Skip to content

So I just came 6th in a best beauty blog pagent thing. AWESOME…..

October 27, 2017

Ok so maybe I shouldn’t have told the guy who emailed me about my little achievement that awards are not really my thing but I did already.  Finding out I am 6th most popular Beauty Blog in Australia by whatever criteria they have thought to apply is interesting to a point I guess but to be honest I’m not exactly overwhelmed.

I blog because I like writing and it helps make me a better chemist and teacher.

I guess that lists are good for people who want to know where to start when it comes to blogs to read but only if they want to read what is popular. I don’t give a shit about what’s popular to be honest (sorry for the swearing word there BTW) – chemistry was NEVER popular at school and even at uni we struggled to get enough of a cohort together to fill the average bar counter – so I’m unaccustomed to being or caring about popularity and am deeply skeptical about what that means about the quality or relevance of my content.

My blog is and always has been about digging around in the muck to find gold.  My writing has meandered along with me on my consulting journey over the last ten years and as I’ve grown in my lab and practical experience, my writing has grown too. I can dig deeper than before, pursue avenues that I didn’t realise existed before and have access to conclusions and evidence that eluded me in the beginning.  How does one meaningfully rank that exactly?

If the truth be known I rank myself on my ability to connect with and serve my customers.  I delight in the conversations we have, the projects I’m privy to, the evidence I can generate for them and the questions I can help answer.  I feel most accomplished when I can put my years of practice to good use and help a client see their situation in a different light, empower them to move beyond where they are now, where they are stuck, to encourage them and support their growth.  As a consultant and even as a writer so much of that remains hidden from public view. My professional day-to-day looks to be laid bare on Instagram, Facebook or this blog but the reality is you see next to nothing. Customers are protected by confidentiality agreements, I protect myself by knowing the value of what I bring to clients while sharing just enough in public, here, to give those that have their eyes wide open a thread to follow.  The main people who matter in terms of blog loving are you, the readers that get here and take the time to really see, hear and feel what I’m saying and not an algorithm or panel of people who may or may not be qualified to make such a judgement.  Does it matter if there are 10, 100 or 1000 of you here a day (for the record there are between 400-600 of you just so you know – that’s a lot of science nerds) just as long as what you get here is nourishment and thought-provoking value?


So yes, that’s that really. You are officially reading the 6th best beauty blog in Australia and I bloody well hope you like reading it as much as I like writing it.

And as for me, well I’ll try not to let this ‘success’ go to my head.

Onwards and upwards.



Love in, nasty chemicals OUT.

October 27, 2017

How do you know if something has been made with love?

How can you quantify the impact on the quality of something that wasn’t?

And are we any clearer now on what constitutes a ‘nasty’ chemical?

chemical love

I hear, see and read so many things as I make my way through my cosmetic chemist life, things that I know people feel quite deeply yet I have no simple way to explain.  How do I communicate these intangible things to my students and clients?  How indeed……

I was listening to the radio on my way into the office on Monday and a lady came on to talk about her new book about trust. Basically we are now living in a world where we trust people we’ve never met to take us places and host our holidays (Uber, Air B&B), listen to the man on the bus more intensely than we listen to the economist on the news (this was an actual answer to a pre-brexit street opinion poll) and get our news from our Facebook feed – shared by friends and family – rather than from the ‘news’ papers.   The radio lady didn’t state that this was good or bad, she just made the point that it was different, that society is changing and that our old social norms were pretty much dead and buried to the point that the thing we fear most now isn’t so much strangers as corporations and institutions.

I see those attitudes play out in the cosmetic world. When I first became a consultant I could explain something to a customer, maybe even show them with a bit of lab work and they would place some trust in the fact that I had some idea of what I was doing.  As I don’t want or intend to sound ‘aaahhh the good old days when people just listened to me’ here I’ll qualify to say that I have always gone out of my way to qualify what I say and do, give it limits, explain how different results might occur and contain the trust and understanding to what has been presented rather than have customers seeing it as a universal truth from their guru (me).  That’s not my style.   But now that situation has changed and not really in a good way.  Before many people came along, got some advise then went home to try it.  Now, more and more people are coming along, getting what they frame as an ‘opinion’ (subtly difference to advice), going home and re-googling that before trying anything at all and often coming back with counter arguments and counter truths – some of which are quite bazaar but that I counter as best as I can. Maybe they are trying to rank the advice, maybe they are trying to test it but definitely I see more and more people struggling with cognitive dissonance these days, cognitive dissonance followed by paralysis.

cognitive dissonance

  1. the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.

It is more common now to see prospective brand owners who have spent two or more years ‘researching’ without even stepping into their kitchens to try anything than way back.  But rather than these people be coming across as theoretical geniuses, their dogmatic clinging to their constructed reality seems to have tied them into a tight knot and I don’t like that.  I became a consultant to teach and as a teacher my job is to empower, encourage and engage. Quite frankly, that is getting harder to do and while I don’t mind ‘hard’ I do mind ‘pointless’.

I think that these difficulties stem from their being many more layers of pre-formed half-truths to peel back before we get to the eager to give-it-a-go individual underneath.  A teaching or consulting session now feels like therapy where I’m the therapist. My first job is to try to find a thread from each layer to pull at, tweak, invoke a reaction, challenge.  Again I must add that my job is not to do that with a mind to re-programming people to my point of view, that would be manipulative. More it is to just loosen off the straight jacketed layers of unreality and straw man truths that are worn for self-protection so that I might open up the client to a much more empowering and free future, one where they are in control, where they call the shots.  It’s a challenge.

So how does this fit in with the ‘made with love’ and ‘without nasty chemicals’ ideology?

I have come to the conclusion that these statements represent belief systems more than they represent an actual tangible thing. That isn’t to say they can’t be traced back to something, more that they don’t need to be proved to feel and therefore ‘be’ true (I think therefore I am scenario).

Love is a basic human need and to give love is to make or form a connection, to pop your vulnerability on the line, to reach out with open arms, to hug, to accept, to welcome.  I am coming to the conclusion that people write ‘made with love’ or another incarnation of those words as a reaction to the harsh, cold, analytical world that they find themselves in, a world they can’t trust (and I really don’t blame them). That they reach out in a ‘love conquers all’ way to other humans, that their products may wrap their public up in an aromatically pleasing, smooth sensation of pleasure, taking the edge off it all for a moment (and helping to make their skin look and feel better too).

