Serums are a skin care staple for people around the world whether they’re looking for help with fine lines and wrinkles, skin tone and texture, or just having healthier skin in general. But most people don’t know how their must-have serum went from being just an idea to sitting on their bathroom counter. Dr. Lucy Gildea, Mary Kay Chief Scientific Officer, explains how Mary Kay creates the serums you love — from producing the idea for a serum to launching the product in its final form.

Phase 1: Ideation

Generating an idea for a new serum based on its intended benefits

A portrait of Dr. Lucy Gildea, a white female scientist in a lab coat

When the idea for a serum is born, we start by deciding what benefits the serum should deliver. Mary Kay has teams of scientists who conduct ongoing research to come up with the next innovation.

We utilize many external and internal resources, even outside the beauty and skin care industry, and collaborate with multiple business teams to generate the next great idea. The team incorporates cutting-edge skin science, consumer behaviors and attitudes, and upcoming trends to generate ideas.


Mary Kay’s Research & Development team includes distinguished scientists from around the world, holding doctoral degrees and other advanced degrees across multiple disciplines: skin biology, cell biology, chemistry, biochemistry and more.

Phase 2: Formula Development

Selecting safe ingredients that deliver the desired benefits and aesthetics

A graduated cylinder partially filled with pink liquid


Ingredients play key roles in creating and perfecting the formula. We choose each ingredient for a specific purpose and function. Of the thousands of ingredients evaluated at R&D by toxicologists, microbiologists and other degreed professionals, we only choose the best ingredients for further development.

We study the effects of our product on skin cells in the lab with in vitro testing, perform clinical studies on panelists to measure improvements in skin, and conduct consumer studies to see if the users observed or perceived the effects we desire.

Your safety is our highest priority, so we review every ingredient for safety, quality and efficacy. We never compromise when it comes to the quality of our products, so you can be confident that every ingredient, whether it’s an industry favorite like vitamin C or a peptide specifically formulated for a Mary Kay® product, meets our highest safety standards.


The team also ensures that the serum delivers an aesthetic experience that matches the product’s concept. That means the packaging, texture and scent also must meet our rigorous standards and exceed your expectations.


Mary Kay has over 1,600 patents covering everything from ingredients to delivery systems to packaging.

Phase 3: Testing

Ensuring the new Mary Kay® serum is effective and stable

A beautiful, mature woman smiling and applying a Mary Kay serum

We test many iterations of the serum’s formula to ensure that it delivers the desired clinical performance and consumer experience. The team also tests these formulas with a variety of challenges to ensure the formula is stable for its entire shelf life.

We also conduct additional quality reviews, which include clinical studies with independent dermatologists, ophthalmologists and other medical experts.

Phase 4: Launch

Releasing a final, approved Mary Kay® serum to the public

Three Mary Kay serums lying on a pink surface with scientific glassware

Once we have a final formula that meets our standards for safety and efficacy, a variety of teams ensures that this new, exciting serum makes it into your hands with meaningful education about its benefits, application instructions and more!

The Power of Collaboration

The most rewarding part of this process at Mary Kay is the collaboration and co-creation that happens among multiple disciplines within the Company. And since the R&D team’s research also includes input from consumers and Independent Beauty Consultants, we’re also indirectly co-creating with you. To learn more about Mary Kay® serums and to find the best one for your skin, connect with an Independent Beauty Consultant! As your personal skin care advisor, she can help you love your skin with a routine that’s tailored to your needs from the first step to the last.

Dr. Lucy Gildea, Mary Kay Chief Scientific Officer, has over 20 years of experience in global product development across numerous product categories. Having lived abroad, she enjoys traveling for leisure, good food, and spending time with her husband Jerry and four children — Jack, Sean, Louie and Ty. Dr. Gildea is a devoted user of the TimeWise Repair® Volu-Firm® Advanced Lifting Serum and TimeWise® Tone-Correcting Serum.

The interviewer Kristen Reed-Belveal is a content manager for Mary Kay who loves puns, spending time with her family and studying the Bible for daily encouragement. Her favorite Mary Kay® serums are TimeWise Replenishing Serum C + E™ for her face and TimeWise Repair® Volu-Firm® Advanced Lifting Serum for her neck!