This week sees the start of a two-year moratorium on Neonicotinoid based pesticides in Europe which, I hope is the first in many moves that result in us appreciating the real value of what is arguably natures hardest working insect.
Bees pollinate somewhere in the region of a third of all food crops and as such losing them would represent a very real problem for us humans not least because us cosmetic chemists would also have to live without our honey remedies, royal jelly, propolis and beeswax! This is beyond sad.
It reminds me of a book that I read while travelling in India some time ago. The book was called ‘The God Of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy (It won the booker prize in 1997- the year I was out exploring that fine country the novel was set in) and as the title suggests it exposes the depth of meaning that lies behind every small thing in life. The small things we say, how we behave, what we like, who we love and so on and so forth. While I have forgotten much of the detail of the book that theme stayed with me and seems all the more poignant now.
The scientific side of my mind is always searching for the rate determining step – the prime mover, the God of small things and for me that is perfectly encapsulated in the life and times of our humble bee friends.
I do hope they get the happy ending that they deserve.
Let’s hear it for the bees and may the odds be ever in your favour (yes I did watch the Hunger Games recently. Scary how similar that is to life but I’ll save that for another post…..;))
Hello blog readers,
I am writing to tell you of some interesting developments here at Realize Beauty HQ. Well interesting (to me and hopefully you) and as for ‘developments’ let’s just say that they are still developing.
After six years of blogging just here I am attempting to move my blog to my new domain and designed website www.realizebeauty.com and would love for my subscribers to come and join me. I have been trying to do this in a technological behind-the-scenes way but have failed miserably which is annoying. So, if you wouldn’t mind just heading over and re-following that would be awesome!
The new website enables me to grow the business somewhat. After six years of happy typing and information sharing I have amassed a library of nearly 700 articles covering topics as diverse as sustainability in the cosmetics industry and the philosophy of beauty to an in-depth look at what is inside your hair or skin care products and starter recipes. It is now time to bring that to life.
Moves to install my online store to sell some of the in-depth research work and recipes stalled due to me stuffing up the back-end of my website – that is now fixed but I am going to take my time learning all about a new program before going head long into another blind alley! The aim is to have this up and running by the time the new working year rolls around. These downloadable PDF’s of recipes, information and (hopefully) wisdom will come fully referenced and will include much more detail than I am able to give on the blog. Meanwhile my blog posts will remain available to get those creative juices and ideas flowing.
Another exciting update for 2014 will be our You Tube tutorials and interviews. We are putting these together in conjunction with the lovely people at New Directions Australia and will be making these available for free to help all of you visual learners out there – I’d better remember to brush my hair on those days……..
Finally we will be offering YOU the opportunity to buy shares in primary research and product development that might otherwise be out of reach. Suitable projects may be things like investigating the SPF boosting powers of new botanicals or antioxidants, Preservative Efficacy Testing of new preservative blends or combinations, assaying of actives in an inert base or even running a full-scale anti-wrinkle trial on human subjects. The possibilities are endless.
But in the meantime I will continue to blog on here until we get some momentum on the new site before making the full switch in 2014 (if that is the right thing to do).
I look forward to seeing you both here and there and am excited about what 2014 will bring.
There is a very good reason why my blog and business are called Realize Beauty and it is that despite the progress that western society has been made in terms of its acceptance (and in some cases celebration) of racial, gender and religious freedom we are still being pushed one vision of feminine beauty. I am not a fan of that vision even though, as a member of the cosmetics industry it could be argued that I am (by default) part of the problem.
And this one-dimensional vision doesn’t just cover what you see, it permeates through to the very essence of who we are and I really don’t like where that is heading.
Let me explain.
You know the drill:
- Feet – Pedicured and smooth
- Legs – The longer the better
- Between the legs – Landscaped.
- Waist and hips – Waspish or boyish (depending on the trend. As if you can do that…..)
- Boobs – Yes please. Preferably pert and available.
- Skin – Flawless (which means poreless, colourless, hairless (practically everywhere except eyebrows – no eyebrows is tres weird apparently) and expressionless (thanks botox)
- Lips – Kissable (as if that’s all that matters)
- Eyes – Seductive (again, please……)
- Hair – on trend (dyed, preened, primped, teased, up-do’ed, down do-ed, shiny, silky etc. Anything BUT grey – unless you died it grey of course).
Looking at that tick list of ‘to be a perfect girl’ I feel sick, mostly because it is doing just that, describing an idealised girl of maybe 16-18 years of age. Innocent, playful, physically at her attractive peak, alluring, sexy, naive, unquestioning, shallow.
