Let’s be clear: less harmful is not the same as safe. There are no established test methods for determining if a product is “reef safe”. I’m not even aware of any good models which would avoid testing on live coral to establish such a claim. The safest thing for reefs is for all of us to steer clear. Otherwise we’ll be rushing to replace one problem with another. In the meantime, is it so bad to take out a few dubious actives and additives? Maybe if we had a rich palette of actives to choose from, but things are sparse and going from bad to worse all the time. Lives are at stake here.


This caught my eye. I’m not going to say Mr Chave is wrong; in fact I agree with most of what he says. But I don’t think that a shrinking palette of ingredients is inherently bad. The important thing is that the available ingredients effectively serve the function they’re marketed for. With the exception of preservatives and sunscreen actives in the US, the palette of ingredients available to formulators is greater than ever.

Can limited ingredients and a lack of fact-based regulation threaten the beauty industry?


I think the biggest threat to this industry is the decline of brand R&D. I see many companies cutting back on R&D to the point that chemists have little to no time to devote to bench work. So where does the responsibility of product ideation and development fall? On raw material suppliers who have a vested interest in promoting their products and their products alone. That doesn’t sound like a win for anyone.


“Free from” claims have been around since the dawn of time. I remember when “PABA Free” was all the range (and evidently still gets some mileage: https://www.babypibu.com/product/baby-sunscreen-spf-30/). That sunscreen also gets some extra side eye for the “chemical-free” claim, which we can probably all agree is nonsense. But we know what they mean, right? They meant that there are no organic UV filters, totally the same thing, no? I guess at some point the claims become so meaningless that you just ignore them and move on.

Like the first sentence of this post.

But you know what really grinds my gears? When the claim is based not in puffery but ignorance. You know what do don’t ever get to say? You never get to say that your product with ginkgo biloba¬† is “toxin-free”.¬†https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginkgotoxin I mean, look, there it is, right in the name…

We all want to help the environment, especially fragile coral reefs, but Hawaii has put their residents at increased risk of the most common form of cancer in the US. Hawaiian residents already suffer from melanoma at 30% higher rate than the national average. Compounded with the already limited number of active ingredients available for use, this is not going to be good for people, even if it’s marginally better for the coral.

Mineral sunscreens are typically formulated for consumer acceptance within the demographic their brands serve: natural product users. Average beach-goers are typically turned off by the whitening and heaviness of those formulations. Also, mineral sunscreens are rarely optimized for efficacy and stability; most of the products I’ve surveyed from the market are “good enough”. But perhaps this is the impetus needed to finally bring those products from “good enough” to “great”. If that’s the case, then we’ll start seeing some clear winners, instead of a questionable winner (coral reefs) and a clear loser (at-risk consumers).






You know what? I’m not even mad. But if you’re going to do that, you’d better

  1. Check every incoming raw material at the door
  2. Have strict sanitation, equipment cleanout, and sterilization procedures
  3. Run expanded PET testing to include common contaminants beyond the 5 USP <51> species
  4. Use packaging which will minimize opportunity for contamination
  5. Test every lot before it goes out the door
  6. Spot test product in commerce

Anything less and you’re asking for trouble. Chemophobia should not trump public safety.

I’ve been around the world and now I’m back to posting here. I’m not sure if I’ll keep the old format or not. Also, there’s another guy out there calling himself “The Soapy Guy” and I’m not sure what to do about that either.

Since I left without warning I’ve gotten a new job and a couple new titles there. I’ve moved and am planning to move again. I’m more involved in the industry than ever and still amazed on a daily basis. So what’s been going on in your world?

Classic. I once had a customer ask me if they could replace cetearyl alcohol in a hair conditioner with ethanol, because that’s what they had on hand.