Daily Archives

  • How to be convincing

    When I participate in discussions about cosmetic ingredients, I’m usually disappointed in the quality of arguments people put forth in support of their positions. It is especially disappointing when I know the person genuinely believes their position and wants to make a difference. While it may seem that I’m stubborn and unswayed by arguments, the opposite is true. It’s EASY to convince me. And it should be easy to convince any rational, science-driven person. You just need to make a scientific argument. Here are some tips.

    Clearly & specifically state your position

    If you want to convince someone, make your argument easy to understand. If people are confused by what you are saying they won’t easily accept it. Also, make your argument specific. Specific things are provable. General statements are much more difficult. For example, your argument shouldn’t be “cosmetics are causing cancer.” It has to be more specific. What type of cosmetic? What type of cancer? Any position is fine to take. However, to be convincing you need to go the next step and find supporting evidence.

    Find good supporting evidence

    Finding evidence to support your beliefs is not hard. Since anyone can write anything about anything on the Internet, a quick Google search will likely turn up a blog post (or many) that support exactly what you want to say. Unfortunately, this is not “good” evidence. Finding good evidence to support a position is difficult.

    Here is what counts as good evidence:
    ++ Peer reviewed studies published in journals
    ++ Review papers that examine multiple peer reviewed studies

    Less good, but still reasonable
    + Position papers by organizations in the field of interest
    + Consensus opinion of experts in the field
    +/- Opinions from experts in the field

    Practically worthless
    – Personal experiments (might be useful for yourself, not useful for a general claim)
    – Anecdotal evidence
    – Emotional appeals
    – Social media evidence
    – Pictures
    – Evidence from people who financially benefit from a position being true
    – Opinions from non-experts on the topic
    – Opinions from belief-motivated groups
    – Logical fallacies

    Find evidence why your position is wrong

    Most people are so focused on proving themselves right they ignore anything that might prove them wrong. This is a huge mistake. Your objective should not be proving yourself right. The objective should be to discover what is true. Truth is more important than being right.

    Don’t fall in love with your own ideas. Always keep an open mind and adjust your thinking based on new evidence.

    Seeking out disconfirming evidence can only strengthen your argument. If what you believe is true, then you’ll be prepared to refute any argument against you. This will make you much more convincing. And if you find something that makes you doubt your position, at least you know you need to change your position.

    You should ALWAYS be able to answer the question, what evidence would convince me that my position is mistaken? If there is nothing that will change your mind, your position is an irrational belief, no better than an opinion. Being irrational does not mean it isn’t true, but irrational beliefs are not convincing.

    Be tactful in arguing

    After you’ve looked at all the evidence for and against your position, go out and try to convince people. Present your argument, back it up with evidence and see what they say. Take their feedback and refute it with evidence, or change your views based on new ideas.

    Ask what information they would need to convince them. If there is nothing, you are wasting your time. It’s practically impossible to change the irrational mind. But if they give you an answer, find the evidence they need (if it exists).

    Illustrate your point

    If you are convinced that you are right and you want some type of policy or practice implemented, find a way to illustrate what the world would look like if that happened. If you believe people are becoming more and more sensitized to a chemical, be able to describe what the world would look like if that chemical was banned. Who benefits and how? Who is hurt & how are they compensated for the better world?

    A few other tips:

    Don’t call people names
    Don’t criticize
    Don’t be condescending
    Be humble – Especially if you are not an expert in the subject
    Don’t view the other person as an opponent – Assume you both want to get to the truth
    Look for areas of agreement
    Know when to give up – Sometimes you just won’t convince people

    Have a purpose

    If you are concerned about the safety of cosmetic products then you’ll want to convert as many people as you can to your way of thinking. The best way to do this is to follow a logical, science-based argument that is supported by evidence. Emotional arguments may convert some people, but these are not usually the people in charge of regulatory bodies like the FDA or the EU Commission.

    If you really want to change the world, be sure you have developed an argument that can do that. Get scientists on your side and you’ll have a real shot at making an actual difference. Otherwise, you’ll just be dismissed as another scaremonger who knowledgable people will ignore.

  • Basic cosmetic chemistry course

    When you study chemistry in college, they don’t spend much time teaching you what to do with your degree after you get out. In reality, you learn basic chemistry and some advance concepts in the subject, but you don’t learn practical information that you’ll use on a day-to-day basis on a job. That’s one of the reasons we created Chemists Corner.

    We do offer a more advanced course if you are interested in a formulating cosmetics course. But in this post, I’m going to give you a primer or a basic cosmetic chemistry course that will get you up to speed and bridge the gap between college and the cosmetic industry.

    Six Areas of Focus for Cosmetic Formulating

    There are really six main areas you need to know to have a good basic understanding of cosmetic chemistry.

