Demystifying the Skincare Industry with Sound Science

1/5   in the series I am a Chemical Engineer
Pictured left to right: Gloria Lu and Victoria Fu of Chemist Confessions

During Women's History Month, we'd not only like to take a look at the women who paved the way for women in chemical engineering, but also visit today's trailblazers. Meet Gloria Lu and Victoria Fu of Chemist Confessions, two women in chemical engineering who met at work, discovered they both had a passion for taking the mystery out of skincare, which lead to creating a blog together and later a skincare line. Learn more about their story during their Instagram takeover of ChEnected's account on Tuesday, February 28.

Skincare is one of those areas that tends to overwhelm consumers when they are actively searching for new products to incorporate into their routine. It is especially difficult when you’re uncertain as to which ingredients are right for your skin and whether the (often expensive) products will be worth the investment. With their brand Chemist Confessions, two chemical engineers — Victoria Fu and Gloria Lu — are clarifying the mysteries of skincare and educating audiences about the often overly complex beauty industry.

Victoria grew up in Spring, TX, and majored in chemical engineering at the Univ. of California, San Diego. Gloria, on the other hand, grew up in Atlanta, GA, and received her education in the same field from Cornell Univ. Not wanting to go down the traditional route of process engineering, they entered the beauty industry and worked as skincare chemists. Victoria worked for Kiehl’s, where she eventually began specializing in anti-aging products. Gloria worked on actives — i.e., ingredients that are intended to target and address a specific skin concern — with brands such as SkinCeuticals. While working for these brands in a lab at L’Oréal, the two met and quickly became friends when they realized that they shared the same passion for user-friendly, transparent skincare.

After four years of working in corporate positions, they left their jobs and began educating individuals through their Chemist Confessions Instagram account, which snowballed and grew into a blog, podcast, skincare line, and book, Skincare Decoded. Their blogposts cover a variety of topics, with catchy titles like “The Chemist’s Guide to Fighting Wrinkles,” and “Decoding Moisturizer Ingredients.” Their skincare line consists of a variety of products, from moisturizers to treatments. Their work and unique perspective have been featured in the media, in such outlets as NPR, Vogue, and The New York Times.

According to the Chemist Confessions website (, good skincare is rooted in sound science. They believe that their platform should serve as a means to skincare education, and they lean on their chemical engineering background to help create meaningful formulas with safe and effective ingredients.

When did you notice the importance of skincare?

Gloria: When I was in school, I met friends who were very into skincare. For me, I have dry skin, and because of the cold weather, I started noticing these premature signs of aging that my friends with more oily skin weren’t seeing. That’s when I started to care about skincare a lot more but didn’t know what I was doing. It wasn’t until after I got into the industry that I realized all the mistakes I made in college trying to foray into skincare.

Victoria: I’ll be honest that for me, it was dealing with acne ever since I was a kid. I hate how taboo acne is, but that definitely fueled me to start a skincare routine and be aware of my skin all my life. There’s one other thing Gloria and I also noticed: the cost. My mom, for example, cannot help herself but spend hundreds of dollars on skincare as an insurance policy that it will work. After working in the industry for long enough, you know how it shouldn’t have to be like that, and that it’s not a guarantee that those products are good for your skin.

In your own words, what is Chemist Confessions?

Victoria: I would say Chemist Confessions is our wish to better the industry. And that also is meshed with our very quirky personalities. We both are chemical engineers, but did not want to necessarily stay on the more traditional route. Because of that, we’ve always sought out a career that you know you’re going to be doing for decades of your life. And we just wanted to inject that kind of fun and dynamic aspect. Through that, I would say Chemist Confessions is a very quirky chemist’s perspective on transparent skincare and just better formulas.

When and how did you start Chemist Confessions?

Gloria: We started in 2018. We left our corporate jobs in 2017 and that was when we didn’t do anything for a little bit. We were actually thinking about leaving the beauty industry altogether. We kind of started the content side of things of Chemist Confessions as a last hurrah to see if anyone really cares about scientific communication and the behind-the-scenes side of the beauty industry.