I try to challenge my students by saying ‘so who do you think doesn’t make their products with love and how can you tell’  to which there is either no answer or a vague notion that there is no love in a big factory – that instead of love for the product in a factory, there is just love for money.  But when I ask them how many of them have worked in or visited a cosmetic factory no hands go up.  That maybe the people working in the factory are just as proud of their jobs, love their families and their health just as much as the small batch kitchen made brand. Or what happens when, as a consequence of having a successful brand, their batch sizes have to increase and that home-style kitchen batching becomes impossible – does the love diminish in proportion to each extra Kg of product you make?  I also try to add a bit of chemistry in there too, an observation that love may exist in your small hand-crafted batch sized kitchen product but I’m pretty sure a vacuum, high-powered mixer does not.  That air is more likely to be introduced into a small hand-made batch than in a larger batch and that air equals oxygen and oxygen equals oxidation but this is just white noise.  Similarly I mention the economic and energetic benefits of scale as well as the ability to invest testing to detect and processes to control micro issues more effectively.  Again, stunned silence as this doesn’t fit the narrative because this is outside of the experience of majority and the imagination of some.

And I try to do the same with the nasty chemical thing. I find it easy to get agreement of what ‘nasty’ means in terms of petroleum derived vs plant-based but it’s the space in between that’s causing the angst, what us in the industry call ‘green chemistry’.  Chemistry, chemicals, chem trails, nasty…..

I respect people want to know but there is a limit to how much extra one gains through knowing the detail behind every last thing.  I’ve just been working on a vitamin project for example, uncovering how each individual vitamin is made, in-depth, step by step.  This process got messy, long-winded and extremely complicated to the point where I started to really wonder what good this was doing in the world.  I’ll give you an example.  Vitamin B3 is very popular in skin care because it can brighten the complexion, even out sebum production, help reduce acne lesions, act as an anti-inflammatory, improve skin barrier function and possibly even (potentially) reduce the risk of skin cancer (being investigated).  Vitamin B3 is called Niacinamide or Nicotinamide (how we use it in cosmetics mostly) and can be found in nature (as Niacin)  in yeast, meat, milk and leafy green vegetables.  Because of that many people assume that when they buy Vitamin B3 to put into their cosmetic it came from one of the above, preferably the leafy green veggies rather than the meat as that’s a bit of a harder sell but those of us from within the industry appreciate the difficulties and costs that would go into doing that and as such are happy to settle for the nature-identical but synthetically made alternative.  Not that it is an alternative really as naturally derived B3 is not something I’ve ever found available, Lonza is the company involved in producing around half of the worlds Niacin and Niacinamide and they do that ‘synthetically’.  

There is a reasonable overview of the steps involved to manufacture niacin (and from there niacinamide) here if you want to have a look but in a nutshell this is full-on synthetic chemistry albeit to make a very useful and far more bioavailable form of the vitamin that can be otherwise achieved by diet alone.

So what happens when people find out that this Vitamin B3 or anything else for that matter is made in a chemical factory using chemicals?

Chaos. Brain chaos is what I’ve observed.

It seems to me that we are entering a new realm of crazy-making reality with all of this stuff. It was relatively easy for a newbie brand owner to check out what’s hot in the ‘free from’ list and just go with it, thinking that as long as they are not that everything would be OK.  But now there are so many ways to be free from sulfates (and lots of brands are), silicones (there are many natural ingredients that give some level of silicone look, function and feel), parabens (there are now preservatives made from radishes!) and mineral oil (just choose from one of the hundreds of vegetable oils around) that the brand owner now feels the need to not just write THESE words but to actually understand and be able to explain everything about everything and that’s tiresome.

I guess there is a danger in me writing this, a danger that you, the reader think that I would prefer it is things went back to the way they were, to a time when nothing was asked or questioned but of course that is wrong.  So what do I want and yearn for?  Well, when I reflect on all of this I come back to one simple thing and that’s human connection, humanity, love.

I have realised that what is motivating me most at this point in my career outside of the ‘exploring new chemicals and recipies’ part is my desire to connect people to their brand using the language in which I am a native speaker but which is so foreign and un-usual for others and that’s chemistry.  So for me, made with love always includes a love of the science that makes their products possible, be they from freshly squeezed leaves or silicone elastomers and when it comes to nasty chemicals I strive to live in a world where we can weigh up the good, the bad and the ugly for what it is and either accept or reject it on fact but do so with respect and love rather than fear and disgust.  As my granny used to say ‘there is a place for everything and everything in its place.

And that my dear, is that.

Amanda x


Follow me, I’ve got nothing.

September 22, 2017

A brand started following me on Instagram the other week which is always nice.  Feeling a bit like indulging in some time-wasting I decided to have a look at what they were all about so I spent a minute or two scrolling down through their pictures and they were beautiful pictures of an enviable lifestyle. Pictures that were perfectly captured on exotic (and what looks to be expensive) locations featuring attractive young models having fun. Then I checked their bio and my jaw dropped, over 18,000 followers and yet the brand hadn’t even launched yet. NOT EVEN LAUNCHED!!!!!!!!!!!

Eighteen thousand people are happy to follow nothing because it looks like something they want.

Oh My God.

It’s not like this is news to me, I’ve had people actually tell me about how they have achieved a similar level of ‘success’ before actually making a product.  How they use this HYPE to get people to part with their money and pay for goods before they are even made sometimes. Some brand owners who I’ve spoken to don’t even know how on earth they are going to deliver on their promises in order to fulfil this (cue a few tense conversations with a cosmetic chemist or manufacturer).

So this is how business is done in 2017…..

I want to say a couple of things about this from my perspective which is based on me having worked with start-ups and growing-up businesses for nearly 20 years.

  • This strategy is risky and the risks increase if you lack experience of the industry you are ‘disrupting’ – the more of an outsider you are, the more likely you are to trip up, get frustrated, over-promise, burn bridges and under-deliver – none of this matters of course if you want to just make a quick buck and then leave but if you want to pass this down to your children then take care.
  • It strategy will only get you so far. People who will flock to nothing because they think it is something usually have only a transient relationship with a brand and unless you’ve got the stamina to keep feeding the machine and delivering then it’s going to start looking like a sham very quickly.


  • Numbers are vanity, repeat dollars are sanity.  The golden rule in business is that unless it is banked and accounted for and the returns period has expired you can’t bank on it.  Repeat customers dollars are worth more than new clients as you have a higher degree of certainty that they are not going to return the goods or complain.  So, a solid customer base of reasonable size is much better than a large customer base that comes and goes as it pleases.

