God Bless Google and Free Recipes and Online Forums
OK so I talk about this from time to time and while I don’t want to sound like a raging Mrs Angry Pants I sometimes just have to let off steam and this last couple of months have left me in that head space so here goes.
The world of cosmetic science has opened up A LOT in the last 19 years and I do believe that this has been a great thing as formulations have evolved faster, becoming more natural, versatile and creative in less than half the time we used to work to. But (and there is always a but) there is one part of the opening up of the industry that makes me want to bang my head against the wall and that’s the steep slide in understanding of and respect for the scientific process.
You used to have to spend years (and I mean years) in a company before you would know what the shampoo, moisturiser, shaving foam and lipstick formula your company made looked like. The first year or two of your working life would be mostly spent testing things for stability, wiping down benches, sitting in on supplier meetings and testing pH. Now this is all replaced by Google, free recipes and an abundance of online forums swapping notes and lab stories. The bad thing about this is that there is no process, no 10,000 hours of practicing one thing and no overbearing laboratory Over Lord to come and slap you over the metaphorical wrist with a spatula for being tardy, jumping to conclusions, failing to try other options or question the information that you were just given by that overly enthusiastic 20-year-old sales rep. It really is the blind leading the blind most of the times.
As much as I do want to stay positive and embrace this brave new world I do want to share my biggest note of caution and that’s this – DO NOT RUSH, DO NOT TRY TO OVER-SIMPLIFY, DO NOT BELIEVE WITHOUT TESTING.
I’ve met far too many well-meaning people over the last couple of months who feel like they should be able to create anything they want, find any answer to any problem (or have it told to them) in an instant and create products that are somehow magically better than what already exists BEFORE they have even stepped foot in a lab (even their kitchen labs) and that, I think is dangerous. These people can become easily frustrated, disillusioned and even angry when they finally stumble across people like me who burst that ‘it’s so simple’ bubble by telling it like it is and bringing up a whole lot more things to think about (if they want to actually make a great, cost-effective, safe and authentic product as opposed to something quick and natural sounding off google).
The best bit of advice I can give to anyone who is starting off or is even in the cosmetic industry is to not lose sight of what we are doing (or at least trying to do) here. We are Applied Scientists first and foremost and that means we need to conduct experiments and not just cook up a cake-mix style recipe and say ‘that will do’. Science takes time and the investment of both our energy and some physical resources – we can’t know if something is good without making it and testing it. Results may be theoretically achievable from the reading you’ve done but there’s nothing like testing it for real to really know how that product turns out.
Let’s enjoy this amazing burst of enthusiasm, creativity and passion that’s come from open sourcing, internet sharing, chat rooming and online networking but let’s not lose sight of the fact that it takes 10,000 hours to master a thing and cosmetic science is not just one ‘thing’……
Don’t try to over-simplify
Don’t believe without testing.