News and Views

In depth look at particular pieces of beauty news from our own perspective.

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 […]

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 […]

Travel and Become

I travel quite a lot for business, teaching, meeting clients and soaking up the vibe of a place as part of my ongoing research into the psychology of beauty.  But with so much compromise, personal disruption and discomfort associated with my travels I was left pondering why I love it so……..

I love to travel but have often found it hard to put my finger on exactly why, especially when I’m a real home-bod outside of these trips.  More often than not I’d rather entertain, work, sleep and eat at home in my daily life. I find it relaxing to be around places and people that I know and that know me well.  I enjoy the freedom and brain space that familiarity affords me and while yes, from time to time as the mother of a busy and active family I bemoan the chores that come with my many hatted life but realise that too is OK. It reminds me that I have people, pets and stuff in my life to care about and nurture. 

So what happens when I travel then and why is it so appealing if I clearly don’t ever feel the need to run, run away?

I am a wild soul at heart and have always longed for the feeling of the wind in my hair and the taste of adventure in my mouth. I need to explore and to run but I realise how that I don’t wish to run from something, it is more a running towards that grips me!  Towards new ideas, experiences, people and places that resonate with my soul, re-energize and inspire me, challenge and test me and that is why I keep on doing it.

In my […]

Knowledge – Theoretical and Applied and the hobby cosmetic chef.

Hello lovely people,

It has come to my attention through my consulting that there is a trap in life  and it is tripping a few of you up.  It is the ‘I think therefore I know’ trap.

Let me explain.

These days there is so much information available to the average web surfer that you can sit at home, research your little heart out and feel like you are an expert in whatever takes your fancy.  Technically you may well be but practically  I am not so sure, especially when it comes to something as crazy as chemistry.

That is because there is a very big difference in thinking you know something and actually being able to apply it.  We sometimes call this ‘the devil in the detail’ but I like to call it what it is – understanding then practice.

Chemistry (even cosmetic chemistry which is actually more physics than chemistry but anyway) is complex in terms of what might react with what, where these mixtures might sit in a formula, what they are attracted to and what repels them,  what might hasten their demise, prevent them from finding their ‘true self’, make them less irritating or more cost-effective.   However, because we can google ingredients, recipes, technical help and expert testimonial we think it should be as easy as baking a cake.

Which begs the question have you ever tried baking a cake…… Let’s think about that shall we?

How many times do you bake a cake from recipe/ memory or whim and they turn out A1 perfect first, second or even third time?

And when it goes wrong (or not as right as you wanted) do you know why?

Was it the oven, the eggs, the flour,  the milk – […]

The Politics of Feedstock Part 2: Is it time to ditch the veggies?

I have been banging on about Palm oil for a while now, in fact for pretty much all of my blogging career on-and-off and for good reason.  Sustainability matters to my customers and I and I believe that I owe it not only to myself but also to my readers and paid clients to at least give them the opportunity to utilize the most environmentally friendly ingredients out there, after all, I make it my job to know about these things (because I’m interested).

The cosmetic industry lives in a world that has pretty much given up on animal fats (which I can understand), said NO to petroleum (again, totally understandable given its poor renewability stats) and feels uneasy about Palm (deforestation, displacement, corruption and more besides).  However, on weighing up the chemistry palm has always seemed to be the only sensible option to me (high productivity, low pesticide requirements, high quality oil etc.) so what is it that I am missing in my analysis?

The time had come to go and nut this out with someone who, when it comes to the environment and beauty, knows their stuff.   Cue Grace, owner and founder of Pure and Green Organic Personal Care.

It was Grace that suggested that maybe the issue shouldn’t be about palm after all given that there is so much waste land and material around from which to create feedstock.   I began to think that maybe the time has come to ditch the veggies altogether…

As a non-cosmetic brand owner I don’t have to worry about selling ideas like this to the public.  My focus is directed at the nuts and bolts of the cosmetics industry – the chemical ingredient manufacturers.  A place where all ingredients […]

The Truth About The Business of Beauty

Tomorrow sees the start of the 2013 Sydney Beauty Expo. An exhibition that will showcase 274 companies, many of them local (Australian) cosmetic or personal care brands developed by men and women with a dream to be the next Body Shop, Estee Laudee, L’Oreal or A.N Other.  Many of them will fail. Spectacularly.

The trouble with the cosmetics industry, at least here in Australia is that is has become very easy to enter and while I’m all for low-barriers to entrepreneur ship there is always a danger that when things are made too simple……

Let me explain using this list of 10 things that the Australian Cosmetics Industry is free from!

Free from having to know how to formulate to create your own cosmetics brand. Google has a few freebies and so do blogs such as mine (occasionally) and sometimes people just make them up!
Free from having to understand  what the ingredients you want to use DO to set up a cosmetics brand.  Just read off the label of a competitor product, copy and voila!
Free from the need to invest much in terms of packaging, labelling and design to create a cosmetics brand.
Free from the requirement to pass any exams or be audited against any particular standard to sell a cosmetics brand.
Free from the need to commit to large volumes when manufacturing a cosmetics brand.
Free from the need to be patient. You can go  from idea to cosmetics brand in less than 2 months if you go with off-the-shelf options.
Free from pesky regulations. It is easy to assume that because the cosmetics industry isn’t regulated you don’t need to comply to any laws when developing and then retailing your cosmetics brand.
Free from the need to deal with […]

And another Palm Free Emulsion for those who like that kind of thing.

