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 – […]

Great things come to those who wait.

Without fail I am asked to work at 100 miles per hour by clients who have one or another deadline to meet.  That isn’t surprising as the cosmetics industry is fashion orientated and therefore seasonally affected (isn’t that a mental disorder????) and fast – Depeche Mode was always a favourite of mine…….

Anyway, the net effect of saying ‘can you please do all that you can to make me a new hair gel by Tuesday week because I have already booked in the packaging crate to take it to Uzbeckistan where I have a contract that is worth several million’  is that nothing will go right.

Here is Uzbeckistan:

And here’s where I like to be just after receiving a new project brief

Thinking, thinking, thinking.

People come to me for help turning their ideas into reality and for help in shaping their ideas into something that can be used, something structured and organised.  For a framework.  To enable me to create that I first need to find some time and space to forget everything that I have done before – you don’t want Betty’s face wash or Billy’s acne brand you want what you want and that takes some time.  Next I have to start thinking like the brand that you told me about in the brief.  Who would use that, what would they expect, what would surprise them, what would get them to come back for more?  This also takes time.  Finally I have to build a framework from which I can work, this is my equivalent of the scaffolding that goes around a building.  I need that scaffolding to help me build your formula or branding piece.  That also takes time.

Finally I have to test my […]

How many actives can the skin take at once?

Hello people,

I do hope that you are well and enjoying this lovely month of October!  I have been really busy of late and have struggled to update the blog as often as I’d like but hopefully the archives are keeping you happy.  Anyway, the business that I have been busy with will turn into blog posts soon as I am learning new things all of the time especially now that I have my lab and office at home. Check out the hubbies handy work:

Today I wanted to post some thoughts on a question that keeps cropping up in my consulting circles:  Just how many actives can the skin take at once?  OR  How many actives should I put into my skin care?

Good questions and worthy of much research which I will assemble over the coming weeks.  For now I will share my thoughts with you and open up for comment.

So, what do we know about skingestion (not that there is such a word but I thought it sounded good and apt)?

There are several groups of people who would be able to answer this question and I’m not one of them.  I’d be tracking down a few dermatologists, pharmacists, product test houses and beauty therapists in the first instance but before that I’d have a bit of a think…..

One of the main functions of the skin is to keep stuff out. However, we all know that not everything that we put onto the skin stays on the surface and if you believe much of cosmetic marketing you would believe that pretty much everything gets through meaning that the skin does a lousy job.  The truth (of which there isn’t just one) is far more complex […]

What happens when you work with a formulator

Work at Realize Beauty is quite diverse and one of the things that we get involved in is the  formulating of products.  We don’t have and won’t ever have our own cosmetic brand and so, just like that old car advert (or Queen song) everything we do, we do for you!

So, how does that process work and what are you paying for?

In a nutshell you are paying for a few things:

The time it takes to develop and test your ideas
Our expertise in the given area
The samples, packaging and post required to do the job.
The final experimental  recipe including ingredients listing and supplier information.

The important thing to note here is that it is you, the customer that sets the challenge and we use our judgement to gauge our ability to meet that and while we may have made other shampoos,  creams or potions before we have never made yours.  As such all work is ‘experimental’ and results are not guaranteed.

Now before you go ‘hold on, that’s a bit rubbish that you can’t promise that you will meet my brief’  let’s have a think for a minute……

Formulating cosmetics is a tricky business made even trickier by the fact that everyone wants something different, unique even.  Many customers want products that are highly active, that contain cutting edge ingredients or that are bigger and better than anything seen before.   For us the fun part is in working towards achieving that as it gives us a really good chance to test out our skills and even learn new things.  But the bad part is that things don’t always work out as planned and that’s why we split our development payments and avoid making too many promises straight […]

Help, my emulsions aren’t stable!

For those of you that have tried making your own creams, lotions, sunscreens or liquid foundation (to name but a few) you will empathise with me when I say that emulsions can be scary things.  Armed with a bullet proof knowledge that oil and water don’t mix without help  we  ready ourselves with an emulsifier or two  (the help) a good mixer  and a strong cup of tea (essential) and prepare to beat our proposed dispersed phase into a neat and orderly submission. Only our cunning plans don’t always work. Do they?

There are many ways for an emulsion to leave you crying and unfortunately your choice of emulsifier/ emulsifier combo is only the beginning.  I’m  talking about Stokes Law….

Yes it does look rather scary at first but once you become familiar with all the V’s, d’s, g’s and triangles the world becomes a much brighter place!

Now, before we go any further we should re-introduce ourselves to a few features of an emulsion.  As we are just learning we will pretend that emulsions are simple things with only two possible options – oil in water or water in oil.  Us science people like to think of an emulsion as two phases – the continuous phase (the bulky bit that the other drops sit inside of) and the dispersed phase (the small bubbles that float around inside the continuous phase).   When you have oil as the continuous phase you have a water-in-oil emulsion and when you have water as the continuous phase you have oil-in-water.  The most common is oil-in-water as these are cheaper, feel lighter and are generally suitable for most applications.

So, V  = velocity. This is the speed  at which your tricky little […]

Help, is there a Chemist on Call?

