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.

Give me anything as long as it’s not Palm

Thought for the day:

It is with more frequency (although by no means by every client) that I am asked to create something or suggest ingredients that are ‘palm free’.  I do both without the emotional response that the whole transaction used to elicit.  Why?  Because it’s what I’ve come to expect.

I guess I am a little fatigued at ‘fighting’ the marketing rhetoric of this one as it is powerfully emotive and in the large part truthful and as such I do have a high degree of sympathy with the cause.  Well, when I say the cause I mean the ‘protect our diversity and respect our natural resources’ cause, a cause that is complex, global and multi-faceted.  In short, everything that the average armchair campaigner finds challenging because there is no black or white, no utopian ending or glittering prizes awaiting you.

No, what I have to sit back and process after every happy exchange of ‘palm free’ information is the fact that the conversation stopped there.

Nobody ever questions the alternative.

It is as if I could give them anything as long as it’s not palm.



Ok well anything ‘natural’.

It would be quite feasible that I give them an alternative oil, emulsifier or surfactants made from the next door coconut plantation. Or maybe I offered them a rapeseed oil solution that is quietly helping to contribute to bee deaths across Europe due to the crops thirst for pesticide or maybe I give them an exotic sounding oil from the Amazon…………..

Quite frankly it disappoints me terribly that despite the vast amount of energy and words that go into boycotting palm very little emphasis is given on educating people about practical solutions and alternatives.

The mantra has worked,  the anti-palm lobby […]

Ethnic Beauty and why it sucks

At In Cosmetics Asia today there is a lecture on beauty market trends. Part of that lecture discusses ‘the rise of the ethnic beauty’.  Forgive me while I take my Lilly white self over to the nearest bathroom for a vomit.


Being ‘ethnic’ and buying cosmetics is a trend?

There have been people of colour FOR EVER.  This is not a trend, this is equality that is what this is.

Forgive me for getting angry (I’m not angry I’m just asserting my dissatisfaction) but it SUCKS that only now, when there is more money to be made are we (the cosmetics industry) saying ‘give me a piece of that’.

Of what?

Of the money that’s what.

Making colour cosmetic products for dark skins is no different to making products for light skins.  I know this because trying to make a foundation for a light-skinned person requires many tweaks in terms of the red/ yellow tone balance, the percentage coverage (to prevent chalking) and the desired finish (glossy, matt, dewy, light or heavy).

I am hoping that the talk at In Cosmetics Asia inspires beauty, innovation and creativity rather than just greed as nobody should be thought of as a cash cow.

And after all, nothing in life is ever just black or white.

Happy Mixing.

Amanda x

How much is that recipe in the window (and can I have it?)

It often seems to me that people think of formulations as something that should be just given away or handed out left, right and centre.  Sometimes they are and sometimes those formulations are great but most of the time, when it comes to creating a great formula  there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Maybe this mindset has something to do with the fact that many feel that cooking up a cosmetic recipe must be like cooking up a storm in the kitchen.  And they would be sort of but not entirely right.


Maybe it is because the internet via various ingredient suppliers,  hobbyists, bloggers, beauty experts and tutorials dish up the odd recipe as part of their promotional packaging.

I think that it is probably a mix of both really.

We are all looking for that money tree…….

But don’t let that trick you into thinking and feeling that recipes are ten-a-penny or something to be handed out on a whim just because you asked for one.

A good cosmetics formula takes time, money and knowledge to create.

A good recipe takes experience, patience and an appreciation for the method to re-create.

A good recipe will always require testing to ensure it performs to YOUR company/ brand standards and with YOUR packaging.

A good recipe will make you money but only after you have invested in ‘growing’ it.

I will let you into a little secret now. I have been formulating cosmetic products as a full-time job for 6 years now, before that it was a mixture of hobby/ secondary part of my full-time work requirements as a sales/ marketing/ product manager.   As such I have been making emulsions (creams and lotions) for a long time but I have to […]

Are natural and organic products better for you than synthetic ones?

Well there’s a question that got me thinking…..

I happened across a piece of writing proclaiming to give me ‘the truth’ about natural beauty products the other day and sat down to take note.  I didn’t learn much from the article to be fair but what it did do is help me to refresh my mind and gain a better perspective of the size of the information gap that marketing speak can fill.  It’s massive!

