≡ Menu

Here’s an interesting trend that will affect cosmetic chemists and formulators in the future. More and more, natural ingredients are replacing standard cosmetic raw materials. What will this mean?

Cosmetic reformulation

Cosmetic chemists will no doubt have to reformulate almost all the products that they have. Anything that contains a petroleum derivative will have to be re-worked to contain only plant and sustainable ingredients. This might seem like a lot of trouble but it is good news for formulators because it gives you some new opportunities to create new formulations.

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a cosmetic chemist is that you make very few changes to formulas. In truth, a company doesn’t want to stray too far from their existing formulations because using new raw materials requires more warehouse storage, raw material ingredient costs will increase because you are not buying in bulk as much and the stability and performance is less well known.

There are forces that work against creating truly new and innovative formulations.

Good for raw material suppliers

Raw material suppliers will also like this trend because they can more easily get chemists to start using new raw materials. One of the biggest challenges raw material suppliers face is that chemists do not like to use new raw materials. The reason is that they are unproven and almost always more expensive. Now, raw material companies will be able to sell new raw materials that are more profitable.
On the other hand, there are some problems with this new trend.

Not all positive

The biggest problem is that substitution of raw materials with new ones will not likely lead to improved products. In fact, it will probably lead to products that don’t work as well. It used to be that a cosmetic chemist would switch out a raw material for some performance reason. They discover that some raw material works better than their current so they make the switch. But with this trend, cosmetic chemists are switching out raw materials for a non-performance based reason. Naturally, performance will likely suffer.

But perhaps the worst aspect of this trend is that consumers will have to pay more money for formulations that do not work as well. They are the losers in this trend.

Although, one could argue that consumers are not paying enough for their cosmetics right now. They are not covering the cost that cosmetic use has on the environment and they should. So, perhaps the fact that consumers pay more for better sustainable products is overall a good thing. I’m just not sure consumers will agree with it.

Do you?


Glycation and skin aging

Glycation, also referred to as non-enzymatic glycosylation, is the chemical reaction of aldehydic groups of reducing sugars with free amino acid groups of proteins. Collagen, elastin, and fibronectin, the structural proteins of the skin, are all susceptible to glycation. The advanced glycation end products (AGEs) produced by this process result in changes to the mechanical properties of skin, discoloration, and loss of radiance.

cosmetic glycation


Most of what we know regarding glycation is the result of research about diabetics, where prolonged high levels of blood sugar can lead to debilitating conditions.

While glycation is part of the natural aging process, it can be sped up by diet, inflammatory events, and UV exposure. Some AGE’s fluoresce allowing for the assessment of glycation using instruments like the Visia Complexion Analysis system from Canfield Scientific.

Glycation Anti-Aging Strategy

While there are many mechanisms involved in skin aging, slowing or reversing glycation presents an interesting approach to anti-aging treatments. Diabetes research and treatments may yield new insights and generate innovative ideas for cosmetic formulation.


The hardest things a cosmetic chemist has to do

There are some aspects of cosmetic chemistry that are easy but there are others that can be a but difficult. This list refers to the latter.

1. Generating new product ideas. There’s a reason that cosmetics haven’t changed much in the last 30 years. It’s very difficult to come up with something new and original. The cosmetic chemist who can do this will be in excellent shape to advance her career. Try some of the innovation exercises that we suggest.

2. Solving stability problems. Sometimes it’s not obvious why a formula isn’t stable. When this happens it’s tough to fix. But a knockout experiment can be very helpful.

3. Politicking. In a corporation your success is highly dependent on your ability to interact with other people. Your knowledge of science is just not as important, unfortunately. Learn some interpersonal skills to get better at this aspect of your career.

Cosmetic chemistry is not necessarily a difficult career but there are certainly some challenges. If you can excel at the hardest things you will be well on your way to a successful cosmetic chemist career.