  • This strategy can be expensive.  Not all of us live in glorious places, have models or famous people as friends and have an awesome photographer on staff and so for us a PR company is needed. These companies can cost you anything but figures from $2000 to$10,000 per month are not unusual and most will insist (and rightly so) that you sign up for 3, 6 or 12 months – they need time to work their magic.  I have no judgement to make about this spend but do make sure you take a step back and budget for this while knowing how much stock you have to turn over to pay for this and everything else in your business.  Start-up costs can be disproportionately high compared to business running costs but if it going to cripple your cash flow for the next 5 years to launch and make it impossible for you to pay yourself the salary you need then the business might not long enough to break even.  Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  • Don’t make the mistake of breaking the law.  Overstating claims because ‘everyone else does’, talking about benefits that you have no evidence for or over-stepping your product category boundaries (selling a cosmetic as a pharmaceutical for example) is running the risk of being a fraud.  Just because someone else is saying their lip balm cures cancer doesn’t mean you can too.   My advice would be to get advice before you post anything that could be seen as misleading and if you are not a good judge of that because you are very excitable then get someone with experience and no emotional attachment to look at it first and if they recommend a professional regulatory consultant do it and listen to them not your PR company. PR companies don’t necessarily have experience in cosmetic, pharma or food law.

The bottom line is that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Blogs have made setting up a brand with international reach much easier but that doesn’t mean it has made running an international business any easier and nor does it mean you don’t have to know and respect the rules.

Happy Instagramming and if you want to follow me I’m amandathechemist



Preserving your product without ‘chemicals’ – a worked example.

September 15, 2017

In cosmetic science, as in all aspects of life, it is important to be careful of the stories you tell in case they come back and bite you.  The ‘chemical’ free preservative story is one such case but, as it is a story that many people want to tell (and I can understand why) it is one we should explore pro-actively, so that we might write our own product narrative on fact rather than fiction. With that in mind, this is a story about preserving your product with Radishes and Coconuts.

Leucidal:  Radish Root Ferment Filtrate.

AMTcide:Lactobacillus & Cocos Nucifera Fruit Extract.

These ingredients are both for sale here in Australia at New Directions and there is a bit more information about them on their website here and here. 

Otherwise you can read more data from the manufacturer Active Micro Technologies by following this link. 

The above preservative pairing may be attractive to those with a brief to product a product that is:

  • Natural
  • Food Inspired – If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your face etc.
  • Palm Free
  • Biodegradable
  • Sustainable
  • Vegan
  • Approved for use in organics
  • Gentle
  • Multi-functional.

But don’t get too excited because the above pair may not be good for those with a brief to produce a product that is:

  • Cost effective
  • Clay based or made with clay
  • Containing honey or milk (honey can be OK at very high levels but is a pain when diluted)
  • Foundation/ Concealer/ BB Cream etc
  • Containing natural exfoliant particles.
  • Containing plant matter not including filtered glycerin or alcohol extracts with low initial micro count.

So, now we’ve got that cleared up let’s explain the plan.

I wanted to come up with a simple, but not too simple, cream that we could use as a base – not a ‘nothing’ base but a base that would be fairy well representative of what a customer might start out with.  A daily moisturiser with medium viscosity and intensity.  Here it is:

OK so this is a simple cream as you can see. The water phase contains a thickener (Acadia and xanthan Gum) to help build viscosity and also stability, especially freeze/thaw stability and glycerin – at high level in this cream, this is to bind moisture to the skin and also to maintain a cushiony texture over time – cetearyl alcohol heavy creams can dry out over time.  The oil phase contains just an ester (fractionated coconut oil type, light skin feeling, non greasy), Organic Camellia oil – another lovely oil for the skin and especially for facial care as it is so soft and light and then there is the emulsifier and emulsion stabiliser/ thickener (cetearyl alcohol).   As you can see from the numbers the oil phase in this cream is quite substantial (albeit simple) and so the emulsion will contain plenty of nutrition for microbes without being ridiculously impossible to preserve.   Lastly I wanted to add a liquid (as in water based) extract to just add a bit of micro-drama into the product.  This green tea extract contains Water, Alcohol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid – so it is preserved as-is but may still increase the microbial stress on the formula, especially given it is there at 3%.  Finally the preservatives were added which, in this case was 2% of each of the Leucidal and AMT Cide.  You may notice that I have not added a chelating agent into this formula. I usually put chelating agents into everything but didn’t want to ‘help’ the preservative out in this case.  Adding something like EDTA, EDDS or Sodium Phytate would be a worthwhile thing to do, especially if you were looking to add more challenging actives into your base cream.   Finally I opted to settle on a pH of 5-5.5 for this cream so as to be skin friendly. This pH is more tricky to preserve than a pH of 4-4.5 which is slightly more extreme and unfavourable for some microbes so I could have helped myself by lowering the pH slightly – that is a strategy I could try should this product fail PET.


Good Manufacturing Practice can be the difference between a pass or fail but again, I like to operate in a ‘this world’ sphere as best as I can rather than operating in a lab that looks like it belongs on a NASSA space program.  So, to that end, I made this in my lab down the garden with the door open to the sunshine and showers.  I didn’t even wear gloves to make this and neither did I tie my hair back but I did take reasonable precautions to not contaminate my product.  The water used was demineralised, high purity water and I churn through my ingredient stock very quickly so as not to have any old and rubbish stuff going in.  But other than that it was no cleaner in my lab than it would be in the average kitchen.  Finally I packed the cream into a glass bottle that had come out of a full box – I didn’t pre-sterilise it though so it was only as good as it left the glass bottle factory.


So I sent off my sample to the test lab and waited.  For a Preservative Efficacy Test around 100g of product is needed.  The test runs for 28 days and during that time the moisturiser is ‘challenged’ by having a known amount and type of microbe added to it at. The product is then measured at  7, 14 and 28 days to see how it is fairing.  The speed at which it cleans up this micro soup mess is important and ideally the cream will meet every ‘challenge’ with glee and keep the cream and its user safe.  The idea behind this is to emulate what could happen in-use with people putting their hands into the container repeated times.  A challenge test should be challenging so it introduces quite a bit more ‘dirt’ than you might usually find during use over a typical use period.  If you want more info on PET I wrote the blurb on the New Directions site so you can check that out. 


