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The fashion for moral outrage continues – My chemical romance.

August 9, 2013

If I had a dollar for every time I ‘googled’ a chemical and found a crazy ass story I’d be a very happy bunny.  I don’t get it, I mean,  I didn’t train to be a hairdresser and even with my knowledge of hair care ingredients wouldn’t DREAM of telling people how to give their barnets a make-over, how to chop like Edward Scissor hands or how to turn a  purple haze into strawberry fields by colour correction but that doesn’t stop people who have no background (practical as well as theoretical) in chemistry ‘teaching’ chemistry via the internet.

 Is it me or have people well and truly lost the art of knowing what they know and don’t know?

Reminds me of a Robbie Williams song that also reminds me of this:

God (of chemistry/ hairdressing or skin care) ,

give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed

Courage to change the things which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

There are many well-meaning souls out there who go off with their google goggles on in search of truth, meaning and inspiration.  And do you know what? Most of them find it.  They find it and believe that because of this they know it, only they don’t because all they have done is seen ‘it’ from one dimension (and quite often that is the dimensions of their computer screen).


Here’s an example story for you.


Mr Blobby’s spaceship lands  into my back garden one sunny day,  he makes such a racket that all the birds, bees and insects stop buzzing, chirping and clicking.

Mr Blobby looks around and finds a snail.  He doesn’t know it is a snail, he has no idea what it is but as his boss has told him to get some samples  of ‘earth’ he picks it up and pops it in his bag.

Mr blobby finds several other snails and pops them in his bag.

He then fires up his mobile phone and tells the boss that ‘earth is a lovely place, there are little round pebbly things that have a squishy bottom that feels like glue. Maybe we can use them as building material for our new space ship?”

and off he goes.

Once home his new building material, the snails have gone back to being snails again after recovering from their shock and are now displaying their true nature.

Mr Blobby has no idea how that happened because he had already decided he knew everything about a snail and now he feels stupid.

Rather than show the boss the error of his ways he chops the snails heads off and eats them.

Job done, fab sticky building materials again and Mr Blobby’s ego remains un-bruised.


I am seeing this happen more and more in the cosmetics industry. This cutting off and discarding anything that doesn’t fit with that perfect ‘vision’ of what a cosmetic ingredient should be.

Information AND mis-information is being pumped into the googlesphere faster than it is humanly possible to create a good piece of work and as such the Mr Blobby characters of this world are feeling more and more sure of their knowledge.  It is possible to create a whole book of reference material on things like ‘the evils of SLS’  or “How parabens are giving you cancer’ or ‘silicones wrecked my marriage and here is the proof’ and that actually scares me.  I think we have forgotten how to think and if we can’t think then what are we?

So who do you trust and where do you go for good information?

People always ask me that and I don’t really want to say things like ‘well you can trust me, I’m a doctor (of craziness)’  OR ‘here are some good industry magazines’  OR ‘trust the government’ OR ‘this NGO is great’ as outsourcing your brain is outsourcing your brain whether it be to me, the government or google.

I think the only sensible way to proceed is sensibly and logically on a case-by-case basis just as with any other issue.

Balancing information gained online to information as it applies out in the ‘real world’.  It is amazing how scary you can make something sound by focusing on it and collecting a huge flash drive full of ‘I told you so’ negativity only to find that in the outside world there have been no known cases of death by cereal box OR that the bit you have focused on is not the ‘core’ of the issue, there is something more important behind or in front of to address and in doing so would make ten times the difference.  That’s how I feel about Palm Oil but that’s another story…..

Believe it or not I always sympathise with people who come to me concerned about toxins and the risks of their cosmetics as it IS scary to put your trust, hopes and beauty dreams into the hands of something you have little knowledge and understanding of.   Also, contrary to what I blog about (as my non-chemical phobia is a personal position) I don’t try to talk people out of their beliefs or sneak some nasties into their formula just to prove that they are OK.  That is just silly.   What I do try to do is meet my clients on a human level – after all, I’m only a chemist when I’m working at other times I’m just a girl or a mum or a wife or whatever – and offer them space, time and practical opportunities to walk through their logic step-by-step.  Sometimes people become less scared of the chemicals that we use in cosmetics and in other times they decide that 100% organic is the only way to go.  That is fine,  that is called making an informed choice.

The fashion for moral outrage in terms of our relationship with chemistry is, in my opinion, highly damaging to our cosmetic future as without scientific advancements, better processing methods, cleaner and greener chemical engineering and smarter materials we will run out of options.

Necessity should remain the mother of invention, not fear.



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