≡ Menu

Is Aloe Vera Effective in Cosmetics?

Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera Gel. Aloe Vera Juice. Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice. There are even more names here for this nearly ubiquitous ingredient found in both skin and hair care formulations.  Many people swear by it claiming all kinds of benefits for aloe including things like being good for burns, wound healing and even hair growth!  But as a formulator you have to wonder, does aloe vera really do anything when delivered from a topical cosmetic formula?  aloe-plant-cosmetics

Warranted Skepticism

Before I got into the cosmetic industry I had the impression that aloe was something you should use on burns because it can make the injury feel better and help with healing.  In fact, my mother used to keep an aloe plant for this reason and the idea was drummed into my head for years.  But when I got into the cosmetic industry and learned about claims ingredients I began to get a bit skeptical.  Especially when I learned that we were putting Aloe in our shampoos at a level of 0.1% of a 1% solution.  Therefore, the actual amount of aloe in that shampoo was 0.001%.  With the rest of the formula SLS and Lauramide DEA it didn’t seem reasonable that the Aloe was doing much of anything (except getting people to buy the product).

Of course, just because the Aloe wasn’t doing anything in a hair care product when used at really low levels that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t do anything in a product when used at a higher level or when used in a leave-on formula like a skin lotion.  So, I was still left with the question, does Aloe Vera do anything when delivered from a topical cosmetic product?

Go with your gut

My gut feeling has been that it doesn’t.  I generally discount claims about any folkloric ingredient as they are almost overwhelmingly non-scientific and non-verified.  Just because an ingredient has been used for some purpose for thousands of years doesn’t mean that it actually has the claimed effect.  Which also means that just because my mother put Aloe on my burns when I was a kid doesn’t mean that it was having much of an effect beyond a placebo, psychological one.  But despite my skepticism I’ve remained curious.

Aloe Vera research

It turns out I’m not the only one.  Researchers have been investigating the effectiveness of aloe for years.  Here is an article I stumbled on published in the British Journal of General Practice (medicine) which does a systematic review of all the clinical trial research done on aloe vera.  And here is what they found…

Ten clinically controlled research studies were found in published literature.  They ignored all the studies that were not controlled which is what you would want to do if you are looking at what science has to say about a subject.  There were only a set number of claims they could find data about.

1.  Wound healing – It was unclear whether wound healing was promoted by using aloe.  Some studies suggested it was, other larger studies said it wasn’t.

2.  Genital herpes – It could be effective for treating this condition

3.  Psoriasis – It could be effective for treating this condition.

Of course, in all cases the researchers concluded that there was not sufficient data to make any firm conclusions.

I looked through the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and couldn’t find any real research done on looking at the effectiveness of aloe.  Other sources about aloe similarly resulted in little data to support many of the claims made by supporters of aloe.

Does aloe do anything in a cosmetic?

As far as I could find…not likely.  Based on the best science about the subject there is no real good reason to include Aloe in your formulas except for the purposes of making a claim.  And if you’re using it as a claims ingredient you don’t have to add more than 0.001% to do that.  If you’re putting in more than that, you’re probably wasting money.


Three levels of Natural Formulating

While perusing the Twin Cities Holistic Cosmetic show last week I noticed lots of different types of cosmetic raw materials targeted towards the “natural” cosmetic formulating market. And it occurred to me that not everyone means the same thing when they talk about the idea of natural formulating. In our Natural Cosmetic Formulating course we spend a good amount of the first module talking about what is considered “natural”. It comes down to this, there are really 3 levels of natural cosmetic formulating. whole foods cosmetic ingredients

  • Greenwashing
  • Formulating to a standard
  • Formulating from nature

Level 3 – Greenwashing Cosmetics

Of these three options, the one that is the most prevalent in the cosmetic industry is the formulation strategy of greenwashing.  Greenwashing is the method in which you take a standard cosmetic formula, use standard ingredients, but dress up the final product in a green & natural outfit.  You give it a natural name (maybe even the word ‘natural’), you make it look & smell natural, you add some natural extracts, you write about those prominently on your packaging and in advertising, and finally, you put it in a package that evokes the idea of naturalness.

