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Do we really need masks for our bottoms?

January 6, 2020

It’s rather unlike me to do a product review as I’m not really that kind of girl/ blogger/ chemist but I just couldn’t help popping this little beauty into my basket when I visited Mecca late last year:

Yes, this shiny piece of consumerism is a butt mask!

Now I’m not sure about you but I don’t ever, in normal every-day life consider taking time out to beautify my butt.  As I’m typing that I feel a bit weird actually,  like why wouldn’t I exfoliate, moisturise and treat such a big part of my body and identify (hahahahahaha)???   Maybe it’s because I just have not had the time or energy or imagination to do it until now!  This mask certainly got me thinking of all the years of neglect my poor backside has had…

Anyway, I had forgotten about this mask after the initial excitement of the purchase wore off and it became just another sample in my sample draw until the other day when I was looking for something else (as is often the case).  The other day was New Years Day and I’d just sat through a barrage of ten year challenge photos on Facebook as my (mostly English I have to say) friends posted their ‘this was me at the start of 2010 and this is me in 2020’ pictures.  I have a sister in England who is currently heavily pregnant (yay, baby time!) and feeling rather blobby about herself.  We were having a chat about this photo-challenge thing and she was trying to get me to participate – I don’t generally do things like that as I just think it’s a bit pathetic to be honest but I did want to make her laugh so I said that I’d be tempted to post a picture of my arse ten years ago vs now, just to make a statement about how ridiculous the whole thing is – just an opportunity for people who feel they have aged beautifully to show the world and get some kudos.  My sister loved the idea but I was like ‘damn my mouth, why did I say such a silly thing’ and went off to bed and forgot about it again.

But that thought didn’t go away and as I was doing some New Years cleaning out under my bed I found the box of ‘Amongst Sisters’ books that I’d kept for myself as a memento of that project I did that went wrong (I wrote a book, realised it was too heavy to post and too expensive to sell so it got nowhere and ended up being dumped along with all the money I’d put into it which, at the time was devastating and financially problematic but we all live and learn…)  The good thing about this book in relation to the above challenge is that it was compiled in 2010 AND…  It has a picture of my arse on the front!

I quickly got the camera and got myself on the floor, in the same position as I was in when the original was taken and tried to get a selfie of my butt that was both artful and realistic while resembling as closely as possible the look that had been achieved back in the day.   Here are the results:

I’ve put that cats face there just to save your blushes really as god knows who you are but I’m sure you do not want to be confronted by anything close to porn on a blog like this at this time of day (insert time here…..).  Look, you can see my dirty floor (oh my god that’s bad),  my un-matching PJ’s and the fact that I used the Christmas decorations suitcase as the backdrop for the picture.  The top is my arm as I skilfully reach for the camera to get the shot having not received a selfie (or arsey) stick for Christmas!  After some careful cropping to sort of align it to the original and then putting a light filter on to give it a similar tone too I ended up with this:

Top = the book cover, bottom = my bottom now.  I couldn’t work out on the picture which way I was facing but I kind of like the result anyway.  Arty bums.

With that done and my bum mask re-discovered I was set, my new smoother bottomed life was only a 10 minute mask away…

The mask.

Ingredient wise this is a hydrating, water-based sheet mask that contains marine extracts as its actives. There is a blue algae (Haslea Ostreaia) and Bladderwrack extract (Fucus Vesiculosus) plus a little oat, hydrolysed soy protein, aloe and chamomile (also mostly soothing and hydrating).  The pack tells me that the marine algae will firm my butt (which I wasn’t sure I needed but hey, let’s give it a go) by combating gravity – that’s a big call but I guess in the butt world it may be a case of go-big-or-go-home! For a minute I forgot I was a chemist and fell in love with the marketing words turned into promises that were thoughtfully strung together across this pack. Plumping, Soothing, and firming, how nice.

I  have a very close relationship to bladderwrack seaweed as it reminds me of the times we spent at our holiday beach home as a kid. I used to collect lots of this stuff which I felt looked a bit like witches hair!  I’d put it into my bucket then sit popping the little glands rather like you might pop bubble wrap or that Angalypta embossed wallpaper which was another favourite of mine to pop (google it, it’s that cool stuff everyone had in England back in the day).  As a kid some of my best memories were around being outside in the woods or on or around the beach just collecting and playing with plants and other stuff.  My mum would tell me about how, in the olden days, people would come and collect and eat this stuff which I always thought was gross but now it would be trendy to do such a thing – wild harvesting, off-the-grid-living,  foraging maybe.  My mum and her brother (who still has a very keen interest in all of natures wonders) would also tell me about how different plants could be used for the skin and for washing the hair but I didn’t pay too much attention to that back then, for me it was more to do with the sensory aspect of stuff and for me, seaweed was and always will be the slimy stuff you pop!

