People often assume that I spend most of my time in the lab formulating products. If only! There are people who can manage to do that but only in very big companies which have big teams. The reality for most formulators, and certainly for me, is that you spend the biggest part of your time troubleshooting. When I started working as a freelancer I did think I might be able to skip doing quite as much. But it turns out that there is more demand for trouble shooting than there is for straight product development.
Oh well. Continue reading
Calling your company ‘The Honest Company’, as Hollywood’s Jessica Alba has done, is asking for trouble. For a start it means you are claiming a very high moral position, so you have a long way to fall if you slip off. It also gets the backs up of people you compete with. If you are going big that you are honest it rather implies that the rest of us are a bunch of scoundrels. It isn’t a way to win friends. Continue reading
Allantoin was in the news a couple of years back when some researchers made the rather astonishing discovery that it prolonged the life of some species of worm. This is the sort of thing that gets journalists excited and articles duly appeared. Whether or not this means we can extend our lives by taking it in pills is a bit outside my area of expertise, so I’ll pass on that one. But it did make my ears prick up because this is an ingredient I have been using since I first started formulating cosmetics over 30 years ago. It is one of the more useful things in the cosmetic chemist’s toolkit. Continue reading
Should food ingredients be used in cosmetics when the planet is already straining to feed nearly 8 billion people? This was the question posed by The Beauty Botanist, aka Jennifer Hirsch at a joint meeting of the Society of Cosmetic Sceintists and the Brisish Society of Perfumers last night. Continue reading
Reading beauty blogs is a very educational process. I have for example just now come across a colour that hasn’t hit my radar before. I got this from Charlotte at LipGlossiping who announced that her favourite colour for eyes is taupe. Not having come across it before I googled it to discover it has quite an extensive wikipedia article devoted to it. The name comes from the French for a mole. (That’s the mammal, not the quantity of atoms for any chemists reading. It is recognisable in the scientific name for the species – Talpa europaea. ) It is supposed to resemble the colour of that animal’s fur, though given how rarely we come across moles on a day to day basis that isn’t a lot of help. Continue reading
We’ve had elections recently in France, the US and the UK. We’ve had quite a lot of them in the UK actually. One of the things that happens a lot in politics is that partisans for one side or the other are keen to make out that their opponents have made a lot of mistakes. Given their terrible track record, you should boot them out and pick someone else instead is the argument. This is a convincing line if, and only if, the people who have got things wrong never learn from their errors. But the reality is that when things go wrong most of us look at the situation and see what we can learn to avoid getting it wrong again next time. I think this is true in every walk of life, and it is definitely true in the world of cosmetic formulation. The best lesson is getting something wrong and having to put it right. Good judgement is the result of experience. But experience is the result of bad judgement. You won’t get much right without first getting a lot of things wrong.
Sweet almond oil is a viscous oil with a yellowy colour. Cosmetic scientists like it because it gives a rich lubricious feel to cream formulations. Marketers like it because it sounds natural. More on that in a minute. It contains a lot of unsaturated fatty chains. This is something that might turn out to have some benefits for the skin, though there is no formal evidence I can cite to justify this at present. The skin contains some chemicals that look a lot like the unsaturated bits of sweet almond oil and which seem to help protect the skin against bacteria. It isn’t impossible that adding sweet almond to the skin boosts this sort of thing and so helps build the skin’s barrier and protective function. Continue reading
Here’s an ingredient with a mixed pedigree. Lanolin is a pure and rather lovely natural ingredient derived from wool. PEG-75 Lanolin is lanolin that has been ethoxylated. This means that the lanolin is treated with ethylene oxide to make it more water soluble. This enables it to be used in ways that you can’t use lanolin itself. Continue reading
One of the good things about the job I do is that I come across interesting stuff all the time. For example Hinoki Oil, which is the oil obtained from the leaves and roots of Chamaecyparis obtuse, Cupressaceae. The shrub from which it is derived is commonly known as either Hinoki or Hinoki Cyprus and is common in Japan. The wood from it is used to make incense sticks. So it is something that is quite exotic to me, but presumably is commonplace in Japan. Continue reading