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Confessions of a Cosmetic Chemist: Why don’t we know how to think or behave any more?

November 24, 2015

I don’t know how to say this, it’s not like I think I’m some goody-two-shoes or genius or anything in fact I think I’m quite the opposite.  Having always had issues with my brain bouncing between hyperactive and  ‘overwhelmed and switched off’  for goodness knows what reason  I have had to do my fair share of soul-searching and staring into the darkness.  I’ve also done  plenty of silly things in my time. So, when I say that ‘yeh, I think I’m quite bright, relatively intelligent and a fairly decent person’ I am saying it with the kind of exhaustion that comes after a battle well fought and painfully won.

For me, although I feel I have earned the right to classify myself as intelligent and grown up I’m coming from a place that allows me to appreciate the fact that what I know, can control and can articulate is likely to remain overshadowed by the pile of ‘I’ve no idea what you are talking about’  and ‘I wish I could just give that person a good slap’ thoughts  and I’m more than OK with that, I’m excited by it. It keeps me hustling.

So that’s where I’m coming from when I slump, exhausted into my chair and exclaim to all around that I feel like the world is suffocating under a blanket of ignorance and that people simply don’t seem to know how to THINK or BEHAVE any more.

Perhaps my view on the world is skewed because I do sit here as a member of quite possibly the shallowest of science disciplines (well, I’m sure my fellow cosmetic chemists wouldn’t  agree that what we do is shallow but having said that we all know that it’s sales and marketing departments that call most of the shots).  Or perhaps it is because I have a unique and un-conventional way of relating to the industry  and its people- I love the chemistry, the applied nature of my work (things have to feel, look and smell good) and the business potential behind it all but I have little time for the art of making-up, am not that socially motivated (although I can hold my own when I need to) and am not personally very ‘girly’ whatever that means.

But anyway…..

So what exactly am I ranting about?

See below:

  • Our inability to accept that risks can be managed.  The endless fear based campaigns of non government organisations is mainly to blame here with their constant warning us of the risks associated with every-day cosmetic products. Risks that pale into insignificance when viewed as part of the bigger picture of life and risks that are illogical when the alternative ‘safe’ options are often supported by nothing more than a hunch and some illogical logic.
  • Our launch-now-clean-up-the-mess-later-if-we-need-to mentality here in Australia. The ease at which brands can be launched here by people and/or companies who have VERY LITTLE IDEA and/or regard for the fact that there are standards, rules and protocols to follow  is astonishing.  I don’t know if it’s blind ignorance or blatant disregard but either way it makes it hard to be the voice of common sense and reason – of course you should run micro tests before launching/ carry out stability/ back up the things you claim with real science etc……
  • Our love of simple ‘SHEEPLE’ speak.  Yes I am talking about the ‘if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want it in my product’ OR ‘if my granny wouldn’t eat it I won’t put it on my face’.  This type of thing nearly cracks me every time. I have just enough empathy to understand its origins but my logical self wants to smash these sayings into oblivion but there you go.
  • Free From lists written by people who have no idea what the chemicals that their products don’t contain even are or whether the ‘free from’ ingredient is even relevant to their product.  Yes we’ve all seen the ‘SLS free’ on a moisturiser and yes I know you can get moisturisers that contain SLS but the vast majority don’t so calling it out is hardly news is it?
  • And people who brand themselves as science geniuses/formulators/ specialists etc just because they have done their google research for 5 years before launching a massage oil or because they have a qualification in some slightly related discipline.  That isn’t genius, finding a way to land a space rocket on Mars is genius. I sometimes think that the industry is a narcissist magnet……
  • People who consider ‘googling’ or ‘surfing the internet’ for weeks/ months/ years ‘research’.  I am not one of those people who feel that you have to go to Uni to be worthy of anything. No.  However, I do feel that with a subject such as this (cosmetic chemistry) that some level of hands-on is needed.  Further, your hands-on needs to be ‘peer reviewed’, scalable, commercially viable and realistic BEFORE you can call yourself an expert/ teacher/ guru etc. That isn’t to say that nothing good comes out of googling, more that it is only a small part of the picture and a pretty minor one at that.
  • And finally the ‘Expert in a box’ people.  These are the people who’ve produced or helped produce one product before and then consider themselves to be experts in all areas of cosmetic science including formulating for other people, exporting to all countries, claim substantiation and manufacturing scale up.  Where do these people get their confidence from and can I have some?

Yes it gets frustrating at times.

Yes I do want to bang my head against the wall

and Yes I wish I had a magic wand to magic things better.

But I don’t and that’s OK.

Because it is not my job to stay up all night and correct the internet is it?

and anyway, I already said above that I realise I don’t have all the answers.

And sometimes, just sometimes I actually learn from these people.

So I’ll just keep calm and carry on.

Amanda x

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2015 1:11 am

    Reblogged this on perfectlyfadeddelusions.

  2. December 2, 2015 2:21 pm

    I think a lot of these issues stem from the reality that cosmetics and personal care items tend to carry far more emotional baggage than most other purchases. The market is saturated with cosmetic options that are more or less the same when it comes to performance. For the average woman, her purchase is made in the price bracket she can afford on the item which feeds the emotional aspiration she has for herself. Crunchy earth goddess? Sexy? Glam and luxe? The marketing caters to the sheeple speak and “free from” shenanigans (usually to those earth goddess types, but also to the trendy ones) because that’s what sells. I worked at a large beauty retailer so I’m more familiar with the selling side, but funny enough, we were rolling our eyes at many of the same things!

  3. December 6, 2015 8:35 pm

    Wish all these people had all the scientific insight like you do! However, I personally do not have time or $ right now in my life to go and get a chemistry grade. So yeah, we go Google and we educate ourselves the way we can! I think it is awesome to see so much interest from people. However, of course it is annoying when they try to look like they know….and they don’t.

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