I toyed around with going into the chemistry of the ingredients here but don’t want to as I feel it would be best for me to do that in another post.  That said, I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging and so here is a link to a decent introduction to the benefits (and chemistry) of Bladderwrack. Suffice to say that these are good choices for any skin care and are worthy of further investigation.

Time to try it:

I’ve made a bit of an attempt to make the action shot a little less explicit by adding the fake flowers. Hopefully that helps, sorry if it doesn’t.

That stain on the shake part is MICA God Damn it!  I repeat MICA!!!

The experience:

Firstly there is mica so that’s what has stained the sheets and that’s what makes your butt a bit shimmery afterwards. It’s on the ingredients list of course but I overlooked it before. I assume this is the ‘illuminate’ part of the claims.  Light up your backside with shimmer 🙂

Next the sheets were bigger than I was expecting – not a bad thing as surely one wants their whole booty covered in serum goodness rather than just a slither but it was quite a surprise to see the bigness of the sheets.

Further, the sheets were much better quality material than I’d anticipated so I’m sure these could be rinsed through and used again, possibly with any other serum you wish to pop on your bot.

It’s a cold experience.  Now two days ago we had a hot-day-to-end-all-hot-days.  12 Km down the road the town reached a recorded temp of 48.6C which is insanely hot. I would have died for a cold butt mask then but today it’s only 20 something degrees so the coldness was less pleasant, especially as it was cold and damp. I would probably heat this up next time or use it on another hot day.

Other than that it’s quite nice and you do get a good 10-15 minutes of forced down-time to just chill out (literally) and indulge yourself as there’s not much you can do with two sheets stuck to your bottom.

The verdict:

This is definitely something that people like me that don’t get out much would find amusing and for that reason it’s worth buying and trying. The ingredients are all pretty lovely and it is well made so it doesn’t feel like a waste.  The mask would go just as well on your face or boobs if you so wished but the butt factor did give me a laugh and God knows we all need more of that in our lives.  As a chemist I’ve done a poor job of explaining this product but as a regular, suburban mum shopper I think this is just peachy and because the sheets are such good quality you can satisfy your inner anti-globalist, anti-capitalist urges by beating the system and using the sheets again and again! Ha! Take that neo-liberalism.  Oh and for all you adventurous types why not get a handful of friends (and masks) together and have a butt mask party?  Now I’d better stop there as that sounds a bit risqué.

Now, if only I’d have done the mask BEFORE my ten year challenge photo I’d have had a firmer more illuminated butt to share…



Happy New Year? But First This…

January 3, 2020

Well, here we are again, another year older, wiser and (hopefully) more beautiful inside and out and if we aren’t then there are another 360 plus days to figure it all out and do some experimenting.

2019 wasn’t my most prolific year here on the blog as my enthusiasm for sharing the thoughts that go on in my head ebbed more than it flowed for the first time since I started this thing back in 2007. That scared me a bit to be honest,  I was expecting that, at some point my ideas would dry up and I’d get writers block or something but that’s not what it has been,  it’s been more of a mental ‘why bother’ block which I think I’ve mentioned before.  This doesn’t get fixed by people, readers telling you that you are awesome and to carry on…I write out of compulsion, I go with my own flow as a way of avoiding the kind of mental constipation that comes with holding in a million thoughts a day.   So, in 2019 I was confronted by this ‘why bother’ mentality first followed by a reduction in blog views (inevitably when you go from posting often to posting infrequently).  It didn’t take me long to realise that it wasn’t the numbers that bothered me. I’ve been around long enough to know that mind blowing visitor/ follower/ eyeball growth figures year-after-year are all about the sizzle rather than the sausage in the junk food game of social media.  No, for me it was this attitude that I’d developed that was killing me (and I mean killing me, without being overly dramatic, I did feel pretty dire about it all for a long while there).

I have since realised, on reflection, that my work attitude was being unduly influenced by the energy and what I perceived to be the values of others. This led to me spiralling into what can only be described as a mild catatonic state ( an immobile or unresponsive stupor) or, to use a physics term, a state of inertia.   I must add at this point that this is different to procrastination, with procrastination one is moving but in a way that serves to distract them from what SHOULD be done.  What I was achieving was a state where nothing happens.  Quite zen like in a really dysfunctional way,  I think my brain was just shutting down-too tired, too under nourished, too stressed maybe…

I don’t like the feeling of having my strings pulled by others, it feels very silly and more than a little pathetic, something I frequently remind my kids not to fall for.

I guess it also runs counter to my idea of myself as a strong, independent woman and that felt depressing.

