top of page

Unexpected discoveries

What I found at in-cosmetics Global 2023 Barcelona

I’m back from in-cosmetics Global 2023 Barcelona. It was a blast to see faces from the past, make new connections, and walk the show looking for what’s next. I have a few thoughts.

1. Our industry feels more risk-averse than ever. So what happens to innovation? Some chemists I talked to had so little curiosity about promising new ingredients. They were looking only for packaged answers (and the show wasn’t short on over-engineered, over-packaged ideas). That’s the lazy approach.

Chemists are supposed to be the people who understand every ingredient as a building block that comes to life through formulation and manufacturing processes. The real magic of chemistry is to look beyond what’s presented to see what could be—and then make that happen. If all we reach for is the tried and tested, we’ll never improve.

I’m excited about an emulsifier made from overabundant Sargassum seaweed. This is where sustainability should be headed (not more empty marketing claims wrapped in plastic, which were as prolific at the show as Sargassum is in the Atlantic). The emulsifier isn't quite there yet, but I have ideas. Get in touch if you’d like to hear more.

The real magic of chemistry is to look beyond what's presented to see what could be—and then make that happen.

2. I’m gonna say it: I told you so. For years, people thought I was out-of-touch for limiting or refusing to formulate with silicon. Early on, I saw signs that it couldn’t last as a viable ingredient in personal care. Its lack of biodegradability was a problem then and has finally overtaken the initial excitement. From the beginning I wondered if it’s so tough to wash out of vats, how will it ever wash out of the Earth? I care about the impact my formulas have on the health of the planet. I am excited by all of the silicone alternatives that are now available.

3. A stolen phone and stress relief. Barcelona was packed with tourists, and with lots of tourists come thieves. Early in the trip, my phone was stolen out of my hand. I wasn't hurt, and I knew exactly what to do to turn it into a brick. Essentially I lost the hardware. More disturbing than that was the way dozens of people just watched it happen then moved on.

The unexpected upside was that for a few days I experienced Barcelona without the distraction and constant interruption of text notifications and calls. I was surprised at how relaxing it was. I paid attention to things differently. I stopped and sat on a bench and watched the world go by instead of going head-down into a screen (what everyone else on the bench did). I didn’t miss taking selfies. Instead, I looked at amazing architecture and remembered my first trip to Spain when I was 16. Now that I’m back and have a new phone, I’m going to spend more time untethered. It’s good for mind, body, and soul.

photo: chalk wall at in-cosmetics Global 2023


bottom of page