The first thing to note with these results is the Initial TVC – this is the initial micro count.  You can send your product off for a micro count and you would get a report with just that top bit. This basically confirms whether your product starts off clean or not.  If the product is too dirty to start with it may already be ‘out of spec’ for micro and not make it to PET.  For a cosmetic of general use we need the TVC to be under 1000 and for the product to contain no pathogens.  This product meets that by a mile having counts in all categories of less than 10.

The second thing to look at now is the table with data for 0, 7, 14 and 28 days.  This is the challenge part.  As you can see different microbes are added into the cream at the start and their numbers are recorded.  Ideally a product will quickly knock out all threats leaving a very clean product almost immediately but as you can see here, while the product complied it did take a bit of a while to get to grips with the A Brasillensis and C.Albicans.   This result with regards to these microbes is why, in the beginning I cautioned people about using this in a more challenging formula.  These more natural preservatives are typically quite slow to act as they rely on either starving the microbes, crowding them out with their ‘good’ bacteria or by acidifying their environment to make it more hostile to microbes.  I like to think of these natural preservatives as being a bit passive-aggressive.   Imagine you are at a party and the host wants to go to bed but people are still drinking and partying.   The host could either a) quietly squirrel away the alcohol, turn the music down and start cleaning up  or b) grab a baseball bat, stand on the table and shout ‘if you don’t all leave now I’ll smash something’.  These preservatives are doing strategy a.   Now strategy a works well for polite and gentle people but not all microbes are polite and gentle, some are the micro equivalent of a criminal gang and violence is all they understand.  Bringing that back to a cosmetic situation a challenging formula such as one that contains clays, other minerals and plant matter probably does require a more direct and faster response save the situation turning into a nightmare.

The last thing to note here is that the above product didn’t end up as clean as it started.  We started with a TVC <10 for everything but ended up with a A brasillensis count of 550 CFU/g.  This is still OK for a body product but I’d want it to work a bit better if we wanted to market this product for babies, people with eczema or for an eye cream.  In any of these scenarios the micro result might still be appropriate if we are going to package this product in a way that avoids such an insult but if we are going for a jar, we should really look to bolster our micro protection to save the product becoming overwhelmed in a worse-case-scenario.

The take-home message.

I wanted to share this with you because I really wanted to show you that a) these ‘gentle’ and food-like preservative systems can and do work but that they aren’t as robust as some other options.  I also wanted to make you aware of some strategies for improving your success with a preservative system like this (chelating agents, good manufacturing practice, smart packaging choices, lower pH etc).  I also wanted to share this worked example with you to help you really see why people like me worry when clients ONLY want to use nice sounding, food-type preservatives across their whole range  – that strategy is unlikely to work for everything and over time it does run the risk of leaving your factory open to ‘house microbes’ that evolve strategies to resist your gentle anti-microbial strategy. This can end very badly.

Overall I love the fact that these days you can preserve your product with ‘nice’ sounding ingredients that actually work. I love the fact that we now have so many choices available to us and I also love that a simple test like this can tell you so much – albeit at a cost (which I prefer to see as an investment actually).

One test does not an experiment make but it is a starting point and with that I’ll leave you to go off and run some tests of your own.  Remember, in the world of cosmetic science, it is better and safer to weave your narrative around fact, not fiction and certainly not fear.

Amanda x

PS: I should also mention that there are different test methodologies available to the cosmetic chemist. I opt for the ISO 11930:2012 method as it was developed specifically for cosmetics rather than a pharmacopea method which, in many cases is over-the-top in terms of required endpoints.  That said, it might be worth opting for a stricter test if you are making products for vulnerable people.   I should also mention that it is highly recommended that you run your PET at the beginning and towards the end of your shelf life as a minimum. It is important that the preservative stays active for the whole shelf-life of the product and that you have evidence to prove that.  A micro count at the end of shelf-life is better than nothing and is a bare-minimum starting point. Again the risks rise relative to other choices you make including packaging, pH and pack size.



Why blog posts warning people of coloured vitamin C serums annoy me and other stories….

September 12, 2017

I’m a little bit angry today, in fact, I’ve been a little bit angry for a while now as there seems to be a thing going on that is not entirely helpful. That thing is this idea that for a vitamin C serum to be good it has to be colourless. I want to talk to you all about that.

The scientific hook.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant but it is also pretty unstable, especially in its cheapest, water-soluble form – Ascorbic Acid.  This just happens to be the biologically active form too so it is quite attractive to brand owners wanting to make a high Vitamin C content claim.

When vitamin C oxidises (goes off) it changes colour from clear to yellowy then orange finally turning to dark brown when it is all gone to hell.  So yes, there is some logic to this idea of wanting your vitamin C serums and creams to be crystal clear – makes it easier for you to know if it is active or not.

Now I know that I’m mad today but turns out some of you are too, some people are angry because they think their vitamin C serums are not doing anything, that they are shonky- possibly because of ‘bad’ formulating and possibly because of something else but the net result is that people aren’t entirely happy.  I think that’s fair enough.

So can crystal clear formulations solve this problem?

Maybe but maybe not.

See as a formulator I deal with lots of materials every day and many of them are colourful – browns, greens, oranges, yellow, red even.  I don’t want some half-baked idea whizzing around the internet and putting a stop to both mine and my customers creativity.  More than that, some of these colourful ingredients might just have a positive role to play in making these vitamin C products work well.

Here are some examples of coloured ingredients that might make it into a vitamin C product:

  • Rosehip Oil (natural source of carotinoids which are natures vitamin A)
  • Vitamin A (retinol, Retinyl palmitate – useful in an A, C and E product)
  • Coenzyme Q10 (very, very yellow)
  • Vitamin E (can be quite browny orange and may affect the colour of a formula when used at 0.5-2%)
  • Honey (honey coloured – can be anything from light yellow through to brown)
  • Seaweed (Different chlorophyls make this anything from greeny blue through to brown)
  • Folic Acid (very, very yellow)
  • Green Tea (brownish)
  • Calendula Oil (very yellow through to orange)
  • Turmeric Infused Oil (bright yellow)
  • Spirulina (very bluish-green)
  • Hemp Seed Oil (very green)
  • Some grape extracts (brown to purple)
  • Activated Charcoal (black/ grey)
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (yellow)
  • Dragons Blood (from orange through to brown)
  • Sodium Phytate (A useful chelating agent to help stabilise the vitamin C – brown)
  • Various fruit and veg extracts including Melon, Olive Leaf, Quinoa- usually from pink to yellow to brown.
  • Many blended actives from manufacturers
  • Many essential oils
  • Vanilla Oleoresin.
  • Benzoin Tincture.

