I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up, or indeed how long people will put up with it for. But for the last week I have started the day with a 60 second video on my new Instagram account. If you aren’t familiar with the platform – you can’t post anything longer than 60 seconds. It is quite tough to say anything in such a short time frame, and I am finding that once I start it is a bit frustrating that I can’t get out everything I want to say. So here is a bit more detail on this morning’s one.
I’d noticed yesterday that some marula oil on the shelf in the lab had some sediment in it. This is a fairly important thing to notice. Marula oil is expensive, and it is expensive because it is different to other oils. Most seed oils, including marula, are mainly composed of triglycerides. These are worthy enough but are fairly common. Indeed you get them in all living things, which use them as an energy store. They also have plenty of uses, the biggest one being cooking. In cosmetics they are often the staple part of skin creams. But whereas a pure triglyceride oil like sunflower oil is fine for frying your chips in, in skincare you are interested in the extra bits they come with. Oils can also contain a range of things like antioxidants that bring some extra benefits to the skin. So marula oil is interesting for containing some essential fatty acids that might well help to combat inflammation.
The trouble is, that there is a good chance that these goodies which are only present in trace amounts are exactly what has fallen to the bottom of my bottle of the stuff in the lab. Had the container been opaque I wouldn’t have noticed. And if I had then used the marula oil to do a trial on its ability to reduce redness on the skin I would quite likely have concluded that it doesn’t work. But before reaching that conclusion it would be a good idea to look back at the specific sample that was used in the trial.
This is why samples are handled with great care in laboratories, and why traceability is such a big issue. When it arrived it was examined before it was booked in. It was given a reference number tracing it back to the company from which it came and the date it arrived was noted. This kind of diligence is important for all raw materials, but as this particular instance shows it is particularly important for natural ingredients.
If you want to benefit from natural ingredients you need to be scientific, or at least systematic and organised. That may not be part of the marketing story, but it is true nonetheless.