I’m very much a loner and someone who doesn’t really care about how others perceive me. Well, of course I care to a point but that point is more to do with people mis-understanding me than disliking me, there is a big difference I’ve found.  What I realised over the holidays was that I had become overly attached to, or developed a dependency on the need to be fully understood or at least heard by the people who contact me.  Putting this into the context of my work what I mean is this, people ask me questions about their brands and formulations and I go to (what I feel) is great lengths to un-pick their questions and answer them, with their input, from the ground up.  I do this so that the person asking the question may end the exercise truly empowered and with a far deeper understanding than they thought possible.  I do this by taking the surface question and picking at it, uncovering the layer after layer underneath it then encouraging the customer to explore and re-build those layers with me then alone into a whole new world of possibility, invention, originality and satisfaction.   Let’s just say that 2019 was the first whole year where I’ve felt that nobody gives a shit about that any more, about knowing why, how and when.  Somewhere along the line I seemed to have internalised that to ‘nobody gives a shit about people like me any more’ which again is subtly different to ‘nobody gives a shit about me’ – that’s a far more personal take on it all and not something I’d tend towards.  However, by the end of 2019 I felt totally drained and like the world was rewarding the stupid, vacuous, fake and shallow thinking that was everything I hated. That made me angry because I don’t like hating people or situations, it’s very energy consuming and quite destructive until fully analysed (which I’m trying to do here but had no time to do at the time).  So my hatred wore me out and gave me another job to do at a time when the last thing I needed was another job.  Great!

Anyway, time to dig deeper…


My hyper-focused state consumed  all of my energy as I tried to ‘help’ people who didn’t realise they needed or wanted that ‘help’ to understand cosmetic chemistry the way I do. I dearly wanted for them to develop the relationship with the subject that I have and to therefore appreciate it WITH me so I’d have more people to play with.

Aside: Anyone who has ever had kids and tried to get them to like and enthusiastically participate in your hobby the way you do will know that I was onto a loser here…

Now wishing for the world to be full of people who think just like me and then getting the shits when they don’t could be signs of bigger problems in every-day life but we’re not talking every-day here. In my work life  I’m a highly accomplished consultant, someone well respected in this field, someone with nearly 23 years of experience (and not just google experience).  I built up my business with the strange notion that I was building a way for people to have a piece of this, learn this, share this, I felt that my unique insight and modus operandi was what people came to me for. Oh shit, that sounds very pompous. If you don’t know me personally you may be thinking right now that I’m actually a self-obsessed dick-head and I take responsibility for that because of how I’ve written what I’ve written. So when it all started to backfire, when people started approaching me like they were doing me a favour, like I was just the lab girl awaiting instructions, that I was the one who needed to ‘do more research’, like their basic ideas were so precious they couldn’t possibly share them with me for fear I’d steal them (as if…)  I felt angry and my brain went into oppositional defiant mode. I WILL NOT WORK FOR YOU ARSE HOLES THEN, STUFF YOU! That’s how it sounded in my head, all shouty and rude.


But as is so often true in life, on reflection I realise that it is me that has this all wrong, not everyone else.  What a bummer that is, always being wrong 😦

The truth is, interactions with people affect how I feel about myself and how motivated I am to perform for them and yes, teaching is a performance, a lovely, wholesome, from-the-heart-body-and-soul performance that I love dearly but only when the audience reciprocates.

The masters teaching course I’m studying helped formalised my understanding of the importance of reciprocation in teaching during 2019 and ironically that was the very same year I felt that reciprocation fizzle out.

I feel it is important for me to point out that reciprocation is NOT, I repeat NOT the same as agreeing, sucking up, fawning over or quietly obeying. I am not a dominatrix, I don’t want to be your master (although I don’t doubt it would pay me more at times hahahahaha)

Most teachers recognise reciprocation in all of its guises (and challenges). Resistance is reciprocation, questioning and debating, sharing and testing ideas, theories and points-of-view are all great, anything but quiet submission or ‘yes missing’.   A good teacher focuses on creating an environment where student-teacher communication is welcomed, it is dynamic, nourishing and where it has the ability to develop both the teacher and the student’s understanding and relationship with the subject at hand. But somehow, it has felt less like that for me this year and not for want of me trying.

So it is with this mindset that I have traditionally taken on my consulting work in all it’s forms. That I’m the teacher and that my customers are, in part, students.  I understand that the teacher-student relationship only goes as far as the scope of the work I am doing. If they are asking me for technical help then I’m a teacher of cosmetic chemistry, if they are asking about their branding or communication then I’m educating them on how that may be perceived (based on my professional experience) both by the layperson and by professionals like myself and so on and so forth.  On the reciprocal side, I accept with an open mind that my customers are the teachers and I’m the student when it comes to their business. They know that better than I do and I am attentive and thorough in my learning about that in order to tailor my part, my teaching to their specific needs.

