About Amanda Foxon-Hill

I am the Director of Realize Beauty and have been working in the cosmetics industry since 1998. I am a chemist with global sales and marketing experience. My consultancy specialises in formulating, writing, presenting and teaching. I hope you enjoy the blog and look forward to helping you reach your cosmetic brand goals.

Nasty Chemicals and Pacifism

Are all chemicals nasty?
Can a pacifist ever  be an activist?
Can you teach a dog to pick up his own poop?

These questions have been rolling around inside my brain like marbles in a pinball machine all day, partly because it’s raining and I’m not motivated enough to do anything else except think but also because every week I see and/or hear something about one or another ‘nasty cosmetic chemical/product’ and this week I wanted to give it some more thought.  So here we go…….

In the beginning this blog was motivated by one thing – helping people to realise their natural beauty and potential and to engage with the personal care/ beauty industry in a healthy  and empowered way. That mission still stands.  However, the small print of my big mission was coming from a place of hope,  hope that I could help people see that not all chemicals are bad, toxic or ‘nasty’,  that even some of  the ‘nasties’  have their time and place and that it’s unrealistic to think that the cosmetics industry (or any industry for that matter) is motivated by a desire to kill their client base.

However, after quickly tiring both of the anger directed at anyone who poses counter arguments to the ‘toxic’ debate and the monotony and boredom of reading the exchanges that go on between the ‘toxic and nasty’ and the  ‘Trust me I’m a scientist”  mob I started to question my personal stance and motivation, was there any benefit in playing that game or fighting that fight???

Especially given that:

People don’t like being told what to think.
People don’t like to feel stupid and telling them something that goes against their ‘gut’ feeling or popular opinion makes them nervous.
Most people […]

Natural, Silicone free underwater wax from Karpati.

I’m always interested to try new, all-natural hair products as it is a very difficult area to formulate in due to most actives being synthetic – silicone or petroleum derived. While I don’t mind the synthetic ingredients per se, if natural alternatives exist that both work and are truly environmentally ‘sound’ then it makes sense to try them.

So, what is this fascinating product I have here:

First of all I thought it was a hair styling wax (didn’t read the pack….) and as such slathered it into my hair and prepared to get styling.  It didn’t work 🙁

So I left it on my desk for a couple of days trying to work out if I should blog about it or not……

However, today in an attack of common sense I read the pack and found out that this is actually a protective wax perfect for applying before the beach or for frequent swimmers.  This stuff sounds perfect for my kids!

Ingredient wise these claims do make sense.

Beeswax, stearyl alcohol, jojoba oil, caranuba wax, candelila wax, almond oil and  castor oil would make a really occlusive film.


The behentrimonium methosulfate is a great conditioner derived from canola oil and highly substantive (sticky) to the hair meaning that the film should stick to the hair for a fair while)


It smells like play dough (light vanilla aroma) which I love but I’d make sure you keep it away from very little people as if I was 3 I’d totally make models with and then eat this!

The products 98% natural claim leaves room for a new generation but not 100% natural preservative system plus (possibly) the vanilla (not sure what form that was in, could be perfume or extract, […]

Lab through a lens

I can’t cook food to save my life (boring, boring, boring) but put me in a cosmetics lab and I’ll play happily for hours and sometimes I create something that looks good enough to eat.

Here are some snaps of the action from today’s long day in Laboratoire Gardener.  One is a liquid tinted lip product and the other is a special healing cream formula for customer of mine. Both were made with love and with a good splattering of BBC radio 4’s world service broadcast oh and the odd tea break.

Oh no, we can’t use THAT! The down side of a perception led market

Want to know a little secret?  Well,  after years of science nerdery I can’t help but get a little excited when I read things like this:


Very high bio-renewable content (wow, that’s envirotastic)
Forms gels with low-polar liquids (wow, that means I can thicken oils and make amazingly awesome lip products, moisturising gels and baby oils. No need for that most precious of resources ‘water’ which means higher efficiency, lower carbon footprint, less packaging etc etc etc all good).
Water repellent agent, film former, SPF enhancer, colour dispersing ability (OH MY GOD does it get any better).

And I call the guys up to get me some.

But then I realise that good old chemical X, this eco warrior (yes the back data does stack up really, really well) has a terribly  un-green sounding name and I go:

‘You know what, forget it’

while my brain boils at the craziness of this science-based industry.  Balls to that,  this isn’t science. This is a a perception led marketing vehicle for some cashed-up chemophobic crazy nutbag of a group of nobodies who like people to think that they are ‘saving the planet’.  Bah humbug.

