Article by: Guest Author

Today we feature a new writer here on Chemists Corner.

Natural. Green. Organic. EcoCert. EWG. COSMOS. NPA, etc., etc., etc. Do these ever nagging terms sound familiar? Did I say nagging? Well yes, I did, but why? As a formulator of “natural based” products in the Cosmetic/Beauty Industry I have had countless discussions trying to define “natural” and put my finger on why this obscure concept is the platform for the majority of new products.

The countless discussions have led me to believe that very few cosmetic formulators and Industry professionals know why we push “Natural” other than to turn a dollar, please marketing or jump on the bandwagon before some organization with a long arm comes and picks you out of the Beauty crowd as a face of evil, to unborn children and seedlings of cancer. It seems that formulators are forced to choose a side, that of “Science” or that of “Nature”.

This dichotomy brazened before me as, I witnessed profanity jumping from one industry leader to another at a seminar, presented by a well-known organization. At that moment, I realized something was lost in translation and efforts to bring the best products to our ever changing Organic, Natural, Paraben-free, Sustainable market were yet to come. So what is a Formulator and Cosmetic Chemist to do??? I cannot speak for you, but I decided to come up with a strategy to research and formulate as a consumer, open my mind to innovation, and make purposeful decisions to bring change, one skin care product at a time.

Becoming a cosmetic chemist

My background and journey through Beauty has set me as bit more fastidious than the average consumer. It all started with my mother’s aim to drive a pink luxury car. Needless to say, I had a 3-step skin care regimen at the age of 10 and teaching skin care classes at 10 and a half. At 14, I started my love affair with fake eyelashes and 15 years later still going strong! As Natropathic medicine illuminated my Biology studies in college, flecks of treated mica illuminated my cheeks while working at my local cosmetic counter.

The luminescent light of my future faded and upon graduation moved to Los Angeles finding myself in the Fashion Industry as a part time starving Makeup Artist and painfully full-time CFO Assistant. Then Craigslist soon brought me to a non-starving artist and painless adventure, marrying my education and passion for fashion, skin care and cosmetics as a Formulator, for an established skin care line.

My mentors encouraged me to research and source replacements to synthetic and crude oil derived ingredients as well as alternatives to parabens, sulfates, and silicones. Soon after this venture, I realized the replacement market had fairly slim pickings, if you know what I mean. However, I found ingredients and made them work.

Organiceutical formulator

My fine education appreciates scientific substantiation and testing, but my interest and personal experience with Natural medicine appreciates unconventional methods as well. I found my formulations eventually fell into a pattern that one of my colleagues, Ali Witwit dubbed as “Organiceutical” – the philosophy and method of designing a plant-derived base system with synergistic effects for delivery, and using actives with strong clinicals whether plant derived or not. As a consumer of everyday skin care and professional makeup artist, I want what works and feels good and have achieved that as an Organiceutical formulator.

As a practicing Organiceutical, I had to open my mind to innovation and welcome this challenge. Innovation supposedly drives us, but for some, the stakes of emotional discomfort rise till the annoyance of our changing world — the natural world – squanders the vision to innovate. Researcher Gabriel Tarde, (1903) defined the innovation-decision process as a series of 5 steps that include:

  • Knowledge
  • Forming an attitude
  • Decision to adopt or reject
  • Implementation and use
  • Confirmation of the decision

I have witnessed both sides of extreme Natural and extreme Classic/Traditional professionals “form and attitude” without gaining the full knowledge of new “Natural” ingredients and methods that have hit the market.

Natural Innovating

If we want to innovate we have to personally assess and submit ourselves to the innovation process from the inside out, schooling ourselves in the differences of today’s Natural offerings, and then compare them to classical, synthetic ingredients. This will open the formulations box to a new way of thinking. In my research and quest for innovation, I have often found the best of science and nature in new natural ingredients with little annoyance. As scientists should we not encourage new discoveries and advances in science? I can understand the thought “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but let’s have a head start on our consumer, through our scientific inquisitiveness and intuition, and join the movement to reform our Industry.

Lastly, I found a greater purpose in formulating by choosing to partner with companies that commit to improving the lives of everyone in their supply chain, such as AAK and Beraca. I could sleep peacefully at night knowing my work would make a difference in the life of someone less fortunate than me. Many companies today have a humanitarian component built into their business plan that gives back to communities; improve living conditions, and/or encouraging education. As a Luxury Industry it only seems fitting to do everything we can to share the wealth with those that do not live the luxurious American or non- third-world country life as we do.

All in all, I feel our obscure personal and individual stances on why we do what we do, how we do what we do and when we do what we do, have divided our house to extreme lefts and rights, with critics and consumers directing our work instead of us educating and leading or consumer in trust and open communication. Lofty expectation…maybe, but perhaps these new times summon us to take a deep breath and look at our professions with a new perspective in an area of research, the process of innovation or how we connect and share the wealth with our neighbors.

~Beakers up! Dandizette` Beaute` ~


  1. Avatar
    Devin Freeman z

    But if you think that this is false advertising you can very well challenge this with the company itself by asking them to prove it.

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    Nancy Liedel

    The dreaded, “middle ground.” I’m hunting for it and so are countless other formulators. I was at a craft show this weekend with my soaps and a nice lady, who makes really good soap, gave me a lecture about how she’d been in the business for 9 years (she opened in 2009, so this is not adding up), and Vitamin E is a KNOWN preservative for soap. I am very proud that my head did not spin off, spewing blood on her lovely soap. I smiled, said nothing and went back to my booth and said everything I’d say to her to my husband. He is wonderful this way.

    She went on and on about her degree in chemistry and that is where she learned this. I always keep my husband’s words in mind, “you are not here to waste your breath on those who do not wish to hear what you have to say, or are spoiling for a fight.”

    My sense? She knows ding-dangity well that Vitamin E is an antioxident, but was trying to get me to spin said head and blow brain matter. She was testing me the whole time. “How did I do this swirl?” (funnel), “Is this an essential oil, or a fragrance oil?” Essential mixed with FO. Got all her tests spot on. 🙂 We did have a good talk though and she is very nice, except for the vitamin E thing, which was not mean, but strange.

    I love people. I adore shows. I will always do them. I can’t get enough of really talking to people and learning what they really want out there.

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      Interesting story Nancy. Lots of fascinating? people in the world eh?

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        Nancy Liedel

        Err, ummm. fascinating. That’s it. Loony is another word I would have liked to use, but…to each their own.

        I’m getting the new Natural Formulators class for Christmas this year, and it probably covers all other holidays too. I’m super excited about it. More advanced classes please, Perry. I need more fixes. I finally finished the beginning class and know a lot more, but there was a lot I was lucky enough to have already learned. Silicones!!!!!!

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          Thanks Nancy. The next ones will be on formula optimization and the biology of skin. But doing one on silicones is an excellent idea.

  3. Avatar

    Wow, this is an unexpected, but very interesting entry! Thank you for sharing, you bring up issues that are close to my heart as well: combining nature with science (within cosmetic science) without compromising the one nor the other.
    Hope you’ll read more, I’ll be looking forward to your input!

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      Me too! Look for her next article in a week or two.

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    LaNita Darden

    Great article! It is great to see documentation of work being done with the more natural ingredients into the formulating of skincare products. Thank you. Please write some more for us.

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