Let me explain:

When asked ‘Are natural and organic products better for you than synthetic ones’ the answer given was ‘in short yes’.   Psychologically I can see why, environmentally I can see where that is going  and as such that may actually be enough.  But when it comes to your skin and your health I am not convinced that we have any hard evidence to support that.

But apparently the evidence is ‘wherever we look’.  I am not sure it is that simple, especially given the argument for evolution (the ‘our skin evolved with nature and not synthetic chemicals’ argument).  I think you’d be hard pushed to find evidence of any caveman, woman or child bathing in certified organic bubble bath or even rubbing sweet almond oil into their battle wounds – sweet almond oil has to be extracted by crushing the seeds which would have been pretty time-consuming and difficult under the circumstances.

What I am saying is that things like essential oils,  plant-based surfactants and emulsifiers, plant butters and many plant-based oils don’t exactly JUMP out at you when you venture into the bush. These things have to be squeezed,  ground, reacted and heated and in relatively large quantities to give us the exposure limits that we have become accustomed to. […]

A quick guide to HLB and why you might not need it just yet.

HLB is something that many of you have heard of but few can get their heads around.  I can totally understand why as it involves a few of my (not necessarily your) favourite things – Chemistry and Math.

But the thing is you might not even need to worry, well not yet anyway.

HLB = Hydrophilic, Lipophilic balance and it basically describes the ratio  between the oil loving and water-loving part of a surface-active ingredient (we often call these emulsifiers as we are usually trying to make a cream or emulsion when we think about HLB).

As you know oil and water don’t mix. This is no big secret and is easy to see for yourself by plonking some butter, olive oil or ghee into a cup of water.  You can shake it all you like but once you stop doing that two layers will form.  They don’t like each other that way (chemically of course).

So, to make them like each other we need a mediator.  The chemical equivalent of the diplomatic peace corp is the non-ionic emulsifier and it is only these types of surface-active ingredient that have a HLB.  This is also a source of confusion for some.

These non-ionic emulsifiers come in all shapes and sizes but have one thing in common, a love for both oil and water.  However, the amount of love they have for each differs and we give that difference a number – a HLB number.

The numbers range from 1-20 (typically although a quick google search may uncover HLB’s much higher, this isn’t useful 99% of the time).

I have drawn this cute (best I can do sorry) picture to demonstrate visually how a non-ionic two-handed surface-active chemical works. I hope you […]

Business 101: Entitlement is the Original Sin.

I am always fascinated by the thoughts that get my brain whirring and this one did take me by surprise.

After travelling in China and coming back to my Australian life I was struck by a sense of ‘something isn’t quite right here, something is different’.   I was talking about our (Australian) business culture – well, the bit that I am part of anyway and an underlying energy that I could sense.   I am now of the opinion that energy was driven by a sense of entitlement……

Entitlement = feeling owed,  the ‘that’s mine and I should have it’ mindset, the ‘I deserve’ or ‘I’m special and need’ the ‘how come you can and I can’t’.

I feel this energy sometimes during my working day dealing with clients and students, especially when I am teaching  new cosmetic science tricks and tips or critiquing their formulations or brand direction.   I do my best to notice that raw nerve ahead of time and navigate around it, numb it with psychological anaesthetic, give it time to settle and feel comfortable but it isn’t always possible to avoid.

I have noticed over my short but sweet 6 years in business that a sense of entitlement is a dangerous thing to have. It sets you up for all sorts of political dramas, underpins many a dysfunctional relationship and prevents you from fully growing.  I believe it contributes to all of these things because of what entitlement masks and that is one of two closely linked emotions – shame and vulnerability.

Let’s think this through for a minute.

Entitlement as a mindset revolves around the feeling of being ‘owed’ .  As such it makes sense to think that where there is an owing […]

I Protest!!!!! Our right to free speech and all that Jazz.

While I have often heard people waxing lyrical about their ‘right to freedom of speech’ it is rare to hear a conversation about the responsibilities that go with that and that’s what I want to talk about today.

An article in the Australian has struck a chord as on the surface it looks like an early attempt by the government to squash our (the public)  right to self-expression and in particular our ability to join and protest about issues that sit uncomfortably with us.  Examples given in the article are logging and live exports but they could stretch to those that we see in cosmetics I guess – ingredient choices, supply chain issues, animal testing etc.

