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Lab Safety: Chemical Labeling

Often, I receive raw material samples with little more than a trade name and lot code number on the label. It’s important that cosmetic formulators inspect every raw material that arrives by reviewing the Certificate of Analysis to verify specifications and the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to understand proper handling and to obtain safety codes. Two commonly used coding systems are the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) and the National Fired Protection Association (NFPA). These codes help to quickly and easily identify the risks posed by hazardous materials. This helps determine what, if any, special equipment should be used, procedures followed, or precautions taken during the initial stages of an emergency response.

HMIS Codes

The HMIS system was developed by the American Coatings Association to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard. The HMIS system uses color bars to indicate level of hazard. Blue NFPA codes
indicates health hazard, red represents fire hazard, orange for physical hazard (reactivity, oxidizers, etc), and the white bar describes the personal protective equipment that should be utilized when work with the material. Codes range from 0 to 4, the higher the number the greater the potential hazard. More details about the HMIS coding system can be found at

HMIS coding system

NFPA Codes

The NPFA label, commonly referred to as the fire diamond because of its shape, shares similar color codes with the HMIS label. Blue represents hazard to health, red is flammability, and yellow denotes reactivity. The white area is reserved for special hazards like oxidizers or materials that react with water in a dangerous manner. NFPA codes also range from 0 to 4, with the 4 being the highest level of hazard.chemical safety

Go here form more details about NFPA coding.

Tips for Raw Material Labeling

1. Ensure the proper INCI name is on the label, not just the trade name.
2. Verify the lot code with the CoA.
3. Add the expiration date if not included. This allows for easy removal of raw materials that should no longer be used.
4. Add HMIS or NFPA labels. Blank stock labels are readily available through laboratory supply catalogues.

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Strategies for formulating green products

Previously, we talked about how sustainability will effect the formulating efforts of cosmetic chemists. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the different formulation strategies you might use to implement the sustainability principles.

Cosmetic Green Washing

Since there are no set standards, one of the easiest ways to appeal to consumers who care about sustainability is to practice green washing.  This involves adding non-functional ingredients with natural sounding names to your formula that look good to nave consumers and can support a natural story told by your marketing group. For some consumers just adding words like ‘Natural’ or ‘Organic’ on your label is enough to convince them your product appeals to their sustainability notions. Companies can even make aerosol products sound sustainable with the right green washing story. Many companies take this route because it is the least expensive and relatively effective on consumers.

Minimalist formulation.

While the green washing technique can be effective, as a scientist and formulator you’ll likely find the strategy less-than satisfying. A better approach is to incorporate the principles of sustainability into your formulation efforts. To do this I recommend a minimalist formulation approach.

The guiding philosophy of minimalist formulating is that less is better. This means while formulating you should strive to use
+fewer ingredients
+lower levels
So instead of ending up with an ingredient list that has two dozen ingredients you should try to get one that has less than a dozen.

Using fewer ingredients in your formulas has the benefit of reducing inventory storage, reducing transportation energy, and reducing formula costs. It also may reduce the overall chemical exposure of consumers to potentially sensitizing ingredients making them safer for more people.

Formula optimization.

The key to implementing a minimalist approach is to optimize your formulas. You should be constantly scrutinizing which ingredients you put in your formulas and finding exactly how much you need. This means testing them out at different levels until you find the best performance at the lowest level.

Knockout formulas.

One of the simplest ways to begin optimizing is to conduct a knock-out experiment. In biochemistry there is the notion of knock-out mice where they remove a gene and see how it affects the animal as inspiration for the name of this experiment. In a knockout formulation experiment you make a series of batches in which you completely leave out one ingredient then test to see how it effects the formula. Many of these batches will be completely worthless but some of them will perform just as well without the ingredient. And if the formula works without an ingredient, there is no good reason to leave the ingredient in the formula.

One of the problems with knockout experiments is that it doesn’t do much good showing you synergistic effects of raw materials. A more sophisticated version of this experiment is to run a formula through a DOE. DOE also involves creating a series of batches and adjusting the levels of ingredients to determine the effects on the formula. It’s just much more complicated, can require many more batches and doesn’t always give you much more useful information than a simple knock-out experiment.

Synergistic ingredients.

In addition to optimizing your formulas, another important strategy in minimalist formulation is to look for synergistic ingredients. These are ingredients that interact with each other to create even greater beneficial effects. The problem of course, is that these are difficult to find. In fact, if you do find some unique synergistic ingredients, you’ll have the basis for a patent. This is an added bonus of a minimalist approach.