This type of formulating has been going on for years and it continues to be successfully used in the market. From a manufacturers standpoint, the benefits of greenwashing are many.  The formulas are less expensive, they work better, they are easier to make and consumers purchase them.  A common greenwashing brand is Aveeno who’s tagline “Active Naturals” seems a bit disingenuous when you discover their products are loaded with standard skin care technologies.  They advertise Soy, Seaweed and Shiitake, but we know that the Petrolatum, Mineral Oil and Dimethicone in their formulas are what really make them work.

Right now, Aveeno is over a $100 million a year brand which makes it the second largest brand in the “natural” cosmetic market.  Burts Bees is the largest in case you were wondering.

Level 2 – Formulating to a standard

While there is nothing wrong with greenwashing, some consumers and groups find it unsettling.  For this reason a number of organizations have put together their own standards of what they consider to be natural.  This includes groups like the National Sanitation Foundation, the Natural Products Association, Ecocert, The Soil Association, NaTrue, Whole Foods, and more.  I bet there are over 100 organizations around the world who have compiled some natural standards for creating cosmetic products.

The basic notion of this type of formulating is that the standard creating group goes through cosmetic ingredient data and decides which ingredients are natural and which ones aren’t.  Essentially, they take the 15,000+ ingredients listed in the INCI dictionary that are available for cosmetic formulators and reduce it to a couple thousand ingredients.  Think of it as taking a box of 64 crayons, reducing it to 20 then asking you to make the best picture you possibly can.  Sure, you can still make a nice picture but will it be as nice as the one you could make with the box of 64 crayons?

Anyway, a number of brands follow this natural formulating strategy to varying levels of success.  If you want to sell products in the Whole Foods chain of stores you have to follow their Whole Foods acceptable ingredient list (or banned list really).  Burts Bees and Say Yes to Carrots have their own standards to follow.

Are these products really more “natural” than the greenwashed products?  I don’t know.  Nature really hasn’t created any suitable, natural surfactants and there isn’t a shampoo tree so on some level there is processing going on.  However, a case could be made that these products are better for the environment and more sustainable than ones made from petroleum products.  They are also less susceptible to claims of greenwashing which can have a negative impact on sales.

Level 1 – Cosmetics from Nature

In the time before synthetic chemistry people still managed to make cosmetic creams and lotions.  In fact, an ancient Roman cosmetic tin was found to contain a 2000 year old cream.  This product was made up of animal fat, starch, and tin oxide from a mineral called cassiterite.  Anyway, type of formula would be considered a Level 1 natural formula.  You take only ingredients that you can find in nature and turn them into cosmetics without any fancy processing or chemistry.

As you can imagine, this severely limits the number and types of cosmetics you could actually make.  There really aren’t any natural cleansing surfactants so shampoos and body washes are out.  It’s incredibly difficult to preserve your product without a synthetic preservative so most water based formulas are out.  That leaves you with creams and lotions like the ancient Roman formula, beeswax based makeup products, and other technologies that were once used by society but were replaced by superior performing synthetic ingredients.

Still, this is a viable way to make certain types of cosmetic formulas.  It’s just that you will have a very difficult time creating a successful product line using a level 1 natural formulation strategy.  There aren’t any big brands on the market who have done it yet.

The best way to formulate naturally?

Which way is best?  I don’t know.  That’s really up to you and your company.  Ultimately, if you want to have a successful cosmetic product line you are going to have to find a group of consumers who want to buy your products.  If you can find enough people who like your story and your products, you could be successful with any of these formulation strategies.  In some ways, greenwashing is the easiest but level 2 and level 1 formulation strategies will also appeal to a certain type of consumer.  There will also be less competition there.

But remember, if no one is buying your product or they don’t like the way that it works after they’ve tried it, you probably don’t have a product worth making.