The chemical that I am talking about here is actually called ethylenediamine/stearyldimer dilinoleate copolymer and while that sounds like some petrochemical ticket to cancer town it isn’t.

The chemical that I am talking about is made from pine pulp in a highly efficient, no solvent or nasties,  totally waste-to-useful product way and it is taking the mass market by storm but you won’t find it in many organic or natural formulations. Why?  Because of the name.

Before you say ‘yes well this does sound particularly nasty’  I do get it.

I get the importance of brand perception.

Of marketing.

Of simplicity.

Of familiarity.

Of ‘safe’ […]

How to make a simple hair rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a great substitute for a shop-bought hair conditioner but the smell and its water-like rheology do tend to put people off and even make it an un-economical choice (thickness and good flow are so under-rated by consumers but not by cosmetic chemists who know and appreciate how hard it is to get these things just right).   So, what can you do?  With a few simple extras you can turn your vinegar water rinse into something a little bit more robust and special.

Ingredients you will need:

Xanthan Gum

Essential Oil (for perfuming)

Vitamin B5 (optional extra but this is very good for scalp health and for helping reduce static).

Distilled Water

Preservative (I use plantaserv M from New Directions which is a pre-mixed blend of Benzyl Alcohol, Sorbic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Glycerine).

Decyl Glucoside (this is your solubiliser for the perfume/ essential oil. If you don’t use perfume/ essential oil you won’t need this).


Equipment you will need:

Measuring scale or device

2 x Plastic measuring cups enough to hold 100g

A hand mixer or equivalent

Spoons for decanting ingredients.

Packaging of your choice (suitable for bathroom use so preferably no glass).


As I took the photo of the finished product just after I had finished shaking it up to mix it it is still looking a bit bubbly.  It will eventually settle and should remain usable for long enough to get through the 100g.  I am unsure of the long-term stability of this mix as I haven’t kept any for longer than a month and so wouldn’t recommend using this exact recipe for retail.  Also keep in mind that different perfumes/ essential oils will require different amounts of solubiliser. However, a general rule-of-thumb starting point is 3 x solubiliser to 1 […]

Small batch manufacturing and Realize Beauty

I have quite a menagerie of customers here at Realize Beauty ranging from the big and bold to small and beautiful and everything in between and as such one has to be flexible about business.  Thankfully this isn’t a drama as I like nothing better than to switch my brain from one challenge to the next – it keeps my mind fresh and puts a spring in my step. Sometimes.  At other times its just a bit crazy but there you go.

Anyway, one thing that I do is help companies with their small batch manufacturing.  This has to be the most challenging and un-profitable side of my business and a part that I regularly think about giving up on.  But then something always stops me and that something is faith, hope and charity.

I have faith that the little fish I help today will become big fish tomorrow and no, that’s not so that I can cash in, that’s so trashy!  It is so that I say hand-on-heart that I did all I could to help them on their journey, that I believed and had faith in them.  That my small part made a difference.

I hope that the challenge will teach me more about cosmetic life than anything I could learn while keeping my hands clean or passing up on the hard stuff.  I hope that the experience will allow me to grow both in skills and in understanding of what it takes to make it in this business both for customers and my sake (and sanity).

And charity because I believe that while we are in business to make money (it’s true, we all are as my mortgage and school fees don’t accept love and […]

What is bio oil

Just over a month ago we asked our Facebook friends what they thought of Bio oil. This was because during a game of hide and seek my youngest daughter stood up and got swiped across the ear by the fan.  The fan sliced her ear open and she had to go into surgery to get it repaired the next day. It was all very worrying but lucky for her it looks to be healing nicely and let’s face it, it could have been much worse!

Anyway, after the op the plastic surgeon sat me down and told me to get some Bio Oil and to massage it into the area twice a day for 6 months after to reduce the risk of scarring.  While the reduced scaring is important for self-esteem that wasn’t our biggest problem as much of the stitching was inside the ear curve, the bigger problem we would face would be the sun.  Scarred skin doesn’t fair well in the sun and ears are notorious for getting burned. Oh my goodness!

So, that’s why I asked the question and that’s why I’m now delving into Bio Oil.

