Science Behind Beauty Event


Ana Filipa’s report from the SCS and CTPA’s Science Behind Beauty Event

On the past 12th May the SCS and CTPA co-hosted an interactive evening that brought together industry and media professionals to promote networking and to bring to life the science behind cosmetics.

Dr Chris Flower (Director-General, CTPA) welcomed us to the event that took place at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

He was followed by Dr Emma Meredith (Director of Science, CTPA and SCS President) who talked briefly about cosmetics legislation and how it ensures cosmetic´s safety – No matter where in the world a product is bought, it is covered by legislation and it must be safe. She told us how beauty products may be classified either as cosmetic or pharmaceutical, demystifying the concept of “cosmeceuticals” as there is no such category. With regards to ingredients, in theory, any ingredient can be used as long as it is safe, not banned or restricted, but it is the manufacturer´s responsibility to ensure that the substances combined in the final product is safe. She finished her presentation by recommending people to visit the CTPA’s website for updated scientific information about cosmetics.

Steve Barton’s (Director, Skin Thinking) lecture was focused on “The skin, the ingredients, the products and their claims”. He started by telling us about the role of science and research to ensure cosmetics safety and efficacy. He gave us a brief explanation of the skin´s structure and how sensorial, physical and physiological factors affect our perception of the cosmetic products we use. Cosmetics have to be pleasant to use and the industry puts a lot of effort in knowing what the consumer want but, ultimately, it is science that is behind the research and development of these products. Another aspect covered by this presentation was claim substantiation, how important it is from a legislative and commercial perspective and how science plays a crucial part in proofing it.

Sam Farmer (Brand owner, Sam Farmer) followed on telling us about his adventurous journey through the cosmetics world – “Concept to final formula – selling sound science”. He told us how it all started with the idea of creating a suitable deodorant for his teenage daughter and how he went on to study the SCS distance learning diploma on Cosmetic Science, so he would really understand the products he created. He gave us an insight into the research and development process of a product, from concept to launch, and his biggest challenges. He told us about the importance of choosing safe and effective ingredients when developing new products. He talked about the detrimental effects of misinformation and shared his personal experience regarding consumers’ concerns based on inaccurate information they have read or heard about specific ingredients and how it impacts their product choices.

The last lecturer of the evening was Dr Barbara Hall (Director, Sureconsult Ltd), a toxicologist that told us about “Chemicals, Cosmetics and Misconceptions”. She launched the question “How do we stay alive in a toxic world? She clarified the concepts of poison – being poisonous is not a characteristic itself, it is dependent on the dose – , hazard – an intrinsic and permanent capacity of a substance to cause harm – and risk – that varies with exposure – , so often confused and misunderstood. An example that clearly illustrates the difference between hazard and risk is furfural, present in freshly baked bread: A sensationalist media headline would state that Eating Bread Kills you as this liver toxin and carcinogen can be found in bread; however, an accurate risk headline would state that consuming more than 80,000 slices of bread at once would increase the risk of cancer in rodents.

The consumer´s relationship with cosmetics – daily, intimate, life-long and multiple – is unique and, to be successful, these products must not only smell, look and feel good but there is also the need of safety assessments through their full life-cycle. She also demystified the commonly spread idea that chemicals are dangerous and naturals are safe, as every substance – natural or synthetic – is a chemical and any of them can be potentially harmful, depending on the dose and level of exposure.She demystified the theory that states that we should avoid preservatives, as these are essential to maintain cosmetic products free from contamination. The widely spread, although wrong, idea that parabens are dangerous and should be avoided is one of the most flagrant examples of bad science and misinformation.

The lecture ended with the answer to the opening question: The secret of our survival in a world full of toxins relies on the fact that risk is related to exposure. Although risk is never zero, for most of us, the exposure to these toxics is never high enough to make them poisons. Also, our bodies are powerful detoxifying machines, with our liver playing a crucial part in the complex chemical transformations that minimise our risk of exposure to harmful substances.

The evening ended with an open space for Q&A to the panel, that emphasised the need to identify the sources of widely spread misinformation and bad science and understand how journalists and scientists can work together to demystify erroneous theories andbring to public the science behind beauty.