So what’s going on here.

What I think is happening here is that a couple of brands who make pretty bland (and there’s nothing wrong with bland BTW) Vitamin C serums that focus on just being vitamin C serums – nothing else- are trying to set themselves up as being somehow better (or best).  I think that’s disingenuous really given that these guys give no evidence that their products are indeed better than anything else and worthy of this elevated status.   As a formulator I am well aware of how hard it is to make a stable vitamin C serum or cream but I’m also aware of how some of the above ingredients and many more besides can potentially add to the efficacy of a formula and can bring other, supportive benefits to the product, thus turning a single-purpose product into something that can do so much more.  That said, I am also aware that some of these other ingredients can also add to the chaos of the formula and make it even harder to stabilise.  In short, it is all too complex to just brush off with a ‘if it has a colour it’s crap’ one-liner.  I hate that kind of marketing, it always makes me wonder what the writer is trying to hide…..

Is colour and colour change a guarantee the product is a) crap to start with and b) oxidising out of vitamin C?

So hopefully we can see that a coloured vitamin C product does not have to mean that the formulator is trying to pull the wool over your eyes and ‘hide’ oxidation because they can’t figure out how to stop it so that leaves us with a colour change.  Sure a change in colour from crystal clear to dark brown is a worry but what about a change from a light yellow to an orange or an orange to a brown?  What about a product that starts off a colour because of the above? What do we do then?

While all colour changes mean that something is going on, that is not the same as saying that it’s a guarantee that the vitamin C has all gone. Colour changes can be a fairly standard part of ageing of a natural and especially an organic formula and while that does mean some chemical changes have happened it only matters if those changes mean the product will no longer work, will be irritating or will no longer meet its label promise.  Let’s have a closer look at that.

A common non-critical colour changes typical in organic and natural products.

Plant extracts including many vegetable oils contain chlorophyl pigments that can break down over a product’s life span. Being chlorophyl it is a no-brainer that these pigments will be light reactive and so UV radiation will change their colour – but UV also breaks down vitamin C so most vitamin C products are protected from UV by their packaging.   The most common way chlorophyl pigments break down in vitamin C formulations is by interaction with the acidity in the formula.  There is more than one type of chlorophyl and some break down to become colourless and others become brown.  So your vitamin C serum browning marker may potentially be skewed by little old chlorophyl. Now if chlorophyl breaks down it may increase the likelihood of the whole formula going to crap but it also may not, it depends on how much is in there and how quickly it breaks down but suffice to say the visual effect may give rise to false alarm!  From a formulators perspective it may well be a good idea to avoid chlorophyl containing actives in a vitamin C serum or cream but as chlorophyll is usually present as part and parcel of a natural plant extract or active virgin quality oil that can be easier said than done.   Being non-biologically active whether a cosmetic product contains chlorophyll or not is not important and will not usually affect the performance of a product. So it is possible that a product be quite brown but still contain the specified amount of vitamin C.  This discussion here is quite useful.  

So what can we do?

The main thing we can do is test.  Sure, very few people are going to go out and buy heaps of different serums and get them assayed to see how much vitamin C is left vs what the formula says but if you REALLY REALLY want to know (i.e: you are a brand who wants to know what’s real rather than what’s just in your imagination so you can run a factually correct marketing campaign/ educational blog) then it might be worth doing.

A Vitamin C assay costs between $200-$300 each (plus GST – prices are a guide only and are dependent on provider and method used and are in AUD).  The testing takes a day or so and only a few grams of product are needed.   This is the sort of testing I recommend and do on my formulations and for my brands that want to make a specific claim based on a specific active being present.  Not all vitamin C serum / creams are sold on a percentage of C basis, some just claim to contain Vitamin C and don’t specify the amount.

OK so we test a few products, find they fall short of their Vitamin C concentrations and get mad, but is there anything more than that to worry about?

Vitamin C WILL break down over time no matter how good the formulator is so there will be some oxidation happening eventually.  In a decent formulation this breakdown of Vitamin C will be annoying but will not be much more than that.  It is also worth remembering that oxidation happens over time and bit by bit, it isn’t like the vitamin C is all there one minute and not there the next.   To work out whether a bit of vitamin C oxidation is going to make the product more irritating or not we have to have a look at what the vitamin C turns into.

Vitamin C degradation.

Ascorbic Acid can react with various different things to give different results.  One of the most dramatic reaction pathways in terms of fast colour change is the Maillard pathway of degradation – this is the reaction that happens on an apple when you cut it then leave it – it goes brown quite fast.  Ascorbic Acid is a reducing carbohydrate that reacts with amino acids, peptides and proteins in a reaction that turns brown.  This means that it is a good idea to not have peptides, amino acids or proteins in your vitamin C serum – and most vitamin C serums don’t have these so this most dramatic of pathways is rarely enacted to be honest.  That’s not to say that a vitamin C serum can’t go brown – I’ve had products of my own go brown before their first birthday is up – but that the pictures you often see of vitamin C turning dark brown very quickly indeed will most likely be using this Maillard pathway reaction as it looks the most dramatic.

But that isn’t the only pathway.

Oxygen can also cause a breakdown of the vitamin C but in low pH environments (typical for vitamin C products) this can be relatively slow unless there is a catalyst – some metal ions are catalysts and these may be present as contaminants in the formula (Lead>Zinc>Cobalt>Iron> Manganese>Nickel> Calcium> Magnesium).  It is important to note that these contaminants may even be present in the Ascorbic Acid – it’s hard to get 100% pure anything.

Oxygen catalysed breakdown of vitamin C proceeds somewhat like this:  Ascorbic Acid > Dehydroascorbic Acid (still biologically active) > Diketogulonic Acid (BROWN and not an active form of Vitamin C > HydroxyFural (BROWN and not an active form of vitamin C).  So from that you can see that there can be a chemical change in the vitamin C without it changing the colour of the product immediately – Dehydroascorbic Acid is less likely to brown than Ascorbic Acid according to a 1996 study into this.

