Covalo's #AskTheExpert series was created to get to know various personal care experts on a more intimate level and to pick their brains on hot topics. This week, we talk with Trina Espinoza on how she created her very own YouTube channel to foster greater awareness around two of her favorite topics: beauty and science. 

From debunking beauty myths to explaining how a hair dryer works, Trina, a.k.a. Ms. Beautyphile, has a knack for explaining scientific concepts in a straightforward, entertaining manner. Her charismatic videos on personal care products have attracted quite a large fan base by encouraging thousands of viewers to find their inner beauty geek.


Q: Hi Trina! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. First question - what’s your favorite personal care product right now?

I’m totally in love with Michelle Pfeiffer’s fragrance brand, Henry Rose. The product smells AH-MAZING, and they’re fearlessly bold. They’re one of the first brands to offer a completely transparent list of their ingredients — a rarity in the fragrance industry. This move has broadened the conversation beyond the idea that “only natural equals safe” by including safe synthetics. Equally impressive, they’ve achieved a Gold level Cradle To Cradle certification, which is the second highest tier of sustainability in one of the most rigorous certifications I’ve seen so far.

Q: You describe yourself as a “beauty geek” rather than “beauty guru”. How did you get started and what inspired you to start a YouTube channel focusing on the science behind beauty products?

If we met, your immediate thought of me would not be “beauty guru”. Day-to-day, my hair is a little disheveled, I don’t wear much makeup, and 90% of the time my outfit is inspired by whatever came off the top of the clean laundry pile. But beneath my exterior is an obsessively inquisitive mind and a love for figuring out how things work.

Before I created my YouTube channel, Ms Beautyphile, I worked in the movie industry developing software and researching color science for a number of major visual effects companies. Making summer blockbusters was great, but I found myself wanting to go beyond entertainment and do something more meaningful.

“Ah-ha” moments come in funny places, and just like some people see Jesus in a piece of toast, I found my “ah-hah” moment on the back of a shampoo bottle. There I was reading the ingredient label — Cocamidopropyl betaine, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Pyridoxine HC — and was like… WTF is this nonsense??? If I wanted to know, I bet others did too, so I embarked on a journey to learn as much as possible about cosmetic chemistry and decided to create a YouTube channel/Facebook page to share the fascinating science I was learning.

Q: Your videos are so creative and fun to watch! Where do you get your inspiration from? And what is important to you when selecting topics to talk about?

You know, early on I used to worry about finding something to talk about, BUT OMG THE IDEAS NEVER STOP! I come up with some myself of course, but there is also a tidal wave of text messages, comments, and responses from my community and they all have fascinating questions and ideas. Sometimes I drive myself crazy because I’m knee deep into preparing a topic, and all of a sudden I’m presented with 10 more ideas just as intriguing! I have to discipline myself or I wouldn’t get anything done at all.

Once I’ve got an idea, I’ve still got two major tasks ahead of me. First, do the research and make sure the information I’m providing is bang-on. Second, I have to find that unique angle that’s going to make it fun, interesting, and, most importantly, relevant to my audience.

Q: Are there any people you look up to when it comes to combining scientific knowledge with a social media presence?

One role model that continues to inspire me is Alton Brown. He brings the science of cooking into everyone’s home and has inspired a whole generation of everyday chefs. All of a sudden, you didn’t have to be Martha Stewart to cook in the kitchen. Anyone could get the rules for cooking and make a killer turkey at Thanksgiving. That’s empowerment, people! I wanted to see something similar to that in the beauty industry. Let’s forget the marketing and use science to make informed choices about beauty. Plus, it’s always fun to geek out on cosmetic ingredients!

Q: Are there any skinfluencers you follow?

There is a community of people out there using science to help dispel misinformation in beauty--- and they’re good at it! People like @theskincaresaviour, @skinperspective, @xskincare (in German), @samfarmer_co, @labmuffinbeautyscience, and @cosmetic_composition. Everyone has a unique scientific angle on skincare and beauty, and if you follow a few of these accounts, WATCH OUT. You might become as addicted as I am!

