About Michelle

Lab Muffin

Hi! I’m Dr Michelle Wong, and I’m here to help you figure out what beauty products are worth buying, and which ones aren’t, using science!

I’m a 30-something science educator, chemistry PhD and cosmetic chemist, based in Sydney, Australia. I started Lab Muffin in December 2011, frustrated that there weren’t enough easy-to-understand explanations of the science behind beauty products online.

I am pro: science, healthy skepticism, honesty, transparency, money well spent, sunscreen

I am anti: fear-mongering, hype, one-size-fits-all, “detoxing”

Business, media, consulting, collaboration enquiries: [email protected]

Guest post enquiries and backlinks: I only accept unsolicited guest posts with adequate scientific evidence to back up any claims. Do not contact me about getting backlinks or generic SEO-spam guest posts unless you like reading expletives and being reported as spam.

Get in touch on social media:

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Other work

Skincare School Podcast with Adore Beauty

Google Trusted Media Summit 2022 Talk: Debunking Misinformation

Sunscreen E-Summit

Sunscreen E-Summit Talk: Sunscreen Mythbusting

Selected media features

 
Media Features
 
I’ve been featured in the media a lot, including in The New York Times, ABC News, IFLScience, Chemical & Engineering News, Elle France, Elle Canada, NewBeauty, The Atlantic, Allure, The Verge, Popsugar, Byrdie, Racked, MSN Living, The Consumerist, The Klog, Rambler, The Daily Mail, SciBabe, Huffington Post, Female Daily, The Cut and more. 
 

Frequently Asked Questions

To get to know me in more depth, check out the Lab Muffin 10 Year Anniversary Q&A!

Who are you?

Lab Muffin is run by me, Dr Michelle Wong, a thirty-something chemistry PhD, science educator and cosmetic chemist in Sydney, Australia. 

Why did you start Lab Muffin?

I started Lab Muffin for a few reasons:

  • I was researching beauty products to buy for myself, and couldn’t find much easy-to-understand information online – but I came across a lot of misinformation
  • I was passionate about science communication and debunking misinformation (I was reading a lot of Science-Based Medicine), and I didn’t see many people tackling misinformation in beauty products

Since I’d spent so many hours reading, and not everyone had the benefit of access to studies and the ability to understand them reasonably well, I thought it would be good if other people could benefit from my dives down rabbit holes too. So I started writing blog posts to share the information I found, and present the science in an easy-to-understand way, so hopefully anyone interested in accurate information can get something out of it.

What were your studies on?

I have a Bachelor of Advanced Science with Honours (first class with university medal). My major was chemistry, and my studies included pharmacology and physiology. I also did the equivalent of first year law.

My PhD project was in the area of medicinal/supramolecular/synthetic organic chemistry. Specifically, I studied cyclic peptides – how to make them, as well as exploring their uses as drugs and supramolecular scaffolds. There was a fair bit of pharmacology in there, which has come in handy for interpreting whether active ingredients in skincare work, and how they work! There was also a lot of supramolecular chemistry, which is relevant to things like surfactants and skin structure, and how ingredients interact with each other and your body.

I also did a diploma of personal care formulation with the Institute of Personal Care Science. It’s a very popular program that’s widely recognised in the industry, and covers a lot on different formulations and regulatory compliance. I mostly did it because I felt awkward when people referred to me as a cosmetic chemist even though I didn’t have any formal “cosmetic” training. It was a great experience, and if you’re interested in cosmetics and formulations I’d highly recommend it! It’s very focused on applications, and there isn’t much standard chemistry theory involved (you won’t need to know how to balance an equation or do a mole calculation, and the entry requirement is a school certificate). 

Note: I’m not a medical professional, so don’t take any of my content as medical advice!

What did you do as a science educator?

I’ve been teaching high school and university level chemistry for over two decades. After my PhD studies, I started teaching classes of ~15 (and occasionally 100+) at Matrix Education, and was chemistry coordinator there for 5 years. My job involved managing the ever-growing teaching team, and writing textbooks and other teaching materials to try to make 20 different teachers and tutors happy (the majority were chemistry majors, PhD students and/or had decades of teaching experience, so this was pretty challenging!).

What other things have you done?

  • I was a moderator on the SkincareAddiction subreddit for a bit over 4 years
  • I have a podcast, Skincare School with Adore Beauty
  • I presented at the Google Trusted Media Summit APAC 2022

But you’re sponsored by brands and have affiliate links, how can that be trustworthy?

This is a question I’ve agonised over for years. I shared my thoughts in this post.

Why the skincare and nail polish obsession?

I’ve thought long and hard about this myself, and the only explanation I can come up with is: I am not a morning person. Skincare cuts down my morning make-up routine, and a nice mani makes me feel pretty and polished for days (although to be honest I’ve fallen off the polish bandwagon since about 2015).

Can I link to your post?

Linking is more than fine! However, if you want to quote a substantial portion of the text, or if you want to copy or adapt an image, please contact me first as my material is copyrighted. If you’d like to refer to my content, a linkback would be courteous and appreciated! Plus I’ll be notified – I’d be interested to read your take on the topic. I don’t accept unsolicited guest posts or backlink requests.

Why do you list “Further Reading” rather than “References” in your posts?

When researching a post, I usually go through upwards of 30 papers in varying amounts of detail (sometimes hundreds). I only include the most relevant and useful references in the “Further Reading” list, so interested readers can find out more without having to do a full review themselves (I’m assuming that if someone is going to do a full review of the topic, they’ll go to a database and conduct their own literature search rather than rely on my blog). For specific studies I discuss, I’ll usually link to them in the body of the post even if they aren’t listed in the “further reading” section.

How can I contact you?

For business, media, consulting or collaboration enquiries, email me at [email protected] For general skincare enquiries, comment on my blog posts, YouTube videos or IG/TT posts.

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