With International Women’s Day still on our minds, Olay is keen on celebrating women every day, and never losing sight of the gender gaps that exist. As a part of its 10-year commitment to #FaceTheSTEMGap, Olay continues to uplift and inspire young women to envision a future in STEM. We chatted with Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, principal beauty scientist at Olay, about her own experience entering the world of science, and asked some of our burning skincare questions, to boot! —Noa Nichol
Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself to start. How did you get into the world of science?
I’m Dr. Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson, the Principal Beauty Scientist for Olay Skin. I’ve been in the Beauty Industry for nearly 19 years and have been lucky enough to experience working on skin and hair care brands at Proctor & Gamble including Olay, Secret, Venus, and Pantene. Throughout my career, I’ve gained extensive technical experience both inside and outside the laboratory researching formulas for hair colour, hair shampoos and skincare science. As a scientist, I also have designed and executed consumer studies and pre-clinical trials to develop formulations for changing consumer needs. I am a passionate advocate of STEM with a focus on encouraging and mentoring the younger generation to pursue careers in STEM . Knowing that there weren’t a lot of women in STEM professions – I was motivated by that challenge to become one of those women so I can help other women and aim to close the STEM gap for women and women of color around the world. At an early age my parents exposed me to careers in science. My first examples being their careers. My parents also helped me understand how science came to life beyond the books that I was studying. They supported me when I demonstrated an interest to compete in science fairs. That got me more excited about of science. I went to a high school for engineering professions to further explore my interest in science which led me to majoring in chemistry in undergrad. I then went off to Graduate School to get my PhD in organic chemistry. During this time, I also expressed a love of anything related to beauty whether it was hair, makeup, skin care and even nail art, I loved it all. When Procter and gamble recruited me I couldn’t have been more excited to merge two of my passions -science and beauty. It’s been a great journey!
How does your company empower women?
Olay is raising the voices of prominent women in STEM to help build representation & provide role models for young women and girls to envision a future in STEM. Rooted in nearly 70 years of skincare science, Olay understands the importance of the STEM industry and has made a 10-year commitment to help #FacetheSTEMGap amongst young women since 2018. As a brand, Olay is scientifically-driven, and its products are formulated by female STEM leaders – like myself – who have been leveraging their knowledge and skillsets towards developing meaningful, science-led innovation in skincare industry. It is an honour to be able to share my story and encourage the next generation of female scientists to consider a path like my own.
What are the current challenges for women in your industry? How do you overcome them?
While women fill almost 50 percent of the workforce, we only make up 27 percent of the people in STEM fields.2 This number represents the “STEM gap,” as more than half of girls count themselves out of STEM careers by the time they reach college due to lack of mentorship and role models3 and the belief that jobs in STEM are not ‘for them.’ Mentorship, exposure and support is important for women and young girls at every stage of their STEM journey. While women in STEM numbers have improved, we still have a pretty decent run way to make it better. . Research also shows that 50% of women leave in the first five years of work in STEM. Research shows people tend to mentor others who are ‘like them. In STEM fields comprised of 73% men who are more likely to mentor other men, this creates a vicious cycle that locks women out of opportunities. Olay has partnered with programs focused on mentoring young girls and women in STEM. I’ve personally advocated for women in STEM to connect with other women in STEM, especially those that are new in their career, so that we can provide coaching and support that we know they will need. One of the key factors keeping girls out of STEM careers is communication, the way we talk about science and engineering and how information is made available affects how accessible it is for girls. A study by the National Academy of Engineering revealed that when girls were asked if they wanted to be engineers, they were twice as likely as boys to say no. Yet these same girls said they wanted to use DNA to solve crimes, say, or to design a safe water system, not fully understanding that these activities are, in fact, tied to careers in engineering. The challenge is to create successful learning experiences where girls can be exposed to a spectrum of real possibilities for their futures. Opening up choice for young people, especially girls, means owning up to the challenges and looking for solutions. It is important for us to encourage women to continue pursuing their interest and keep pushing for excellence, continue asking questions and reaching out to others who could guide you through the world of science and teach you the importance of being a woman in STEM.
How do you create a supportive environment for yourself and your team?
In Olay’s continued quest for excellence, over time, the teams that I am a part of and myself personally have realized that there is a distinct difference between motivation tactics and establishing a long-term supportive environment.
- I think providing a supportive work environment that recognizes an employee’s desire for work/life balance, honors promise of flexibility and reinforces the trust relationship between manager and employee.
- Clear communication creates a good foundation for any team, and this is something I highly encourage and reinforce withing my teams. With a valuable feedback system, you can help ensure that everyone in the working environment understands their targets and roles.
- We live in fast paced world, and it is always important to remind yourself to celebrate small wins. Celebrations for a job well done can be a powerful tool to keep your employees satisfied and validated, recognizing employee achievements helps create a positive organizational culture and encourages employees to excel in their jobs.
How do you hope to inspire future generations of women and girls to take on a career in the field of STEM?
Many young women and girls are interested about STEM careers and want to explore these avenues. It is our and Olay’s commitment, as leading pioneers in the beauty industry that has been around 70 years to pave the way for people who are passionate and put in the time and effort to acknowledge and advocate through our brand work as well as through personal journey, and eliminate barriers that prevent future generations from entering STEM careers. As a scientist, throughout my career, I’ve made sure to be externally focused so that young girls and young women can see another example of what a scientist looks like. I’ve enjoyed going into classrooms, doing science demos, speaking at summer camps, going to college campuses, speaking about my journey and my career. It has truly been a touching experience to know that some of the people that I’ve spoken to have become mentees and gone on to grow in a STEM career.
