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Question everything then be prepared to have your morals questioned

April 25, 2012

As many of you readers will know I am a chemist with a green heart.  That doesn’t mean it is mouldy, formaldehyde pickled or jealous it means that I do actually consider the environment before I formulate.  I have been working as an independent consultant in the cosmetics realm for four years, a move that I made  after never really feeling like I ‘fit’ into corporate life.  I am happy to tell you, my lovely readers that at times my own value system was compromised by being part of a ‘big machine’  – not necessarily because these big companies were doing anything wrong, it was just that I felt that I could do so much more right away from them and that was because of culture.  A corporate works like an army, it has few leaders and many foot soldiers and those foot soldiers must be highly efficient at manning their posts.  I could never keep my brain still enough to stay on my post and soon realised that I longed for the mental freedom that only consulting could give me.  I also thought (and rightly so) that being an independent mind for hire would allow me the freedom of thought to question everything without fear of being pulled up for not towing the party line or for spending too much time on non-core business activity.  And so that’s what I do.

So, when the other week I questioned the Safe Cosmetics Australia group and was then joined by a couple of my peers  I wasn’t surprised to find that things started to get personal on the facebook page.  I’m not egocentric enough to think that it has everything (or even anything) to do with me  but as a former ingredient seller  – natural as well as synthetic, I felt that it was only fair to comment on this all too often used tactic of attacking your detractors on moral grounds.

I can categorically state that neither I nor any of my group of cosmetics industry peers are lacking in moral fibre.  We (chemists/ sellers of ingredients some natural and some not) do not come from another planet where cause and effect are unrelated.  We are not all wizened up barren spinsters and their partners who hate the world so much that we want to poison it so that there is nothing left for your children. We are not godless science monkeys that wouldn’t know an altar if it came up and whacked us in the face and we are not all so divorced from nature that we think that real grass IS plastic. So why feel the need to try to paint us all that way?

There is and has never been any doubt in my mind that we as a cosmetics industry could do better when it comes to environmental issues (and when it comes to ‘natural’ cosmetics the environment comes first as that feeds into our personal health). I don’t think that this statement is scandalous or an admission that we really are the moral equivalents of black holes. I just think it is common sense that as our collective awareness grows about sustainability, resources, efficacy and safety so too should our chemistry and believe it or not that is exactly what is happening although you wouldn’t hear it on these ‘fear’ based sites as that doesn’t fit with the message.

Toxicity is always a question of dose and contrary to internet-surfing opinion the cosmetics industry does invest significant amounts of money to establish safe limits of ingredients both on the person and in the environment.   Would you believe me if I said that I could prove to you that everything on earth from your organic carrots to your pure mountain oxygen is toxic?  Probably not but it is true because everything is toxic under certain conditions – think oxygen injected into your vein,  water in your lung,  eating only carrots for a month……… Dose, place, form, general health all matter but not to your fear based marketers it doesn’t.  This type of conversation usually turns a bit shouty and cross as if we (chemist types) are trying to force you (natural brands) to eat arsenic coated cookies and be grateful for them.

I believe that as someone who trained in chemistry and who invests substantial amounts of their own time and money into my continued chemical education (whether you like it or not) I am morally obligated to speak out when I see the public being mislead and that’s why I question everything up to a point.  However, unlike questioning the big brands about their dubious use of petrochemicals in their toxic skin soups attempting to ‘tell it like it is’ isn’t sexy, doesn’t win you many friends and won’t lead you to having your own chat show.  Neither will it see you elevated to the title of ‘toxins expert gun for hire’ paid to go on chat shows, radio shows and answer beauty editors questions.  No, all that questioning fear based marketing does is get you a virtual whack on the head (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t turn actual one day). Either way it hurts.

People like me don’t do this for the money or fame.  We don’t do this because we are actually trying to cover up something as hideous as the ‘thank you for smoking’ or ‘supersize me’ campaign and we don’t do this for money.  I don’t get paid to write this.  We call out bad science and toxic fear-based groups because for the most part they haven’t got the evidence required to back up their many beef’s and what do we get in return?  Called all the names under the sun. That sucks.

