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.