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Becoming a Cosmetic Chemist with Ivy Phung
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Becoming a Cosmetic Chemist with Ivy Phung

Graydon: You work so hard everyday and we're so grateful for all your help when it comes to product development but then you disappear. Tell me where do you go after work everyday? 

Ivy: So I actually dragon boat! I'm on a dragon boat team and we practice three times a week by the lake. 

Graydon: Does that mean down to the lake? 

Ivy: Yes we practice in lake Ontario where we see the occasional dead fish [laughs]

Graydon: That sounds like so much fun!

Ivy: Yes I love the team aspect of it and winning. It's pretty challenging physically and mentally. Since physically you're pulling water, and there's about twenty people on the boat, so by the end you feel depleted mentally. It's like long distance running - you just have to have the mental capability to say I can do this.

Graydon: Recently you went away and took a couple of weeks off. Tell us about where you went. 

Ivy: So I went to Europe for a Clubs World competition in January in Hungary, so that was a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of new people, it was a good eye opener. I was representing my women's team. Our teams have a mixed team, a women's team and a male team. The women's team won bronze for all the events: a 100 meter, a 2k and 200 meter.

Our men's team did really well. They won gold and silver as well. All Canadian teams were on the podium so it's a good time to be Canadian.

Graydon: This seems like a huge part of your life. How did you get into dragon boating? 

Ivy: When I was younger I always followed my brother around. He tried a lot of sports so I tried everything he did. I did a casual paddle with him on a dragon boat and just fell in love with it. I ended up joining a university team, and then afterwards I joined a competitive team. My goal is in 2020 is to make Team Canada and go to Hong Kong. 

Graydon: That's a huge commitment!

Ivy: It takes up a lot of my time, but my family and friends are very supportive of it when I can't be there for certain commitments because of my commitment to getting stronger and making Team Canada. This was a pretty recent decision to try out for Team Canada. It's mainly because I saw my teammates try out for 2019 Thailand Team Canada in Montreal. I went on the trip with them and watched them audition. It was a real eye opener to see what it takes to be on top. So I wanted to see if I was capable if I gave it my all!

Graydon: So what changes do you have to make to prepare? 

Ivy: It entails me getting bigger and stronger. With my current weight I'm not able to pull as much water as some of the other girls. I need to gain a lot more muscle so I started eating healthier foods and increasing my portion sizes. A lot of protein shakes! Started drinking a lot more water which makes me feel really good. I feel like now I have more energy and more healthy in general. 

Graydon: So you are in a pretty unusual situation where you are trying to gain weight. There's the stereotype that women are constantly trying to lose weight but it's really great to hear you are doing the opposite! 

Ivy: Yeah, I'm about 122 pounds right now and hoping to get up to 130 pounds and add 8 pounds of muscle. It's a good problem to have but it depends on what your goals are. 

Graydon: We should do a before and after. 

Ivy: Haha, yes! We'll check in again in December. 

Graydon: Now let's talk about the other aspect of your life. How did you get into product development and formulation as a chemist? 

Ivy: I took Chemistry in school a few years ago but didn't know what I wanted to do after graduation. I wasn't interested in going into pharmacy or med school so I was really struggling to find out what my passion was. I wanted to find a job that I loved so I could feel like I never have to work a day again. 

I didn't think making cosmetics was something people did but I applied for a job in cosmetics production. Ultimately I was turned down since I didn't have the necessary credentials. I went through three stages of interview and then they rejected me because of my lack of experience. That made me really angry since they knew what my experience was from my resume, but that process really fired me up, so I went online and looked for certificates I could get or go to a school to learn more. 

I was contemplating going to school in New York but Seneca opened up a product development program so I ended up going to there instead. I graduated, got my first job, and loved it ever since. It's cool that I can make everyday things based on science. 

Graydon: Well we are certainly grateful to have you on board. Why are you so passionate in particular about green beauty? 

Ivy: I am passionate about green beauty because I’ve been exposed to it since I was a child. Traditional Chinese medicine has always been respected in my family and all they use are herbs and things found in nature. I remember my mom would use natural ingredients like egg whites to make a mask. She’s retired now and her skin looks amazing. When I was in middle school I had tinea versicolor and my mom used turmeric root to get rid of it. There is so much to learn about green beauty today. It’s harder to formulate a stable organic/natural product than with synthetic ingredients so there is a part of me that appreciates that challenge as well. I think green beauty is also the future of cosmetics, especially now that the generation is becoming more aware and cautious of what they put inside and on the outside of their bodies, which makes it even more exciting.

Graydon: Do you have anything inspiring you can share? Something that helps you persevere? 

Ivy: I actually did a half marathon once. Didn't train for it and thought my brother was going to run with me but then he bailed. I didn't want to do it by myself but one of my friends helped to inspire me, and told me there's always a pace someone can go at forever. Just go at your own pace. So I did it and did it at the average time.

Graydon: That's such a good metaphor for life in general.

Ivy: Exactly. Just going at your own pace and not worrying and comparing yourself to others. 

Graydon: I've learned so much about you. Thank you for doing this! Keep us posted on your fitness goals. 


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