Interview:  Mark Broussard – Starts at 10:00

Mark Broussard is a cosmetic formulator and entrepreneur who has a BS degree in Microbiology & Immunology, a Masters in Organic Chemistry and an MBA from University of Texas – Austin.  He has worked in Corporate Development and Venture Capital focused on private equity investments, mergers & acquisitions in the environmental and life sciences fields focusing on biotechnology and healthcare.  In 2010, Mark founded Desert In Bloom, a medical spa focusing on esthetics treatments with an emphasis on acne-prone skin conditions.   

Text of the show

Cosmetic Science News

I’ve got two stories to talk about this week. Both are related to cosmetics but involve ingestible products.

The first story I wanted to talk about was this one I saw in Cosmetics Design about the drinkable beauty market. According to market analysts the nutricosmetics market will reach $7.4 billion in worldwide says. That’s a lot! To give you an idea of comparison the natural cosmetic market is about $30 billion. The total cosmetic market is about $450 billion. But they say the nutricosmetics, or ingestible cosmetics as I like to say is the strongest growing segment. It also represents the intersection between the cosmetic industry and the beverage industry.

I think cosmetic companies are in a better spot to take advantage of this trend but companies like Coke and Pepsi might also try their hand at these types of products. After all, it will likely be food scientists formulating these products. This is a good reason for cosmetic scientists to brush up on their food product formulating. The ingredients are a bit different.

They say that there is a bunch of research that documents the links between beauty, health and supplements but the reality is there isn’t much good research. In fact, there is scant evidence that any supplement can be taken to specifically improve your skin condition.

I guess it doesn’t matter much though because we live in a world where people want to believe. People want to believe that taking vitamins or other supplements will improve their health and now apparently, their appearance too.

It’s also an area that is much less regulated than cosmetics so these companies can make much stronger claims without as much data to back up what they are saying. And consumers keep buying…sigh.

Anyway, as a formulator I would suggest you start looking into how to create these types of products. It might make sense to attend a seminar on making food supplements. Maybe I’ll find an expert and collaborate to create one here on Chemists Corner.

The second story is about aging and some recent findings that could actually change the entire landscape of the cosmetic industry. Don’t worry, people will still need cosmetics for the foreseeable future but the antiaging market might not be as hot.

According to this story scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have discovered a new class of drugs called Senolytics. These are compounds that target old cells and kill them off. They found by killing off the older, non-dividing cells they can keep mice looking and feeling younger.

So in our bodies we have these stem cells which are highly resistant to dying off. That’s good because these are the cells that continually make new layers of skin for example. Well, most cells adhere to the Hayflick limit which is about 30 generations. That is they can divide about 30 to 50 times before they stop. Now, most of these cells will just die off but many of them can stick around and start causing diseases associated with people who are older.

Anyway, this new drug class finds those old cells and kills them off. This allows new, younger cells to take over their place and, theoretically, life would be extended. They’ve found in mice that on these drugs the animals have improved cardiovascular function, exercise endurance, and an extended health span. They say with just one treatment older mice had highly improved cardiovascular function. It sounds pretty exciting.

I could imagine this same thing going on for skin cells. One of the reasons people get wrinkles is that their cells stop producing collagen and elastin. So maybe a drug like this could help replenish the younger cells and aging skin might not be as problematic.

We’ll see. I bet it will be a long way off though. The researchers want to do more testing in mice before they do any human trials. That’s probably a good idea. Who knows what effect killing off all your old cells will have. I wonder how that would affect your memory.

Formulating Tips
Today’s formulating tip is about cosmetics and drugs and how to avoid turning your cosmetic into a drug. It’s easier than you might think.

To avoid the problem of turning your cosmetic into a drug follow these tips.

1. Don’t claim that your product will treat a disease.
2. Don’t claim your product changes the body’s biochemistry
3. Use phrases like “changes the appearance” or “helps the body” or “stimulates”
4. Don’t ascribe function to any single ingredient. Always say your formula provides the benefits.