The job of the formulator is changing.

You can no longer focus on just the end performance of a product and you have to take in consideration notions of sustainability. Following a minimalist approach and looking for synergistic ingredients are two primary strategies for creating sustainable formulas.

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Why a cosmetic chemist should learn about toxicology

I recently got a request from a website to write an article about the dangers of parabens. At first, I declined because I do not believe that parabens are dangerous to use as cosmetic preservatives. When the website owner told me it would be fine to write about parabens in any way that I wanted, I changed my mind and wrote the following article.

Are chemists trying to kill you?

While interesting, this article is not about parabens but rather about toxicology and why cosmetic chemists need to learn a little bit about it.

Toxicology

First, you need to know that toxicology has traditionally been considered the study of poisons. A more modern definition is the study of adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms. Basically, toxicologists are the scientists who determine whether those cosmetic raw materials are safe to use or not.

Cosmetic chemist and toxicology

If you got your degree in chemistry or chemical engineering, it is unlikely that you took any courses in toxicology. It may have been covered briefly in some biology course but you probably don’t know much more about toxicology than your consumers. This should not be.

Perhaps the most important reason for you to know something about toxicology is that people will frequently ask you why you are using some specific raw material. They may have read some rumor on the Internet that a raw material is dangerous or their hairdresser may have told them that chemicals are killing them. You should know whether these things are true or not. You should be the expert on the subject among your peers and at your company. If you work for a small to medium sized company, no one else will be trained in it.

The other reason to know something about toxicology is that you should not formulate with ingredients you don’t know to be safe. And how would you know whether something is safe to use or not? Sure, the supplier will give you safety testing but you need to know what it means. The responsibility for product safety ultimately lies with the cosmetic chemist.

Where to learn about toxicology

There are lots of sources for learning toxicology but one of the best that I’ve seen is this one put out by the National Institute of Health. It is the Toxicology Tutor and is free to go through.

In it you will learn a brief history of toxicology and be introduced to the primary principle that the dose of an ingredient is what makes it poisonous or not. You’ll also learn some of the key terminology, testing methods, risk assessment and exposure standards and guidelines. I really like the fact that they have short quizzes after each section.

And if you want to get even more advanced you can move on to the Toxicology Tutor II and Tutor III series.

It should not take you too long to get through these free resources and if you are serious about being a cosmetic chemist, you really need to make it a point to get up to speed on this topic.

Where have you picked up your information about Toxicology? Leave a comment below.

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7 Tricks for Saving a Bad Body Wash Batch

This will happen to you at some point in your career as a cosmetic chemist. You’ll either get a call from the QA people telling you a batch is “out of spec” or the huge batch you made for a consumer test is not right. Now, you have to figure out how to fix it.

How you do this depends on the type of formula but in this post we are going to focus on things you can do to save body wash and shampoo systems. We’ll cover other types of formulas in the future.

Note: sometimes a batch is just too far out of spec that you have to just dispose of it.

Common problems and possible solutions

1. Problem: pH is too high.
This can be solved by adding some type of acid to reduce the pH. Typically, something like Citric Acid or Lactic Acid works best.

2. Problem: pH is too low.
This common problem can usually be solved by adding a base like Sodium Hydroxide to increase the pH.

Note – You should always fix pH problems BEFORE trying to fix a viscosity problem! Sometimes fixing the pH problem will solve the viscosity problem.

3. Problem: Viscosity is too thin.
This is the most common problem you’ll have. The easiest way to fix most formulas is to put additional salt into the formula. As we’ve written about previously, salt will affect viscosity. Don’t add too much however, as that can push the solution to the other side of the salt curve and make it permanently thin. Another remedy is to add some additional secondary surfactant like Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This may change the micelle structure enough to make the batch thicker.

4. Problem: Viscosity is too thick.
This is another common problem for body washes and shampoos. Unfortunately, it’s a little tougher to fix. While salt addition could make it thinner, that is too difficult to control so it is not recommended. Better is to put in additional nonionic surfactant or a lipophilic ingredient. Diluting with water is another possibility but that will dilute all the ingredients in the formula and could lead to a lower quality product. One other option is to make a completely new batch but withhold the salt. Then blend the new batch with the old in the correct ratio to get the right viscosity.

