Role of the Somatologist in the cosmetic industry

The South African cosmetic and personal care market is expected to reach USD 6.16 billion during 2020-2025. Any woman standing in front of those elegantly wrapped, tempting offers, deeply feels her monetary contribution to this ever-growing market. Yet, she would willingly part with her last cent, if the promise of beautiful skin becomes reality. She would stand there, scrutinizing labels, deciphering chemical ingredients. Weighing up the clever slogans, the well-known brand, the pretty packaging. But if the label clearly stated that 43% of the chosen night cream in her hand, was made up of fragrance and preservatives, would she still buy it? Would she buy it, if she realized that the advertised inclusion of Vitamin – A, – C and -E, at 1%, is merely the minimum quantity needed to appear on the label, but would not provide any beneficial properties?

The demand on our therapists in the industry, to guide and enlighten the path through this labyrinth, has grown in relation to the competitive nature of a multi-billion-dollar industry.

For the past 40 years, Cosmetic sciences has always been part of the curriculum for Somatologists at Potchefstroom Academy. Recently we stepped up on our syllabus. Our students are now taught the intricacies of cosmetic formulations, acquiring the ability to distinguish active ingredients and their effect on various skin types.

And none too soon, as the millennials have entered the economy, entered the job market, they bring with them not just money to spend, but a justification for “what” they spend it on. They have money, they have questions and they have the internet. A somatologists need to be smarter than Google. At the least, a somatologist has to have more accurate knowledge of cosmetics ingredients.

Somatologists need to explain that Titanium dioxide is excellent as sunscreen even though it is also found in wall paint and ceramics. In the same way that she needs to explain that “natural” is not synonymous with “good”, as undesirable skincare ingredients like petroleum comes naturally from the earth. The modern somatologist has the knowledge that botulinum toxin, considered the most toxic substance to humankind, got its name from a sausage, and caused botulism, a rare and paralyzing illness that could lead to respiratory failure. But in small doses as Botox, it is the most popular anti-ageing procedure available today.

There are approximately 12,500 unique chemical ingredients approved for use in cosmetics in the USA. 10% of these tested, by a publicly accountable agency, for safety.  In South Africa the CTFA – Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association- together with the SABS and the Department of Health, regulates the safety of cosmetics but not its efficacy.

As we experience our economy faltering, but an increasing demand for us having the “right look” on the job front and social media, we have limited funds available for personal grooming. We need to have an industry partner, an informed, knowledgeable individual, trained to offer the best advice regarding homecare and health. We need somatologists!