But eliminating oxygen doesn’t eliminate all of your problems as vitamin C can also break down anerobically (without oxygen).  In an oxygen free environment Vitamin C can break down to form Furfural, 2-Furoic Acid and 3 hydroxy-2Pyrone.   Furfural is a colourless oily liquid but it does darken very quickly when exposed to air but as we are talking about anaerobic breakdown here it may well be possible to have a critical breakdown in active vitamin C to Furfural in an airless product without seeing that reflected as a colour change. I say might because I am not sure of all the other reactions and changes that go on around this reaction – it is also possible that this reaction critically destabilises the formula. I don’t know.

On top of that UV can also break down vitamin C but again most vitamin C serums know this and are protected by their packaging and in any case, in the grand scheme of things UV is the least of our worries (according to Vitamin manufacturers DSM who rank light way below Alkalinity and oxidising agents as a potential source of degradation and put heat and humidity somewhere in the middle.


The bottom line is that colour change is just one thing that can indicate a chemical reaction in your vitamin C product. Sure it is quite dramatic and yep it might well happen but it is not really fair to say that it is the only or even main way to always tell if your product has shat its self.

As an aside you may be interested to know that your vitamin C product might release a bit of gas, change pH or start to smell different as other signs that something chemical is going on.

So what should we all do then?

What I’d like people to understand is that stabilising vitamin C into a usable and cosmetically acceptable formula is not easy and you really are trying to hold back the tide, especially if you are trying to achieve a natural or organically certified product.  I’d like people to remember that colour change is not always a cause for major alarm, that a coloured product is not a sign that you are being duped and that a reduction in vitamin C potency over a products shelf life is not necessarily a show stopper.  In the food world it is widely accepted that vitamin C levels will drop over time and often the stated value on the pack is the end point value (at the end of the shelf life) rather than the starting point. I found data showing ranges of between 75-97% retention after 12 months room temperature to be acceptable – it might be that this is also acceptable in a cosmetic product.   The problem with cosmetics is that we have tended towards marketing what we put in (20% Vitamin C, 10% or 5% for example) rather than what we are left with.  Alternatively we have brands who have chosen to limit their formulation complexity as a way of (hopefully) increasing stability. While this is totally rational and even sensible, I can’t stand by and let that hamper creativity and experimentation – we don’t know everything about vitamin C yet and it would be a shame for brands to give up just because the market has only been groomed for simplicity.

I believe it is best to market our products based on evidence gained on what the product actually does and how it actually performs rather than just opt for a simple numbers game or ‘talk down the opposition’ positioning.   A simple assay or two can validate the Vitamin C content, a stability test can check for pH stability, pack compatibility and general form and function and then a patch test can do the final check to make sure any oxidation hasn’t made the formula more irritating.  These simple steps will ensure that we can keep pushing the envelope with regards to vitamin C formulations while meeting consumers expectations of a good and safe product.  So let’s get on with it shall we and if you want to make and/or sell an orange, pink, green or brown vitamin C product please feel free to do it!


Why do manufacturers of natural actives still disperse them in petrochemical humectants?

