ethical sign
Article by: Perry Romanowski

I saw this article about Bodisafe Cosmetics which claims their products are natural and chemical free. Normally, I would just file this away with all the other scaremongering, BS, natural cosmetic marketing, but this article featured quotes from a cosmetic chemist.  I was horrified by what he said.

I won’t do a detailed debunking of the nonsense claims attributed to here. In this post, I want to talk to my fellow cosmetic chemists.

Hey chemists, listen up!

Behave like a scientist

If you are going to represent yourself in the public as a scientist, then behave like a scientist. You have a responsibility to be truthful and as accurate as you can be. Society elevates scientists to the level of experts who are expected by the public to provide reliable information in whatever area you are discussing. Don’t lie to people or spread misinformation just because it may help with your company’s product marketing.

I know we cosmetic chemists work in an industry that uses misleading claims to get consumers to buy one company’s products rather than a competitor’s. I also know that the R&D groups in the industry have very little say in what claims are made and how they are written. It’s true, we are sometimes required to find ways to support dubious claims our marketing departments want to make. Yes, we’ve all done something like adding a drop of aloe to a standard lotion so your marketing people can call it Aloe Vera Lotion. And we’ve done things like adjusting the levels of some ingredient in a non-significant way so your company can proclaim that it’s an “all new formula.”

Don’t lie

I get it. These are the things we have to do to stay employed as cosmetic chemists.

But you know what we don’t have to do?  We don’t have to outright lie to consumers or the media.

Don’t do that.

Don’t tell uninformed reporters that “…60 percent of those chemicals cross the skin and get into the body.”  That’s not true.  Don’t mislead the media by telling them that chemicals in cosmetics are dangerous or that your natural products are somehow more safe.  They aren’t.

It is illegal to sell unsafe cosmetics in the US. Replacing parabens and other preservatives or using organic ingredients does not make your products more safe!  It just doesn’t.

Your products aren’t more safe

And if you are under the delusion that your products are somehow more safe than products put out by large, multi-national corporations, I’ve got news for you…they aren’t!  In fact, if you work at a small company it’s more than likely that your products are less safe since you undoubtedly haven’t done the amount of safety testing as the big corporations.

Misquoted

 

Now, I understand that sometimes you can be misquoted when interviewed for articles. The press doesn’t always do a great job of getting the quotes just right. You can even be edited to seem like you said something but you meant something else.  I understand.  However, it’s pretty rare for the media to get it so completely wrong that it represents the opposite of what you are trying to say.

If you’re going to be out in the public as a scientist you need to hold yourself to higher standards than other people like politicians, lawyers, or even the police.  Society relies on the expertise and reliability of science and scientists. When you lie, mislead, or obliviously pass along myths as facts, you are undermining not just your own reputation, but also those of other cosmetic chemists, our industry, and even scientists in other fields of study.

Get educated

Now, in the event that you are not lying but are simply misinformed, I encourage you to go get informed. Get informed by scientific organizations. Avoid NGOs like the EWG or the marketing departments of your competitor’s.  Learn about parabens, sulfates, petrolatum, talc, and any other vilified cosmetic ingredient. See what toxicologists have to say about the ingredients based on actual scientific studies.

Before you spread misinformation in the public…get educated!

We are scientists. The public still (at least for the moment) trusts us to be a reliable source of information that will help them make decisions about their lives. We have a responsibility to tell the truth and to not mislead people with myths, unsubstantiated accusations, and outlandish claims. I know you might feel pressure from your company to stretch the truth to elevate your products, but I implore you, don’t do it!

Make a commitment to first know what is and isn’t true and then when you ever get the chance to talk to reporters, tell the truth.

In this time of “alternative facts” it is even more important for scientists to be a beacon of truth. Society is relying on you.

Don’t let them down.

Perry, 44

PS. If you need a brush-up on ethics, the book Ethics in the Real World is an excellent read.

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About the Author

Perry Romanowski

Perry has been formulating cosmetic products and inventing solutions to solve consumer problems since the early 1990’s. Additionally, he has written and edited numerous articles and books, taught continuing education classes for industry scientists, and developed successful websites. His latest book is Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry 3rd Edition published by Allured.

12 comments

  1. Avi

    How i can prevent silicone emulsion from smell? after one month Silicone Emlsion gives bad smell

  2. Jessica

    The lack of communication, as well as the misuse of communication is one of the biggest problems we face as Americans today.

    It has come to the point that we don’t trust anyone…not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t feel as if we can.

    We either have those who we KNOW are blatantly lying about situations, or we have those who have any and all research locked up and kept so far from the public eye, we feel as though they’re hiding the truth. In these situations, even if what they’re saying IS true, we still don’t/can’t believe it because we don’t feel as though we can trust them (because the research is hidden), and there’s nothing PROVING that we CAN trust them (again, because the research is hidden).

    Please know that I am speaking of far more industries than of only this one. To be honest, I feel that we’re fed the same garbage by our government as well.

    I am not a chemist or scientist, I am a consumer, a mother and a wife, and we are living in a time that it has become extremely difficult to determine who we can or should believe.

    I apologize for venting, but it’s just frustrating and just as most of the “bad” in this world stems from money, so does this. I believe with all of my heart, if the people of these companies…all of them, would put PEOPLE first, the money would follow.

    I’m sure many of these scrupulous businesses are already making money hand over fist, but it’s the wrong kind of money, it’s the kind that doesn’t allow a person to rest.

    When you make money the “right” way, you have PEACE and you have JOY.

  3. Eadie Bye

    Perry,

    I appreciate your candor regarding ethics which is something that is lacking in various industries.

    As a Licensed Esthetician it is so important for us to understand product ingredients but let’s face it, if your not a formulator it can be very confusing and hard to understand.

    I truly believe Esthetic schools should have an entire module on product ingredients taught by someone who has a chemistry background.

    So if someone like me really wants to understand what product ingredients are truly not good when used in skin care products where is the information that is simple to understand?

    Thanks

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Thanks for the comment Eadie. The answer to your question depends on what you mean by “truly not good.” Any product that you buy (especially if it is from one of the big companies) will have been safety tested and you can be confident that the product isn’t “bad” for skin. It’s either good for skin or won’t make much difference. Of course, even safety testing doesn’t guarantee that the product will be good for everyone’s skin so you really have to test it on an individual basis to know for sure.

      If you want toxicology information the CIR or the SCCS are the best sources.
      If you want performance information asking here or places like The Beauty Brains is a good start.

      1. Perry Romanowski

        I can’t believe they are seriously quoting something from the EWG.

  4. Luisa

    Thank you Perry.
    If a client asks for my opinion then I reveal the truth (you product won’t penetrate the skin). Yet, if they don’t ask I don’t usually mention anything about it. I consider myself responsible for the formulation only, the claims they make are not my business.
    Is this a wrong approach?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I guess I would agree with your approach. Although if you see a claim they are making you should mention to them that it is not correct. It would then be up to them to do something about it.

  5. Lena

    Well said!!!

  6. Pri Palatini

    I completely agree with you, Perry. I spent many years in the marketing industry and have recently opened my own business. I remember having to double check so many times about claims we made regarding technology products. I cannot even imagine how serious it would be to lie about things that could affect people’s lives! I see a lot of companies selling products online with no preservatives at all. This is bad.

  7. Jill Jones

    Well said, Perry! I can’t stand fearmongering used as a sales technique.

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