Which according to their website it is this:
Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract (Calendula Oil)
Lavandula Angustifolia Oil (Lavender Oil)
Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Oil (Rosemary Oil)
Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil (Chamomile Oil)

RB: Calendula is soothing to the skin and contains known anti-inflammatory actives as does chamomile. Rosemary and lavender are good anti-microbial oils along with other benefits.

Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A) 
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)

RB: Vitamin A is a fantastic active for skin repair and is recommended by dermatologists to help treat a number of issues including premature ageing, acne, sun damage and scarring.  Vitamin E is also a great skin healer and the […]

How much chemistry does a cosmetic chemist need to know?

This conversation happened in a classroom somewhere over the last two weeks. I know because it was eagerly reported back to me:

Teacher  “can you name a job that a scientist might do”  – the teacher was trying to relate science as a subject to its use in the wider world. Very nice.

Student “cosmetic chemist”

Teacher  chuckling “don’t be silly, a cosmetic chemist works behind a counter selling products. You don’t need to know science for that!”

Oh dear……

I come across a lot of schools in my social circle having teacher friends, kids at school and through being part of the Fizzics Education friends and family but that was the first time I’d heard that.

But it did get me thinking.

Just how much chemistry does a cosmetic chemist need to know?

After pondering that for a while I came up with this analogy:

Nearly everyone has hair somewhere.

Nearly everyone has scissors and hands.

Nearly everyone could cut hair and after a little practice they could make it look pretty decent, great even and maybe at a push like a professional job!

But what if something goes wrong, or needs to be done quickly or cheaply, or requires a particular finish, or needs doing on tricky hair?

That’s when hair cutting bites back and you find out that there is more to it than you first thought.

and so it is with chemistry.

Here are some examples of where my frequently tested chemical knowledge has been used today:

Product won’t thicken. Tried all the usual things to do with recipe, ingredients, temperature etc.  Next try pH. Find out that it is shifting, look at the formula and realise that there are many things that will react in this base and that the base needs buffering. Buffer the […]

Writing about beauty – a mornings meditation

Hello everyone and welcome to a slightly different post. Today I want to share with you my morning meditation on the beauty that is my sisters walnut tree (and surrounds). It has been a while since I posted my philosophical meanderings on this blog but now I think I’ll bring a few back. Mainly because the blog is and always has been about taking the time to look closer, deeper and more thoughtfully at beauty and what can be more beautiful than a Sunday morning spent sitting under a walnut tree hoping to talk to some sheep……


The walnut tree has to be my favourite part of my sisters garden. It’s natural nearly but not quite symmetry is pleasing to the eye and revokes memories of childhood paintings where all of the trees look like fluff balls on sticks. It’s comforting. The shade it offers is plentiful yet dappled meaning that grass grows all the way up to the trunk – you don’t get that with gum trees.

I find myself sitting on a pallet, one arm pleasantly shaded the other illuminated by an inch of mid-morning sun and getting hot only I don’t want to move because me and Mrs sheep have a thing going on.

At first she didn’t know what to make of this strange woman walking towards her and her flock, head down (thoughts not making eye contact would be less disturbing) iPad in hand but then she bolted. Not far, but far enough so that she could keep an eye on me. And keep an eye on me she did. At first she stood about 20 meters away behind the thin wire fence blatantly staring. I hadn’t looked up again as I’d […]

Why who you are matters

I do a lot of different things in my business but the thing that I like best is helping individuals (first) and brands (second) to find their ‘fit’ within the cosmetics industry.  It is a whole lot of fun but with up to 80% of new products failing to make it past two years on-shelf it can be devastatingly expensive to get wrong.

Getting it wrong is very, very easy and is usually stems from one thing – not knowing who you are and what you want.

and I don’t mean knowing who you ‘think’ you are or should be as that is mere projection.  What I’m talking about is your heart and soul.

Now I’m not a spiritual guru but then again neither was this guy and he still managed to gain a few followers and teach some really meaningful stuff – all thanks to the power of projection.  On a conscience level Vikrams ‘customers’ saw an Authentic Guru in Kumare and bought it, all of it and it made them feel good.  However, had they searched deeper those ‘customers’ would have realised that they had bought a projection of what they desired – they saw what they wanted to see rather than what was. It was still good but it wasn’t as great as it could have been and for some it was devastating.

And so it goes with brands.

The reason that Vikrams experiment was so successful stems from the fact that he knew who he was (and who he was not) and had researched and experienced that.  He understood the heart and soul of his project, the meaning behind each symbol that he employed and how to bring this to life as a product – […]