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

Why Boycott Palm Oil – A facebook frenzy

When I wrote this on Facebook I got quite a mouthful of abuse and while I can definitely see why some people took immediate offence (my post was a bit of an emotional rant based on experiences that I’d had over the past few weeks which I failed to mention) I was rather surprised that some took this to mean that I didn’t give a damn about the environment and that I was better off rotting in hell but rather than do that I decided to do what I hope many of those haters will do and give Palm Oil a little bit more of my thinking time. 

So, here is the original post and after that is the long-hand thinking that went on behind the scenes and continues to go on inside my brand.

I am always willing to re-evaluate my thoughts, learn and grow while respecting the mantra – listen first then seek to understand. 

Why boycott palm? I can’t help but get agitated when I hear people opting for palm free cosmetics and while I understand the emotional trauma of the sometimes cute, mainly horrific images of Orang Utans suffering, forest burning and other atrocities if it wasn’t for palm we would be in a far worse state! * Palm is a hugely productive crop compared to others we use in cosmetic. Boycotting palm, while changing nothing else about your cosmetic life is worse than useless. You are using more resources than necessary and potentially contributing to more loss of habitat elsewhere on the planet. * Around 80% of palm goes into food and a good proportion of that is fast food. The best thing you can do to reduce your impact […]

One step anti-ageing? Think sun screen.

Yesterday’s news reporters excitedly told us eager and cash-strapped Australians that all we need to do to keep the wrinkles at bay was to slap on some sunscreen every day (or almost every day at least).  This sunscreen should be SPF 15 or above and apparently ‘it doesn’t matter what brand it is, in some cases even the cheap stuff performed well”……

So no anti-ageing elixirs?  No antioxidant scrubs and masks?  No re-energising facial toners?  Man, I’ll go out of business!!!!!!

Anyway back to the story – is there any science behind this?

The link between sun exposure and premature ageing of skin has long been known.  We probably all have someone in our family that was an ‘outdoor’ type and, by the age of 50 or so has developed that ‘weathered’ look be it leathery skin, deep furrows, ruddiness, spider veins or rough skin.  We have seen many a picture of a wizened up older woman selling her wares at the local markets or truck drivers who had one saggy and one age-appropriate cheek thanks to years of driving off into the sunset (or should that be sunrise)?

This isn’t rocket science.

What is interesting is the subtle fact that said sunscreen should be SPF 15 or above and not SPF 30 or SPF 50 or SPF gazillion.  For me, that is the key piece of data.

Here in Australia where we have a lot of very white skinned folk living under a searing sun (me being one of them) we are often told that as far as SPF goes you can’t get enough of it – slap it on thick baby!  This message is a little different. Granted that we are not talking about taking our Lilly white […]

Gaining Perspective – tips to brand success part 2.

So, yesterday we pondered the statement ‘your brand is not you’ in a bid to make the whole process of sales and marketing more palatable and ultimately more profitable (however you choose to measure that) but that’s not the whole story.  Once you have got used to the idea that your brand is a separate entity then it is time to ‘frame’ it or define the space that it occupies.  Think of this as the mental equivalent to drawing up a house plan either for a house that you already know and love or for something new (depending on where your brand is at).   It is difficult (not impossible but extra hard) to build a house without a plan, plans can help us when we come to re-develop or extend our house as we know from the plan what space we have around us and inside of each room to move. We can also check up on legal requirements to make sure our new plans remain compliant for our environment.  Same goes for a brand.

Now before we go any further I want to point out that I’m not asking you to write a big business plan here and now.  Yes that might be useful and some of you will find that doing that ‘ticks’ this box but what I encourage people to do BEFORE (or even instead of ) that is to FEEL it.  Really feel it.  While I do meet all sorts of personalities in this field I mostly find that it is the creative, non-conformist, go-getter, energetic, expressive and crazy people who end up owning brands.  I know this because I’m one (with my Realize Beauty and Amongst Sisters) and as such […]

Your brand is not you – tips to brand success part 1.