Anyway, I’m going on but that’s the gist of how I do things so it felt really crushing when it felt like nobody even cared.  To be honest I think it played into my underlying fear that I have about me always seeing things slightly differently to other people.  Again I get it that everyone sees things differently to everyone else but what I mean is my ADHD brain, being wired in a way that processes information in unpredictable ways, tends to lead me to put a different spin on things, find a different focal point  or notice things that others don’t and miss things too.  This can leave me feeling like I’m living on another planet to most people I’m with who all ‘get it’ when I don’t and vice versa.  I’ve mostly learned to live with that and even see it as a strength (as in what I offer with my business – a truly unique view of things) but when the chips are down it becomes my weak spot and I begin to second guess everything and shut down.  It’s hard to trust your instincts when, as a pack animal, the rest of the pack are running in the very direction your instincts are screaming at you to avoid.

That’s what happened in 2019, that’s what kept blowing out my sparkle.

Instead of just meeting my clients where they were at, I was trying to drag them into my world, instead of not taking it personally I was eating it down like poison, instead of choosing my battles I was taking each interaction I had as a chance to unsheathe my science sword.  Oh boy!

But that was then.

It’s 2020 now, a whole new decade which is exciting in a way isn’t it?

It’s time for me to grow up a bit more.

I’m 45 for goodness sake and my home is surrounded by fire (well, not that closely but yes, like much of Australialand the Blue Mountains has been burning and we currently have a clear and present danger sitting about 18km to the south east of us and 12km to the north west. The bottom one is slowly creeping into those dry river beds, the ones that lead straight up the backside of our property line. The Rural Fire Service have already cut their last-line of defence posts into our fence line.  Comforting and terrifying in equal measure.

If truth be told,  I don’t fully have a plan for how I’m going to get over my habit of trying to teach every person that asks me a question whether they like it or not (and harshly judging those who opt to not receive the gift that is my teaching hahahahaha) but at least now I know what my problem is and how it makes me feel. That’s positive!

I’ve also realised once again why I bother as in bothering with this blog, what I do, how I do it and how much I care about it.

I bother because I find myself in my writing and my work.   My writing and lab play time are ways of anticipating, finding, exploring, investigating, resolving and communicating problems.  That’s what my consulting business is about not about shoving thoughts down peoples throats.

I bother because I do this for me and how I respond to it is the only thing I have any control over.  Oh why did I forget that for so long…

Anyway, happy 2020 everyone. I think I’ve got a bit more sparkle in my magic wand now and I’m almost ready to take this new year by the steering wheel and drive it like I stole it 🙂 Just one more weekend of hedonism to go.

Onwards and upwards starting with all of those jobs I need to get finished from 2019! Ouch.

Amanda x

P.S I’ve already got quite a few science-type articles lined up for the coming days/ weeks etc so don’t worry, it’s not going to be wall-to-wall self pity, that is now all done and dusted for a while at least 🙂




Video killed the radio star.

December 20, 2019

If someone was to ask me what I’d be (career wise) if I wasn’t this (a cosmetic chemist) I’d say ‘documentary maker/ story teller/ interviewer of people/ uncoverer of detail’.

My obsession with picking at the threads of life has been with me since forever and while I often say to people that I’m not a people person,  what I really mean is that I’m not the type of individual that thrives when surrounded by people in my personal space – communal living is my idea of hell. However, what I do love is observing people and shining the light on their lives and experiences.  I think that has a lot to do with my feeling of ‘otherness’ which, I think is mostly due to the fact that my brain works in a different way to the majority of others, it being classified as having ‘ADHD’ wiring.  To me, people (the mainstream) have always been somewhat of a mystery. I don’t really understand the full force of what it feels like to be jealous of someone, compete with someone, obsess over what other people think of me or sit with a burning desire for the adoration of others.  I say this because sometimes when I tell people that I’ve always wanted to make documentary style programs, they immediately imagine that I want to be a TV star and that’s not really it.  Sure, if telling those stories means my ‘self’ gets filmed and becomes known to others then that’s ok but that’s just a small consequence rather than the main point.  It’s with that mindset that I’ve entered into this new project of video making and it is because of this mindset that I’ve decided to keep just being my whole, crazy and often distracted self as you may start to see if you watch anything I do. I figured that if you can’t bring your whole self to the party,  you are at the wrong party.

So what is this thing?

NDTV – New Directions TV.

By August 2020 I’ll have been at New Directions as their help desk chemist/ writer and trouble shooter (one of a team) for 10 years and as such, it felt like time for something different!  New Directions is a honey pot for start-up businesses but it’s not just start-ups that come and talk to me there or avail themselves of the companies products and/or services.  Everyone from the very smallest to the largest of business enterprises comes through those doors and leaves with a little bit of something to help them on their way.  As of November this year I took up the challenge of grabbing time with some of those people and telling their stories,  getting behind their professional poker-faced public image and finding out what it’s REALLY (and I mean really) like to be a person working in this, the cosmetic industry space.