It would be bad enough if it were just 16-18 year old girls who were trying to live up to this ideal with the benefits of youth, coming-of-age excitement and the free time that’s on their hands but this is a one-size-fits-all vision of mainstream beauty that turns many a grown woman into a self-conscious, doubting and self-loathing shadows of their true selves. Slaves to a routine that keeps them clinging onto that delicate fringe of self acceptance, a self-acceptance that is centred on one thing only and that’s a one-dimensional sex-appeal.
I think it looses some of its allure when put like that.
The over-sexualisation of beauty is, in my opinion a sell-out and a con. Us 35-50 year old mammas with children in their teens are now told that we should aspire to be ‘MILFS’ (mothers I’d like to procreate with) while our new mamma bears are bullied into feeling that if they are not a ‘yummy mummy’ they are somehow either putting their offspring at a disadvantage or are ‘letting themselves go’.
Rather than encouraging us to grow into and explore the long and winding journey of feminine beauty naturally it keeps our minds hanging in a state of suspended animation while our bodies place faith in the products and procedures designed to ‘fight back the visual signs of ageing’ and erase all signs of our procreation - the inconvenient truths that threaten to burst our proverbial bubble.
I feel that is such a shame, no so much what we do physically but why we choose that course of action.
Personally I see myself as the cosmetic industry wallflower in terms of all this. I sit and observe, I am at the party but apart from it at the same time. Accepted because I have a ‘certain something’ to offer, because while I clearly don’t subscribe to the ‘one-beauty-fits-all’ philosophy I appreciate and understand where it is coming from, I’m present but not part of the mainstream. A solution provider but also a questioner.
My journey to realising my own beauty has been evolving slowly over time until now, at the age of nearly 40 I am truly happy in this skin (and hair). I have grappled on many a social occasion with my looks thanks to the situations my job puts me into I prefer Birkenstocks to high heels (although I do have a few pairs of heels now, just for special occasions), have the tendency to either forget to comb my hair or to absent-mindedly tie it back without looking in the mirror, I have no idea how to apply make-up that isn’t foundation and dress for comfort and practicality rather than sex appeal. I often describe my look as ‘mountain mother chic’ as while I do try to look ironed and coordinated it is easy to tell that I’m not from the city and that I am probably not prioritising my eyebrow wax. I take delight in that fact but have found it makes me stand out when I go to events that involve PR companies, the media, networking or meeting other business owners and that used to make me feel a little awkward.
The awkwardness I used to feel centred on a feeling that these people might think I was a bit sloppy and un-professional (not quite as neat and groomed as these guys so maybe her work matches) and for a time I tried harder to fit in. But then I noticed that the customers that I was attracting were a poor fit for my business, that the work I was doing wasn’t flowing as well, wasn’t as creative, was holding something back. I soon reverted back to my original style albeit a more confident, centred and polished incarnation (looks do matter to a point).
I had learned a very important lesson in being true to yourself. In being the best YOU you can be rather than letting go of that thing that gave you your spark and giving in to the gravitational pull of the beauty crowed. And while I have always realised that looks do matter (first impressions etc) I started to really understand what ‘owning’ your look really meant.
I have been evolving that thought and observing the acts that follow over the past year and will continue to do so as I complete my journey towards the big four-o – a milestone that I am more than happy (and ready) to be heading towards because despite (or in spite) of the wrinkles that are appearing, the grey hairs that poke stubbenly out from my crown and the sun damage marks on my neck I feel more alive, more real, more beautiful than ever. Why? Because I know who I am and am excited about who I am becoming. I am excited by what is to come and grateful for what has gone before.
I called my blog and business ‘Realize Beauty’ before I’d reached this level of personal realisation and acceptance and as such the name became as much a personal mission for me as it was a direction for my business.
So what about the business direction?
In a business sense Realize Beauty encourages brand owners, beauty industry professionals and interested members of the public to delve deeper, to search for their story, their unique journey or plan and follow that, to question the status-quo, to grow from the roots up, to realise their potential.
We have been doing that for six years now and from where I am sitting the next six years look like being even more beautiful.
PS: If you are interested in beauty and body image you may find my book Amongst Sisters worth a look. This coffee table book pulls together a series of short stories, essays and poems that outline the journey of the feminine.
What comes into your mind when I say the word ‘chemical’?
The chances are that if you are a cosmetic enthusiast you might have thought of:
I studied chemistry at university for 3 years and then as a post grad for another year during which time I grew to see the world in a haze of chemical love (I never did and never have done drugs, I am just a nerd).
