Is blogging about cosmetic science really helping to empower people?
I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately as my every-day experience and interactions with people tend to lead me to believe that no, it isn’t and that in some cases the scientific discipline that I am a part of has contributed to a dumbing down of the very thing I was trying to promote.
I will explain.
Anyone can blog about cosmetic chemistry and these days anyone does. I wasn’t the first to start a science based blog but when I did start, in 2007, there were very few of us out there and those that were blogging from a chemistry perspective were often long-time industry insiders-turned bloggers who had the general aim of helping people to better understand their cosmetic ingredient labels and to engage people in healthy discussions about what is safe and what is not, what might be good for the skin and what claims are pure gunk. That is no longer the case and in a free market that is not surprising. The result is that people with very little or no experience of how the industry works or what procedures, guidelines or laws are in place in the global marketplace are now happily sharing their pearls of wisdom out onto the general public and passing it off as gospel. Again this is not surprising, people generally like to preach.
So are people feeling empowered?
I deal with a broad cross section of society in my working week including lots of brand owners, wanna-be brand owners, established brands and businesses and the general public and I can safely say that frustration and confusion reigns supreme.
Across the board I am finding that more and more people are feeling paralysed by the information that they can now access, information that they FEEL qualified to discern thanks to their copious hours of reading when in reality they are often completely lost. The bigger end of town is frustrated with the endless questions and challenges they are facing about how and why they do things often by people who can’t really tell whether the answers they get are good, bad or indifferent while the smaller players are more and more often narrowing down their window of influence in order to block out the reams and reams of conflicting ‘advice’ or information that lands on their laps.
I have noticed a marked increase in the number of angry and righteous people out there, angry because they feel that nobody understands what they want and that the ‘industry’ is going to hell in a hand basked and righteous because they are the only ones with the right idea of how to ‘fix’ it. I used to find that people I engaged with to help and answer their questions were friendly, enthusiastic, open to ideas and curious about my perspective and input. These days more often than not the answers I give to clients questions are met with a ‘but so-and-so says this, and ‘but I read on the internet that you could do that’. While this isn’t a bad thing in its self the aggression and frustration in the general tone of the questioner is growing because rather than me being able to open up an avenue of thought and useful investigation by the time people get to me now they have already googled and discovered five or six ‘qualified’ opinions and answers to their question all of which contradict each other on one or another level.
My approach has always been to teach rather than preach. As much as I can preach if given half a chance I am conscious of the difference and prefer education as a tool of empowerment. That is one of the main reasons why I don’t just dish out recipes to all and sundry and shy away from every-scenario cheat sheets. Yes the odd recipe and cheat sheet is useful and can be extremely time saving but one must always remember that it is a general tool or guide and that it needs interpreting or applying to YOUR situation in order to give it real value.
Anyway, I digress. With respect to the general anger that I’m exposed to at times these days I have to consider that maybe, after 18 years of doing this I am getting a bit jaded and don’t have the patience that I used to have and am over-reacting……. That is possibly a factor and yes, my patience for righteousness is thin but then again it always has been. But as I still find myself excited and enthused every time I engage with someone who has a real passion and desire to understand what they are doing I feel that no, I am not just ‘over’ this whole thing and don’t just need to retire into the woodlands – as nice as that would be. I just need to get this off my chest – hence the blog post 🙂
So what’s the bottom line then? Is blogging about cosmetic chemistry really empowering people?
I set up my blog to teach and empower people, I approach my day-to-day interactions the same way and remain excited and enthused at the opportunity to continue this so yes I do think that blogging about cosmetic chemistry has the POTENTIAL to empower people but potential is not always realised. Whether someone becomes empowered or enslaved depends a lot on their ability to discern, interpret and reflect upon the information they uncover, to question and explore with an open and enquiring mind, to want to learn and to be invested in the process of learning for the sake of learning and not just for the sake of finding out that you were right OR for making a profit. I can’t make people approach the information I put out into the world that way but I can recognise and support the brave and fearless ones that take that chance and I should because they are the same people who make my job worthwhile and bring joy to my day.
So I will keep on doing what I am doing, keep smiling as I answer the questions and basically tell people who want to twist the world their way, not apply their own thinking, not be open to learn that I am not the person for them and that they should move along and stop wasting my time.
And that’s it really.