Don’t call me Guru- My story.
It was just a smidge under fifteen years ago that I first set foot in the cosmetics industry. Immediately before that I’d been on a ‘grand tour’ of The temples of India with my then boyfriend, now husband and had finished that trip off with a tour down under – we are talking about Australia here…… We were not yet married ;). Anyway, immediately before that I’d been studying chemistry and computer science at uni and had just graduated with my honors degree having no real idea about what I wanted to do in life except ride my bike and earn enough money to get married as you do.
So, upon returning from our travels, engaged and excited about life we both started applying for jobs and I, not realizing how lucky I was at the time scored a fabulous opportunity at a company called Brenntag. I was going to be the assistant to the Personal Care Business Manager – I remember having no idea what that meant but felt that it would be a bit more interesting than working in a bank- my other job offer.
My job offer came with strings attached. I was to complete a diploma in cosmetic science in my own time (work was paying for the course though). Sounded reasonably interesting and a chance to use my chemistry degree which I was quite keen on doing after the pain it had put me through to get it.
As I said in the beginning, that was nearly fifteen years, two kids, an international house move and massive career jump ago and I’ve not regretted a single day. The science behind cosmetics is something that I am passionate about and continue to pour my time, mind and emotional energy into. However, that doesn’t mean that I think I’m gods gift to the world of cosmetic creating. I’m just a girl with a lab, some chemicals (yes macadamia nut oil is a chemical too), a few happy customers, a few hundred blog readers (thank you) and an enquiring mind…..
So what is the point in telling you this? Well unfortunately in today’s society ridiculously over-inflated egos dressed up as confident, respected experts rule the world. Social media, blogging and our love of conspiracy theories have seen many cosmetic experts born over the time that I’ve been in the industry. These people have always been around but in the old days they had to put in more effort than most could stomach to rise up onto the global stage. Now all you have to do is one of two things…..
Option A involves telling everyone that everything is toxic and that the big brands are hell bent on giving you cancer and you’ll have thousands of Facebook fans in no time, oh, nearly forgot, you may also have to either make your own brand of non-toxic purity-in-a-bottle or offer to do your readers thinking for them by calling yourself a campaign, institute or organization- generation ‘I’ demands that there’s something in it for them or they won’t stay with you for long.
Option B is scary and can be quite toxic, Basically it’s all about ‘bulls**t’ and the individuals inability to see past their own as their ego has grown so large that both their eyesight and reality radar have failed them. These people truly believe that they are amazing and quite possibly the best scientists that the cosmetic world has ever seen. They may hold or have held important jobs with big companies. They most probably have lots of qualifications (egos like medals, any will do) and they are probably pretty intelligent and VERY convincing. These people scare me as they inadvertently and unconsciously feed people in option A with ammunition in the form of crazy statements, bad science, pig headedness and the inability to understand and relate to the real world. They won’t because you know nothing, they can’t because they hear and see nothing. It’s a one-way street to ‘how good do I looks ville’
Do I sound annoyed? Well, if I do I have to admit that it does get me down from time to time because both types of people make life very difficult for people who just want to do the right thing, understand the science and solve real problems. Of course people want safe cosmetics, it seems perfectly natural to me for people to want ‘natural’ and sustainable products too. It is also completely reasonable to expect the products that we buy to work, to do what they say on the jar and to have the evidence to back it all up. It also goes without saying that we want value for money, honesty and integrity. We want it all to make sense. People like the above make it hard to make sense out of the issues because they generally invest so much time and energy creating or over exaggerating ‘problems’ just so that they can tell you how to fix them. Don’t waste my time.
So, if I’m not a guru what am I? Someone who is insanely interested in really understanding how, why, what and where things work. Someone who is happy to be challenged, not afraid to be wrong and always willing to listen. Someone who is more than happy to get her hands dirty, to be the guinea pig, to invest her own money and time in finding out and someone who is happy to give it all away if that’s what is needed to get the job done. After fifteen years of working in sales, marketing, research and development, formulating, business strategy and distribution of course I do know a little bit but unlike your friendly guru I recognize that the is so much that I don’t know and I’m excited by that. I am someone who works hard in the background so that you can look and feel good. I’m a bit like a bra, sometimes I feel a bit uncomfortable but mostly you only know I’m there because your not worried about things flopping.
I believe that the world spins on an axis of beauty rather than a sword of pain so if all of that option A people would just shut the stuff up maybe we could start having some fun and making some real progress and some really good products.
I am human, I love cosmetic science and I am brave so bring it on.