I’m a chemist, and chemicals are my friends. So I always get a little upset when journalists pick on them. It’s particularly upsetting when it is the Guardian that is doing so. The Guardian has a reputation for being the most accurate of the UK newspapers, a reputation that in my experience is usually well founded. But they’ve let themselves down with an article exposing the presence of what they deem ‘forever chemicals’ in makeup. We should be worried because they are allegedly linked to cancer. The article calls them PFAs, but the more normal term is perfluorocarbons. I prefer it because there are other chemicals called PFAs, and it is easy to get confused.Continue reading
We now live in a world where information is freely available in quantities much greater than we can possibly need. But information is not knowledge. Knowing facts isn’t much use without the knowledge of how to use them. A story I came across made this clear to me. A gentleman had bought a deodorant specifically because it had a big ‘alcohol free’ splash on the pack, and he reacts to alcohol. But in fact he still had very bad reaction to the product. When he looked at the ingredient list he noticed it contained benzyl alcohol. So, he concluded, the product was not alcohol free at all! Continue reading
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
This was a question posed to me by a journalist on the Daily Telegraph. The answer is of course no, but I’ll get onto that later. First this is quite an interesting example of how stories like this originate. Here is the full text of the e-mail I was sent. Continue reading
This feels like the end of a chapter.
December 21, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued draft guidance recommending a limit of no more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of lead as an impurity in cosmetic lip products (such as lipsticks, lip glosses, and lip liners) and externally applied cosmetics (such as eye shadows, blushes, compact powders, shampoos, and body lotions).
So now at last we have the issue of lead in lipstick settled. This will now become a de facto world standard. Nobody wants to make stuff that is illegal in the US even if they don’t plan to sell in the US. And I imagine that the EU will quietly add this requirement to the EU legislation at some point anyway. Continue reading
There’s a new paper out with some numbers from dermatology clinics about reactions to methylisothiazolinone (MI). Dermatologists regularly patch test people to discover what they are allergic to. This involves applying a set of common materials that tend to provoke allergic reactions to the skin, and seeing which ones the individual reacts to. Continue reading
There are an interesting couple of points in the comments thread on my blog post asking for MI not to become a scare story, from Suzanne. She has drawn my attention to a paper from 2012 that details developmental problems in tadpoles exposed to MI. She concludes from this that MI is potentially unsafe for humans as well and asks what the liability is for companies that continue to use it now that this risk has been identified. Continue reading
I get a steady stream of enquiries from journalists. Their questions are usually fairly similar. They ask about the safety of cosmetics, and lose interest quite rapidly when I tell them that they are in fact safe. “Stuff you’ve never worried about before is still nothing to worry about” is not really the makings of a great headline. But I did get one that was a bit more interesting than most the other day. Who does the research on cosmetic safety? Obviously, there might be a story if all the research on cosmetic ingredients is carried out by cosmetic companies, or paid for by them, then maybe something sinister is being hidden. Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy? Continue reading
Another blow for Johnson and Johnson: an American jury has awarded a big talc payout to one of its customers. I haven’t looked at the details yet, but on the face of it this is another case of sentiment trumping science. Nobody likes big corporations and we are all only too willing to believe the worse about them. So when you are told that they are poisoning the public and lying to cover it up, you tend to sympathise with the victims. Continue reading
I am great supporter of people making their own cosmetics at home. It’s a fun thing to do and for me life is all about building a better understanding of things. A good way to do this is to look closely into something, learn about it and then put those lessons into practice. You’ll learn about cosmetics, you’ll get some stuff to use. But you’ll also gain a deeper feeling for how things are made. Modern life can alienate us from the real world a lot of the time and making your own cosmetics is one way to reconnect. Continue reading