Article by: Perry Romanowski

One of the coolest things about being a cosmetic chemist is that you get to be an inventor.  You invent new formulas, new processes, or for the lucky few, new chemical reactions.  If you happen to work at one of the big cosmetic companies, it’s likely that eventually you’ll get to work on some patent.  And you may even get your name on the patent.

When I first started, Alberto Culver was a medium-sized company who was not terribly interested in getting patents because in the cosmetic industry, patents do not do much to help sell your products.  This is why I do not encourage small companies to get patents.  They really aren’t worth the expense.

Over time, Alberto saw some value in patents and had the R&D department working on more.  I think it was a plan to make the company more attractive to buyers but that is just speculation.  Anyway, I filed a couple of patents and I’m happy to report that two of the patents were approved.  I am officially one of the inventors of US patent 8,277,789 and 8,277,790.

Developing a patent

Since the company doesn’t exist any more and the patent is out, you might be interested in the story of how the patent happened.

In the early 2000’s, I was working in our Claims department.  We were trying to develop some impressive new claims for color treated hair.  Something like “makes hair color last longer.”  Well, to do this project it required me to wash dozens of tresses numerous times.  It was very time consuming.

Then I had this idea that maybe I could just soak tresses in water and simulate the washing process.  So, I took some colored tresses and soaked them in water.  The next morning, all the color had come out of the tress.  Most interestingly, the color was supposed to be a permanent color.  Clearly, it wasn’t.

But I was encouraged that soaking could remove color.  Then, I just needed to find out how long I needed to soak them to simulate some number of washings.

However, there was one problem.  When the tresses soaked in water, the water smelled awful.  I hypothesized that it was the result of some sort of microbial growth.  So, I just took a standard preservative and added it to the soak water before putting the tress into the water.

I soaked the colored tress in the water overnight like I had before and when I came back, none of the color had come out.  There was something about the preservative that made the color stay in the hair.

This led to more research and eventually led to the development of the technology that was patented in these two patents.  It took a long time to happen but it did.

Products using this technology were eventually launched and they really do work.  However, I’m not sure they met with much success in the marketplace.  This just goes to show, in the cosmetic industry you need more than superior technology to have a successful product.




  1. Avatar
    Dustin Ogle

    Hi Perry
    Awesome work on the experiment, that was a good read!
    I came across it doing research for a new product and process to prevent color fading.
    I am hoping you wouldn’t mind commenting on a couple things.
    Using the salts after dye to prevent fade, can the dye/color be rinsed out with water before contacting with the treatment? Pragmaticly speaking mixing treatment with color saturated hair seems troublesome, but also having water affected hair could also be troublesome. Which is better?

    Also, my take home method is a pre wash treatment for customers. They apply treatment to semi/Demi before getting hair wet to protect their color. Do you think adding Ammonium salt to this treatment would be benificial?
    Thank in advance if you have time for this.

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      You should rinse the color out to some extent before applying the treatment. However, as you point out you might pull too much color out just from the water. You’ll have to experiment with which gives better results.

      Adding salt would probably help to prevent some of the color from leaching out.

  2. Pingback:The Chemistry of Hair Colors

  3. Avatar

    For a small company, does a patent make your product more attractive to the big box companies? Or to future investors? When would you suggest a small company patent their product? Thanks and loved your article. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Avatar

      A patent probably doesn’t do much to make your product more attractive to anyone who knows the cosmetic industry. It might appeal to investors who do not know the industry but not likely. I do not actually think small companies should spend any effort on patenting their product unless the product is really something that is so unique consumers would notice a difference. I can think of almost no cosmetic patents in which the technology makes any difference at all to consumers.

      My advice is to invest any money you would have set aside for patenting your product into marketing your product and building your brand. Marketing, more than anything else, is what sells cosmetic products.

  4. Avatar
    fatima pestana

    Super cool!!

  5. Avatar
    Jessica Allison

    Congrats on the patents! As many of us who are longtime vets of the beauty industry, in any capacity, learn: marketing is king. I think cosmetic companies have really been allowed to push the boundaries of false advertising when it comes to their products.

    This inundates the consumer with amazing sounding products, the bulk of which have lackluster results (at least when such lofty promises are made). This makes it all but impossible to separate the fact from fiction, and unfortunately, it makes it an almost random possibility that the average shopper will happen to cross paths with a truly innovative product.

    I’m a bit thrilled to see the FDA sending out warning letters to major corporations guilty of over-promising to the public, but as I’m privy to the advertising world, I’d be shocked to see any fundamental change. I mean, after all, false advertising has been around since snake oil, right?

    1. Avatar


      Yeah, I doubt the action by the FDA will have much effect on future advertisements. In the beauty business (as in politics) the consumer doesn’t really want to know the truth so companies won’t bother telling them.

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