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Why is it that there is so much contradictory advice about cosmetic science on the internet?

February 13, 2016

Long title for an article,  short answer to the question.

and the answer is…..

Because cosmetic chemistry is an applied science.


Over my time running the technical help desk at New Directions I’ve come across many people who have become exasperated and confused by the conflicting advice they have read on the internet about how to fix their particular problem.  Sometimes this has been because they haven’t asked the right question – a surprisingly difficult thing to master as it involves being able to step back and think about your situation from a few different angles and other times they have asked the wrong audience.

As a successful consultant chemist I rarely answer a question straight away.  When people call me up for advice and pose their questions usually the first thing I do is ask them more,  about the wider context of their problem.  This allows me to build a better picture of what is going on and then to offer more relevant and applied advice.  Internet forums, blog posts and wikki’s can sometimes do this but rarely get it right as these conversations typically become quite narrow in their focus and therefore less interesting for everyone else.

My advice to readers who are struggling with a particular formulating problem and who have received or read what appears to be conflicting or contradictory advise is to take a step back and work out if you could save more time and money either by getting some one-on-one professional advise or by undertaking further formal study.  I say formal because although I run chemistry workshops and back my own as being good I can’t vouch for all of them. Also keep in mind that anyone can call themselves a cosmetic chemist and run a course or offer to answer your questions as the regulations are quite lax.  This isn’t always an issue when talking about the hobby chemist or absolute beginner, indeed the varied information can be quite educational and thought-provoking but beyond that it can be dangerous.

My rule of thumb in taking or asking advise of a Cosmetic Chemist for a business outcome is this. The ‘chemist’ should be a chemist and have formal qualifications at a higher level than what they are teaching  IN THE SUBJECT THEY ARE TEACHING and critically that if they are teaching to a professional audience they have adequate scale-up experience across the range of products they are talking about.  I’ve heard some real nonsense talked about cosmetic chemistry due to the teacher having no idea how much things change in manufacturing when you move from 10Kg to 1 tonne of stuff. It’s embarrassing.  Ideally they should be members of their local Cosmetic Chemist Association and have some level of professional respect within that peer group.   For hobbyists sharing stories, insights and experiences should be just that,  sharing.  It is likely that while you have found a particular combination works for you, another person will find it inadequate because they use different extracts, perfume and preservative.

Overall the golden rule is to remember that this is an applied science which means that all things need to be considered.

Keep that in mind and your confusion should disappear.

Amanda x



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