Cosmetic Chemists - Are we Scientists or Marketers?

We just recently started posting things on Instagram. (Be sure to follow us there if you like). And in going through Instagram seeing the sheer amount of BS out there is troubling. In the old days you could expect beauty brands to be peddling an exaggerate marketing story. You also expected it from raw material suppliers. We all knew to take what they said with a grain of salt.

But it seems like something has changed.

Now, social media is flooded with dubious information about the “science” of ingredients and beauty products. No longer is it just brands or people with a financial stake in getting you to believe what they are selling. Now, there are social media influences and bloggers who help spread this shaky science. Myths get propagated and a whole new generation of misinformants dominate the internet.

And this wouldn’t be so bad but what is most troubling is that new and old chemists alike are falling for marketing stories.

Driven by marketing

There is no doubt the cosmetic industry is driven by Marketing. In an industry where the technology hasn’t changed much in decades, it’s not surprising that marketing stories are all that’s left to pass for innovation.

Unfortunately, the marketing stories have infiltrated our industry beyond the messages going out to consumers. These days you see it in magazines, scientific journals, normally reliable online publications and of course, on social media. If you are not a suitably skeptical cosmetic chemist, you might get fooled by marketing too.

Being better

What prompted this post is a twitter or instagram post I saw by one of our SCC chapters. Who it is doesn’t matter much but it was a post all about the great benefits of Green Tea extract.  Now, I have nothing against green tea extracts. In fact, I like to drink green tea. But do we have to celebrate an ingredient that is literally only added to formulas as a cosmetic claims ingredient? All the benefits of features talked about in the post are just marketing fairy tales. This ingredient is not having a real impact on anyone who uses the formula.

  • Is green tea a potent antioxidant? Maybe but you’re not going to use it in place of BHT.
  • Does green tea contain catechins, tannins, and caffeine? Sure, but so what? There’s no benefit to having these things in your formula.
  • Does green tea reduce sebum production? No. Not in any consumer noticeable way anyway.
  • Does it sooth & reduce redness, alleviate puffiness and inflammation and protect skin from free radicals?  No, no, no.

Just because something can be shown in a petri dish in the lab doesn’t mean that translates into a real life benefit for a cosmetic product.

Green tea in your formula is not going to do anything. It’s a pixie dust ingredient that supports the marketing story. That’s it.

Who will stand up for truth?

Now, I don’t really mind this kind of nonsense coming from marketers. This is what we expect. And I don’t mind it coming from consumers or your run-of-the-mill blogger. But do we really need this kind of marketing BS to be coming from our scientific societies?

Are we not scientists?

I know there is pressure to produce content and write something that hasn’t been done already. But we should never let the need for publishing something be an excuse for propagating marketing stories over what the science can support.

Stay skeptical my friends!


Got a comment? Post it in our cosmetic science forum.

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How to Become a Cosmetic Chemist

The job of a cosmetic chemist, or as they call it in the UK a cosmetic scientist, requires you to do a wide variety of things both in and out of the lab. Your main responsibility will be that of a formulator. This means you mix raw materials together to create cosmetic products like lipstick, nail polish, skin lotions, shampoos, toothpaste and any other type of personal care product.

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