Cogito Ergo Sum
That statement has stuck with me since I first became aware of it as a rather silly 17-year-old. I was in my ‘philosophy of religion’ class and Rene Descartes was on the menu. I instantly fell in love with the phrase and have sort of made it one of my life-long mottos along with a few other less intellectual snippets of joy such as
‘If you obey all the rules you’ll be sure to miss all the fun’
and my personal favourite
‘have pig will fly’.
I’ve no idea why…….
Anyway, it struck me last week that this phrase is actually much more important than I had given it credit for, and not just because it might make me sound a tad educated and bright. No, it’s something much more important than even that!
The phrase means ‘I am thinking therefore I exist’ or
Whatever thinks exists.
therefore I exist.
One of the parts of my job that I enjoy is helping people to think through their cosmetic science questions and to guide them to answers. I do not TELL people what to think or GIVE them the answer on a neat cheat sheet (ooooh that rhymes), instead I take a while to explain my thinking and try to break it down in a stepwise fashion so that people can follow my train of thought and either question and challenge it or agree it sounds reasonable and take it on board to test out later. My approach only works with people who are open to thinking and processing themselves and sadly not everyone sits in that camp.
I feel it might be a consequence of the information age where we have become accustomed to typing any phrase we want into google and getting an answer:
What shall I have for dinner tonight?
How much essential oil should I add to my shampoo?
That is the theory anyway and my experience both in work and in my personal life has shown me that all too often we call this sort of behaviour ‘research’.
This is not research.
This is not even thinking really.
This is convenience food for the brain.
We get out what we put in – minimal nutrition served with an unhealthy dose of crud.
Take the shampoo example above. Valid question, seemingly valid answers but are they? My experience in the lab tells me that there is no simple answer to that question, that there are many variables and that decanting it down to a ‘simple rule of thumb’ is pretty much worthless.
- Shampoo bases differ in their chemistry and ability to withstand essential oil addition.
- Essential oil chemistry is so varied that they must be treated as families (at the very least) and not as a whole – citrus will thin most surfactant bases whereas lavender probably will not.
- One site suggests measurements in drops. How much does a drop weigh? Surely that varies based on the oils specific gravity…..
- Who will be using the shampoo?
- How often is it to be applied?
- Are we talking single essential oils or blends?
- Essential oils vary significantly in toxicity. 1% of some oils are perfectly OK in a shampoo whereas others will be irritating or potentially toxic (not to mention smelly).
and so on and so forth.
I have decided that from now on my chemistry classes and private consults will start with this line and a discussion of what it means. It is imperative that we are all on the same page with regards to cosmetic chemistry as this science more than any other has been approached from a dumbed down mentality for far too long by people expecting to google and find an answer, recipe or neat solution to each and every one of their problems.
It isn’t that I think cosmetic science should be hard or that it is hard – it really isn’t. But if we don’t think about it and don’t challenge ourselves to understand what is really going on we can’t be innovative, we can’t be in control, we can’t create anything new and I don’t want to be part of that.
After all, we only exist when we think, thinking is the only thing that matters.
Let’s not sell out.