If you follow these tips you should be ok but you’ll see some competitor’s who continue to make drug claims. Don’t do it. These companies are probably in it for the short term to make quick money then get out before they are busted by the FDA. If you are serious about building a beauty brand avoid turning your cosmetics into drugs.

First, you can still join our Natural Formulating course. This is a course that teaches you how to create cosmetics that can be sold as ‘natural’ cosmetics. If you are serious about following a natural product marketing spin, this is the class you need. It’s filling up fast and if you’re listening to this show in the future it might be closed to new students. To find out more information go to Chemists Corner.com/natural

Next, I’ll be speaking at the Natural Symposium in Minnesota on March 17th. You can get more information about that at the Twin Cities SCC website.

And finally, I’ll also be giving a one day seminar on Cosmetic Product Development on April 13th in New York at the SCC headquarters. Go to scconline.org for more information.

As always, feel free to post questions or comments in our cosmetic science forum. We are up over 1000 discussions and it’s still free to join.

Also, follow us on Twitter (Chemistscorner) and like us on Facebook.


5 Things That Cosmetics Can Do

While there are hundreds of types of cosmetics and thousands of cosmetic brands, there are really only 5 things that cosmetics do.  If you want to be a well-rounded cosmetic formulator you should be familiar with how to make at least one formula in each category. cosmetic products


Getting rid of dirt and oil from the surface of skin and hair is the purpose of a large segment of cosmetic products.  This includes products like shampoos, body washes, cleansing bars, facial cleansers and more. The key raw material responsible for making most of these products work are surfactants.  If you want to get good at formulating cleansing products, you’ve got to learn surfactant science.


Where cleaning cosmetics leave off, conditioning cosmetics begin.  Removing dirt solves some problems but even in their natural states hair and skin may not look or feel the way people want.  For this reason conditioning or moisturizing products are needed.  These include products like conditioners, skin lotions & creams, moisturizers, gels and more.  There are a wide range of ingredients that can condition such as occlusives, humectants, emollients, surfactants, and polymers.  And they work in slightly different ways.  To get good at creating conditioners you have to not only know these ingredients but you also need to know what properties make a surface feel conditioned or moisturized.


Since cosmetics are used to enhance or change the appearance of skin, hair and nails one of the most obvious ways to do that is by changing the color.  Cosmetics that change the color include hair coloring, sunless tanners, lipstick, blush, eyeshadow, nail polish, and pretty much any other color cosmetic.   The ingredients that make most of these products work are highly regulated in the cosmetic industry and include dyes and pigments made from minerals, synthetic organic molecules, or other natural colorants.  For hair colors bleach is used to make the color lighter while polymeric dyes are used for other colors.  Color cosmetics are a specialized area of formulating and require special equipment to make more sophisticated formulations.  If you were looking to start your own line, making color cosmetics is one of the most difficult places to start.

Change the shape

Another way that cosmetics can change the appearance is by changing the shape of the surface on which they are applied.  This function is mostly limited to hair products like styling products, relaxers, and perms.  There isn’t a lot you can do to change the shape of skin using cosmetics although some might argue skin tightening products do that.  In any event, the key raw materials that help cosmetics change the shape of the surfaces include polymers, resins, oils, and waxes.

Change the odor

Although looking good is an important function of cosmetics, making people smell good is another thing that cosmetics can do.  Cleaning products will remove odors but cosmetics like deodorants, perfumes, and fragranced cosmetics can change the way a person smells.  The main ingredients that have this effect include things like synthetic odor molecules, resins, extracts, and oils.  To be able to formulate a good fragrance requires years of specialized training.  There are literally thousands of ingredients with different odors that you have to learn and discover how they interact to create a pleasing odor.  Those fragrances then have to be formulated into finished products that work for consumers.  Perfumers are like the fashion designers of the cosmetic industry.