5. Problem: Color is wrong.
This can happen for a number of reasons but often it is because the surfactant you are using is more yellow than normal. One solution is to add additional color to the batch. You can take a small sample of the batch and mix in the appropriate amount of color until it matches a standard. Then calculate the amount that should be added to the full batch and make the adjustment. If the color is completely off you can either discard the batch, get marketing to approve it, or blend off the batch in such small increments that it doesn’t spoil the color of future batches.

6. Problem: Odor is off.
Sometimes the surfactant or feature ingredients will smell slightly different and make the whole batch smell wrong. Adding more fragrance is one possible solution. Another trick is to blend the batch with an unfragranced one, then add back the original fragrance to bring it back to an acceptable level. Often, fragrance problem batches have to be discarded.

7. Problem: Appearance is grainy.
If you have a pearlized formula that is supposed to look elegant but it is grainy, one way to fix it is to heat the batch back up, mix it until it is clear, then rapidly cool it. This will make the particles reform in a better configuration and might solve the problem.

Remember that each formula is different and these solutions might not work for you particular system. However, these tricks have saved many a batch and they may just save yours too.

Do you have any tips on saving shampoo and body wash batches? Leave a comment below.

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How to Decipher Cosmetic Claims – Hair Conditioner

In the United States cosmetic companies are not prevented from making almost any claim they want. However, there is a significant rule they must follow.

“You can not make false claims”

While small cosmetic companies might inadvertently (or purposely) make false claims, big cosmetic companies are not so cavalier. No doubt their legal departments scrutinize anything they might put on their product labels. This means when you’re looking at the labels of a product produced by a big cosmetic manufacturer, you can have faith that there is some evidence they have to back up their claims. Figuring out what that evidence might be can be extremely helpful for a cosmetic chemist. It will help in product development, product testing, and in your own formulation efforts. But how do you figure it out?

Figuring out claims

The first step in figuring out how product claims are supported is to figure out what claims are being made. This takes some practice and some thoughtful reading. Let’s look at an example.

Pantene Shampoo + Conditioner

I like Drugstore.com because they list claims and ingredients in a handy text-friendly form.

Here is what is listed for the Pantene product.

—————

Pantene’s unique shampoo & conditioner system with weightless moisturizers replenishes hair from root to tip to help prevent split ends from forming.

Pantene Dry to Moisturized Conditioner helps repair damage, revealing your light, bouncy, revitalized hair.

Moisturizing conditioner strengthens hair against damage and breakage
Helps Protect against damage and split ends
Gentle enough for color-treated or permed hair

—————-

Step 1 – List of cosmetic claims

Now, let’s list all the claims they are making.

1. Pantene’s unique shampoo & conditioner system
2. …with weightless moisturzers…
3. (system) “…replenishes hair from root to tip…”
4. “…help prevent split ends from forming”
5. (Pantene) “…helps repair damage…”
6. “…revealing your light, bouncy, revitalized hair.”
7. “Moisturizing conditioner strengthens hair against damage & breakage”
8. Helps protect against damage and split ends
9. Gentle enough for color-treated or permed hair

Step 2 – Logical Evaluation

A few of these claims can simply be supported with logic.

1. As long as the exact shampoo & conditioner formulas are not used in some other line, they are unique. Thus, the claim is validated.

2. This claim is a little questionable as the term “weightless” implies they have no mass. However, the company could support this by weighing hair before use, then after use and as long as there is no significant difference, the claim is verified.

3. “Replenish” is practically a meaningless word so the company has lots of leway in defining it. As long as they can prove something is left behind (e.g. silicone, cationic polymer) then they could support this claim.

4. Preventing split ends can be supported by counting the number of split ends caused by combing (robotic comb). They can compare it to treated versus untreated hair. If there are less split ends on treated hair, the claim is supported.

5. “Repairing damage” is a tricky claim to support, but “helping to repair damage” is much easier. By pointing to the moisturizing ingredients and the improvement in combing as proof, the company can support the claim of helping to repair damage.

6. These are just fluff claims but the company could use an instron or diastron or some other hair device to demonstrate “bounciness.” As long as they compare it to some untreated control, they wouldn’t have a problem doing better.

7. Strengthen hair is a tricky claim but companies have used robotic combs to demonstrate that there is less breaking when combing through treated hair. The hair isn’t actually stronger but it breaks less so TV and other media have accepted the argument.

8. Supported with the same test that supports claim #7

9. This is a vague claim but they could support it by washing colored hair with the system and demonstrating that it hasn’t significantly changed.

Getting good at claims

It is a good practice for cosmetic formulators to look at the claims of their competitors and figure out how they are supporting them. You can usually figure them out using logic but it certainly helps to be well-versed in the types of tests that are typically run to support claims.