September 8, 2017
How many times have you heard about a wonderful new ingredient only to find that it is dispersed in propylene or butylene glycol making it unsuitable for use in a natural or organically certified product?   I’ve certainly had that happen quite a lot!   As tempting as it can be to say ‘why, oh why’ and then lament the stupidity of the ingredient manufacturer I thought it best to put the emotion aside and look at this situation with a more critical eye.
Ok so Propylene glycol, butylene glycol and pentylene glycol are all petroleum derived ingredients often found in combination with natural or synthetic actives. As I’m sure we are all aware by now petroleum is a non-renewable resource in as much as it takes thousands of years to ‘make’ and we are quite literally burning it up faster than we can grow it.  This ‘use faster than you can replace’ mentality is not exclusive to petrochemicals by the way, Indian Sandalwood is a natural victim of our insatiable appetite as indeed is natural vanilla so you could say that if we were less greedy, petroleum would be a renewable resource – renewable and natural given that it’s all just dead little fish and plants anyway……
But before we go any further on that let’s look into WHY these glycols might be used. 
 The reasons for using these ingredients are many and varied including:
  • The glycols prevent the crystalisation of the active. Crystalised actives may not work at all.
  • As a fixative – improving adhesion of the active to the skin or longevity of a fragrance or aromatic active.
  • Humectant – to prevent the active from drying out or to ensure the biologically ‘active’ water components remain viable.
  • As a preservative – glycols are anti-microbial and can be used INSTEAD of a preservative and as a SAFER way to preserve an active with less irritation (and often at a lower cost).
Glycols such as those above have a long history of safe use in cosmetics and propylene glycol is generally regarded as safe by the FDA and can even be ingested in reasonable doses over a long-term without any detrimental effects (although you wouldn’t down a bottle of it). That said, there are some down sides such as the potential for skin irritation if used in large doses – something that most formulators would be aware of and seek to avoid to be honest.
So it is fair to say that glycols do help us to make the most out of the ‘active’ that we are buying and it is probably also fair to go on and say that they increase the efficacy of it too, thus making the whole thing of having the active in the first place worth while – and what could be more sustainable than that?
I’m going to mostly be talking about Propylene Glycol here even though other glycols are used.  This is because PG is the cheapest of the lot, the most widely used and ironically the most likely to irritate to be honest. So if we look at the worst case scenario first, we can only get better from there.
But the petroleum industry is so polluting!
While there is no doubt that there is an environmental cost of digging up this stuff and burning it, it is also an important thing to remember that burning anything has a cost – even if you are burning pine on a bonfire!  The petroleum industry has become synonymous with belching trucks, smoke stacks, massive chemical plants, oil spills, toxic wastes and all things cancerous but I don’t think that’s completely fair.  There are two layers to this situation – the first layer is that the oil which starts it all is a feedstock and the second layer is the down-stream use of that feedstock.   While it is true that ingredients like propylene and butylene glycol are, pretty much entirely petroleum derived at present, they need not always be. The main reason for their petroleum derived status is because that is the cheapest and most abundant feedstock at the moment.  As the world changes and resources run out it may be that the best feedstock changes and becomes palm, coconut or some other vegetable.  With that in mind it is important for us to weigh up the environmental impacts that we might experience by replacing all that petroleum feedstock  with plant-based.  How much space would that take up?  How much pollution would that result in? How would that look and feel?  I’m not insinuating it would be better or worse but I do think that we have become so used to coupling petroleum with pollution that we are in danger of downplaying the environmental impacts of other choices, potentially to the point of ignoring them altogether and that worries me. Not least because it takes away the need for us to start really focusing on how to do things better and to value ALL of our resources more.  Remembering that ‘reduce’ comes before ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’…..
But are these chemicals ‘bad’ and if they are bad, is it because of the petroleum or because their chemistry is toxic?
Based on toxicity data you’d be hard pushed to call glycols particularly toxic and while it is true that everything can cause problems at some point, these glycols are pretty tame. Non carcinogenic, non sensitising and ingestible in small (but not tiny) doses these glycols are not even a major hazard to those working in a glycol factory unless you happen to fall in a vat of it – it is a skin penetration enhancer which is another reason it is used to solubilise actives but in big doses that can mean skin damage by softening – or get some in your eyes (that is irritating).  So the idea that these are the devils sporn maybe does need re-thinking.
What about when they go down the drain or get dumped in a forest?
The environmental fate of propylene glycol is also more love story than horror story.  Glycols in general degrade readily in soil and/or water releasing carbon dioxide (which isn’t great but many things ‘exhale’ Co2 so to speak) and nothing much else really given their simple C + H + O chemistry.  The only thing worth noting really is that propylene glycol does require a lot of oxygen to degrade it in water ways and that may lead to a lack of oxygen for fish and plants but as long as the dose is reasonable it will  degrade relatively quickly to carbon dioxide and water.  In general, these glycols have not been found to bioaccumulate and are quickly broken down in the environment giving them a low-impact end-of-life really.
And degradation in the body.
In the body propylene glycol is quickly metabolised into pyruvic acid, acetic acid, lactic acid and propionaldehyde. While the propionaldehyde is toxic to humans it is a minor bi-product and mainly gets excreted rather than building up.
Ok but surely manufacturing these things is a blight on society – dirty, polluting chemical factories….
In terms of their manufacture, it is another fairly positive story. The manufacture of propylene glycol and others is an industrial process but it is fairly clean and very efficient.  The intermediate chemicals needed to make this are also, for the most part safe and non-polluting and the resulting material clean and very pure. 99.5% ad 99.9% propylene glycol is possible.   Again, I think what’s happened here is that we have all equated these glycols with the whole kit-and-caboodle that can come out of a factory capable of this chemistry.  The companies that make propylene and butylene glycol on an industrial scale are the big chemical players such as BASF and Dow Chemicals.  Now I know of a few horror stories relating to Dow Chemicals and their chemical mis-haps that have no doubt made even the least skeptical person doubt everything that comes out of their mouthes but again, taking a step back from that emotion it is likely to be just a hang-over prejudice.   The reason these big chemical giants make propylene glycol is because it is then used as a feedstock for other things, namely plastics, coatings, paints, solvents and more.  Some of THESE chemicals ARE pretty nasty and don’t break down so well in the environment so I can see how it is easy to throw all the chemistry that comes out of these plants into the ‘nasty’ bucket but that doesn’t make it right or helpful.   In terms of the nasty polluting chemical factories I do think it is worthwhile knowing that while it is true that some of the up-stream chemicals they produce can be quite nasty, the factories themselves are increasingly run to be clean and to meet the toughest environmental and OH&S standards.  That doesn’t mean to say that they always achieve that but having worked on a chemical plant for a couple of years I do know that they are not in the business of slopping crap around everywhere and just hoping nobody sues.  Those days are gone (at least in Europe where I experienced it first hand they were).
So are we making a fuss out of nothing with all this then?
Well yes and no if my opinion on that.
While is true to say that these ingredients are petroleum derived now, they don’t always have to be petroleum derived. Their ‘nasty polluting chemical’ name that cosmetic glycols have got is not really warranted based on the evidence that I’ve found  and indeed, there are many benefits to including them in an active, including making sure the active works and the preservative load of the formula is lower (thus potentially saving resources).  While it would be great for brand owners looking to say ‘petroleum free’ if  actives came dispersed only in  naturally derived humectants such as glycerin and propane diol there are many reasons why that’s not currently the case AT THE MOMENT.   I am sure that as time goes by petroleum derived propylene glycol and friends will be placed under review and made even more sustainable than they are now but I’d hesistate to say that means we will see no propylene glycol in future. It is important to remember that propylene glycol CAN be manufactured from glycerin and glycerin can come from coconuts so we (brand owners and industry insiders) should be careful what we say when we say we are ‘free from’ as we might just lock ourselves out of a very useful, cost-effective and sustainable solution.
So that’s why manufacturers do what they do at the moment and I’m kind of OK with that, especially as there are so many different actives out there at the moment that if you really do want to avoid the glycols there will be something else you can use instead.
Amanda x

Anti-Pollution Claims – What’s that all about then?

September 6, 2017

Sometimes I find myself explaining something to a customer and as I’m saying it I start to get this feeling in my head like there is a little kid in there with its hand up as high as it will go saying ‘but why, but what, but how?????’   I mostly listen to that little person, invite them into the conversation and see where it gets me – the net result is often a lot more reading and another article, such as this.

Anti-Pollution – but what, but why, but how….

On one level this is quite simple, we go outside, especially in city and built-up areas and we are exposed to pollution.  Pollution can often be seen as we enter into a big city – the smog, haze etc – but sometimes it is less discernible than all that.   It can often be smelled – wood fire smoke,  rotting waste, catalytic converter eggy smell – but sometimes there is no smell at all. Occasionally we can feel it as greasiness, stickiness or particulate soot but sometimes we may not notice a thing.

Some typical and common forms of pollutants that can affect the skin are as follows:

Particulate matter (dirt such as soot – carbon, lead particles etc, dust, pollen etc) PM 2.5 = fine particles,  PM 10 = inhalable particles. 


SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide)

NOx (Nitrous Oxide)

VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)

CO (Carbon Monoxide)



The idea that a cosmetic product could be ‘anti-pollution’ is not so hard to imagine – one could take a product that occludes the skin, forming a physical barrier to all of this gunk,  rather like wearing a raincoat in a storm. But it doesn’t take long before we remember the feeling of such a product – occlusion can feel heavy, greasy, suffocating – not great cosmetically.  What is better than that is the idea that we can create an invisible layer of protection across our skin to shield us from the sometimes-visible and discernible and sometimes not pollution that smacks us in the face every time we go outside – well, maybe.  That’s the story that many ingredient manufacturers have been working on of late, so much so in fact, that anti-pollution cosmetics are said to be this years ‘big thing’ – OK so this year is nearly over but to be honest, formulating trends that work do tend to stick around for a while.  So all we have to do now is look at the what’s, how’s and where’s of it all.