That about covers it. All the hundreds of thousands of beauty products only do one or more of these five things. There are a number of products that seem like cosmetics like sunscreens, antiperspirants or anti-dandruff products but these are actually over the counter drugs (at least in the US) and they wouldn’t technically be considered cosmetics.


What to ask about your new cosmetic raw material

At some point in your cosmetic chemistry career, if you haven’t already, you’ll be introduced to new ingredients. The supplier will probably furnish you with a few studies that have been run on why said ingredient should be in your formulating arsenal, along with other key benefits of the material over Questionscompetitors. You can read more about How to Evaluate Cosmetic Raw Material Marketing here.

There seems to be an endless supply of materials at my fingertips, and my cabinet space is limited, so I like to ask a few questions about the material to see if it’s something I’m interested in ordering a sample of. Here are examples of some of the questions I ask:

  1. What application(s) is this ingredient for?

Finding out what type of material it is can help you figure out if you have a use for it. Is it a surfactant, emulsifier, active ingredient, etc.?

  1. What have studies shown?

Suppliers are in the business of selling ingredients and are not going to show negative data collected. Just be careful that the data you get may be biased.

  1. What are recommended use levels of this ingredient?

This is a practical inquiry for a variety of reasons. It will it help you determine if the use level and cost are within the confines of your budget. If a study was performed at a 5% use level, it may or may not be feasible to use it at that level. Again, suppliers are in the business to sell ingredients; be wary of exceptionally high use levels (you’ll want to make a prototype when you get an ingredient sample with the highest recommended use level; if it doesn’t work well at that level, you know it won’t work at a reasonable level!).

  1. What pH range is it stable at?

If you formulate products that typically have a high pH, an ingredient optimal at a low pH will not work in your formulation, vice versa.

  1. What is it soluble in?

You need to know if the ingredient type is compatible with the solubility of your system.

  1. Are there any incompatibilities to be aware of?

This may save you a headache in the long run, if, for example you’re making a shampoo and an ingredient is incompatible with anionics.

You can always ask they supplier for more in-depth information. Use this guide to working with vendors if you need assistance, and remember – treat your vendors with kindness. Only order a sample if you intend to use it.

Valerie Patton is currently a cosmetic chemist specializing in hair care and hair color in Southern California. She is the Chair Elect of the California Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. You can follow her on Twitter as @thelahobo.


How do moisturizing ingredients work?

This is a pretty good summary of how skin moisturizers work on dry skin.


In the cosmetic industry beauty bloggers seem to be gaining in their influence and big brands are beginning to take them more seriously. This is good for beauty bloggers and the brands they like but it can also have an effect on how you formulate. beauty-bloggers

Here are 2 ways beauty bloggers may impact formulators.

They make you avoid ingredients

Beauty bloggers are easily manipulated by the media and fear mongering groups. They usually have no background in science and aren’t sufficiently skeptical of things that motivated groups tell them. They think sites like Livestrong.com and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are legitimate sources for ingredient information. They believe erroneous information about the safety (or lack thereof) of cosmetic ingredients. This in-turn can prompt your marketing people to ask you to avoid certain perfectly functional & safe ingredients.

They make you add nonfunctional ingredients

Just as beauty bloggers can be duped by purveyors of cosmetic safety misinformation, they can also be duped by marketers, friends or traditional information about ingredients. They might extol the virtues of an ingredient like Wheat Germ Oil while knowing very little about whether it works.

They don’t know that just because an ingredient is listed on the product label doesn’t mean there is enough in the product to make it work. In the case of an ingredient like Wheat Germ oil, using a high level is unlikely.

Beauty bloggers also don’t understand that health benefits in food do not translate into health benefits from cosmetics. It is completely untrue that whatever you put on your skin gets into your body. It (mostly) doesn’t. You can’t improve your health by applying an ingredient on your skin.