So, before you go calling me and my chemical industry friends morally bankrupt would you please be so kind as to show us your evidence as if it exists and we are killing people (how many people do you know that died of cosmetics poisoning?) I will be the first to apologise, dip my hands in my pockets and start work on the clean up.

No matter how hard you try you can’t block the truth.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2012 1:42 am

    Thank you for this posting. You go girl!

  2. April 25, 2012 2:53 am

    People don’t understand what real toxic chemicals are. As a chemist, who used to work in plastics, I laugh and shake my head. If you really think that product is awful for you then don’t buy it! That’s the beauty of having choices.

    I got into cosmetics because I live in a ridiculously dry climate and nothing off the shelf worked, so I made my own, not because I was convinced manufacturers were out to kill me, which generally is bad for business.

    I would like to start a community where I can teach people how to make their own products as well as educate them on some basic chemistry, so at least they will have some rudimentary knowledge of what’s ACTUALLY in their products vs. what they think is in their products! Sima

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 25, 2012 8:55 am

      Dear Sima, Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is greatly appreciated. I am so glad that you are enjoying the blog and wish you all the best in your quest to help educate the public about cosmetic science. For me it is an art and if the artist has no respect then the art is hollow, if they have no understanding then the art is meaningless. Best of luck xxx

  3. April 25, 2012 3:05 am

    Amanda, as a formulator i want to tell you that your blogs on spirituality resonated with me first and the same voice that i heard within my own blogs of conscious thought. Your book and ideas on philosophy about the beauty within growth resonate with my soul. From reading your blogs i have found my passion for the part of business that always eluded me and made me feel quite inadequate. CHEMISTRY ans SCIENCE! I now love it and i realize why I do what i do now; to carry the message about beauty stemming from freedom of mind and heart.. You make me feel empowered and passionate about science where once i felt overwhelmed and willing to accept the fear based naysayers. i have found the balance that comes from my own questioning instinct and my love of natural and harmonious living. I can say with my all that I KNOW that you’re a wonderful muse and educated mentor. Fuck the naysayers!
    love and pace to you my sister xxxxx

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 25, 2012 8:58 am

      Oh my goodness Carly, those words are beautiful and I am humbled. To think that I may have inspired just one person to go further, do better and think more deeply is deeply rewarding. It does make up for all of the times when I’m thrown to the lions. Thank you, thank you, thank you and again, good luck with the rest of your journey.

  4. Raylene permalink
    April 25, 2012 9:44 am

    I think you are a brave woman! Your work and your writing always brings more than just a smile to my face. I know how much it hurts when people critisize your work. I was reading only just the other day how a blogger threw my lip balm straight into the bin because of the toxic petroleum it contained. I am about to write a blog myself on pteroleum very soon and am certainly a bit nervous about it. I think a lot of the things people say are through jealousy and competitiveness and I have been on the receiving end of that too lately. You will always be my chemist of choice! I think you are great!! xoxoxo

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 25, 2012 9:54 am

      Thanks Raylene, A bit of hurt comes with the territory and is something that we all have to deal with and indeed invite every time we put ourselves out there. I don’t mind that so much but I do mind when attacks are vindictive and reactionary. It is a shame that your lip balm ended up in the bin, would have been less wasteful to send it back so that someone else could use it. Wasting resources is very un zen. Thanks again for your support.

  5. April 26, 2012 9:18 am

    Excellent post! When the evidence backs you up, that is reality. Thank you again for helping us all to understand the science behind cosmetics!

  6. April 27, 2012 7:47 am

    Whow thank you for taking the time to put things in perspective. I am a 67 year old grandmother of 10. I have always believed that thebest way to approach all of the information we are bombarded with, be it for or against the use of so called “Natural or synthetic ingredients is to have an open mind and question. I have just gone back to school to study nutritional medicine and chemistry is a part of that. I am finding it very challenging but the one thing that really gets me upset is to hear people speak about “dangerous” ingredients that I have been using for years and feel are pretty harmless. SImply because I believe they really have no proof to back up their statements.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 27, 2012 8:03 pm

      Hi Mary, How exciting to be studying again and such an interesting mix of subjects. I am glad that my words have been of some help to you. Best of luck with everything.

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