There is a popular Internet meme called Throwback Thursday where people are encouraged to post something interesting about their past (usually a picture).  We’re going to try it here on Chemists Corner.  Today Kelly looks at a cosmetic ingredient that was much more widely used in the past.


Squalane was a commonly used and very effective emollient with excellent skin feel. It is a hydrocarbon with a 24-carbon backbone and 6 methyl group side chains spread across the molecule as seen in the diagram.

squalane cosmetics


It has fallen out of favor in recent years due to unfavorable sourcing (animal derived, from shark liver oil) plus the instability of supply and cost from olive-derived squalane. But squalane may be poised for a come back due to innovative fermentation methods that produce sqaulane from sugacane.


Squalane is similar to squalene which is a lipid and naturally occurring component of human sebum. It has a 24-carbon backbone and 6 methyl group side chains but is unsaturated containing 6 double bonds along the backbone.



It is also found in some plants and the liver of deep sea sharks. The presence of double bonds leads to oxidative stability problems with sqaulene. That lead to the hydrogenation of squalene to create sqaulane.

Squalane resurgence

Sqaulane has good sensorial properties and is effective in reducing transepidermal water loss.

As mentioned previously, sourcing from sharks and cost concerns of olive-derived squalane dramatically decreased usage. Recently, the use of fermentation to create a bio-synthetic precursor to sqaulene has made the production of a more consistent and cost effective sqaulane possible. Will sqaulane make a comeback in the cosmetic industry? A quick search of Sephora.com shows there already appear to be a few new products containing squalane on the market. Will your formulation be next?


Cosmetic Chemist Jobs – Where to find them

Here on Chemists Corner we get a number of requests from people who are looking for jobs.  In fact, we’ve written a number of articles about this which you can read about on our cosmetic chemist careers page. cosmetic formulating job

But these articles are more general and it seems there is a need for more specificity telling you exactly where to apply for a job.  Of course there are a number of online sources which you can scour through.  Here are 5 cosmetic job sources.

Society of Cosmetic Chemist job posts

One source which you may not be aware of is the job pages on the various SCC chapter websites.  In know the Midwest SCC has listings because I’m the one who usually posts them.  So, to make it easy for you I’m going to list all of the chapter job pages here and you can click on whichever one is in an area where you are interested to work.  I should mention that sometimes the jobs listed on a chapter page refer to jobs elsewhere in the country so if you’re looking, be sure to go through all the chapter pages.

Here they are.  Good luck!

California Chapter
Carolina Chapter
Connecticut Chapter
Florida Chapter
Intermountain West Chapter
Lake Erie Chapter
Long Island Chapter
Michigan Chapter
Mid-Atlantic Chapter
Midwest Chapter
New England Chapter
New York Chapter
Ohio Valley Chapter
Ontario Chapter
Quebec Chapter
Southeast Chapter
Southwest Chapter
St. Louis Chapter
Twin Cities Chapter

If you know of any job opportunity sources that we missed be sure to list them in the comments below.

{ 1 comment }

Chemists Corner podcast episode 36 – Ginger King


Hello and welcome to Chemists Corner. I’m your host Perry Romanowski and this is a podcast about the wonderful world of cosmetic chemistry and cosmetic product formulation. On this show we talk about topics that would be of interest to anyone who works as a cosmetic formulator or wants to start a career as a cosmetic scientist. It will also be of interest to someone who might want to start their own product line. ginger king chemist

On today’s show we have an interview with a cosmetic industry consultant Ginger King who has branched off on her own and makes a living as an independent cosmetic formulator. But first, let’s talk about an aspect of cosmetic formulating that you may not have considered.

What is the Halo Effect?

The Halo Effect is a psychological phenomena in which people come to erroneous conclusions about product features based on non-related factors. For example, if a consumer likes the way a product smells, they might rate something like foam quality higher than if they didn’t like how it smells. It doesn’t matter that the fragrance has no measurable impact on foam quality.

