8 December 2022

A Century of Ingredients: The Chemistry behind Beauty & Personal Care Products

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Online Webinar 16:00 - 17:00 GMT

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  • William Hesketh Lever sold his first bar of the branded soap Sunlight in 1884. 3 years later he had built his first factory in the world-famous Port Sunlight village.
  • In the century since then, Lever’s company has grown to be one of the biggest Beauty & Personal Care businesses in the world – with products available in over 190 countries and used by 3 billion people.
  • The product range has expanded from skin hygiene to products for deodorancy, hair care, oral care and skin care. And the original Sunlight brand has been joined by many other brands including Axe, Dove, Lux, Rexona and Sunsilk which all sell over €1 billion of products each year.

Very early on Lever recognised the criticality of innovation to providing people with products that were functionally excellent and made sustainable living commonplace for all of society. An R&D team was established in Port Sunlight not long after the factory opened; the first dedicated R&D laboratory was built in 1911.  Unilever invested around €800m into R&D in 2021 and, at any one time, holds up to 20,000 patents.

This talk will review some of the most impactful technologies invented by Unilever scientists since 1884.  And look forward to how Unilever is using science and technology to re-invent its ingredient portfolio allowing us to meet our ambitions to (1) improve the health of the planet; (2) improve people’s health, confidence and wellbeing; and (3) contribute to a fairer, more socially inclusive world.


Dr Paul Jenkins CSci CChem FRSC

Global Research Director, Beauty & Personal Care Science & Technology, Unilever

Paul Jenkins has worked for Unilever for 22 years. In that time he has worked on technology for numerous different categories including Deo, Hair, Household Care, Laundry, Oral and Skin.

His current role is Research Director for the Material Science (Surface Engineering) group within the Beauty and Personal Care Science & Technology Group. In this role he leads teams based in Bangalore and Shanghai as well as Port Sunlight. Over recent years, this team has supported dozens of product launches through the application of either proprietary technologies for new/improved benefits or scientific insights within product claims. His team are named inventors on hundreds of patents that protect Unilever’s product portfolio. He was the Unilever lead for the proposal to HEFCE that resulted in funding for the Material Innovation Factory being secured and he has played a lead role in growing the capability and delivering impactful innovation from it since 2015 when it opened.

He joined Unilever in March 2000 from the University of South Australia where he was a Research Fellow. There he worked very closely with the R&D capabilities of global resources companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata for six years helping them to understand the optimal reagent schemes to maximise recovery of valuable minerals and metals. He also worked with the printing industry to innovate in high performance inks with properties that allowed printing to occur on non-paper substrates such as glass and plastic.

Paul’s scientific background is in Colloid and Interfacial Science and Physical Chemistry. He received his BSc and PhD from the University of Bristol. He is also a Chartered Chemist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He has published over 30 papers in peer reviewed journals and is a named inventor on patents that protect in market technology. He has a broad external network in both academia and with suppliers. He was a member of the Chemistry panel of the 2021 UK Research Excellence Framework assessment and also sits as an advisor on the EPSRC Physical Sciences Strategic Advisory Team.

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