For the most part I’m a fan of beauty bloggers (and I’m also one myself at The Beauty Brains). As a formulator you need to realize they can have an impact on your formulation. This is a good reason for you to follow a few of the more popular beauty blogs. Who knows, some day you might be working for one of these bloggers. That’s how Michele Phan started.


What is Polyquaternium?

This is a post by Nitesh Rajput

A product is considered to be a conditioner if it improves the quality of the surface to which it is applied, particularly if this improvement involves the correction or prevention of certain aspects associated with surface damage. Conditioning of the hair and skin must be a continuous process, as both substrates are in a constant cycle of shedding and renewal. The main difference between hair and skin is that skin is basically a living organ that replaces its outermost layer on a frequent basis. Hair, in contrast, is basically dead material derived from a few live cells deep within the skin surface.

Modern conditioners

Modern conditioners are designed to provide one or more of the following functions:

• provide ease of wet and dry combing
• smooth, seal and realign damaged areas of the hair shaft
• minimize porosity
• impart sheen and a silken feel to the hair
• provide some protection against thermal and mechanical damage
• moisturize
• add volume and body
• eliminate static electricity

So what is a cationic polymer?
A polymer is “Any of numerous natural and synthetic compounds of usually high molecular weight consisting of up to millions of repeated linked units, each a relatively light and simple molecule.”

So a cationic polymer is a positively charged or cationic polymer that we use in hair and body care products to increase conditioning and film forming. Because it’s cationic, it will be substantive and adsorb to our hair our skin to increase lubricity and moisturizing. In hair care products, cationic polymers will help our cuticle scales resist uplift when stressed, which keeps our hair in better condition.

What is Polyquaternium?
Polyquaternium is the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients designation for several polycationic polymersthat are used in the personal care industry. Polyquaternium is a neologism used to emphasize the presence of quaternary ammonium centers in the polymer. INCI has approved at least 37 different polymers under the polyquaternium designation. Different polymers are distinguished by the numerical value that follows the word “polyquaternium”. Polyquaternium-5, polyquaternium-7, and polyquaternium-47 are three examples, each a chemically different type of polymer. The numbers are assigned in the order in which they are registered rather than because of their chemical structure.

Polyquaternium-4:  Provides excellent combability, holding, gloss and antistat properties. This cellulosic polymer substantive to skin and hair and exhibits outstanding properties in hair care products. It is a tan powder that is water-soluble. (suggested use: 0.5 to 1%)

Polyquaternium-7 :  Leaves hair feeling soft. It is a thick viscous liquid with low odor. (suggested use: 2 to 5%)

Polyquaternium-10:   This is a cationic, water-soluble substantive conditioner for hair care. It provides film formation on hair and moisturization. It is non-irritating and compatible with a wide range of surfactants. It enables the formulation of clear products.   (suggested use:0.25-0.5%)

Polyquaternium-44:  This is a very efficient, multinational polymer for use in a variety of cleansing products to improve the wet combability of the hair and prevent electrostatic charging when the hair is dry. It also protects the hair by forming a shield around each hair so that its surface is less readily attacked. It conditions and provides a smooth silky feel to the hair. The lather creaminess is significantly improved. There are no drawbacks with fine hair regarding volume, accumulation and build-up when used at recommended use levels. It is a viscous clear amber liquid with low odor. (suggested use:0.1-0.5%)

How does it work hair?
Since they are positively charged, they neutralize the negative charges of most shampoos, relaxers, hair proteins etc. helping the hair to lay flat. Their positive charge, ionically bond to the hair. It is particularly useful to use cationic polymers on hair exposed to high alkalinity relaxers to decrease damage to hair. They attach to the hair and provide conditioning benefits such as ease of combing, hair alignment, elasticity and shine. Polyquaternium also helps to reduce flyaways & static.

As always, choose your products carefully, get samples when you can, and see what works for your hair.

Conditioner formulations

Typical formulations for hair conditioners using polyquats.

