Q & A With imayla beauty’s Product Developer, Tara Cohen
The countdown to launch is ON! In celebration of our line being unveiled to the world in a few short weeks, we sat down with chief product developer, Tara Cohen, to learn more about how she created the imayla beauty eye collection—from scratch.
Q: What's your beauty background and how did you get started in the industry?
I've always been a creative person....when I was younger I wanted to be a fashion designer, and an artist and a dermatologist all wrapped up in one. But I also knew I wanted to be a business person. For me, there was always an interest in makeup and fashion—I just never knew how I could get that job. I had an internship with a woman by the name of Jennifer Balbier, who had a company called The Pink Jungle. She was really fantastic. She's a mentor and friend, and she was basically doing what I do now, which is building brands. She was a support system to companies that didn't have their own infrastructure in product development and marketing, and we were creating for different companies. When I graduated from college, I immediately called her up and I showed her my portfolio. I started working in the beauty industry and I never left. I loved it because it was a different way for me to have a creative outlet and to utilize my strengths.
Q. Why did you want to develop a clean beauty line?
It was an amazing challenge to create something that could be as high-performing as the products that we already know and love, but with ingredients that are good for us. I thought, why couldn't we make clean sexy? Why can't clean have an amazing look and an amazing feel, and have the same elements as artistry products? It was a really great project to create something that was clean, vegan and cruelty-free. The imayla beauty team wanted products that had a crafted, good-for-you feel balanced with the feeling of luxury. It really resonated for me as an individual, as someone who's mixed race, as someone who has a mother from another country, as someone who's a native New Yorker...I really felt like it was my story.
Q. Why should consumers care about having clean ingredients in their products?
I think with all the things that we're hearing where certain products, preservatives and ingredients are contributing to early signs of aging and breakouts...it comes down to not treating yourself well. It's like, why do you need all these extra things? I think clean is the new beauty frontier because people are kind of in a place where maybe less is more. It is about asking how can we be better, how can we do better. Q. Take us through the product development process. How long does it take to create a product, or a line such as this?
It really depends, but for imayla beauty, it took about a year. I think having a lean team, and being able to make decisions quickly really helps to move things along. All of our formulas are custom. We researched ingredients we knew we wanted to create this hybrid between the makeup and the skincare. Being able to actively infuse skincare ingredients into makeup was a great challenge to have. It really depends on the type of product; some products that are very unique, like our hybrid skincare products, take a little bit more time.
Q. How many versions of a formula do you go through until finding the perfect one?
I have this rule and it's really bizarre, but I have this “three strikes, you're out” mindset. A lot of times when you are over-developing, there’s either a problem with the formula or there's a problem with what you're doing to it. That's one of the things you have to be cognizant of as a developer. It's usually two-to-three tweaks and I'm done. Sometimes I feel like when you do something that's really unique, you have to think of the end consumer—how will they use it and why will they like it...I mean, that's how you create unique products.
Q. What is the testing like if imayla beauty holds to being cruelty-free? Make sure products are consumer-ready?
So what's amazing about imayla beauty is that we don't hold any bars. We've spent the money to do all the testing including claims testing. The first step is going through the ingredient list line by line and looking for any ingredients that could be harmful, that are not clean or anything animal-derived. We are very clear about being 100% clean, vegan and cruelty-free, and so we state that in the beginning of our development. Then we go through a vetting process with our [research and development] team and regulatory team. We work with an outside testing facility, where we do dermatology testing, allergy testing, sensitivity testing...and it's tested on a panel of people. I even test everything on myself.
Q. When you're developing, how do you choose the shades and colors?
I think about the full line in total...I think about the technique of applying a product and what are the core things needed for a line. Then I think from a shade perspective, and it is sort of like a vision or a story for me. What's very key and has always been important is inclusivity and knowing my audience, and how I can appeal to a wide range of people. Then I roll that up into my development process. Sometimes it's about a theme, sometimes it's color groupings, sometimes it's just how things work together. It's almost like making a huge meal for a party and thinking about the different courses...what are my appetizers? What will be surprising? Sometimes it's creating tension between the colors, sometimes it's something monochromatic and flowy. But it’s also a little bit of a grid system, where I need my lightest shade and my darkest shade, and then create the between.
Q. So, what products from this collection are you most excited for people to experience?
I'm most excited about the eyeshadow palettes. To me, they are a true test of clean beauty and performance combined because you get such rich payoff with luxurious textures in a matte, a shimmer and a metallic formula. I'm proud of the palette because I think many skin tones can wear it. A lot of time and thought went into the color choices, making sure that there's something that would appeal to everyone. Second, I would pick the mascara. Mascara is so hard to develop, and it's so personal. I tried maybe 50 different mascara formulas, and it just really came together. When you don't over do it, you can really come up with something that's truly great—it’s hard to find, but I think ours is truly great.
Q. Last question: what is next for imayla beauty?
We have a ton of products coming down the pipe. We have some unique textural face palettes, we're doing complexion and more skincare-driven hybrid products. Then I think moving forward, you're going to see some really unique makeup—we'll always have something interesting and creative coming out.
Tara Cohen is a results-driven, agile, impactful global product development executive breaking boundaries to design innovations that grow brands exponentially. Using a multi-ethnic lens and a powerful business acumen, she adroitly uncovers consumer insights to find the white space that helps reinvent cosmetic lines. A beauty-industry thought leader, Cohen has managed over $1- billion of enterprise value across a tactical array of categories. With an extraordinary track record of smashing through revenue goals, Cohen has reimagined a variety of merchandise for major companies such as Estee Lauder, MAC Cosmetics, Revlon, L’Oreal, Tom Ford, and Victoria Beckham. Cohen’s relentless pursuit of excellence helped generate consistent year-over-year growth in profitability as well as rank and share across brick-and-mortar, international, multi-channel, specialty-multi, and digital spaces. Using trend spotting, forecasting, along with color and skin-tone science she builds and improves brands for maximum market impact.