Gabby Aikawa

As Told By: Gabby Aikawa from Sephora

Last updated on: 2019

As Told By

Gabby Aikawa first got her start with all things product development during an internship in college. Fast forward to now, Gabby works in Sephora’s product development department for the Sephora Collection. Her love of everything beauty doesn’t stop there she simultaneously started a lifestyle and beauty YouTube channel where she shares her knowledge of cosmetics, skincare and fitness. Keep reading to learn more about how Gabby was able to break into the industry at a young age and how she finds time to manage it all.

  • My name is: Gabby Aikawa
  • My social handles are: @gabbyaikawa
  • Find my website at: www.youtube.com/channel/UCnI7eb0sLk6EStGmMdb5oDw

    1. Tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get involved in the beauty world?

     Ever since I was in middle school, my dream job was to become a dermatologist. I was obsessed with getting clear skin and would constantly be looking up recipes to make homemade face masks and research the best ingredients. I attended UCSC where I studied human biology and chemistry in order to pursue my dream job of going to medical school. My goal of becoming a dermatologist motivated me to do well in school and I even signed up for the MCAT. However, during my junior year when I was supposed to be looking for summer lab or scribe positions, I found myself becoming more interested in searching for cosmetic company openings. I ended up interning at 100% Pure the summer before my senior year and fell in love with product development for cosmetics, skincare, tools and body care. After graduating, I joined John Masters Organics where I focused primarily on developing natural skincare. Although I loved working in skincare, it was not the same as cosmetics for me and I honestly missed playing with colors and textures. Now I am currently at Sephora working on cosmetics product development for the Sephora Collection and I couldn’t be happier. 

    2. What inspired you to create your beauty and lifestyle focused YouTube channel?

    Everyday after school I would look forward to watching beauty videos on YouTube. I had a couple girls I followed and loved watching their hauls and tutorials. At the time, everything I knew about makeup came from YouTube and when I did my makeup in the morning I would often pretend that I was doing a tutorial. At one point I asked myself, “Why don’t I just put a camera in front of me?” and then I made my first video reviewing a Physician’s Formula Tinted Moisturizer. It wasn’t until I received my very first comment asking me how I studied in college that kickstarted my educational videos. I was so excited that I had a comment and took the request very seriously. I took the time to plan my first script to make sure I mentioned all the information and tips I wanted to hit. I even included images of my transcripts just to show proof that my techniques worked. That video gained a lot of popularity and after seeing all the requests and comments coming in, I knew this was a topic that I wanted to keep filming about. From there, I started filming more videos about how I stayed organized in college, my favorite supplies and how I studied for different classes. Even though they weren’t as popular, I still loved filming videos about beauty too so my channel became a mixture of the two. 

    3. Can you tell us more about what you do in product development at Sephora?

    My job focuses on the vendor relations end of product development. We communicate with our vendors and manufacturers feedback about sample submissions, create and manage timelines to make sure deliverables are met and launch is on time and handle cost negotiations to ensure that we are hitting our margins. There’s definitely a lot more to my job than just that, but those are the high level and crucial parts. It’s a great role because you begin to develop a relationship with your vendors and they become your team for the project. You also get to really understand what it takes to create a product and all the small parts and details that go into it that nobody sees. No one thinks twice about a shrink band, but I have had some long discussions with vendors about shrink bands and am sure to have many more. One of my favorite things is when manufacturers come and present their new concepts and we get to see and test out their samples. You literally get to play, apply and wear makeup and I’m lucky enough to consider this my job! 

    4. What do you think the hardest thing is about balancing being an influencer while also working in the beauty industry?

    Making the time to do both. I say making instead of finding because I think there is enough time in my day to do both, but it’s choosing which one I want to invest my time in and which I enjoy doing more that makes it hard. I honestly love both as they each have and still are affecting my life in positive ways, but over the last couple of years I have chosen to mainly focus my energy on my career in product development. I love how my job allows me to express my creativity, collaborate with teams both internally and externally, work on back-end operations and improve my negotiating and technical skills. Nevertheless, I continue to do YouTube because I love having this channel to help people through topics I enjoy. Whether it’s discussing my favorite beauty products or a storytime video where I share my advice on a topic, the fact that I am impacting a person in a positive way motivates me to keep filming and making my content better. Both are be very important parts of my life and it’s up to me to make sure I make time to grow in both. Gabby Aikawa

    5. If you could only use three beauty products for the rest of your life, what would they be?

    This question should not even be allowed, but if I had to choose it would be mascara, foundation and bronzer! Mascara is the easiest choice; it instantly makes your eyes look wide and awake which I need (especially considering I don’t drink coffee.) Foundation perfects the skin and I love seeing the transformation of all my imperfections disappearing. Not only is foundation my favorite part of my makeup routine, but it might be the most essential because foundation sets up a solid canvas for the rest of your look. I was torn between highlighter and bronzer, but I choose bronzer because it brings life and color back into the face and can also be used as a contour or eyeshadow. 

    6. What has been your biggest accomplishment in your career so far?

    I think my biggest accomplishment is making it to Sephora. I always saw Sephora as the messiah and pioneer in beauty, as almost everyone has heard of the brand and it is one of the first stores that people associate with cosmetics. I used to dream about what it would be like to work for a company as big as Sephora and now that I’m here, it almost feels surreal at times. I’m very honored to be able to say that I work on products that are not only sold here, but are also part of the brand.Gabby Aikawa

    7. Can you share a few helpful beauty hacks with our readers?

    My favorite beauty hack for getting non-clumpy, but long and full lashes is to heat up your mascara beforehand. Before I start my makeup routine, I will put my mascara between my legs (I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this) and do the rest of my makeup routine since my lashes are usually my last step. The heat from your legs will naturally warm up and “melt” the formula so that it is not as thick. You’ll notice that when you apply your mascara, each of your individual lashes will be coated with the more wet formulation and will glide through each lash, preventing the clumpy “spidery” lash effect. This is my favorite beauty hack that I swear by every time!

    This interview has been edited and condensed.

    Interested in learning more from professionals in the digital marketing and beauty industries? Check out the rest of our As Told By series.

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Shannon Brown
Shannon is a social media and copywriting intern at Taylor & Pond. When she's not working, you can find her devouring tacos, binge-watching beauty gurus on YouTube and reluctantly taking her mom's spin classes.