And what a weird space it is…

Over the coming months this project will expand and encompass many different elements of life behind the scenes of the cosmetic industry.  As I mentioned on the post the other way when I introduced the video trailer, I have a LOT to learn about video editing and production but like most of the clients that come through the door of New Directions, I, like them, will be learning as I go.

If you are interested in having a look you can find the new content on the New Directions You Tube page which is here.

I’ve also embedded one of the videos here, this is the longest one we have made so far at just over 20 mins and is where I talk to Hairdresser, brand owner and educator Sam Overton about Silicone chemistry in the hair care industry.  As you can see it’s not just a chalk-and-talk type presentation – a format that I find very uninspiring.

Other videos on the recent playlist include a chat to Beauty Room Clinic Owner, Meredith Langley about her business and new Lash and Brow Lounge and a catch up with Melissa from Washpool Soaperie at the Finders Keepers Markets to find out what’s new and get an update how business in a drought affected rural area is going. I’ve also got a video with Ben, founder of men’s skin care brand Milkman,  a practical demonstration of the new hair mask from New Directions and a ‘what’s new in the showroom’ short video showcasing how the New Directions bases can be used to help clients get a better literacy over what suits their skin.

Exciting times.

Amanda x


An Instinct for experimentation.

December 14, 2019

I’ve had to apply myself to a new task over the last month,  the task of video production.  This was not something I’d done much of prior to the month of November, in fact, most attempts I made at creating IMovie content ended in a bit of a disaster as there was just too much that I didn’t know. However, that has now changed, quite rapidly in fact, and I feel it has something to do with my instinct for experimentation.

I’m not the kind of girl that reads instructions.  I just look, touch, experience then try.  Often this can lead to massive failures and sometimes I do find myself digging through the bin or cupboard in search of that wonderful bit of guidance that accompanies most tools, self-assembly furniture or lab equipment these days.  But the important thing for me is that I pretty much have to fail in some way first before I recognise what I know and what I don’t know, what I can teach myself and what I’m best being taught.

Having just finished creating what I must say, I’m pretty proud of – a You Tube intro clip for the re-vamped channel that I’m creating content for (for New Directions Australia), I wanted to share it around to make sure that a) I wasn’t completely deluded and b) that it was on track with what was wanted by the company.  It was during that ‘show-and-tell’ that I got a comment that has just come back to me as an ‘a-ha’ moment:

‘I bet you watched a lot of You Tube ‘how-to’s’ to learn how to do that?’

Boom, there it is.

That’s what’s happening.

That is the norm.


Ok so I did watch a bit of You Tube, probably 15 minutes where I sat down first with one of the company directors and reviewed various movie trailers (to form a brief) and then with my daughter (who was working with me at the time) and a few more team members to find videos of things smashing and mixing in slow motion.  15 minutes tops, that’s it I’d say.

By modern ‘I’ve done my research’ standards I was hitting an  F minus or even less.

But that’s all I needed because I wasn’t searching for a prescription, I was searching for ideas.

I have been wondering about that in light of the issues I face with the people I talk to during my consulting week.  When I started the technical help desk service I was getting some pretty basic questions (as is expected and welcomed) but the energy behind them was inquisitive, probing and with a clear feel for what they were wanting to know.  Fast forward ten years to now and we have a situation where the tone is more combative, the questions are posed in a way that is less open to ideas and more demanding AN answer as in ‘give me THE answer’.  As anyone who has ever asked me a technical question (or read my other blog posts) knows there is no single answer to a cosmetic formulating question, this is an applied science and that’s why I love it.

My thoughts led me to reflect on how I had been going about my new and unfamiliar task in a world that I’m not actually qualified to be in and have no ‘best practice’ or insider knowledge to fall back on.  What is it that makes the people I talk to now approach this new venture in such a different way to how I am approaching my new venture?

I guess I suggested my own possible explanation in the title of the post, that I have an instinct for experimentation which, I have to say, is best when paired with a vivid and energetic imagination.  I do have all of that although I’m not always the best at executing my ideas or thinking them through (in that I’ve pretty much encapsulated the high and low points of an ADHD brain like mine) but what I can do is get some runs on the board.

To me, experimenting or enthusiastically just giving something a go (albeit with a little age-appropriate risk-assessing) is at the heart of everything I value about how I do things and how I work things out.  It is the approach that I try to encourage in my students, my clients and my friends and family.  I am comfortable making mistakes on camera, in class, during public speaking and even in print (although my spelling and grammar blind spots do shit me to tears at times) because I know that the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind.  I know that this is true because while the first set of people are critically evaluating and trying to rank in terms of importance and value what I’ve just said or done, the latter have just picked up the baton and ran with it.  I don’t just LIKE those people, I LOVE them.

