Build a solid foundation in science, formulation and product development—find out more!
Most Popular in:
Is Cosmetic Science Really "Bad"? Part V: Who do you think you are fooling?
By: Johann W. Wiechers, PhD, JW Solutions
Posted: May 7, 2010
Editor's note: The viewpoints expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Allured Business Media. Join in the debate over this topic on Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine's discussion group and tell us what you think.
This last column in a series of five debating whether cosmetic science is "bad" is accompanied with a health warning: Readers who got only slightly upset with previous episodes definitely will be upset this time. Stop reading if you think cosmetic science is top of the class in life sciences and if you think it is perfectly okay to fool customers. Because this column is about you. Readers who care about cosmetic science should continue reading, although they might feel they are fighting a lonely battle.
In previous episodes of this series (see Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV), I applied Michael Shermer's Baloney Detection Kit to cosmetic science. Within this kit there are ten questions to address and eight of them previously have been discussed. The feedback was strong, especially when I mentioned that each cosmetic chemist is accountable for how our industry is perceived by the public at large. It was the same reaction, again and again: "Yes, things are not optimal but the fault is not mine, it's someone else's." My response to this is: Who do you think you are fooling? There is nothing left to do but to continue to to the last two questions.
The ninth question is: If the claimant has proffered a new explanation, does it account for as many phenomena as the old explanation? This question was included to differentiate between real science and non-science, such as Ufology or 9/11 conspiracy theories. Evidence that there was something else in the air that night—say volcanic ashes to commiserate all those international visitors that were stuck in Europe after In-Cosmetics earlier this month—or videotapes of men plotting crimes are simply ignored because they do not fit the preferred theory. But is this really done in cosmetic science?
How many theories are actually proffered in the first place in cosmetic science? In this series, I have already noted that cosmetic science is a descriptive science rather than an explanatory science. To put it bluntly, cosmetic science is nothing more than a long series of case studies where scientists observe and report. Cosmetic scientists do not explain their data. The few explanations that are given are theories borrowed from adjacent fields of science such as dermatology, molecular biology, psychology and sensory science, to name a few.