You’ll learn this with experience or you can ask your suppliers how they support claims. An excellent source for learning how companies support the claims that they make are in patents. Pantene has a patent on both their shampoo and conditioner. Just look up the number and read through the description of their claims. They spell out how they support many of the claims they advertise.

Do you have a method for figuring out how competitor’s claims are supported? Leave a comment below.

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How do you know if a cosmetic raw material works?

I saw a science article that indicated in a mouse study that a compound in apple peals (ursolic acid) was good for helping build muscles. After I “tweeted” this fact, one of my followers responded that Uroslic Acid was also good for skin care. She even included a link to research published in the Archives of Dermatological Research.

According to the abstract skin wrinkling and xerosis associated with aging is a result of a reduction in collagen and ceramide content. In their study, they found Uroslic Acid was able to increase both ceramide and collagen production. So, it logically follows that this might make a good topical skin application. In fact, a raw material marketing department would seize on this research and start selling the promises right away.

Unfortunately, they would be jumping the gun.

There are two things that strike me about this study and raise red flags about the viability of this raw material. First, the study was done on cultured normal human dermal fibroblasts, or more simply, cultured human skin. This is decidedly different than actual human skin. Sure the cells might be the same but the structure of the thing is completely different. Just because a raw material is shown to do something in the lab doesn’t mean that it will work on a real person or when delivered from a real cosmetic.

Just because a raw material is shown to do something in the lab doesn’t mean that it will work on a real person or when delivered from a real cosmetic.

The second thing is that the study was published in 2002. That was over 9 years ago! If Ursolic Acid had the ability to increase ceramide and collagen production in skin, why hasn’t any more work been done to demonstrate an effect when applied topically to human skin?

To be fair, I did read that Ursolic Acid is currently going through clinical trials to see whether it works as an antiwrinkle ingredient. No results are published yet.

However, it seems to me that it would be a remarkably simple test for some cosmetic company to have already done. This would suggest to me that someone has already done it and were not able to get any results that were worth publishing or even launching a product around.

This view may be a bit skeptical but “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

How do you know?

This brings us to the question of how a cosmetic chemist can know whether the raw material that your supplier is bringing you really does the things it claims. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Be skeptical but open minded. It’s hard to make something new. That is why there are so few new things. The raw material you are being presented probably doesn’t work as claimed. It is an easy matter to give only the evidence that supports your case when you are trying to sell something. Of course, you don’t want to filter out too much. If you can easily test a raw material for its claims, you should do it.

2. Get independent testing. While the testing of a supplier is a good start, you should never rely on supplier testing to prove a claim. They have an incentive to find information that supports the product they are selling. I’m not suggesting they make up data. However, they certainly aren’t going to show you negative data. I like independent data generated in-house.

3. Do blind testing. The first rule of science is to not fool yourself and you are the easiest person in the world to fool. If you don’t want to believe in a raw material, you’ll find data to support that belief. Conversely, if you want to believe in a raw material, you’ll find data to support that. This doesn’t lead you to the truth. When evaluating a raw material for a claim, you should do a double blind study. To do this, it helps to have a technician who can label all the samples, do all the testing and give you the data for analysis.

As a cosmetic chemist, you are going to be inundated with information from suppliers demonstrating that their new raw material is the most excellent thing since sliced bread. Use a little skepticism and testing to ensure that what they say is true.

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Is there really such thing as a cosmetic?

According to the FDA statute first written in 1938, cosmetics are products used for beautification and enhancement of the appearance of skin or hair. By law they must not affect the structure and function of skin. Products that do are considered drugs in the United States and fall under much more stringent regulations.

With a multi-year and hundreds of millions of dollars registration process, it’s no wonder cosmetic companies avoid saying that their products have an affect on the structure and function of skin. But is this true?

Not according to the famous dermatologist Albert Kligman. He stated in an article published in C&T in 1993 that

The truth is that all topical substances, whether as simple as water or as complex as multi-ingredient moisturizers, inevitably will affect the structure and function of skin. No topical is completely inert.

Recently I had been investigating a claim that the level of skin cell growth is affected by the amount of moisture in the outer layers of the skin. If this were true, any moisturizer should be legally considered a drug under US law. Indeed, I discovered that this was the case. This means that ANY skin product you make is actually a drug. Technically, there are no cosmetics. At least skin products. I suppose you could apply a hair product that does not interact with skin.

So what can the cosmetic industry do about it?