Warning – this post has two functions:

A) to give a shout out to all of those people struggling to get their formulations to work (me included, I am a shocker at serum)


B) a thinly veiled attempt to promote our Chemist on Call virtual help desk facility.  I hope you don’t mind, I do think it is quite neat though and am investing my own money (and my children’s pocket-money) in learning more and more so that we can be even better at it. Thank you xxx

Let’s not beat around the bush here guys and girls we all make mistakes and when it comes to stuffing up cosmetic formulations I think I can safely say that I’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt more than once.  Don’t get me wrong,  I am a big believer in getting your hands dirty and have the kind of brain that works better when I can see, feel or smell something real rather than something theoretical –  I don’t find it easy to make sense of instructions unless I act them out. Oh and I love to fiddle with new ingredients, ideas and stuff. But (and it is a big but) there comes a time when you just don’t have that sort of time any more and when that time comes you just need results.

Chemist on Call is something that my business – Realize Beauty has been doing for the last four and a half years now. We support product manufacturers, marketers, beauty editors, brand owners and hobby/ enthusiasts through the maze that is the cosmetics industry.   This is a big call and of course it would be foolish of us to think […]

Formulations – To buy or not to buy?

Being a business that sells formulations you could be forgiven for thinking that we will always try to sell you some but that isn’t the case.  There are many ways to get started and run a cosmetics brand/ business and different strokes suit different folks.

So, what options are open to you, the cosmetic ideas guru and where should you go to get them?
1) Contract manufacturers stock formula.
Rather like stock photos that you can buy online contract manufacturers will have their own range of in-house formulations that customers can use. The manufacturer will factor ‘formulation rent’ into their manufacturing costings and these are usually ongoing.

The good:  You don’t have to invest in the money or time to develop your formulation so the time-to-market can be shortened.  Also it will be up to your manufacturer to manage material supply variations, manage the quality of the bulk and ensure that the formulation is essentially ‘safe’ for the intended use. You also get the benefit of the manufacturers development and QA team to work with and support you as your brand develops.

The bad:  You have little to no control over what goes into your formulation and have minimal creative freedom.  When ingredients need to be changed due to supply or price problems it is unlikely that you will have much say in what they are changed to unless you are a major client.  It is most probable that the formulation will not be fully disclosed to you (although full ingredients lists should be) and as such you may not understand how and why your product does what you say it does.  Usually when you leave the manufacturer your formulation stays with them leaving you to reverse engineer ‘your’ […]

How do I make a perfume spritzer?

Now lots of people want spritz products to add to their range either as a perfume, as a tonic or as an anti-microbial (if the spritz is for a household application) and  so I thought that it would be great to explain to you a little about how they are formulated.  At this point some of you might go ‘well that is a silly thing to do being as though you usually charge people for their formulations’  and I’d have to disagree.  Much time and money is wasted on trying to explain and demonstrate the foundations of a formulation to clients that I figure if I can get them over the first rung of the ladder they can spend the time with me making it REALLY amazing, trying new ingredients or even working out how to get it the same but cheaper (it is business after all).  So, I’ll share with you but only if you remember this. This is step one of your ‘suck it and see’ method of learning. I don’t expect that this formula will solve all of your problems, make you a millionaire and wash up your lab equipment afterwards.  That is a fairy story, this is a starting point formulation.

Picture:  The first two show what a good spritz should look like – it is quite crisp and clear once you get past the glass imperfections. In the last one the oily perfume wasn’t fully solubilised and a thin emulsion as been formed. This may not be stable in the long-term and is best avoided. 

The Formula Basics.

So, when you make a perfume spritz you are trying to add a little bit of oil (primarily the perfume) into a lot of […]

The one minute conditioner recipe

When you are teaching something new it pays to keep things simple and so this week my Friday class learned a fast, fun and fab way to make a no-frills hair conditioner.  Well, I say ‘no frills’ but don’t think that means cheap and nasty, after trying this in my hair last night I’m going to keep this as my regular…….
This is the recipe that we used in class:
1)        Water                                              89%

2)       Cetriminium Chloride                            3.0%

3)       Cetearyl Alcohol and Ceteareth-20         4.5%

4)       Vegetable Oil (Macadamia Nut Oil)        1.0%

5)       Keratin Amino Acids                             0.5%

6)       Panthenol                                            0.3%

7)       Preservative (Naticide)                          1.0%

8)       Citric Acid to adjust pH to 5.5               QS

9)       Colour, Fragrance as per your choice    QS

The instructions were pretty simple too:

Measure the ingredients 1-6 into a heat proof container and then whack it into the microwave for approx 1 minute.  Take it out (carefully, don’t burn yourself) and then wizz with a hand blender until you have a homogenous mixture. Allow to cool to 40C and then […]

Don’t call me Guru- My story.

It was just a smidge under fifteen years ago that I first set foot in the cosmetics industry.  Immediately before that I’d been on a ‘grand tour’ of The temples of India with my then boyfriend, now husband and had finished that trip off with a tour down under – we are talking about Australia here…… We were not yet married ;). Anyway, immediately before that I’d been studying chemistry and computer science at uni and had just graduated with my honors degree having no real idea about what I wanted to do in life except ride my bike and earn enough money to get married as you do.

So, upon returning from our travels, engaged and excited about life we both started applying for jobs and I, not realizing how lucky I was at the time scored a fabulous opportunity at a company called Brenntag. I was going to be the assistant to the Personal Care Business Manager – I remember having no idea what that meant but felt that it would be a bit more interesting than working in a bank- my other job offer.

My job offer came with strings attached. I was to complete a diploma in cosmetic science in my own time (work was paying for the course though). Sounded reasonably interesting and a chance to use my chemistry degree which I was quite keen on doing after the pain it had put me through to get it.

As I said in the beginning, that was nearly fifteen years, two kids, an international house move and massive career jump ago and I’ve not regretted a single day.  The science behind cosmetics is something that I am passionate about and continue to pour […]