When I was growing up my dad had a saying that he’d often share with us.  He usually dropped it when he saw someone participating in a hobby, a person who had ‘all the gear but no idea’ meaning they had the best of everything in terms of things you could purchase but had no capacity to make a real go of it in practice.

These days with the ready availability of ingredients, cheap and fast online and offline courses, recipes and sharing groups, blogs (such as mine) and other platforms that turn amateurs and charlatans into experts,  these ‘all the gear and no idea’ types have thrived.  In the days of my childhood, very few people had the resources to be THAT person, these days much of the research comes for free so by the time you do your little bit of online course or whatever, you already feel like an expert.  By the time you actually use that gear (information, equipment, ingredients etc) you feel like all of the boxes have been ticked only they haven’t because there are no courses that can qualify you in imagination;  the learning that comes from just doing, being, touching and seeing; a natural aptitude and ‘feel’ for the subject and, most importantly, an inquisitive and flexible mind.  In fact the opposite is true – these days if there isn’t a tutorial, recipe or prescription for it, it is a problem, not an opportunity.

I have often bemoaned my chaotic approach to life, the money and time I’ve wasted on ideas that I’ve enthusiastically but unpreparedly commenced then crashed out of, the projects that have left me broke and tired and the thoughts that have robbed me of too much sleep.  However now, when I look at what I’m achieving with my video work, however crude it currently is, however many things I’ve still got to learn, perfect, polish and re-do, I know that my approach, my natural instinct is right.  This is what we need more of in the world,  more getting stuck in and giving it a go, more creating, experimenting, more fearlessness, more open minded exploration, more gumption.  Gumption is another good word from my childhood, it means ‘shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness’.  I really like that!

If you still have the instinct for experimentation and the gumption to see it through let me know, if you don’t know what I’m talking about,  you are not my people.

Here’s my video trailer:

It looks relatively simple now but getting those bubbles of oil filmed was a bitch I can tell you!  Then getting them edited in the right space in the right way was another headache and so on and so forth.

The last bit of the puzzle was the sound track which we all had a good laugh making.  We chose some random morse code from the iMovie sound effects studio but a late night conversation about morse code that morphed into a side chat about whale penises (long story….) resulted in me generating a bit of meaningful code to add instead.

Net result: I like it but like most experimenting people, I want to now keep pushing myself to do bigger, better, longer, stronger etc…

Keep experimenting.

Don’t stop,

Remember that 10,000 hours to becoming an expert that I’ve often talked about, well if you think that’s just 10,000 hours of You Tube watching you are probably delusional 🙂

Amanda x

Beauty is virginity

November 23, 2019

Let’s think about this for a minute, about how this one word has shaped our history.

Invested in my oppressor – Beauty laid bare

November 19, 2019

I was having a deep conversation the other day about beauty equality and how, whatever way you look at it, it doesn’t really exist.

You have the whitewash version of beauty that pushes people to bleach their skin straighten and/or dye their hair and turn into a more western version of themselves.

Then there’s the body positive movement which is all ‘woo-hoo’ for curvy, curly, short, thick and jiggly’ beauty but at the end of the day it’s still all revolving around looks.

After that is the ‘I don’t give a shit darling’ movement which is all hippies and mung beans, earth mothers and minimalism which is all very anti-capitalist (which you may find exciting) on the outside but is still actually selling you something when you look closely, only these things have to be fair trade, woke, organic, native, raw, balanced etc.  Very, very privileged really.

I’ve never really liked any of the above if I’m honest.

I can’t stand colonialism, have much more to worry about than my looks these days and think far too deeply to truly believe that by just purchasing a few goods that tick some boxes I will change the world.

Ok, so that’s a bit harsh and I know that there’s a thing about ‘little steps making a big effect’ and I do believe that but I yearn for something more and that something more may just be this…

Our investment in oppression. 

I am not going to research this deeply, I’m going to lay it down how I feel it,  as a person walking through this world with their eyes as open as blue eyes in a sun-bleached landscape can be so here goes…

This is a story about the beginning  of a journey to beauty freedom, a freedom would be made possible by gaining some power over how this person presents to the world. This journey would open doors and make things possible that hadn’t been possible before but, unbeknown to us, it also meant this person would lose something. Nobody really talks about what you might lose when what you will lose has been widely thought of as a problem. I mean nobody says ‘wow man, it sucks that your cancer got better’ or ‘Gosh, how on earth are you going to spend your time now that you don’t have to limp around with that stick?’. It just doesn’t happen, it’s all gain and no more pain.