Realize Beauty is all about helping you to build your brand but while we can help you with what goes in and around the pot, bottle or jar when it comes to connecting with customers that is predominantly up to you.  I talk to a lot of small to medium-sized brand owners in my day-to-day life and quite often ‘getting out there’ is their biggest fear. Often this fear comes from the fact that your one solo, quiet journey of discovery is about to go out into the world and be judged by and against others.  The only healthy head space to approach this from is the ‘I am not the brand’ mentality, something that sounds easy but can be surprisingly hard to achieve as we see below.Here are the most common ‘barriers’ that people feel they have to get out and selling their product:I’m not a chemist, I feel like I don’t really know if my products are good or not.I don’t feel confident that I know the laws surrounding this and don’t want to hurt anyone or get into trouble.Nobody has told me what I have to do.I just feel overwhelmed by it all.I am not a sales type of person and don’t like being pushy.I really don’t know where to start or who to talk to about getting stocked.I tried selling at a market once but people either thought that my products were too expensive or  they didn’t even seem to see them.I don’t have the time to do it as I’ve got too many other things going on.I feel like I don’t have anything ‘different’ to offer.I don’t have any more money to put into this, I feel really stuck.I […]

Experimenting with numbers – counting chemicals when you go organic.

So yesterday I worked out roughly how many unique chemicals I am putting onto my body every day based on my current personal care regimen and the total was a rather astonishing 368 including perfume.  Excluding perfume (Assuming that I’d been able to get each product in a ‘nude’ version) the total would have been closer to 118 as for the purpose of this exercise we are counting ‘perfume’ as having 250 unique ingredients.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off today and came up with the idea that I should run through the experiment again but pretend that I’d gone out and replaced my items with Australian Made organics wherever possible.  I chose organic products that are the type of thing that I would buy and that would most closely replace what I already use in terms of performance, key features and style.

The chemical count came in much lower (as you would probably expect) but I still have questions.

These horses were eager to see how this day in  ‘greener’ skin care stacked  up so let’s get started.

1) Mukti Organics Shampoo

Certified Organic Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice; Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate; Cocobetaine; Certified Organic Aqueous Extracts of Bladderwrack (Fucus Vesiculosus), Calendula (Calendula Officinalis), Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita), Ginkgo Biloba Leaf, Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense), Nettle (Urtica Dioica), Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense), Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis), Sage (Salvia Officinalis) & Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium); Vitamin B5 (Panthenol); Vitamin E (Tocopherol); Certified Organic Essential Oil of Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia); Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) blend preservative; Salt (Sodium Chloride); Citric Acid.

20 Ingredients.

2) Mukti Organics Conditioner:

Certified Organic Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice; Certified Organic Aqueous Extracts of Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita), Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) & Lime flower (Tilia Cordata); Certified Organic Glycerin (Vegetarian); Behentrimonium Methosulfate; Cetearyl Alcohol; Hydrolysed Soy Protein (non GMO); Argan (Argania Spinosa) […]

How many chemicals do I put on my body each day? Let’s count…..

Some of the things you read while surfing the net (is that still a relevant term?) are downright scary.  In 2009 an article in the UK’s Daily Mail highlighted to us ‘average’ women that  we slather ourselves with 515 chemicals EVERY DAY and that most of them were toxic, evil, nasty and just wrong.  Being as though I have a rare few minutes of time on my hands I thought I’d see how I compare.

OK so here goes.

1) Soap to wash my face and hands – I’m in a hotel so I’m using theirs which just happens to be a standard bar soap.

Chemical count:  Goodness only knows because there is no label so I’m googling it to find out……

OK so this is turning out to be hard.  The soap in this hotel has no ingredients listing on the internet so I just picked a soap that I know is the same sort of formula.  I’ve chosen Cussons Imperial Leather as it would be typical of the type of soap they put in hotels – the fragrance may differ but otherwise it’s about the same.

So, Chemical Count:  8 (the ingredients after and including Coumarin are part of the fragrance. Fragrance will be dealt with separately)

Aqua, sodium palmate, sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, talc, parfum, sodium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA, etidronic acid, coumarin, eugenol, linalool, benzyl benzoate, gerniol, citronellol, aplha-isomethyl ionone

2) Toothpaste – Colgate total whitening.