I don’t know. It seems better regulations need to be written to encompass the science that has been discovered science the original Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was written some 80+ years ago. Companies need better guidelines to reflect the range of biological impact that various compounds can have on the body. As it stands, all cosmetic companies are at risk of having their US skin products recalled as illegal drugs. This won’t likely happen but it could.

Unfortunately, I doubt anything will be done about this situation in the near future. After all, this is an agency that has taken over 30 years to publish a sunscreen monograph. The FDA is underfunded and really has better things to do with their resources. Fortunately cosmetics have been safely produced and used for years so there isn’t much impetus to change things.

What do you think the difference is between a cosmetic and a drug? Leave your comments below.

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Thickening Agents for Cosmetic Formulations

One of the requirements of most cosmetic products is that they have an appealing rheology. This means that you as a cosmetic formulator you are going to have to figure out a way to control the viscosity (or thickness) of your products. There are a number of ingredients that are used for this purpose. Each kind has applications to different formulation types. Here is a basic introduction.

Lipid Thickeners

Lipid thickeners are primarily composed of lipophillic materials. They work by imparting their natural thickness to the formula. Typically, these materials are solids at room temperature but are liquified via heat and incorporated into emulsions. They are used most often in creams and lotions. Some common types include Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Carnauba Wax, and Stearic acid.

Naturally derived thickeners

Various thickeners are found in nature or are derivatives of natural thickeners. These ingredients are polymers that work by absorbing water to swell up and increase viscosity. Cellulose derivatives like Hydroxyethylcellulose are frequently used in liquid cleansing products such as shampoo or body wash. Guar gum is another example of a naturally derived thickener. Others include Locust Bean Gum, Xanthan Gum, and Gelatin. These thickeners can be used in any formula that contains a high level of water. Unfortunately, they can be inconsistent, cause clear formulas to become cloudy, and feel sticky on skin.

Mineral thickeners

Mineral thickeners are naturally occurring, mined ingredients that can absorb water or oils and boost viscosity. They give a different kind of viscosity than the natural gums. Materials include Silica, Bentonite, and Magnesium Aluminum Silicate. These thickeners can be used to thicken oils as well as water based formulations.

Synthetic thickeners

Perhaps the most versatile of all thickeners are the synthetic molecules. Carbomer is the most common example. It is a water-swellable acrylic acid polymer that can be used to form crystal clear gels. They have a desirable feel which makes them superior to other thickening agents that leave a sticky feel. Carbomer thickeners also have the ability to suspend materials in solution so you can have low viscosity formulas with large particles suspended. These thickeners also help to stabilize emulsions and are frequently used in lotion and cream products.

Ionic thickening

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most common thickeners for surfactant solutions. Simply adding Salt (NaCl) you can get an anionic surfactant solution to become thicker. In fact, salt is frequently used as an adjusting agent during production.  In a future article, we’ll discuss the salt curve and what it means for rheology.

What is your favorite cosmetic thickening agent? Leave a comment below.

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5 Reasons There are not Better Cosmetic Raw Materials

It seems every year one of the big cosmetic raw material companies introduce a new ingredient that will “revolutionize” the cosmetic industry. But in the last 20 years, I can’t name a single ingredient that actually has changed things significantly. In fact, with only a few exceptions, cosmetics and personal care products haven’t changed much in the last 20 years at all.

This got me wondering…why?

Here are 5 reasons

1 – Wrong focus

Cosmetic raw material companies focus on solving the problems of cosmetic chemists. They don’t focus on solving the problems of consumers. There is a disconnect here. Consumers do not care about new emulsifiers, new thickening systems, or new delivery systems. They care about the end results. If you don’t change the end performance of the product, you haven’t really made a new product that a consumer will care about.

This reminds me of the same problem amateur magicians face. Good magicians know innumerable ways to have someone pick a card, make it disappear and make it reappear somewhere else. But while the way they do it might be different to the person being entertained it is exactly the same trick. People don’t care how the trick is done. They just like the trick. Similarly, people don’t care how their cosmetics are made, they just care about how the product performs.

2 – Money

Raw material suppliers do not like to speculate. No business really does. They only want to make raw materials that are going to sell and for the biggest companies, they want materials that are going to sell in really big quantities. This means they do not look at the most novel ingredients. They look at things that are already selling and try to make minor improvements on them. It’s a good strategy but one with little chance of leading to breakthrough ingredients.