However, humans don’t seem to work like that, or at least that’s how it appears after knowing a few of them and being one.

What if there was a little part of us that came to see ourselves a certain way, to live with the hurt and disappointment or anger (or other self-damaging emotion) as part of us, that we find a way to ‘make the most of it’ or ‘battle on regardless’ or ‘overcome the obstacles’.  That battle becomes us and we become that battle.

It was in thinking of this that I wondered about oppression and in particular the oppression that many of us confront and make peace with in order to interact with the beauty industry.   I’m wondering if this is the reason that even when we do get on top of our skin, hair or body ‘problems’ instead of rejoicing we either find ourselves somewhat lost or we jump straight into another battle.

I’m wondering if we need to talk about this a bit more, especially when the oppression you have just overcome is just one layer of the onion of your beauty life. Especially when even by un-peeling the final layer of that onion you may never really present the way you feel is enough?

I’ll give you a personal example of how this thinking has impacted me over my life just to help you work out what I’m saying if it is not yet obvious.  I wrote a piece on me being ‘itchy girl’ a while back. I had assumed this identity subconsciously after several decades of skin issues caused by my eczema.  I had internalised the eczema narrative so strongly that it had become me and I had become it.  So when it was pointed out to me (in therapy)  that I’d pigeon holed myself as itchy girl I felt like a bit of a dick head to be honest.  Self fulfilling prophecy maybe,  wrote the scabby ending to my own beauty story…  Something like that.

Now just before you think ‘well hang on, just not calling yourself itchy girl doesn’t make eczema go away’ that’s not what I’m going to say. I still have the condition, I still scratch and itch at times but what I don’t have now, after battling through my own narrative, is an attachment to my oppressor, that being the deficit narrative around me just being that inevitable itching thing that can never be comfortable in her skin.

Never be comfortable in her own skin…

I want to let that sink in for a minute.

So why would I adopt that narrative in the first place?

What benefit did that bring me?

Step into my shoes for a minute and I’ll tell you.  By the time I had got to this awakened state I’d lived in my skin for just short of 40 years.  That’s a long time and during that time I had come to accept that this was me and that was that in terms of my beauty persona and that’s the bit I’m interested in here.

As a child I was told by well-meaning friends that I could not be a fairy because a) I was too big and heavy (I was a bit then) and b) I had scabby skin.  As a child I felt confident enough that my body would changed as I grew up into adulthood but I had no confidence that my skin would change even though I was told that I would, to a large degree, grow out of the eczema I had.  Why did I think that?  Because at primary school I wanted to be a fairy and fairies weren’t scabby.  As a teenager I wanted to be famous and on TV but nobody on TV had scabby skin (and yes, I still did although it was a bit better than it had been).  As an adolescent I still wanted to be famous, important and now rich too but I didn’t see any of the people I aspired to be like walking around scratching themselves, they all had their skin shit together.  As an adult in the boardroom I did actually come across other itchy people but by that time I was already programmed and so it didn’t really matter any more.  I was never going to reach the beauty potential I could in life because my skin was itchy and looked bad on camera (still does, I still cringe when I see my hands in the clips I’m creating).

It is tiring and disappointing to always refer back to how good things could be for you if only you weren’t like you are.  I’m guessing that at some point one decides whether to just live with it and get on with it (resilience),  fight it (militancy) or succumb to it (surrender).  I chose resilience back then but resilience is only marginally less tiring than militancy and only slightly more empowering than surrender.

In choosing to be resilient I also had to adopt some coping strategies as resilient attitudes don’t stop the situation.  For example I may decide to be resilient and still join the swimming team and train twice a week and suffer the deep cracks to my skin but the deep cracks still hurt and stick to my clothing.  So, my coping mechanisms involved growing tougher, turning down my pain receptors and switching focus to other things like developing other parts of my personality and skill set that don’t involve my looks (which, I had decided, were always going to let me down).

By now I think you get the picture, also by this stage in my life telling you this feels a bit odd as I really don’t attach to this narrative any more but it is useful to share nonetheless.

I’d invested heavily in and given much power to my oppressor. My first step in life as a child wasn’t to challenge my own narrative about the way I saw myself and the limits I created because of it but rather to invest time and energy in managing my oppressor, my relationship with it,  and thus getting on with my ‘new’ life.

