Cosmetic Chemist Found Her Path at St. John’s

Danusia Wnek

Ever wonder who tests the products that receive the Good Housekeeping Seal? Chemistry alum Danusia Wnek ‘11C can tell you! She is a chemist in the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Health, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab, the testing arm of Good Housekeeping magazine. Ms. Wnek was featured in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Industry Matters Newsletter as an “Early Career Chemist.”

In her role, Ms. Wnek – a cosmetic chemist – serves as a consumer advocate, testing health and beauty products for efficacy and helping consumers make well-informed decisions about which products to buy and which to avoid. In her evaluations, she combines quantitative laboratory performance testing results with qualitative consumers’ self-reported data to determine product recommendations for digital and print channels. She also reviews products applying for the iconic Good Housekeeping Seal, a limited consumer warranty, guaranteeing a product will live up to its promise. Her favorite laboratory instrument is called a Visia Complexion Analyzer, which captures images of skin to visually assess changes in wrinkles, pores UV spots, and red spots during the product use period.

Ms. Wnek knew from a young age that she wanted to be a cosmetic chemist: “Seeing how liquid soap turns into bubbles in the bath, coming up with clay masks to dry my oily skin, and seeing women apply colors to their lips that helped improved their confidence all made me want to understand how cosmetics work and how to develop them,” she said.

However, finding the path to her dream career wasn’t as intuitive. “School never came easy for me,” she said. “I had to work twice as hard, but I wanted to be a cosmetic chemist so I pushed toward that goal.”

Once Ms. Wnek – who grew up in Brooklyn, NY – came to St. John’s, she found that the small class sizes and close relationships with professors helped make chemistry a little easier to understand. Faculty members Elise G. Megehee, Ph.D., Joseph M. Serafin, Ph.D., and Neil D. Jespersen, Ph.D. helped Ms. Wnek understand the concepts and principles she now uses daily in her job at Good Housekeeping.

“Dr. Megehee made learning chemistry so fun and digestible. She can translate knowledge about inorganic chemistry to any setting and any student. Dr. Serafin went above and beyond providing additional review sessions, even on Saturdays, to help students understand complex physical chemistry concepts. And Dr. Jespersen was the first person to believe in me and make me feel like I could understand chemistry,” she said.

While a student at St. John’s, Ms. Wnek secured at internship at Good Housekeeping Institute in the same lab where she is now a full-time employee. “The internship experience solidified that this was what I wanted to be doing,” she said.

Outside of her chemistry courses, Ms. Wnek took a wine appreciation course that helped her prepare for future business meetings. She also attended Career Services workshops on business etiquette that catalyzed her professional development and comportment. Ms. Wnek was also a founding member of the Polish Culture Club and active in the Watson Pre-Health Honor Society’s service activities.

“Put yourself out there,” is Ms. Wnek’s advice to current and prospective students. “There are so many resources available, especially at St. John’s. Nobody is going to force you to do anything. You have to put yourself out there and try something new. Even if it doesn’t work out, the experience helps you grow as an individual and learn something new about yourself.”

Ms. Wnek, who is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, encourages any St. John’s students interested in cosmetic chemistry to reach out to her with questions. Having found her path, she wants to help others find theirs.