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Is Cosmetic Science Really "Bad"? Part IV: How Scientific is Cosmetic Science?
By: Johann W. Wiechers, PhD, JW Solutions
Posted: March 16, 2010
page 3 of 4
To state that the cosmetics industry is consistently abandoning the rules of science to lead to the desired outcome is simply inappropriate. However, the way in which a cosmetic scientist conducts research can be scientifically unsound because the choice is made to not investigate some things (or not report them). Nobody likes to tell the boss that something did not work. Any scientist knows how data can be "massaged" not only in the cosmetic industry but everywhere. All scientists will always aim to portray themselves or their data in the best possible way but they cross the line when they make things up or deny things when asked. I have sufficient evidence of the cosmetics industry not telling the other side of the coin but no evidence whatsoever of consistently abandoning the rules of science to lead to the desired outcome.
The latter relates more to the eighth question of the Baloney Detection Kit, which asks: “Has the claimant provided a different explanation for the observed phenomena, or is it strictly a process of denying the existing explanation?” Since cosmetic scientists are all confirmation-biased to some extent, this is an area where they can easily go wrong. Especially because cosmetic science is a commercial science. Why? Academic science is conducted to find out how things work and to test or deny a hypothesis, whereas commercial science is conducted to find reasons for selling a product, mostly to discover how good a thing is relative to nothing or benchmarks. A large portion of the cosmetics industry is conducting science to sell products and not to explain things. Therefore, cosmetic science is often comparative science (how good is my product or my ingredient doing relative towards my competitor’s product or ingredient?) instead of explanatory science (how does my product work?).
Manufacturers are selling action and not mechanisms of action. Ingredient suppliers are selling mechanisms of action as they are part of the marketing concept. Ingredient suppliers, therefore, offer more explanation than the manufacturing industry. So again, the cosmetics industry is doing OK here. Not better than the rest of the industry but simply in line with the rest because cosmetic scientists normally do not offer explanations as to how their products work,
Sometimes, it is even the reverse. Cosmetic scientists offer the explanation (currently by using genomics and proteomics) without offering the observed phenomena. They then sell the explanation based on in vitro evidence of up- and down-regulation of various enzyme systems without providing the in vivo evidence for the efficacy of the product. Reasons given include the fact that biopsies need to be taken on the face, which is not ethically acceptable. That does limit the commercial value of the product but it does not devalue the cosmetic science of such products.
Occasionally the denial of an existing explanation occurs in cosmetic science. An old-fashioned hygrometer consists of a hair from the tail of a horse fixed in a spring mechanism. Based on the water uptake from the environment, the length of the hair will vary, which indicates the ambient relative humidity on a scale. If a hygrometer works based on the water uptake of a hair from the environment, why would the cosmetic scientist need a concept like hair moisturization? Hair is supposed to change with its environment, not resist it. If the cosmetic scientist uses hair in hygrometers to measure the relative humidity, why would hair have systems to retain water? This does not take away the fact that hair in a dry environment is brittle and that one would like to do something about it.
Cosmetic Science Exposed, Wiechers' Style
Memories of a Cosmetically Disturbed Mind is a timely manifesto of what our industry is meant to represent. Whether you agree or disagree with Johann Wiechers' views on the state of the global cosmetic industry, this book will blow your scientific mind! Johann is no longer here with us, but he left us much to think about.Order Today at Alluredbooks-Cosmetic Science