    • Setting up your cosmetic lab
    • Choosing a target product to emulate
    • Getting a starting formula
    • Finding and identifying cosmetic raw materials
    • Making prototypes
    • Testing and refining those prototypes

    Setting up a cosmetic lab

    When you are hired as a cosmetic chemist out of college you typically start in a lab that is already equipped with all the things you’ll need to make cosmetic products. This is one of the big advantages of working for a sizable company right out of college.

    But if you’re hired on with a startup, small company, or consultant service you might not be as well-equipped. This is also true if you want to start your own cosmetic line or make products at a lab you set up at home. So, you may need to purchase equipment to get your lab set up to do the work of a cosmetic formulator. Here is the basic equipment you’ll need.

    Weighing equipment
    Heating & Cooling equipment
    Lab supplies
    Testing equipment

    You can find more detail about this equipment in our series on setting up a cosmetic lab.

    Choosing a cosmetic product to emulate

    Whenever you start a new project it is a great idea that you find an existing formula that will serve as a benchmark for your formulation efforts. Typically, your marketing person will propose a benchmark for you but you should also have your own benchmark that you try to outperform. Here are some guidelines on picking a cosmetic product benchmark and using it to guide formulation. benchmarking

    What is benchmarking
    Before picking a benchmark it’s helpful to know what it is. A benchmark is an existing formula that has many of the same characteristics that you want in your future formulation. It doesn’t have to be exactly what you are trying to create, but it should give you a target for your formulation to meet or exceed. This is the product you want to emulate. Incidentally, if you’re working with a cosmetic formulator, giving them a benchmark is the best way to ensure you get the formula made the way you want.

    Factors in picking a benchmark
    There are a number of things to consider when picking a benchmark but the most important things include.

    1. Performance – The best benchmark is the one that performs the best and you should look at the market to find this. To find the best performing benchmark you should get samples of all the competitive products you can find and run them through a series of lab / consumer tests to figure out which is best. When I was working on hair care products, the Pantene formula consistently scored highest on both our lab and consumer tests. It’s important to note that these were blinded tests so as to not bias the results. When you are trying to identify the best performing product in your category, always do blinded testing.

    2. Aesthetics – For some products, the performance is not equivalent to the aesthetics. For example, a body wash could perform great on a foam test but preform terribly on a consumer evaluation. Therefore, you should also find a benchmark that is aesthetically the strongest product on the market.

    3. Market Popularity – While the best selling product is not necessarily the best performing product, you still want to make sure that your new formulation performs as well as the most popular product. No matter what, you should always be sure you compare favorable to the market leader. Use market data to find out which is the market leader. If you don’t have access to that, go to your local store and see which of the products they stock the most of.

    Using a benchmark
    Once you’ve picked your benchmark you need to come up with a battery of tests to quantify how well it performs. This will be highly dependent on the type of product it is but it should include a mix of lab tests and panel tests. You should use the product yourself too to get a good sense of how it performs. Be sure to conduct blinded tests so you can’t easily pick the samples. And also repeat tests multiple times to see if you get consistent results.

    Benchmarks are a great way to help guide your formulations and also show data to your bosses that the formula you created is every bit as good as the competition. You should use a benchmark for every product you formulate.

    Finding a starting formula

    Creating new cosmetics is what cosmetic formulators are hired to do. But if you’re new to the cosmetic industry or have concentrated on one specific area, you probably haven’t had the chance to formulate many different types of cosmetics. So, what do you do when you’re asked to create a formula that you’ve never made before? You find a good starting formula.

    While you could just start from scratch combining cosmetic raw materials in different proportions to see what you get, this isn’t the best way. The best way is to find a starting formula that someone else has previously created. Then, you can modify that to meet your specific needs.

    Unfortunately, if you don’t know where to look, finding starting formulas isn’t easy. But here are a few sources that you can check.

    Chemical Suppliers
    One of the most helpful things the raw material suppliers do is create starting formulas. Of course, these formulas are usually packed with high amounts of the supplier’s ingredients but they are an excellent place to start. A couple suppliers who have good starting formulas are Croda & Stepan. For home crafters, MakingCosmetics.com has some good starting formulas.

    The big cosmetic companies love to patent as many formulas as they can. This prevents other people from duplicating their formulas. Fortunately, it also requires them to publish (some version) of the formulas they are patenting. This makes them excellent sources for starting formulas. You can search US patents by going to the USPTO.gov website or even better, just search Google Patents. Of course, you have to change the formula if you ever want to launch.

    There are a number of cosmetic science books that include formulas. Even better is that these books give explanations of why they are adding certain ingredients. You can get most of them at a large library or even buy them online. Some of my favorite books for finding formulations include.

    • Harry’s Cosmeticology
    • Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Third Edition
    • Chemistry and Manufacture of Cosmetics: Science 4th edition

    If you can’t afford to purchase the books above you can find preview copies of them online via Google Books. This won’t give you the entire book but it often provides you with the pages that might have formulas for which you might be looking. Just go to Google Books, type in the search term for the formula you want and take a look