The Tyranny of Ingredients

When I meet make up artists or self confessed beauty addicts, the "serious" ones normally try to establish their high ground by throwing me their knowledge of ingredients.

I find it quite amusing ...  yet so utterly futile!

If only they knew how we get to decide on ingredients, they would have spent their time in more fulfilling endeavors like sorting the trash, organizing their itunes folder or heck, even watching the Phat Gay Kid do some riffing.  (who, btw  i found initially amusing, but has gotten old soon as he started to think he can actually make money from his "talent")

Ingredients can be classified into 2 components-
  1. base ingredients - those that determine how the texture will behave (in the "biz", we call this the base texture or plainly, texture)
  2. actives - those are the ingredients added to the base texture and that allow us to claim that it does things or suggest that it can.  Like make your complexion look so radiant that you will bellow with so much self confidence that will give less attention to your saggy ass that will make you attract your very own Mr. Big, that will land you a job in a fashion magazine and make you have a fabulous wardrobe, travel around the world and just f*cking have it all!
What gets to be used in base ingredients will be totally dependent on our lab but they have to respect two things -
first is the Regulations,
second is the product brief which comes from the marketing department.
Regulations define amongst other things, what ingredients are allowed.  And regulations differ from one country to another.  But basically, one country patterns its regulations from 3 known standards as follow-
  1. the FDA standard (United States Food and Drug Administration) - applicable in the US and Latin America, some other parts of the world
  2. the EU standard - applicable in EU, parts of middle east and of recent, most of Asia (except for Japan) has patterned its regulations after this
  3. and the strictest, Japan regulations  (If you wonder, this is one way for Japan to control influx of  foreign competition- by being such pernickety biatches)
You will find for example that your eye products (mascara, eyeshadow, eyeliner) in the US will have less sparkles or that your black nail polish or mascara to be less black than that in Europe.  This is due to the difference of which ingredient each regulation will allow or not.

Anyway, my concern is that so long as our labs comply with all the regulations of countries we are distributing to (which is the lab's problem) -  I only need to be concerned that the texture behaves the way I want it to as stated in the product brief.  For example -  lipstick doesn't drag, is not drying, wears long ... i simplify my requirements for this blog's purpose, but my product briefs are in real life- blue blood bitches.

Oh, as well, the labs additional headache is in making sure the texture is stable.  Have you ever seen a foundation, a nail polish separating into layers?  That is texture being an unstable bitch to you.

So, that covered- as far as base ingredients go, I could not give a shit really.

Now, how actives are decided, it is best to give you here an excerpt of our normal conversations with our lab people:
Moi    :   I want to be able to claim that my lipstick is moisturizing, what do you have?
Lab    :   Well, i can give you Vitamin E or A
Moi    :  I want something plant sounding.
Lab    :   You can cite rather the plant origin like aloe vera
Moi   :   Aloe vera is old news, what else do you have?
Lab    :   Well, the texture can take  Dogwood or Marigold...
Moi    :   I don't  like the "dog" in that name, this Marigold, what is its color?
Lab    :   It's yellow...
Moi   :   Dang! Yellow will not go well with the color of my packaging.  Do you have white marigolds? Oh, wait- i can just take a nice picture of marigold buds, so it doesn't have to be too yellow.  I'm a genius!
Lab   :  BUT If you use aloe vera, then we can put enough percentage there so it is really moisturizing.  With marigold, we can only put in quarter of a lepton - not enough to make your lipstick moisturizing.
Moi   :  But I can say "contains marigold with moisturizing properties"
Lab   :  Yes, but you cannot say "moisturizing lipstick".
Moi   : So you can put both aloe vera and marigold and i can say "Moisturizing lipstick with marigold"?
Lab : Yes.
Moi : How much more will it cost for me to have both?
Lab  : You will just be 1/1000th of a cent over budget.
Moi :  No way!  Just put marigold and i will stick with the claim "contains marigold that has moisturizing properties". 
And (addresses product babymamas)please find me a good story on marigold that the copywriters can wax poetry over and have this as central story in our press communiques to beauty editors, and product review bloggers.  Be sure to have a goodie bag that is marigold inspired.  And remember- picture of just marigold buds- i don't want a yellow campaign.
So, if you would recall talking to me at some point about ingredients and me nodding my head profusely,   you know what I was thinking at that point - sorting the garbage.

Now- let us blue sky this and say, I start really caring about ingredients.  So here I am, Rowena, talking passionately about aloe vera and marigold to the Council of the Clueless...
Council :  "Rowena, will you stop being an amateur, cut through this ingredient bullshit and give us the bottom line.   By how much is this bitch going to make us richer?"
Morale of the story -  if you really are passionate about ingredients, being a chemist might be for you.
But that will be an existence worse than spending eternity in an underground parking as you will have to satisfy the whims of ignoramuses like me in the marketing department who in turn have to deal with even bigger ignoramuses like the Council of the Clueless.

And the Council lives richer ever after.


  1. Love this blog!

    Please have a look at mine its new and needs some comments/criticisms!!!! :)

  2. hey alexandra- lurv your title, the unimpressed one and totally flattered that i managed to endear someone that di caprio wasn't able to. sharing your opinion with leo there!

  3. Hey Rowena!

    This may be an odd question. ..But I was wondering if you knew which Euro brands (or US brands sold in euro) have eyeliners or mascaras **insert shudder after reading your other post** that are "blacker" than the ones in the US? I wouldnt mind getting my hand on some..


    1. Gawd, how could i have missed so many comments?! I kick myself. Well, black is old news. But look out for mascaras that would actually feature the word, er "Black". Because we are geniuses. Heehee!

  4. I love this post! I am actually one of these peeps who always read the ingredients list coz only that way I can tell the bullshit and bit less of bullshit but I must be honest - I only check skincare; makeup is way too complicated (at least for now, I'm willing to learn though;).
    Love the way you write, I could read your blog even if it was about football (yuck!).
    Do you have any experience with skincare btw?

    1. Thank you Marta! Yes, I have experience with skin care- it is bullshit. Heehee!

  5. Ah btw hope you will have a post on "organic". My eyes roll everytime I hear the phrase;)

    I think I was your 500th follower, congratulations!:))

  6. Reading through ingredient's list, reading this post... darn! And that, ladies, is 1on1 basics as to what having good language skills can do for you - haha :)

  7. Fabulous blog.. here I m entertaining myself at workhrs with these reads!..

    1. Haha! Gingerdip, i am giving you more to steal company hours for!

  8. Your blog is awesome and your job sounds fabulous! x


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