3 – Resistance to change

This is related to money. Since it costs lots of money to build chemical factories, companies are more inclined to produce materials similar to what they already have. They do not want to invest in new reactors or safety measures if they don’t have to. So, unless someone can prove that an ingredient is going to work and going to get widespread acceptance, chemical companies will not invest the money required to make the new ingredient. It’s easier to just take the equipment they already have and make only ingredients that work with their current equipment.

4 – Regulatory problems

Perhaps one of the biggest impediments to the creation of new, novel cosmetic ingredients is the regulatory climate. It costs lots of money (>$100,000) to do all the testing required to register a new raw material. Gone are the days when a chemist could synthesize a material in the lab, test it out on hair tresses, and launch to the waiting cosmetic chemists. Now, companies have to register, do certification testing, safety testing, have market research data, and be able to provide claims support to finished goods manufacturers. It’s little wonder why new materials aren’t launched.

5 – Animal testing

A related problem is that of animal testing. New raw materials require animal testing. With so many companies in the cosmetic industry against animal testing (and governments against it too) there is pressure against introducing anything new. Companies like L’Oreal or P&G who use new raw material are frequently bashed by consumer groups or other marketers for supporting cruelty to animals. It’s not fair and these companies mostly brush it off however, raw material suppliers have to consider the stigma of animal testing whenever they launch something new.

What needs to change?

There is still lots of room for improvements in cosmetic raw materials, particularly in the areas of polymers and silicones. Unfortunately, established chemical companies are disinclined to take the risks and small chemical companies will be hampered by legislation and the incredible cost of introducing a new raw material to make any significant improvements.

Don’t look to the chemical companies for the significant new raw materials. Instead, look to Universities and people studying the field of Biomimicry. That’s our best hope for truly innovative ingredients.

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How can a cosmetic chemist remain a scientist?

The other day I stumbled on this story about a group of scientists questioning the need for people to take Vitamin D supplements. These independent researchers from the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) reviewed over 1000 publications and determined that there is no evidence that people should take Vitamin D supplements.

Skeptical Scientist

Being a skeptic of most vitamin supplements, it was easy for me to accept their conclusions. After I tweeted the story, one of our followers shot back…

“Please go to the Vitamin D Council website and do more research. Vitamin D supplementation is needed by most Americans.”

But although I am a skeptic, I’m always interested to see information that would change my mind. You see I hold no beliefs that couldn’t be changed with enough evidence.

So I went to the Vitamin D Council website and looked at what they had to say. They put out a press release that essentially concluded the FNB was wrong and that …
“Today, the FNB has failed millions of pregnant women whose as yet unborn babies will pay the price. ”

Who do you believe?

That leaves us with a choice. Do we believe the independent science board or the Vitamin D council who states on their About Page that they are “…a group of concerned citizens and scientists who believe many humans are needlessly suffering and dying from Vitamin D Deficiency”?

I have to say, the FNB seems the more reasonable choice to me. Independent scientists should always be trusted over biased groups.

Just consider this. Could a group that is dedicated to the belief that Vitamin D deficiency is causing problems ever accept research that concludes otherwise? I don’t think so.

On being a scientist

So what does this have to do with being a cosmetic chemist? There are a few lessons you can take.

Never start with a belief

When you begin with a conclusion, it is nearly impossible to accept evidence that conflicts with your belief. Creating hypotheses and guesses about what is true is a key activity to be a good scientist. However, even more important is to find out what is actually true. Making good guesses is not the mark of a good scientists. Discovering truth is.

Always question your own beliefs

You’re going to create formulas and if you’re passionate about them, you might even love them. But remember that you are not the customer. Just because something appeals to you does not mean that it will automatically appeal to someone else. Test your formulas on a blinded basis against other formulas with consumers or panelists. When it comes to matters of taste, you must trust what those panelists tell you over your own opinions.

Be skeptical of research from non-independent groups

No doubt your suppliers will come to you with studies that show how their new raw materials performs great. It makes sense. They want to sell their product. However, you want the best product so you should never take information from a supplier or non-independent testing house as the final word on a technology. Think about this…would they ever show you test results that weren’t going to show their ingredient in the best possible light? No. There is an inherent positive bias to all research from suppliers. This is not to say that they rig the tests. It just means that you must test everything yourself.

Industry Chemists

Being a scientist in industry can sometimes be difficult because instead of seeking the truth on all subjects, you are often seeking evidence that will support what you (or your company) wants to believe. Don’t fall into the trap that affects the people at the Vitamin D Council and heed the words of Richard Feynman.
“Science is about not fooling yourself and you’re the easiest person to fool”

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