To demonstrate the Halo Effect for yourself, make a batch of body wash and split it into two separate batches. To one add a nice smelling fragrance. To the other add a foul smelling fragrance. Give the products to a panelist and ask them which one is better. Then ask them to rate the foam quality on a scale of 1 to 10. Invariably, the product with the more preferred fragrance will score higher in foam quality.

Factors that impact Halo Effect

We’ve mentioned fragrance as a significant factor in the Halo Effect, but there are others. These include…

a. Color — If people like the color of the formula, they’ll rate other factors higher

b. Clarity — A pearlized or translucent formula will perform different than a clear one.

c. Packaging — If two products are identical except for packaging, the one in the better package will be rated higher.

d. Story — If you present a story about the formula and people like it, they will be more inclined to like the performance.

Unfortunately, these factors rarely have an actual impact on how well the overall formula performs. This means, as a cosmetic formulator, you could be wasting your time improving formulas if you don’t consider the Halo Effect factors.

It should also be pointed out that the Halo Effect is not limited to consumers. You can be fooled by the Halo Effect too. For example, you may add a new technology to your formula and you want so badly for it to make an improvement that you might notice one that is not there. As Richard Feynman said about science

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool

How to deal with the Halo Effect

The Halo Effect does not mean that you should stop trying to improve your formulas. What it does mean is that you have to take it into consideration when you send your formula out for salon, panelist, or consumer testing. The further you get away from lab testing, the more impact you find from the Halo Effect.

Here are some key steps to take to control for the Halo Effect in your formulating work.

1. Control the Fragrance — In your lab work, you should use a standard fragrance that is the same no matter what test you are running. Using a standard fragrance is better than having unfragranced samples because even unfragranced formulas have an odor. In consumer testing, you should use as near-identical fragrances as possible.

2. Control the Color / Appearance — While it doesn’t matter as much in the lab, it is important to control the color when conducting consumer tests. It doesn’t have to be an exact match but they should be relatively similar in color and appearance. This also means you generally shouldn’t test a pearlized formula versus a clear formula. You can do it but understand that the results may be highly skewed by the Halo Effect.

3. Control the packaging — If you are going to test formulas with panelists or consumers, always give them the product in identical packaging. This may mean you’ll have to transfer a competitive product from the standard packaging to an opaque, white package. The more generic you make the package, the better.

The Halo Effect can be troubling, especially when your Market Research studies show differences in things like thickness even though you know the products had the same measurement viscosities. All you can do is to control as many factors as you can and don’t put too much faith in what consumers tell you about specific aspects of the formula. If your consumer panelists tell you the product is too moisturizing but your TEWL measurements say otherwise, don’t automatically improve your formula. First check to see if there is a Halo Effect that you didn’t consider.

Cosmetic Interview

Ginger King is the Founder & CEO of Grace Kingdom Beauty (www.gracekingdombeauty.com) a cosmetic product development firm in New York where she consults for cosmetic brands, contract manufacturers and raw material suppliers. She has been passionately creating beauty products from concept to finish for over seventeen years. She is well versed in innovative concepts, creative product formulation, advanced technology applications, ergonomic package development and impactful competitive analysis. Ginger has developed over hundreds of products from hair care to skin care, and sun care to color cosmetics. Her claim to fame products include the revolutionary first to market Joico ICE SPIKER, water resistant hair glue, Freeze 24.7 Ice Shield, SPF 15 face wash and Avon

Ginger holds an MBA in Marketing from Long Island University as well as a Master’s in Natural Product Chemistry from San Jose State University. She is an active member of Cosmetic Executive Women and Society of Cosmetic Chemists, including holding the executive secretary position for California Chapter and membership chair, New York. Ginger holds several patents in cosmetic formulations.

