmetic from any company to use these kinds of gemstones as an ingredient.
Recently, she and her colleagues have been exploring how to make water and oil stay together without synthetics. Liliana links her perfectly manicured fingers together and smiles. “People have been trying to do this for a long time, but I still feel there is going to be a breakthrough.”
Since Liliana has been instrumental in many advances, she doesn’t give up hope. With perseverance, she believes much can be accomplished. The same holds true for herself. She arrived in the U.S. in 1986 with her young son, a suitcase and $2 in her pocket. But she’s proud to say, “I had my education. And that is the most valuable thing you can have.”