1. Rinse-off Hair conditioner

Screenshot 2015-02-19 15.10.56

Process – Phase A In a vessel, add water at room temperature and ingredients of Phase A one at a time in proper sequence under stirring with the help of an overhead stirrer at 400 rpm.
Phase B -Add ingredients of Phase B one at a time while stirring. Homogenize for 3 minutes.
Turn off the homogenizer and switch to stirring under overhead stirrer at 400 rpm. Slowly add sodium hydroxide 10% solution while mixing. Stir for 5 minutes or until uniform.
Add Remaining Ingredients one by one

2.Leave on conditioners

Screenshot 2015-02-19 15.10.56(2)

Process- Phase A In a vessel, add water at room temperature and ingredients of Phase A one at a time in proper sequence under stirring with the help of an overhead stirrer at 400 rpm.
Phase B Add ingredients of Phase B one at a time while stirring. Homogenize for 3 minutes.
Turn off the homogenizer and switch to stirring under overhead stirrer at 400 rpm. Slowly add sodium hydroxide 10% solution while mixing. Stir for 5 minutes or until uniform.
Add Remaining Ingredients one by one

3. Conditioning Shampoo

Screenshot 2015-02-19 15.10.56(3)

Prepare a premix solution by dispersing Polyquat 10 in water with agitation. Begin heating to 50-60°C. Add the PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate to the premix solution, stirring until dissolved. Remove heat. Combine the surfactants. Add the premix solution to the surfactant mixture. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, waiting for each ingredient to dissolve before adding the next one. Adjust the pH to 6.0 with the citric acid.

Other polyquat systems

Other conditioning systems and how polyquats compare to them.

Conditioning polymers are common in hair care, typically used to provide hair with a well-defined set of benefits including improved deposition of silicone and better feel through a slippery nature that eases combability.

Products are typically considered as “conditioning” when they improve the surface of skin or hair. In hair care, “conditioning” is typically understood to denote an improvement in the “condition” or appearance and manageability of hair alongside quality characteristics including combability, flyaway, body, curl retention, slip, and other well-defined facets.

Cationic conditioning polymers
Many conditioning polymers achieve substantivity through a cationic charge that promotes binding to the innate anionic charge of hair and skin under normal physiological pH levels. Past studies conducted using neonatal rat stratum corneum membranes have demonstrated that cationic polymer deposition efficacy on skin can parallel results obtained using hair fibres Depending on the nature of the material, substantivity of the polymer onto skin could provide a film or barrier function. Other benefits from improved substantitivity could also include enhanced deposition of ingredients and improved feel, both pertinent to skin care & Hair care.
Cationic and amphoteric polymers, such as polyquaternium-6, polyquaternium-7, and polyquaternium-39, added to hair formulations, mitigate this degradation of the hair structure. Also, the inclusion of high molecular-weight (>106 g/mole) copolymers of acrylamide and diallyldimethylammonium chloride, acryloyloxytrimethylammoniumchloride, or acryloyloxyethyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride in the Hair care formula results in significant reduction in the hair structural damage caused by alkaline relaxation.

Examples of cationic conditioning polymers

Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Collagen
Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Hair Keratin
Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Keratin
Cationic hydroxyethylcellulose
polyquaternium-10, and

Silicone Conditioners

Silicone quaternaries have long been known as hair conditioning compounds. Leave-on silicone conditioners specifically targeted to nonshampoo applications confer enhanced and relatively durable conditioning. These contain emulsified vinyl-terminated silicones applied in combination with a conventional cationic conditioner. A preferred product type is a mousse. These silicone block copolymers can achieve excellent conditioning at relatively high viscosities (100 Kpa/s-1).

The advantages of silicone in your hair are the shiny look, frizz free hair and the smooth feeling you get when you wash your hair.

Names of silicones

Water Soluble Silicones
Dimethicone Copolyol
Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
Hydrolyzed wheat protein (Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane)
Any Silicone with PEG as a prefix

Oil soluble Silicones

Phenyl Trimethicone
Cetearyl Methicone
Stearyl Dimethicone
Cetyl Dimethicone
Behenoxy Dimethicone
Stearoxy Dimethicone

Hopefully, this overview gives you a good idea of the versatility of the Polyquaternium ingredients.  Happy formulating.


