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How annoying it is to be a cosmetic industry professional these days.

June 28, 2020

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and turn your phone on for a social media browse? I sometimes do and this week one particular middle-of-night episode left me feeling really pissed off with life, the universe and everything. Damn I wish I had chosen a career that you can’t just learn at home from your own research and become an expert at something just because you wanted that for yourself…

What happened was that I scrolled down and found a story on Facebook from a page that I follow. The story looked interesting enough that I started to read it. See that was the mistake – reading. I do it all the time, I read this and that and then I go off and read more and challenge my ideas and then re-orientate myself before trying to get to the bottom of whatever. Anyway, this reading confirmed what I’d been suspecting over time, that yet another resource that I’d enjoyed and had thought quite scientific and thorough was not doing their due diligence and was promoting laypeople as experts and, therefore signalling to the world that these two things are equivalent.

Laypeople and experts are not equivalent.

Just like your doctor and Google are not equivalent.

Or your Michelin Chef and your good home-baker are not equivalent.

Fucking hell…

It took me two hours to calm down after reading this. I would like to say that I don’t know why I get so wound up about this. Heck, I’d like to say that I don’t get wound up about this but that would be to deny my reality. Turns out I am not ZEN about this, I quite literally want to write to all of these people and tell them to pull their heads in!

I haven’t written to this page yet by the way. I mean I could do, how easy is it to be a keyboard warrior? The only trouble is that I’m just so tired, so fed up with this, so sick of feeling like the kill-joy at the party, the sober boring one, the pedant, the one who just takes everything so seriously and can’t lighten up. Do I want another in-your-face confrontation or should I just leave this here and wait…

I’m leaning towards doing something asI can’t stand passive aggression. I’d much rather be punched in the face than stabbed in the back. Ouch. But do you know what happens when I post a comment in a hobby skin or personal care product group (and I don’t do it very often and I don’t do it to get kudos, followers or pats on the back)? Nothing. That’s what happens, nothing or next to nothing. Sometimes people engage, maybe listen or click some acknowledgement of my effort. But mostly people don’t seem to care or prioritise my comment above or even alongside anyone else’s – I am equivalented (put on the same level as the ‘rising star’ of the group (code for the new person who keeps asking dumb ass questions or commenting on everything with their new found enthusiasm).

Do I sound arrogant? Maybe I am but I don’t want to be and do try to avoid that. I do not think of myself as the person to whom everyone should listen, but I do know (with evidence) that I bring a special and fairly rare skill for problem solving to the table. My special skill is my ability to unpick a problem in a way that will lead you to the answers that you need – this is not the same as giving you the answer (or an answer, there is rarely just one), it’s a fundamentally different approach and this is why I’m mentally exhausted, because nobody gives a shit about this anymore (or so it seems). Why? Because years and years of making laypeople equivalent to scientists or true industry experts has meant that people don’t even know what I’m talking about – can’t even imagine what they are missing!

When I infrequently leave a comment on social media it is with a hope that it empowers someone a little more than they have felt to date. That the insight or different perspective may give them a hint. Hints are useful, I’ve been delving on that White Privilege website to find out how important I really am (turns out not very) and without their hints I’d have got stuck by about 1905. With them I’m back to the 1700’s on all sides of the family which is amazing! I am that hint to the world of cosmetic chemistry, that’s exactly what I am.

Wikipedia gives this as a definition for an expert:

An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study.

I’ve explained before the difference between research and reading and can’t be bothered to long-hand explain the rest but suffice to say that there’s oodles of detail within those words that help us work out if a persons expertise stands up to scrutiny.

Note: Expert doesn’t mean good/ liked/ popular and neither does it mean automatically right.

Typically the layperson thinks they are an expert because they have done something for a long time, have got a lot of followers on social media, have been featured on some important other social media sites (see, we are creating our own monsters here) or have had some commercial success (there are poor and rich experts just as there are poor and rich laypeople by the way). But these are all poor metrics for expertise and are instead mere chewing-gum for the ego.

Damage to science.

Real experts are trained to not just solve this or that problem, but to think in ways that are novel and creative rather than prescribed and incremental. We don’t need a starting point or AN answer, we just need a scenario – where are you now and where do you want to get to – and a project plan (time, money, philosophy). We are taught to think through problems both in an abstract and applied (typically when industry focused) way. We are also aware of the ways we can test our findings and avoid bias and false positives. Laypeople may have some of these skills (they don’t get born in an expert, they are born in us, the expert just spends time honing these skills in a measurable way) but as they are under-developed they can typically only approach and solve problems based on their direct experience. In summary an expert can solve, test and otherwise investigate problems that the layperson doesn’t even see yet. You can see how this bothers me and how this limits our potential for future innovation.