Contact Ginger





Cosmetic Science Biology – Nails

Fingernails and toenails are made of compact layers of keratinized epithelial cells and cover the dorsal surface of fingertips and toes. The nail plate is comprised of about 25 layers of flat keratinized cells and is typically between 0.5 and 1.0 mm in thickness. Keratins contain a high amount of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine’s thiol group (C-SH) participates in disulfide bonding between keratin filaments giving the nail its strength. cosmetic nail

Nail Growth

Nail production occurs at the root, which lies just underneath the eponychium, or cuticle. As new cells are laid down, older cells are pushed forward lengthening the nail. While many other factors are involved, the growth rate of nails is related to the length of the terminal phalanges, the outermost bone of the fingers or toes. Fingernails can grow at a rate of 4 times faster than toenails.

The nail covers the nail bed and the free edge extends past the hyponychium, an area of thickened stratum corneum. The nail is mostly transulecent, but at the base of the nail, actively dividing cells in the nail bed are thicker and obscure the vasculature below. This is why you see a white, half-moon shaped feature called the lunula (from the Latin word for moon, luna). The lunula is most obvious in the thumb and may not be visible in the pinky finger.

Due to it’s highly keratinized nature; the nail is hard to penetrate for treatment of infection or disease. Understanding the structure nails allows for improved design of treatments and also, decorative nail polishes.

{ 1 comment }

This article about the upcoming ban of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo has me concerned. We cosmetic chemists are being attacked and told by people who have no background in or understanding of toxicology or chemistry what chemicals we should be allowed to use. We have to stand up against this nonsense.

Safer baby shampoo

The notion that J&J can make a “safer” baby shampoo is just wrong. Removing Quaternium-15 and replacing it with some other preservative will do nothing to make the product safer. The fact that J&J makes a Quaternium-15 free version around the world is not surprising. Some countries around the world ban formaldehyde donors from their formulations. This ban is not the result of any scientific study but rather an arbitrary reaction by the government to public (non-scientifically based) desire. J&J is simply creating a formulation for the marketplace. Those formulas are likely to be more expensive and also contain some chemicals that these groups would find objectionable.

Reducing the level of 1,4 Dioxane is not going to make the product safer either. How would J&J prove the product is safer even if they had 0 detectable level of 1,4 Dioxane? They couldn’t do it because there is no test to demonstrate that their current levels are unsafe. Incidentally, J&J doesn’t actually add any 1,4, Dioxane to their shampoos. It is a by-product of the chemical reaction that produces their primary surfactant.


Why doesn’t J&J just reformulate? Simple.

1. Any reformulated product will cost more money that consumers don’t want to pay.
2. The reformulated product will not be safer.

The better question is, why would they reformulate?

This is the kind of story that is a problem all cosmetic formulators should be concerned about. Sure, if you’re not using formaldehyde donors or parabens or ethoxylated surfactants, you’re safe…for now. But what are you going to do when these groups turn their focus on something that you think is perfectly safe to use. Do you know that Sodium Hydroxide can burn away your skin down to the bone? What will you do when Sodium Hydroxide is chemical non grata?

If you accept non-science and fear to decide whether a chemical is safe, your formulation efforts are doomed to be controlled by the whims of irrationality. If there was scientific proof that these chemicals shouldn’t be used then I’d be in complete agreement that they should be removed. But there isn’t proof and J&J should not be compelled to do anything.


Human Skin – The Ingenious Creation of Nature

This article was written by Vitaly Solomonov 

In this article, we take a short trip deep in our skin in order to understand clearly how the skin works and protects the inner environment of our body. Understanding the skin structure and the epidermal structure in particular answers the questions what the skin really needs and why. skin layers

Human Skin and cosmetics

The human skin is a unique protective tool and very strong border between our body and external world. We know almost everything about its structure, but rarely realize the real functionality of its parts and layers in terms of Cosmetic Science. The common skin schemes tell almost nothing, but showing us the layers and vital parts of the skin. All three main layers of the skin have different anatomy, but created in order to perform one important task – together, they protect us from severe impact of external world. Well, let’s see…

The Hypodermis

This is the deepest layer and built almost completely with lipid cells. When we are on a diet, we are fighting with this layer. The Hypodermis is a depot of very nutritive substances and energy. Every spare minute our organism is trying to hold over the excessive fat in the Hypodermis in order to be ready in times of famine.  During starvation or shortage of nutrients, the fat from the Hypodermis decomposes chemically into water and energy. I won’t go into this layer in detail since we will discover more interesting things within the upper skin structures for cosmetic chemists.

