It’s a (Bubble) Wrap!

Five weeks after having sent our first parcel of FreeFrom Skincare Awards-entered product samples to our first Beauty Bible tester, we are just about to send our last to our last.

I say ‘we’ but in fairness I should credit Adriana. Adriana has been our Awards Administrator this year, and most entrants will be familiar with her name in their in-boxes. For it is Adriana who has sent notifications of acceptance, and invoices, and entrant logos to all, and who has politely chased forgetful entrants who came dangerously close to failing to submit their product samples to us on time. It is also Adriana who has in the main opened up all those entrants’ deliveries and checked that they have been correct, and gently nagged anyone sending in eight scrubs rather than the eight balms that they’d entered …

“Why does nobody make a brown-tape exfoliating face scrub??”

She has also taken single-handed responsibility for packaging up all those parcels to go to our Beauty Bible testers – almost 150 of them, containing around 1,500 or so products, to over 100 testers (some testers being lucky enough to get two parcels this year). Here she is, parcelling up some products from Ishga, Thea, NYR and Botanicals, snugly wrapped in a super-scarf of bubble wrap, and gamely doing battle with the mind-of-its-own brown tape which normally torments the rest of the office at this time of year …

But before Adriana can get to work, I have my job to do too. I need to allocate all the product samples to appropriate testers – decide who gets what, basically.

Almost all of our testers have many ‘free from’ requirements – some avoid animal products such as lanolin, milk or beeswax, some avoid alcohol, many avoid certain fragrances, many have specific allergies. All these skincare testers must be carefully matched up to products whose ingredients are suitable for them – this involves looking up ingredients on products, each time. Testers can’t receive too many products for the same part of the body, so one must try to allocate, say, a couple of face creams / oils, a body wash or scrub, a body cream, a cleanser, a hand or foot product, a makeup product, and a hair product, at least, to each and every one. People with problem skin conditions must be allocated the correct problem skin product. And of course they all must only be allocated products they wish to – or physically can – test. It’s no good sending a hair dye to a lady who is happy with her natural colour, or a men’s shampoo to a bald man, or a bath soak to a young professional living in a small London studio equipped with only a shower!

You might imagine juggling all these requirements is a headache – and you’re right. To help me I have Ibuprofen – and two vast Excel spreadsheets. One contains a list of all our testers, together with the answers they have provided us regarding their needs, circumstances, preferences and bodies! Another, the list of all products entered, in the categories in which they are entered, aligned with a ‘scoring grid’ for the Beauty Bible testers’ feedback, when it arrives. Connecting the two spreadsheets is a network of formulae ensuring the right number of products are counted and allocated and that scores are added up and averaged automatically – which will, in early May, provide us with the information we need to draw up the shortlist. The spreadsheets are roughly 150 rows x 60 columns and 250 rows x 15 columns respectively and – by the time judging is finished – each box will be filled. I make that roughly 13,000 pieces of data that need to be entered, referred to and tracked – and that’s not counting the ingredients of each product, which are stored separately. It’s a job and a half, I promise you!

Once a tester has been allocated her (or occasionally his) 10 or so products, off the list goes to Adriana so she can begin the parcel packing you see above. She says that she has become a ‘robot’ at it now, but what an efficient and accurate robot! With so many products, bearing sometimes extremely similar names and appearance, it is very easy to make a mistake. We have had a number of fascinating oils by a new-to-us brand called Ayumi this year – there’s been a repair oil, a detox oil, a sensual oil …. and there have been the usual battery of sometimes lookalike balms … and a number of ranges each bearing the name ‘botanicals’ in some form …. all easily confused in the chaos of our small office, with shelves jam-packed with cosmetics. But with the results starting to come in from those early testers, Robot Adriana remains on a 100% record of accuracy – something I never managed in any year when I was involved in the job!

During the next month, the Beauty Bible testers will complete their work, and feedback will start coming in thick and fast. I’ll be gathering it all and entering it into the spreadsheets. When it reveals its results, we’ll be announcing the Shortlist – in early May, I expect – and conducting the final judging sessions – in mid-late May – to decide overall positions and ‘medals’ – and winners. Exciting times!

But in the meantime, I’m sure all testers will join me in thanking Adriana for the parcels of goodies that came their way this year. We are now freeing her from the tyranny of bubble wrap and brown tape, you’ll be glad to hear …


  1. Tracey Robinson

    Bravo Adrianna and Alex! Love the photo caption….and relieved to hear I’m not the only one who battles with the tape gun! I once came perilously close to garrotting myself with mine once when my necklace became entangled with the serrated edge – they are dangerous things I tell you!

    13,000 pieces of data! No wonder you need Ibuprofen 🙂 I know I’m not that only one to appreciate Team Skins Matter’s efforts – looking forward to this year’s results!

    1. Alex (Post author)

      Blimey – that serrated edge could’ve turned you from a lovely Vert PR to a rather splattered Rouge PR! Thanks for your support, Tracey … we’re getting there!

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