The first ‘what’ I had was this:  What does ‘pollution’ do to the skin?

My first answer would be that pollution puts the skin under stress and that stress can then result in redness, irritation, sensitivity and maybe even pimples and discolouration, extra wrinkles and the degradation of collagen.  While all of this is true enough, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I was missing a step in my understanding – a step that would be essential in selecting the perfect tool for the prevention job – that step is HOW this damage happens biologically.  The skin can’t possibly look at everything individually and decide how to react, it has a number of pathways available to it to minimise or neutralise risk and damage to its self so I thought it would be good to look at these more closely so as to better understand how to support them.

When skin fights back.

While there are lots of man-made and relatively modern sources of pollution out there for our skin to deal with, the skin has only a few tools to deal with them with.  The tool it picks to neutralise the invader is chosen based on the biological pathway switch that’s tripped by the presence of these invaders.  These look like pretty important ones as far as anti-ageing goes.

  • The free-radical trigger
  • The inflammatory trigger
  • The microbial flora altering trigger
  • The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor trigger.


Free radicals can be generated on the skin by excessive UV exposure and these energetic little particles can do some damage and even result in cell death – an outcome that is not entirely without benefit, damaged cells are better off dead (apoptosis) than hanging around and damaging others.  They can also be formed in environmental pollution including particulate matter and VOC’s.  Neutralising free radicals has long been known to be a good anti-ageing and skin-protective strategy for cosmetic chemists and one of the most well-known ways to do this is to incorporate liberal amounts of antioxidant in the formula.  Antioxidants come in many shapes and sizes and it is often worthwhile to employ a suite of antioxidants rather than just have lots of one. Common antioxidants include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Rosemary Antioxidant, Green Tea, Coenzyme Q10, Resveratrol and Lycopene.  While it is tempting to think of the skin as a passive ‘victim’ in this assault, it is important to remember that the skin has its own antioxidant based free-radical fighting machinery built-into its self and so in many ways the cosmetic product is just assisting and supporting this rather than coming in and taking over.  The skin mainly relies on vitamin C and E working together to quench this free radical threat.

When it comes to inflammation Cytokines are the chemicals that sound the alarm to the body, urging it to respond and neutralise the inflammatory threat.  While the inflammatory response is quite complicated suffice to say that once triggered the blood flow to the triggered area increases, the capilliaries become more permeable and fluid is released, white blood cells are triggered and the area may end up looking red, swollen and hot.  Things that trigger an inflammatory response can include chemicals that are known dermal irritants or sensitisers, microbes or situations that put the skin under immense stress (such as burns, extreme pH etc).

The microbial flora altering trigger is another stressor as the skin has its own microflora that acts as a defensive and protective shield, maintaining barrier integrity.  When a pathogen or foreign microbial particle comes into contact with the skin it may trigger an immune response.  This response could get all the way to an inflammatory response in order to trigger release of white blood cells that can help neutralise the threat of this unwanted bacteria.  On a smaller level, this response can still initiate local inflammation which, in its self, puts the skin under some degree of stress.

Finally the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor  (AhR) Trigger is one that kicks into gear when it comes across things like smoke and some airborne man-made polluting chemicals. Once triggered this pathway can lead to disordered pigmentation as well as a degradation in collagen and elastin.  Unlike the free radical, inflammatory and microbial triggers above which are present at or around the skin surface, the AhR is located within the cytoplasm of cells.  As the first layers of our skin consist of corneocytes that don’t have a cytoplasm (because they are dead cells) this trigger is a bit harder to pull – not a bad thing.  So basically the aim of a cosmetic is to prevent pollution from getting this far.

Using this information to make a good anti-pollution cosmetic. 

Looking at the above it seems logical that a good anti-pollution fighting product would include anti-inflammatory agents to help take the burden off the skin should it come under stress,  plenty of antioxidants to mop up those free radicals before they do damage, potentially something to support the natural microflora of the skin or at least a strategy that avoids stressing or stripping off what’s there and finally something to sweep up or lock away any dirt that’s left.  These last ingredients are called ‘chelating agents’.

Chelating as an anti-pollution strategy.

I’ve talked a bit about chelating agents before – see this article.  

But it isn’t just ‘boring’ chemicals that chelate stuff,  some plant-based extracts can also act as particulate mops and help keep the skin from being attacked as can some proteobacteria!  One such ‘good’ bacterial ‘mop’ is extracted from French Polynesia kopara  (a microbial ‘mat’ that develop in shallow ponds). Apparently this ingredient has the ability to prevent particulate matter including that from cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes from wreaking havoc on our epidermis. The trade name for this is Exo-P and it is made by Lucas Myer.

But that isn’t all, there are extracts made from artichokes (Kerasym from Symrise),  Sea Lettuce (Phycol UL from Seppic), Ectoin – a substance that bacteria use to protect themselves from harsh environments (28Extremoin) and many more.  It’s actually quite exciting to see what lovely new ingredients are being tested in this area!

Wonderful, but can these things work?

That’s a big question and it is one that has a simple answer and a more complex one.  Anti-pollution products can and do work and have been doing so for many years in one shape or form, in fact, any cosmetic containing  UV protection, anti-inflammatory agents or antioxidants is already partly there.  But to be 100% there it is clear to me that the product must contain some ability to seriously lock-up these particulates before they can do damage and in most cases that means adding something that can chelate.  I guess the next thing to keep in mind is the need for the product to not add to the environmental burden the skin faces – trying to formulate to make sure the product is adequately preserved without being over-preserved,  non-irritating,  resistant to oxidation and containing little-to-no heavy metals or chemical irritants its self.  This sounds simple enough and might immediately lead to the conclusion that natural or organic products naturally have an advantage here but that would not be correct, many natural extracts contain trace impurities in the way of heavy metals as do many clays so all those serious about anti-pollution should take a good look at their ingredient specs before wasting money on ingredients that are going to be kept busy before they even reach the skin.

My advice would be to keep it simple yet strategic – cover all bases but don’t add fluff that might counter or compromise your efforts.


Happy formulating, purchasing and playing!  I’m off to cook up something myself now.

Amanda x

PS: It is rather disturbing that this week I was greeted in my news feed by an article on what to do in case of a nuclear war – don’t condition your hair was one piece of advice that I thought was interesting, if not a bit odd (though I could see why).  I just hope we don’t need our anti-pollution cosmetics for that purpose as I’m not sure how much use any cream would be in a situation like that – I think I’d just drop everything and run for the hills!