As usual I can see (and feel for) both sides of the argument and as usual I am trying to work out where the sweet spot of balance is. Damn my Libran brain 🙂

Freedom is a wonderful thing but I feel that most of us understand that it does have its limits.  Take for example by love of music. I am one of those people who likes to FEEL the vibe as well as hear it (which might explain why I’m a little deaf) and as such I often get told to ‘turn it down’ by my kids, husband and dog (well I assume that’s what she is trying to say).   When they are not with me, if I was to take the freedom of self-expression mindset to the extreme  I would be able to have my music on as loud as my speakers allow but I don’t.  My behaviour is modified by my environment – will that annoy the neighbours?  What time of day is it?  Is that […]

Why is the EU still testing cosmetic ingredients on animals?

I spent a good part of yesterday reading toxicology reports investigating the safety of Nanoparticulate Titanium Dioxide and Silica. It was an EU sponsored and funded research project spanning 3 years and taking in work from a consortium of laboratories spanning many countries.

It soon became evident that part of this testing was carried out on live animals – injecting them with the particulates (in solution of course) and also passing them into the lungs.

The animals involved were rodents and the testing required sacrifice of the animals to trace the passage of the nano materials.

At that point the fact that I had come to find out about a particular nano material that I was researching fell to the back of my mind.  What grabbed me by the throat was the irony of the situation that I was now in.  I was reading a paper discussing results of animal testing on ingredients designed for the cosmetics industry. The testing had been authorised and funded in the EU at a time when the big trumpeted fan fair news was a ‘BAN ON ANIMAL TESTING’.

Isn’t that ironic?  

To say I had mixed feelings when I read this report would be an understatement. I do not want to see any animal at all put through testing,  whatever form that takes and however well-managed (and I do believe that this study was well-managed and that animal welfare was more than just a passing consideration).   However, the toxicological data that came back is, on the whole intensely useful from both a materials handling perspective, from the perspective of  someone who potentially uses these materials to make consumer goods and from the point of view of  ‘where to next’ both in […]

On why a Labia Library would be a good thing

Headlines such as these:

“The rise of the designer vagina”

“Pictures urged before genital surgery”

and this one on Sunday: “Labia library aims to counter porn images”

have gotten me furious over the years, not least because

a) I own a vagina (and IT doesn’t want to be marketed to thank you)  

b) I am mother of two lovely young girls who will grow up listening to this shite


c) It is very clearly just wrong.  

Apparently ladies we are now being told that our bits are not nice unless they are not there. Think Barbie and you will be on the right lines……

It would be wrong if we replaced the words ‘vagina’ or ‘labia’ with the words ‘penis’ or ‘scrotum’.  I mean, can you ever the average man looking into his pants and thinking ‘I really must get some of this junk removed from my trunk, it is just too big AND it chafes when I do stuff’.


But that is exactly what we are being told and not just from the porn industry (which can still be avoided almost. Sort of…..)

My dismay at the article in the Age on Sunday was that the paper had gone to the trouble of consulting a plastic surgeon specialising in this procedure for her input.  She explained that the women she sees are all pretty worthy patients who really need the procedure.  This is because the labia minora are too big and hang outside of the outer labia.


Excuse me doctor but isn’t that what they are supposed to do?

Sadly, us ladies have been dealt a duff hand from the English language department responsible for naming our genitalia – a department (well I don’t know exactly who named them) who decided […]

Sustainable China

I have to admit that when I found out I would be teaching a one-day course on Natural and Organic Cosmetics in Shanghai I wondered whether any of the attendees would see the point. Find out more by listening to my podcast here:

On discussing natural.

The reality that the market towards all-natural products is growing globally was easy to digest – digest being the optimal word.  Like many countries I travel to China loves its food – fresh, clean and (often squeamishly so for the western traveller) as lifelike a possible and as such the idea of having a relationship with your cosmetic ingredients list seemed logical.  But while equating natural to wholesome, recognisable food made sense, first and foremost was the concern that products had to perform and be safe.

On discussing organic.

This proved a little more difficult to communicate in terms of benefit as while organic food and produce is available in China it is very much a niche and expensive option and not necessarily one that is producing the quality the Chinese consumer wants.  However, it was clear that it would be foolish to write off the appreciation for organic here.  Indeed there were clients present working in this field and many more that appreciated and valued the sentiment behind this philosophy.  However, that the prospect of local sacrifice for global gain is quite possibly too far-fetched and in-direct for the average Chinese cosmetics purchaser to comprehend at this time. Especially without the pull of uncensored social media…….

I only got to spend one working week in China but I can safely say I am hooked.  This is a country full of energy, passion, intelligence and ideas and we would be crazy not to […]