Victoria: We were cubicle buddies, and that’s how we befriended each other. We started with a really adorable Instagram. If you scroll down on our Instagram account, you can see some of our first posts were these hand sketched cartoons. We talked about really cute things like glycerin. The captions were three sentences, and that has changed a lot. You can see the evolution of the content over time, just because the industry has changed so much since the time we started.

What are some topics that you cover on your blog and why do you think it’s important to discuss them?

Victoria: We’ll cover anything from moisturizers, cleansers, sunscreens, and actives. Through breaking it down, we tried to take the most logical approach to entering the realm of skincare science. Eventually, a publisher reached out to us to put that into print, resulting in our book, Skincare Decoded. It’s our viewpoint on how to approach skincare stepwise. But we’re often surprised by what really resonates with skincare users. For example, we struggle the most talking about cleansers, because those formulas can be very whimsical and they’re often blends. And, it’s really hard to give a more technical breakdown. But everyone has an opinion on cleansers, because it’s one of the first product formats you’ll ever start with. Through that, I think we learned a lot about what the users are interested in.

Gloria: We do the full gamut. We cover what consumers are most interested in, which is a closer look at active series, a catch-up series, and ‘which ones have proven efficacy?’ We also do deep dives on more industry-facing things like ‘what does sustainability really mean?’ And it’s those that they have interest and discussion around — it’s always really exciting to see.

Is there a specific target audience for Skincare Decoded, or can a beginner easily understand and learn what they need to know from the book?

Victoria: We can tell you that the book was probably one of our more painful projects, because we wanted to try to appeal to all, even though that seems like an impossible task. One of the big reasons why we started Chemist Confessions was because marketing lingo was so convoluted, which made it so hard to shop for good skincare products. So, when we approached the book, our goal was that the beginner should not feel intimidated. But if the expert could take away maybe one thing from the book, we’d be happy.

What inspired you to create your own skincare line with your own formulations?

Victoria: When we started the blog, Gloria and I didn’t have jobs. So, when the blog had grown, it started to become a full-time job. We were kind of at this fork in the road of, ‘What do we do with this account?’ We wondered if we needed to go out and get jobs of our own. As chemists, you’re always going to be thinking about what you should be formulating and what you would want to formulate. At the end of the day, it did feel like we could create products that kind of embody that same ethos of good education, sound science, good formulation, and just general skincare fun. So, we decided, ‘Why don’t we just put our money where our mouth is? Let’s see if we can create a line with very intentional formulation, and see if that is helpful.’ And I think Gloria and I can tell you that in our first launch of our moisturizer line, it did not go too well, because the idea at the time was almost too foreign. But it’s cool to see that now our moisturizer line is one of our best sellers, because of the way that content has evolved and education has evolved.

Gloria: The concept to formulate the first line was really simple to us. It was how chemists see moisturizers. What are the big categories of ingredients that you need? And how do we take the most proven best-of-best in their class ingredients and create really concentrated formulas? And that was it; that was kind of the ethos of how we went about it. I think as the line grew slowly and intentionally with every piece, the concept has stayed largely the same, which is highly efficacious materials in high concentrations. And we broke that line down pretty simply based on cleanse, moisturize, sun protection (which is a much longer project), and active ingredients — and that’s kind of how we organize our skincare.

Do you have any plans for future endeavors?

Victoria: I think we definitely have some big product launches planned for this coming year. We also are trying to finally put an investment into giving our brand a facelift. Everything that you see now has been designed by us, and now it’s time to definitely elevate the brand and give it that facelift it deserves. That’s kind of the stage we’re at right now. But I think we still have some dream formulas to produce. And if we can do that, I think we’ll be pretty happy.

Victoria and Gloria emphasize that there are many areas within the beauty industry that require the expertise of chemical engineers. Through their work, they have proven that those interested in engineering don’t necessarily have to work in a chemical plant.

The founders of Chemist Confessions have formulated their own skincare line, which includes their acids trio, with safe and effective ingredients inspired by their chemical engineering background. See their full line of products at

This profile originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of CEP. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at