Chemical Count: 15  as the water has been counted before (and this is a very weird ingredients listing, they seem to have done strange things with the order but I’ll save that for another day….)

Ingredients: Sodium Fluoride, Triclosan, Glyceryl, Silica Dental Type, Sorbitol Liquid (70%) Non-crystallising, Purified Water, Poly (Methyl Vinyl Ether) Maleic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Laurilsulfate, 89-854 […]

Testing on Animals – are cosmetic companies lying to us?

Yesterday’s news is usually done and dusted by night fall but I have a feeling that this one won’t get away so lightly.  It was reported in various newspapers on websites that major cosmetic brands are failing to inform customers that their beauty products are tested on animals in china.

Choice, the consumer watchdog (here in Australia) is not happy and is referring brands to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) for further investigation.

Choice say that when questioned, staff here in Australia are not informing customers of the testing that is involved in order to pass through the borders and into China and that this is wrong and misleading.  It does seem quite hard to argue with that point but what I want to know is it as simple as that?  Are these brands blatantly lying or is something else going on?

This picture shows the trend for painting dogs nails in Japan. The image comes from here and the article is well worth a read if this post gets too much for you.
I guess there are a few scenarios that we have to consider. Here are a couple that sprang to my mind:

The brand and everyone working for the brand should be aware and trained in the company (or specific brand’s) animal testing policy and is encouraged to answer questions honestly and fully.
As above but staff are given a ‘party line’ or position statement  response to give back to customers to ensure uniformity and consistency of message.
The staff do not have adequate training about the company or brands animal testing policy.
The company has no animal testing policy.

The companies approached were David Jones and  Myer (both department stores) and the brands involved were reported to […]

How do you see yourself – Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Advertisements don’t usually suck me in but this one has. I think that it is simply beautiful.

I say simply beautiful because when I saw it for the first time I didn’t pick it to pieces, dwell on the words, the politics, the product placement. I just took it based on how it made me and the women who took part in this advert feel (well, how they appeared to feel based on this film) and sometimes I think that is best.

After watching for the first time I googled it to try to find the original in order to pop it on here. It was then that I started to read the commentary surrounding it, the critics were as critics are, divided.

For a moment I did sit back to re-evaluate my feelings towards this clip. Was I naive? Foolish? Captivated by the music? Just feeling a bit sentimental? Vulnerable maybe? No, not really. What I felt after my self-critique was that to me this is what I saw it as, a simple  truth that means whatever we choose it to mean, is worth whatever we choose it to be worth and has whatever power we give it . For that I am truly grateful.

One tiny European issue- nano or not.

Europe we have a problem, you see you know that new law that your Europollies passed about compulsory labelling of nanoparticles that comes into effect pretty much NOW?  Well, that law is lacking in practical detail and when I say lacking what I mean is the measurement tools that one needs to use to work out if a particle is nano or not are very hard to come by – totally impractical – exist only in crusty old research institutions – under lock and rusty key. Oh and even if you do have a suitable measuring device little are many different ways in which to use it resulting in many different results.  What is nano one way is massive another. Hmmmm.

And this is a problem because the confusion filters down from ingredient manufacturer to ingredient distributor and on to ingredient user/ formulator. That’s me, right there, the last stop on the R&D food chain and the hand that reaches out of the lab and touches the brand owner.  It is us who get asked ‘does my product contain nanoparticles?’ and it is us who have to make sense of the technical info and relay it to an over-enthusiastic marketing team who feint at the slightest whiff of controversy before spending every last inch of energy trying to think up ways of making whatever ‘problem’ exists go away.

Clear as mud.

And that marketing issue leads to this which is why I’m worried.

My dear Europeland, you really really don’t like it when brands market themselves using ‘free from’ claims but then you go and play right into their hands  by calling out nano particles on the ingredients label.  Now I know that just adding the word ‘nano’ after an ingredient shouldn’t spell doom […]

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 […]