The Dermis

It’s the heart of the skin and it’s a vivid part that impacts all skin functions. If we look at it closely, we find it has a gel structure. This gel almost completely built with two types of proteins – Collagen and Elastin. The fibers of those proteins intertwine like bedsprings in matrasses. With the certain amount of water, the protein fibers form the gel. The dermal water is coming from the blood stream constantly and constantly the blood stream picks up the waste of skin and brings them to the liver. However, the skin tries to retain the water, since it’s the most important ingredient for all it’s functions.

Natural Moisturizing Factor

Hyaluronic acid, urea, Lactic acid and some other substances help the main proteins to keep water in the Dermis. The mix of such hygroscopic molecules that able to keep a lot of water is called The Natural Moisturizing Factor of the skin (NMF). The general rule for cosmetologists and cosmetic chemists: More water – the better skin condition. While the NMF determines the amount of water in the skin, another factors defines water loss. The rate of water loss is the most important factor for the skin and it could be measured with the special instruments during experiments or testing the new cosmetic products. The human skin loses the water when it damaged or inflamed or aged.

Unfortunately, the skin loses ability to keep the water during aging. The main role in it plays Collagen since it’s fibers are getting unable to retain the water to keep the “skin gel” in shape. The Collagen fibers become destroyed and protein structure is changing significantly. Old and damaged Collagen doesn’t form gel structure efficiently anymore and we could observe the signs of skin age, the skin loses the tension and the force of gravity has a greater impact on wrinkle formation with skin sagging.

The amount of water is important for all Dermis’ function. While the NMF and function of bloodstream maintain the volume of water, Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL) regulates the water release through the evaporation. The dermis also contains nerves and nerve endings, blood vessels, immune and pigment cells, hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands. All those structures act as entire system in order to maintain the constant protection for our body.

The Epidermis

This is the terminal part or outer layer of the skin and its Micro Anatomy differs from Hypodermis and Dermis. The Dermis and Epidermis are divided by a basal membrane. The basal membrane is the base for all the epidermis layers of cells. The Water, Oxygen and all other nutrients diffuse through this membrane to nourish epidermis cells. The epidermis contains no blood vessels, thus the function of the membrane is so important for all epidermal cells, especially for basal cells or basal Keratinocytes. Melanocytes are also found at this basal layer – they are the cells that produce Melanin which protects us from all types of UV rays. This is the first layer and the most important one. Keratinocytes are constantly dividing. One part of the divided basal cell remains stuck to the basal membrane and another part is squeezing up to the next raw where the process of cell aging begins. This young cell should cross the entire epidermis and reach its top.

The rest of the epidermis’s thickness is divided into another four layers: spinous, granular, clear and the final cornified layer. In fact, every epidermal layer is a stage of the keratinocytes’ life. We can discover some very interesting chemical conversions in the cells within these layers. From one cell raw to another, the constant transition of the keratinocytes to the top of the skin surface leads to their death within the cornified layer. Yes, it is probably sad to say, but being born in the basal layer, the cell is striving eventually to die to perform the main task of its life – to ensure the protection and strong security for our body and all living cells and tissues. Those small kamikazes are born to die. Mother Nature has created unique and genius device protecting us from highly inhospitable environment. Indeed, the best decision is to protect the living tissues with some non-living substance. In our case – dead cells of the epidermis.

{ 1 comment }

The Chemistry of Fireworks explained

It’s not quite cosmetic chemistry but I always found the chemistry of fireworks interesting.  It’s a bit like formulating but instead of making creams, liquids and gels, you make a firework that explodes.

Here’s what is going on.