Who has been your greatest influence/mentor in your life?
My mother and father have been my greatest influence in my life. My mother is a 36 year retired math and science teacher. My father retired from a long career at chemical plant. They were my fist examples of what is possible in STEM. They supported and motivated me to pursue an interest in science. They are still doing that today!
What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing?
I have innate passion for beauty as well as science, it is truly my bread and butter! I am a scientific & marketing thought leader experienced in product development and scientific communications over the last two decades. I have been leveraging science and blending in beauty to allow girls and women to feel good about how their skin and hair looks, which is meaningful to me! This is something I am immensely proud of – I made it my life goal to work with brands that resonate with me and have had the chance to do so with one of the largest companies, which is an accomplishment in my books. This all leads me to the best part…. Being an example of how a young girl can achieve beyond her wildest dreams. My Science degrees have taken me all over the world, on Television, Radio, Magazines and Digital. I remain in awe and always hope that my experiences inspire someone else to dream big and achieve MORE because they can!
Tell us about Olay’s new ingredient-led product launch, Olay’s Regenerist Niacinamide + Peptide24 Moisturizer and the science behind the formulation.
Olay’s NEW Niacinamide+Peptide24 Face Moisturizer is the latest and most innovative red jar launched by Olay yet. It is designed for consumers who want to hydrate their skin and focus on skin barrier health for a healtheir looking skin. This face moisturizer will not only immediately repair your skin, but it will also penetrate 10 layers deep and absorb quickly into the skin with no greasy residue, leaving you with a stronger skin barrier, long-lasting hydration which results in healthier looking skin. It is important to acknowledge that transforming skin starts with understanding the skin. That is why Olay believes in superior science when it comes to protecting and nourishing your skin. The brand has over 70 years of a science-first approach to skin care, and we are dedicated to giving the consumers quality products, safe ingredients, and momentous results. Our strength is that we understand how skin behaves through in-depth studies of skin biology. Hence, our new Niacinamide + Peptide moisturizer formula has been built on time-tested OLAY science to bring together powerful active ingredients such as niacinamide and peptides that work together to deliver strong, healthy skin. The product is formulated with 99% pure niacinamide and provides 3-in-1 benefits: improves and repairs the skin moisture barrier; evens out complexion; visibly corrects fine lines and wrinkles. The best of all and my most favorite, this moisturizer melts into your skin and is luxuriously rich in texture!
TikTok’s newest hype is skin flooding! Is there legitimacy to the skin flooding process?
“Skin flooding” is a new trend based on “flooding” the skin with layers of hydration while the skin is wet. Though the term “skin flooding” may be new, layering moisture is certainly not. This method solely focused on reviving tight, dry, itchy, and flaky skin. Hence, it involves layering lightweight moisturizing to stop dryness and dehydration of the skin. It’s similar to the concept of skin layering method where you add as much moisture to the skin as possible by layering water-based serums or moisturizing toners. This facilitates the penetration of the products into the skin, the objective being to increase the effectiveness of the products for a deeper and longer lasting hydration. In terms of legitimacy, like any new skin method, there are certain steps to follow to ensure the best results and avoid any unwanted skin issues:
- Step 1 – Skin flooding must start with a clean base achieved with a gentle cleanser . You can use the new Olay HA cleanser that will gently remove all the impurities.
- Step 2 – After cleansing, according to the method, leave your skin a bit damp and then you can start applying your first serum, usually with a formula with hyaluronic acid. You can use the new Olay Hyaluronic + Peptide24 serum.
- Step 3 – Then you continue to layer with a moisturizing mist and then you continue with niacinamide serum, and finally you can apply a thick cream or a gel-based moisturizer. You can use the new Olay Niacinamide + Peptide24 face moisturizer.
However, there are a few important points to keep in mind when practicing this method:
- It is important to layer your products from the finest to the thickest
- If you have a sensitive skin, you have to avoid any alcohol-based products for this technique to be effective
- If you have dry skin, the skin flooding technique can be used nightly because it helps to restore lost moisture and prevent skin from drying out at night
- If you have normal to oily skin, consider doing skin flooding weekly
What does your daily/nightly skincare routine look like?
My daily skincare routine looks like this: Like any good skincare routine, I first wash my face with a face cleanser. After cleansing, I applied my eye cream and my serum. Filled with concentrated doses of active ingredients serums are really skin allies and can alleviate a number of problems. On my end, I’m really paying attention to keep my skin hydrated so I’m using one with hyaluronic acid. Then I apply my Olay Vitamin C + Peptide 24 moisturizer to really hydrate and soften my skin. I really recommend using a moisturizer all year-round to prevent the loss of moisture. SPF is one of the most crucial skin-care products. It helps protect your skin from the sun to prevent the signs of skin aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Nightly, first, I remove my makeup and I wash my face with a hydrating cleanser. It is really essential to thoroughly clean your face every night to wash away daily build-up—like dirt, oil and impurities. Skipping this step can irritate your skin which may lead to acne flare-ups or inflammation in the morning. I apply my eye cream to avoid premature aging and my serum for boosting hydration. I finish my night routine by applying my night moisturizer- I love Olay Retinol. It’s really important to hydrate your skin over the night, especially during winter when your skin is exposed to indoor heating and dryer weather.