Does reading beauty packaging leave you with tons of questions that flashy PR campaigns can’t answer? If so, you’re not alone. Michelle of the beauty and science blog, Lab Muffin, was in the exact same boat. The only difference being that she has the scientific background to help.
After realizing that there were plenty of people as curious about their beauty products as she was, Michelle started digging deep with the launch of Lab Muffin. Her posts, which cover a wide variety of topics, take a deep look at the science of beauty with a smart yet straightforward approach that her readers have come to love. After looking to her study of heat protectants for our article on pg. 44, we knew we wanted to share her story with you.
I’d love to get my readers a little background on your career and education. Could you give us a little background on what you studied and how that relates to the cosmetics industry?
I did a PhD in medicinal chemistry, which has a lot of overlap with skincare – how skincare actives work is really just applied pharmacology.
Have you always been interested in the personal care industry or was it an interest that developed later? When did you start to notice that science based information on beauty products was lacking in the blog world? How did that transition into the launch of Lab Muffin?
I was researching makeup and skincare to buy with my student budget during my PhD, and I came across a lot of pseudo scientific information on the Internet. Being a science nerd, I had to keep investigating, and I didn’t really get any good answers until I hit peer-reviewed articles. I figured that there must’ve been a lot of other people who had similar questions, but didn’t have the necessary background to find and digest the information, so I started my blog! I’ve always really enjoyed teaching, so it was a natural progression.
Tell us a little about how you go about developing each of your posts? Do you decide what to look into based on reader request, personal interest or a little of both? What’s your process and research period like for writing?
Inspiration for blog posts comes from a lot of places – sometimes I’ll see a product while shopping, or a friend or reader will ask me an interesting question, or I’ll come across a topic while researching something else. Most blog posts take a long time to research and write – I’d estimate over four hours of reading and researching, and four hours of writing and editing. Sometimes if I’ve read about a topic before, it takes a bit less time, but I’m pretty fastidious, so I tend to quadruple check everything that goes into a post. For longer posts where I have to analyze the studies, like my post on parabens, it can take weeks to put together. I’m sure I could write faster, but It’s really important for me to have accurate information.
Have here been any topics you’ve covered that you found particularly interesting or surprising?
I used to be really skeptical about thermal water, jar packaging and alcohol in cosmetics, but once I read more about them, I realized they were fine! I’ve also gotten more interested in the non-product side of skincare, like the effects of dietary habits and mental wellbeing. It’s a lot less well-researched and the studies are much harder to interpret, but I think it’s going to be a really exciting area.
Going back to the lack of science-based blogs — what are your thoughts on the matter? Did you have any resistance from readers after launching because of it?
I’ve always had really supportive readers! I’ve had quite a few weird reactions from other scientists and science writers though – science still has a lot of misogynists in it who find topics like skincare and makeup unworthy of attention. This is sometimes the case even with female scientists and within the cosmetic science community!
Since you’re deep in the science industry, you have access to a few more reference sources than most of us—do you have any suggestions for how your peasants can find accurate, good information on cosmetics and beauty products? Or any other suggestions for other bloggers who want to have more accurate information?
Good bloggers: my favorite is my friend Kind of Stephen, a cosmetic chemist. The Beauty Brains is fantastic as well. It’s always difficult to find accurate information and digest it without a science background, but familiarizing yourself with peer-reviewed databases, like Pubmed, is a good place to start!