I remember pouring over the labels of food, cosmetics and medicines ingesting the information in the hope of gaining insight into their secret formulations.
What makes that work?
How does that stay together?
Why does that product last so long?
How many other products use that ingredient?
The list was as long as my untiring enthusiasm.
My focus grew when I got my first job as a telephone sales girl in a chemical distribution company. It was my job to call the cosmetics companies and see if I could sell them some more chemicals. I sold glycerine, ethanol, sorbitol, benzyl alcohol and vegetable oils. After a little while I got to learn about more interesting ingredients – emulsifiers, surfactants, thickeners, solubilisers. I was in heaven.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think about the environment, natural ingredient, toxic chemicals or death in those young and carefree days. Of course I did.
Death and toxic chemicals:
My cushy desk job was in an office located on a tank farm – that’s what we called the area that stored your bulk hydrochloric acid, sodium metasilicate, caustic soda solution and more. We knew that the chemicals could be dangerous because we saw with our own eyes what they could do. How things could explode when put next to the wrong chemical, how toxic gasses could overcome you, how a little spill could melt your boots. I learned not to fear chemicals but to respect them. All of them.
Just before my first job I’d travelled through Indonesia working with Orang Utans. I had witnessed the deforestation and change of land use. I had also recently returned from a 9 week stay in India where I’d witnessed pollution and heard about chemical spills, cancer, sickness. I wasn’t stupid but I had a passion.
My passion is and always has been driven by one thing, a desire to understand so that I might be able to offer creative solutions that make things better.
Many things have changed since those early days and my passion has been tested by people who seem struck on painting only one story of chemicals – a bad one.
That isn’t to say that these stories are wrong but I am living a different and equally valid story. One where we can chemistry can offer us solutions, help us live greener, cleaner and safer lives. One that can save the forests. It can happen but not unless people want it to.
So with my story and countless other undeniably positive stories in mind I bring you this, a TED talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi called: The danger of a single story.
I think we are all guilty of viewing the world through our own selective looking-glass at times I know this because even I find it hard not to talk about cosmetic chemicals without mentioning the phrases ‘google friendly’ or ‘not on the nasties list’.
So I ask you to watch this and think. Not about how silly I am for not wanting all chemicals banned – I feel that we can and should do more, be better – but to think about how many stories about chemicals you know.
It is time for change. Our future depends on it.
Have you seen this picture yet?
It has been making its way around cyber space for quite some time but like most viral information it tends to re-appear in clumps as it gets passed from one person to another. It would be interesting to map that………
Anyway, the theory goes that this code tells you something about the composition of the contents:
Green : Natural.
Blue : Natural + Medicine.
Red : Natural + Chemical composition.
Black : Pure Chemical.
Have you ever wondered why an award-winning perfume or essential oil blend can smell absolutely rubbish on your skin but amazing on someone else? Well according to Dr Craig Roberts of Stirling University, Scotland, it has to do with your body odour.
Craig is a senior lecturer in social psychology and has a passion for using his nose to sniff out the meaning behind social interactions – that sounds utterly fascinating and something that I’d LOVE to learn more about, wouldn’t you?
Anyway, speaking at the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) Fragrance forum in the UK recently Craig talked about how our body odour contains information which enables us to recognise other individuals. That got me thinking about my children as babies and how amazingly powerful that fresh baby smell is in the bonding process. In the first few weeks even their poop smells good. Believe me…..
The key part of his talk was this realisation that a fragrance interacts with our body odour to become something else. This is something that many of us have witnessed but probably haven’t given that much thought to. Chemically speaking fragrances have a tendency to interact with the pH of our skin, the oils (how much oil/ how old is it), bacteria, skin surface (rough or smooth) and more besides. But breaking down and understanding this interaction chemically isn’t what Craig is talking about. He is focused on what that means to and for us.
Maybe we choose fragrances based on this alchemic synergy? We evolve our favourite perfumes, add the ‘missing link’, bring it to life.
I love this study as it shows the importance of application, something that I am passionate about – take the problem out of its applied situation and something is lost. Evaluate how a perfume chemically changes on being worn and what do you get? An understanding of the chemistry and how safe or otherwise that might be but we don’t buy perfumes because they are chemically amazing, we buy them because of how they make us feel. A similar thing happens with cosmetics albeit to a lesser degree (we buy cosmetics because of how they make us look too)…..
Anyway, if that is the case how do we (as perfumers or fragrance utilisers) work with this to better identify the right-chemistried target market for our fragranced creations? It takes the idea of fragrance marketing to a whole new level!
PS: I first found out about this here at Cosmetics Design Europe.