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Can you give me your opinion on…

December 28, 2018

2019 didn’t feel like a good year to be a scientist for many reasons but it is the rise in people asking questions prefaced by the above that has niggled me more than it probably should.

Opinions are not facts.

Fish are friends not food.

And anything else that springs to my mind ūüôā

What’s I’m saying here is that my raw opinion doesn’t necessarily stand for anything when it comes to how your brand should move forward.

Let me explain with an example, an imperfect example that’s for sure but an example nonetheless…


Question: What is my opinion on peas?

Answer: My opinion on peas is that they are hideous vegetables.  Sure, they are cute when they are growing and their flowers are amongst my favourite in the world but peas? Please spare me the hassle of picking them out of my dinner by not serving them to me.

I hate peas.

I have always hated the taste of them and while I’ve become too lazy and distracted to actually pick each individual piece of pea out of a dish these days I still resent them being there.

So that’s my opinion on peas.

Now let me re-frame the question

Question:  Are peas a good thing to feature in a cosmetic brand?

Answer: ¬†Well yes, I can’t see why not. ¬†First of all peas are quite visually charming with pretty flowers and a certain cuteness and freshness about them that would go well with quite a lot of marketing messages. They are also natural, a salt-of-the-earth type of vegetable (simple, staple, reliable, hardy etc) and quite cost-effective.

With regards to their skin care properties that’s interesting. Pea extract is available in many shapes and forms and is currently manufactured by Alban Muller, BASF, Cosmetochem and Ashland. Now these are big names in cosmetic ingredients so clearly there is something good going on in the humble pea. ¬†Reports by these companies suggest Tyrosinase inhibition (skin lightening), hydration, firming and even immediate wrinkle reduction so I’d say that yes, pea is looking good as a skin care ingredient option.

Look out for ‘Pisum Sativum’ on the INCI list, ¬†the name might remind you that you need a wee (pisum) but hey, we’re all adults here and can overlook that…

‘AHA’ I hear you say, ¬†‘but the question was more specific the second time around, nobody would come to you and ask you such a broad question and expect you to¬†interpret and apply it?’¬†

Oh but that’s where you are wrong. ¬†How questions usually arise is like this ‘I’ve been doing lots of reading online and there seem to be conflicting opinions on the use of peas in cosmetics. ¬†I’m now confused as some people say they are good and some say they are bad. What do you think?’

And that’s when I have to get into teacher mode and break down the question which, at the heart of it is still asking for a simple opinion (what do I think about peas in cosmetics as in, would I seek out a cosmetic that contained peas/ would I use a cosmetic that contained peas or would the inclusion of peas sing out to me in brand marketing).

Lots of what is written online is personal stories, opinions and anecdotes. ¬†Someone has success with something in one situation and can’t see why everyone doesn’t try it type of stuff. ¬†That isn’t science, that’s gossip/ fashion/ public opinion/ vague.

Cosmetic science is an applied science so first off we have to scope out our problem before we can find a solution or even seek opinion about an option we’ve gone with. ¬†It is perfectly reasonable to suspect that something that is perfect for one brand would be hideous for another. ¬†The same is also true of safety (baby products have a different safety tolerance point than products for adults for example)


So what’s the outcome of this little exercise then?

Well I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want…

Basically its for people to stop and think about what they are asking. Not what they are absent-mindedly asking but what they are really asking.

While I understand that working with a cosmetic chemist with a fair chunk of experience does warrant the question ‘what would I do’ or ‘what do I think’ just asking that alone is not enough. ¬†Further, if we only seek the opinion of others instead of the facts we are building ourselves a house (or brand) on sand as opinions can and do change and do not need to be based on anything tangible, measurable or specific unlike facts which, like diamonds, are forever (ish).



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