Q: Having an active presence on social media is almost a full-time job. What would you recommend to brands, especially from the B2B side, who are starting to build up their social media following?

Don’t try to be perfect. This was something I’ve really struggled with. Share your experience as it’s happening — you don’t have to tie it all up with a big bow before you put it out there. We all love stories about growth, and I am learning that people want you to document your journey.

My brain has lot of information rattling around inside of it. I have a very data-centric mind. I always want to share information and I hate talking about myself. I’ve gotten a lot of emails lately, asking me to talk about how I started Ms. Beautyphile, or what I’m working on when I’m not online.

This reminds me that people are just as inspired about the day-to-day process as they are about learning about new ingredients or getting their questions answered. I’ve had to rewire my brain to share more of myself, and I think brands will have to do that as well. The things you think are uninteresting because you’re steeped in them are the things that people really want to hear about. Sharing a little bit about yourself and the people in your company is a great way to build your online community.

Q: In the B2C world, influencers have considerable sway on the ultra-connected consumers of today. Why do you think influencer marketing is also important for B2B companies?

We’re called influencers, but we’re really subject experts. Many of us also have experience in blogging or video, and we bring an emotional connection to an event or product that standard business communications typically lack. In my case, I am still considered a micro influencer — and I love that! My top commenters are so engaged that I know them by name and our relationships and shared interests are authentic.

Social media audiences are an enthusiastic group and many of them are interested in getting into a particular industry or growing their business. I feel sort of like a matchmaker — I connect my audience with the right product or event and ... boom! ... the magic just happens. For example, one of my followers, @hygienicelementsllc, is a small up-and-coming indie business who was active on my in-cosmetics live streams last year. This year, the company’s founder showed up to the event for the first time to meet with me and with raw ingredient suppliers. I was thrilled to have helped make the connection, and he was equally excited to find a place with resources for his growing business.

Q: How do collaborators usually approach you and how do you work together with them?

Usually brands reach out to me through an email or a direct message via Facebook or Instagram. The best requests will attempt to relate to topics I’ve talked about before or are compelling ideas that would be welcome to my audience. I mean, if you just want me wear your lipstick while hitting your marketing points, that’s not very interesting to my audience — you’ve got the wrong beauty blogger. But if you are willing to connect me with the chemists who formulate your product, then you have my attention, and more importantly the attention of my viewers.

For instance, my audience wanted to know more about how perfumers get their start. For this, I partnered with the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (GIP) and interviewed the next generation of young perfumers — fragrance students who just entered GIP’s selective training program. Afterwards, GIP (@gipgrasse) heard from a lot of new perspective students, and my audience got what they wanted: an intimate look at how people get into the fragrance industry.

Q: You’ve created a lot of content within the past year. What’s on the agenda for 2020? And what would be your dream project to work on?

There are so many things in the works, I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment! I’m expanding into new territory, working with Seeker digital media to write general science content for the insatiably curious. The new year also brings a partnership with a well-known company to launch a new beauty series that’s more product-focused and will take a deep look at how some beauty products work (or don’t). I’ll be giving a talk in January on popular misconceptions about sunscreen, and live streaming in Barcelona with in-cosmetics global.

My dream project would be to create a video series where we enlist a bunch of different science types: engineers, computer scientists, chemists, and microbiologists — you name it! We’d explore some of the biggest controversies and interesting developments in beauty. A diverse group of people would bring unique and exciting perspectives to questions like — what do UV filters of the future look like? How can we color our hair without the use of dye? What new material would give us the ultimate long lash? Exploring these topics and others could introduce us to interesting ideas waiting to be discovered!

Q: Final question. What’s your favorite thing about Covalo?

My whole life is ingredients. Every week I learn about the ingredients in dozens of products. Covalo gives me a central place to look up ingredients and quickly links me to the manufacturer so I can request a sample. Their Trends tab is also pretty nifty — it helps me keep on top of what’s “up and coming” and can give me a head start on the topics my audience will want to hear about next.