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Behind the ‘Gram |Skincare Expert @CarlyMusleh

Cosmetic Science Student and Skincare Expert @CarlyMusleh

By Bekki Ramsay

Being a skincare guru comes with a lot of responsibilities – from knowing what products can help each individual skin problem, to learning and investigating the ingredients that create products. Often, pretty palettes and the latest products can distract us from the fact that there’s a whole load of science in cosmetics, and that there are chemists working behind the scenes to create these items that make us feel so confident.

That’s why we’re excited to share that this week, we spoke to none other than the skinthusiast, qualified esthetician and ‘Cosmetic Science’ student at Sunderland University, @carlymusleh, whose expertise has picked her up 22,000 followers on Instagram and 8,000 on TikTok.

Read on to gain insight into the debunked myths of the beauty world, as well as uncovering what beauty means to her. 

1. How did you get started in cosmetic chemistry? Was it something you've always wanted to do?

I’ve always had a keen interest in skincare and the benefits of some ingredients, but I kept finding myself asking the question ‘why?’. I wanted to know why an ingredient worked the way it does and so I needed a deeper understanding of the chemicals and our biochemistry. 

However, looking back, it was something I’ve always wanted to do without realising it. I didn’t know the degree existed until a few years ago and before then I was already reading journals and studies on ingredients. My niche was explaining the science behind skincare and busting beauty industry myths, so I realised I needed to study chemistry and formulations, which I have gone on to do at Sunderland University.

2. What is the most exciting thing about studying Cosmetic Science?

Definitely understanding and developing formulas. It’s science and art, two things I’m passionate about. 

3. What is the most challenging thing you do?

Juggling everything. I have two children so going to university full time to study a science degree was the best but craziest idea I’ve ever had. The first year was challenging as it’s been 20 years since I left school, so I had to learn how to study effectively, as I had limited time with doing school runs etc.

4. What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

That it’s easy. A lot of people don’t realise that we’re sometimes in class with students who are studying BioPharmaceutical Science, Medicinal Chemistry and Biochemistry. We are all learning the same content in these lessons but in Cosmetic Science we have to do different labs and need to understand cosmetic regulations.

6. What are some common myths being marketed to consumers by the beauty industry, that you think we should be talking more about?

Oh there’s a few; let’s start with “clean beauty” and “chemical-free”. There is currently no regulation for the term “clean beauty” and no official standard so brands can write and claim what they want. 

Brands need to be clear instead of using clever marketing words like clean, to make you think other ingredients mustn’t be pure or are dangerous.

Chemical-free is honestly the biggest nonsense. If a product was just 100% water, it would contain 100% of chemicals. That lavender? Chemical compounds. Green tea? Yep, chemical. Everything is a chemical.

Again, it’s using clever terminology to put fear into consumers because they can charge more for these products. 

A lot of people don’t realise but the regulations and legislation of cosmetic ingredients are very firm. Parabens have been heavily tested and are an incredibly effective ingredient to prevent microbial growth. 

There’s been some debate surrounding parabens, however recently there’s been some very worrying recalls from skincare brands after customers found mould growing in unopened products, why? Because they used some alternative preservatives with little testing in comparison.

Just be mindful of the marketing hype because the bacteria, yeast, fungi and mould that parabens protect us from can be deadly!

7. And finally, what are your top three underrated ingredients?

1. Panthenol – pro-vitamin B5. It’s known for its hydrating, skin-healing and skin-soothing properties. 

2. Azelaic Acid – antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and reduces pigmentation. These qualities make it great for acne-prone skin, rosacea and hyperpigmentation. 

3. Cholesterol – This important ingredient is found naturally in our skin’s lipid layer. The prime function of lipids in the SC is to provide a water barrier. This reduces TEWL – that’s trans epidermal water loss, to keep our skin balanced and hydrated. When there’s not enough cholesterol in our ceramide: cholesterol ratio the skin barrier function will become compromised and a range of skin issues can occur. 

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