So when, later in life, I was challenged to think of myself differently I had more than a moment or two of trepidation to be honest.  Who would I be now? What would my beauty narrative be?  Could I actually re-visit my hopes and dreams of childhood (if I still wanted to) and become that girl?   How much mourning was there to do around the many ways I’ve limited myself by thinking and being this way? What about all that energy and pain I’ve sucked up? Am I going to crack under the strain of all that emotion when it gushes out?  Maybe, I guess maybe…

For me, holding those views stopped me from fully engaging with my feelings and finding myself a solution both mentally and physically.  I actually preferred not to think much about my eczema and instead, just got on with life, using the hydrocortisone cream when it got so bad I couldn’t sleep and occasionally using whatever other cream I could find to help me keep some kind of comfort at other times. It was only when I was invited to look deeper than what could be seen, felt and judged by others that I really was able to get to grips with myself, my skin and my own identity and believe me, there was a lot tied up in that itchy girl narrative, a lot of self-protective resilience moves that left me battered and tired.

So, back to the beginning and this person who was just given some beauty freedom. 

The story the beauty industry wants is that the person comes with a problem and goes out with a problem solved. However, in this case something else happened, something different, something deeper and more interesting.

Taking away the oppressor leaves a vacuum and I’m sure you’ve heard that saying ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ even if you don’t know what it means.

What happens when your new-found freedom feels like you won it by trading your soul (or your identity which in this case is close to the same thing).

Now, instead of a problem being solved, a new problem was made the ‘who am I now’ problem.

After a bit of time, this person was able to embrace their new found beauty freedom and take another step towards true self-empowerment, an empowerment that didn’t mean getting stuck in a corner, fighting off or negotiating with an oppressor, an empowerment that lay well beyond the physical, an empowerment that would actually last.

To be clear, this isn’t a post-purchase regret like the type we get when we ask the hairdresser to give us a buzz cut because we are sick to death already of the summer heat only to regret it the moment the blades make their first chop or the regret we feel when we allow our best friend to stick-and-poke tattoo us as it felt like the right thing to do at 3am on a Sunday morning after partying hard all night.  No, this is not a regret at all, this is a re-frame.

I am telling you this because whatever role you play in this, the beauty industry if you do it right, if you really do try to make a connection that goes beyond the physical, you will see and feel this sometimes. Sometimes the fears of the individual are just individual fears, sometimes they carry the weight of centuries of oppression or privilege that they or even their whole in-group may not fully realise yet. Whatever it is, however it transpires  it is worth diving into rather than shying away from as I’m convinced that the only way to feel comfortable within our own skins is to finally get to the mother itch and scratch the hell out of it, in the most gentle and kind way possible of course.

Pictures by me:  Thinking it over with tea, reflections by the lake and navel-gazing in the park.








Product testing – when seeing is believing.

November 16, 2019

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog post about the importance of not forgetting the ‘development’ part of the R&D relationship.  As a follow up I’m sharing a video that I made this week with hair stylist, brand owner and photographer Sam Overton. One of the best ways to develop your formula is through the actual testing and evaluation of how it works in practice.  That sounds obvious enough but how many times have we (me included) tested out a facial moisturiser or foundation on the back of our hands rather than worn it all day? How many times have we just focused on the foaming profile and viscosity of a shampoo without really testing it – and not just once, but I mean really tested it a few times?

This video outlines a great in-use protocol that can be followed to accurately evaluate the product being tested, in this case a hair mask.  An accurate use protocol is really important as many products feel and act differently when they are under or over-dosed.  While we don’t have ultimate control over that as formulators we do have some control. The way our samples are presented to clients, especially clients who have a limited experience of the R&D process, will help to guide how much they use.   In this video I gave Sam a huge pot of product, 500g!  Sam is experienced with hair masks and so only took what he knew was a typical application of a product like this. This is not a trivial detail as when I tested this on myself at home I took a huge dollop of stuff and rubbed it into my hair in a much more hap-hazard way. Luckily I still enjoyed the results I got but I would have had a very different perception of how many applications the 500g pot contained to Sam and in business that would really matter even if it didn’t negatively impact the outcome.

Asking an industry professional to test a product gives you an informed opinion of what you have created and that is a really important step. However, testing like this doesn’t constitute a scientific trial, for that we would have to try the product on more people and control more variables so that results could be compared.

Once a good in-use protocol has been established and the product has been deemed as worthy of further investment, the next step is to get some measurable benefit results. For a product like this, good results to collect may be an evaluation of the shine (if applicable) that the product imparts. Another may be a measure of increased  moisture content or hair strength before and after use.  The number of outcomes  you wish to evaluate will inform the number of times you have to repeat the experiment in order to get a statistically valid result.  Generally speaking a panel of ten is the minimum you would need to find a basic result that you could have some confidence in.

Conducting trials such as the above in a validated test lab set-up can be very expensive but definitely worth investing in, if you have a limited budget you can still have a go at creating a basic trial with a few volunteer test subjects.  Another thing you could (and probably should) do is look at how the product compares with another (benchmark), that can be really valuable as it may be that all products work as well as yours (and that’s not a bad thing at all).

Anyway, enough of the chatter, this is what we did.  It’s all good fun and I hope you enjoy the video.