OK so you guys should know by now that I am not ‘for’ boycotting palm per se but I am worried about how Palm fits into the whole sustainability thing.  The reason I am sharing these formulations with you (that I could earn up to $5000 a piece for developing once they are finalised) is because I don’t feel comfortable making money out of something that I am not convinced will do what it is setting out to do.  By that I mean that I am not convinced that palm free products will help move the planet to a healthier place.  This is why.

When doing my research on palm free alternatives I found that there are a couple and that these alternatives are usually derived from another robust feedstock such as coconut or rapeseed.  Now I’m giving coconut a miss right now as that grows under pretty much the same conditions as oil palm and as such is potentially another ‘palm’ issue waiting to happen.  Instead I’m turning my attention to what I will now call the ‘westernised solution’.  That is, ingredients made in the west using feedstock that grows in a temperate climate (rather than rain forest).  Us ‘Westerners’ have forgotten that our backyard, school yard, hospitals, housing estates and motorways used to be forests, forgot that we used to only eat meat and veggies that we have grown or butchered or purchased from the local market (NOT the sanitized supermarket).  We have forgotten what it feels like to be a kid in a  sweet shop oblivious to the ‘poisoned sugar’, the diabetes, glaucoma, obesity etc.  We have had lots of good times and are now suffering from affluenza.  It simply isn’t cool any […]

The politics of feed stock – in search of a palm free cosmetic.

OK so I am the first to admit that when it comes to palm oil  I am all of the below:

Fascinated by the palm vs no palm debate.
Concerned about the environmental impact that our non-essential human purchases and whims have on the environment.
Am not an environmental scientist and have limited time/ resources/ background knowledge to research the agricultural side of this debate but….
Still slightly bias towards palm but open to the idea that there are other options out there.
Interested in the global balance of equity (fairness) and wealth (opportunity).

That is not a disclaimer, it is fact.  I am trying to work through, question, analyse and feel my way towards an action plan that ticks as many boxes as is practical without loosing focus on the main issue – once virgin forest is gone it is gone. Monoculture plantations are not animal/ bird/ bee etc friendly.

So, where next.

I sit and listen as many people come to me for ‘palm free’ products.  When I say many I mean enough to say that there is a trend but not enough to displace those looking for Organic which is generally about 10% of my customer base – on that basis I’d estimate it to be around 1-2%.  Out of the remaining 88 ish % 3/4 want all-natural and the other 1/4 are OK with most things as long as the product works and isn’t classified as toxic.

On that basis I generally write, talk and think about palm more than it is worth in terms of my $$$.  It is possible to be a cosmetic chemist, make bucket loads of money (if you are lucky OR good OR in some cases both) without scratching the surface of any of […]

The fashion for moral outrage continues – My chemical romance.

If I had a dollar for every time I ‘googled’ a chemical and found a crazy ass story I’d be a very happy bunny.  I don’t get it, I mean,  I didn’t train to be a hairdresser and even with my knowledge of hair care ingredients wouldn’t DREAM of telling people how to give their barnets a make-over, how to chop like Edward Scissor hands or how to turn a  purple haze into strawberry fields by colour correction but that doesn’t stop people who have no background (practical as well as theoretical) in chemistry ‘teaching’ chemistry via the internet.

 Is it me or have people well and truly lost the art of knowing what they know and don’t know?

Reminds me of a Robbie Williams song that also reminds me of this:

God (of chemistry/ hairdressing or skin care) ,

give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed

Courage to change the things which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

There are many well-meaning souls out there who go off with their google goggles on in search of truth, meaning and inspiration.  And do you know what? Most of them find it.  They find it and believe that because of this they know it, only they don’t because all they have done is seen ‘it’ from one dimension (and quite often that is the dimensions of their computer screen).


Here’s an example story for you.

Mr Blobby’s spaceship lands  into my back garden one sunny day,  he makes such a racket that all the birds, bees and insects stop buzzing, chirping and clicking.

Mr Blobby looks around and finds a snail.  He doesn’t know it is a snail, he has no […]

Flushed Away – Beauty and your bum

Before I go on I want you to know that I am the first to admit to trying but failing to live a more earth friendly existence. I do some things but not everything as I will demonstrate below:

I give to charity so that my unwanted goods might be re-cycled and do some good in the world.


I mostly shop for new and sometimes buy more than we need in terms of clothing, shoes, entertainment or household goods.  And I don’t even particularly like shopping.

I swapped my car for a highly efficient one and reduced my weekly KM’s to 2/7ths of what they used to be


I do still drive the car to the local store rather than all or bike and often drop my youngest at school rather than let her catch the bus which would be more earth friendly.
I have been known to pee in the shower to save paper and if home alone don’t flush the loo each time I pee also to save water.


I also take long, hot showers every so often a I jut love to think in the rain.

On another note while it is most often that I design and manufacture natural cosmetics I am not fussy with my own skin and purchase products that interest me as this gives me more to write about.

OK so back to my original thought and down to business.

Flushed away……

What would you think of someone who regularly buys a product and by regularly I mean weekly, and then just screws it up and shoves it into the trash?  The product is highly processed requiring much energy and chemistry to create.  A product that doesn’t list ‘palm oil’ as one of its ingredients but that […]