How my brain works  – in case you were wondering.

When I identify myself as a scientist I don’t really think about my qualifications as we all know that most of us who went to uni fresh from high school did so because we had nothing better to do.

I neither enjoyed or particularly understood what I was doing. I  managed to apply myself just enough to pass and get on with my life.  My life just happened to end up being consumed by this thing that we call science (which by the way, I now love).

So what is it?

To me, science is more about how to go structure thinking than about what exactly you are doing. You can be scientific about cooking, making a billy cart,  thinking about morality or creating a new sunscreen.  It’s like having a little guide-book – all you have to do is fill in the gaps.

A scientific way of thinking is identified by the following:

  • Collecting evidence that can be physically observed and measured (Empirical Evidence).

This is important as you have to collect information about your subject in such a way that it can be tested by others. It is no good saying that I “just know” that adding A to B will give me a great result. You must prove it. And not only that, you have to test it in a way that proves that your result was not just by chance.  It is not enough to just believe something that someone in authority said or to just accept something as fact because it has always been done like that. It is all about testing and looking for proof to back up why something does what it does how it does it.  It is about seeking to understand.

  • Being Skeptical.

This approach is less about thinking that others know nothing and more about wanting to know more about the thing for the things sake. Being skeptical allows us to start questioning why and how things are as they are.  As we analyse the status quo we find area’s that we are not happy with and mark them down as point to action.

  • Behaving  rationally.

This can be hard as we (humans) are emotional creatures and it is very difficult to separate our feelings from our desire for knowledge. We may want to prove ourselves right or prove someone else wrong but unfortunately, this is not truly scientific. Real science thinking looks to understand the thing, however inconvenient the answers may and how ever silly that new knowledge may make us.  We must remain logical and open-minded – not easy if someone is paying you to ‘find’ something.

Before we (any of us) can apply this way of thinking we need to have a something to investigate and at the moment I have a few of these things on the boil with my cosmetics work:

Some of my cosmetic science questions.

  • What constitutes a ‘sustainable’ cosmetic in terms of its chemistry, its environmental impact, its social equity position and it’s health implications? Is natural enough?
  • What should a Halal Cosmetic look like?
  • How can we move towards safer products without the need for animal testing?
  • What are the implications of fear based marketing in the cosmetics industry? How can we build positive body image?
  • What is the best way to influence positive change towards sustainable behaviour within the general public?

These seedlings of ideas then start to take shape as hypothesis that can be tested through experimentation.  These experiments may involve getting into a lab, a kitchen, an artist’s studio or a workshop and doing something physical or it may involve talking to people, reading papers and analysing data. 

These are all pretty big questions and questions that will take time and many people to answer. In fact, I quite expect that it will take a whole lifetime of experimenting to get some answers.

The cosmetics world is my scientific arena  – an arena that has  been built on emotions and while some products prey on our fears and insecurities, others offer us relief,  protection and even the chance of a good time!   As an individual that is working (independently) in this space I am not immune to peoples thoughts, feelings and motivations. I too have my own baggage, opinion and personal motivations for being interested in this stuff.  We are not robots.

But we are all scientists and it is with that mindset that I keep looking for answers, asking questions and digging around for solutions. In the quest for evidence it doesn’t do to over-simplify a situation. The devil is in the detail and that is what interests me.

Science thrives on collaboration and new perspectives so it is with that in mind that I invite you to share your thoughts on cosmetic science with me.  It’s less scary if we do it together.

It is all good and it’s always changing.  A scientific mind has as many questions as answers but as luck would have it, we like a challenge.

PS:   Of course, life is not all black and white. Not all scientists think like this all the time and this is only one way of thinking about stuff.

PPS: I have my non-science moments, like when I eat chocolate instead of vegetable soup for dinner OR stay up until 2am to watch a soppy film, OR buy myself a pair of high heels just to make me look ‘professional’ when I know that they will give me blisters. YOU GET THE PICTURE.