What I take from this and what keeps me doing what I do (only just sometimes as it is bloody depressing to be honest) is my thirst for DOING, TESTING and DISCOVERING. What made me write this is my frustration at having my opportunities for engaging at this level cut off, not by laypeople who think they are experts – these are annoying but believing your own hype is a classic human failure- no my frustration is at the people who should know better, who could try harder and who could afford to pay for and support more primary research into their field. This feels like Willful Ignorance to me, either brought on by laziness or by carelessness, neither of which are things to be proud of.

So that’s that, I did sleep well last night by the way and most nights I do but if you care (and I mean really care) about cosmetic science, personal care, aromatherapy, herbal skincare, beauty and other aligned sciences please do spend a bit of time thinking about this thing that I’m calling ‘equivalencing’ as sometimes I think it will be the death of me and I actually care about that even if you don’t (and why should you, it’s Ok, don’t feel bad).

Amanda x

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    June 28, 2020 4:22 pm

    Yep… can relate to this. And it doesn’t only apply to the cosmetics industry. I’ve just given notice on a consultancy I started working on. Managed by “boys” who he seem to know better. So why did they hire me? My 35+ years global experience wins projects.

  2. June 29, 2020 2:40 am

    Amanda, I get your frustration. That would piss me off, too. But, Oh Damn, you are talking about me again. Should I defend myself as a knowledgeable expert without a chemistry degree? Should I quit participating in my industry (pet grooming) as an “expert”? Or perhaps I can pretend you did not mean me. No, you are talking to me, Girl! I hear you loud and clear. What I am going to do about it is give you my solemn pledge. I promise you that I will not misrepresent my credentials, ever. I will not be a fake chemist. I have not done the research, but wherever possible, I will have read the research and not just an internet interpretation of the research. I promise to check my references and continually refresh and update my understanding. I will not stop learning and questioning myself and my resources.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      June 29, 2020 9:21 am

      Hey Barbara,
      I can’t be sure as I don’t know you but you are most likely not my problem and I mean that quite sincerely.
      It’s a bit like therapy, the people who go to find out if maybe they are the problem, usually aren’t the problem. It’s the others who should go but would never recognise it. So, we have to learn how to manage these people by making ourselves more aware, stronger, better.
      I know and work with professional hairdressers, beauty practitioners, nurses, dermatologists (yep, they aren’t cosmetic chemists either), animal husbandry specialists, special effects creators and more and they are all a delight to collaborate with as they bring their magic and I bring mine.
      The people I’m taking about are the micro managing do-it-all’s, the ego driven ”you can’t tell me nothings’ and the people who don’t recognise their own intellectual or experiential limits.
      If you look back through history there were many times when college education was not open for everyone. Those barriers still exist today in different ways and I’m not wishing to create them.
      So I’ll say that I’ve got absolutely no issues with un-qualified people pursuing scientific knowledge in general, chemistry knowledge in particular. I’ll help , I’ll no doubt learn from these people too. I’m also ok with these people taking a seat in the expert space (as experienced crafters/ hobbyists/ artists) but thats it. Finally, if the heavens line up for people like this and they want to, maybe they would get the opportunity to formalise their learning at some point. A degree isn’t everything but it is a good indication that all the required boxes of understanding have been ticked.

      Please carry on.

  3. Kate permalink
    July 20, 2020 10:14 pm

    Hi Amanda, I know this is a bit off topic but I am in the UK where products have to have an INCI list with all ingredients. I was wondering if you know whether Korean companies have to list all the ingredients used in a product, or just the end product? I have read in the US they only have to write the product they purchase (ie cucumber extract) not the full ingredients used to make it (ie. cucumber, glycerin, preservative). I have a few Korean serums which say just hyaluronic acid or centella asiatica with no other ingredients, but I am suspecting they have other ingredients they are not showing on the label. Thank you and take care.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      August 19, 2020 11:12 am

      Hi there,
      I don’t have enough experience with Korean product labelling so I can’t really answer that. If products are for sale in the UK though they should comply with EU regs (at this stage). Not sure how the UK is going to navigate that now – whether they will stay with EU laws or create their own. If you purchase Korean products from Korea via the internet then the products can be labelled as per Korean law. It may be worth following up with the brand that you are buying, they may tell you.

  4. indigorose16 permalink
    August 6, 2020 3:02 am

    I agree with you 100% !
    I am not an expert but I do appreciate an expert’s opinion and advice when I’m looking for information.
    If only there was an easy way to filter out the trash so that those of us interested in the real stuff could keep reading !
    A ‘Click Here’ button would be nice…. I’m so glad I found your site 😍

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