Although you can find lots of great formulating advice here on Chemists Corner and on our cosmetic formulating forum, there are numerous other places you can find excellent cosmetic formulation information. cosmetic resources

One of my favorite places to find hidden gems is Google.  Using Google I have found numerous free copies of books that might cost you hundreds of dollars on Amazon or other book stores.  You just have to know how to search.

Look for the PDFs

Often website owners will put up PDF versions of books or articles they’ve scanned.  These files are a treasure trove of useful information but they won’t show up in a typical Google search.  But if you add “.pdf” to the search you just might find something really great.

Here’s an example.

Doing a Google search of the phrase “cosmetic formulating .pdf” results in a great find!  The Handbook of Cosmetic Formulating!  If you have a scribd account you can download it but even if you can’t you can still read it for free online.  This book costs hundreds of dollars.  Of course, I encourage you to purchase the book if you can afford it but until then read away.

Instead of search for .pdf try “cosmetic formulating ebook” and you’ll stumble on Cosmetic Formulation of Skin Care Products.  Again this is a scribd file and you need to join to download it but you can read it online for free.

There are numerous more examples but you get the idea.  If you’re looking for a formulation book, resource or even some advice, don’t forget to check your local search engine.

Remember the authors

As I mentioned while you can find lots of information for free online remember that the authors of these works often rely on the income generated from them to survive.  I know you could probably find copies of my book online in this way.  Downloading it hurts me to some extent but I believe the point of a book is to get as many people as possible to read it so if a certain amount of people who weren’t going to buy it anyway get it for free, that’s just how life goes.  I would appreciate it if you alerted me to any books you find though so others can share in the information.


SDS Guide for Cosmetic Chemists

There are a few standardization organizations that you’ll come across in the personal care industry; two that you may see are referred to as ISO and GHS. ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, while GHS is an acronym standing for the Globally Harmonized System [of Classification and Labelling of chemicals]. They are both logical systems that define the physical and environmental hazards of chemicals, along with relative protective measures. Essentially, they establish an agreed upon way that chemical hazards are communicated globally to ensure the safe use of chemicals. safety data sheets cosmetics

Overview of SDS

One of the ways this is done is through a Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly known as the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). On an SDS you can find useful information such as toxicity, flammability, and transportation restrictions for a certain product. The format of an SDS is generally the same across all of the organizations.

General Structure of an SDS

There are generally 16 sections to an SDS. It may have words or hazard symbols, and the sections are not limited to:

  1.   Identification of the chemical & supplier contact information
  2.   Hazards identification
  3.   Composition of ingredients (chemical identity, CAS number)
  4.   First aid measures upon exposure
  5.   Firefighting information
  6.   Accidental release measures
  7.   Handling and storage
  8.   Exposure controls and personal protective equipment
  9.   Physical and chemical properties
  10. Stability and reactivity
  11. Toxicological information
  12. Ecological information
  13. Disposal considerations
  14. Transport information
  15. Regulatory information
  16. Additional information, like SDS revisions

SDS’s aren’t just for ingredients

It’s not only ingredients that need a safety data sheet; even finished goods have an SDS. If you work for a brand that sells products, you might have to write an SDS as well.

What parts does a cosmetic chemist use?

As a cosmetic chemist, you’ll be working with ingredients that have an SDS. It is good to familiarize yourself with the SDS content of each ingredient you use as it contains valuable information like chemical properties, storage information, disposal information, and what to do if you’ve suffered from exposure. An SDS should arrive with a sample that you’ve requested from a supplier, but in the event it doesn’t, they’re readily available on chemical supply sites like UL Prospector or you can contact your account representative.

You can read more about SDS content and how different standardization organizations organize them here.

Valerie Patton is currently a cosmetic chemist specializing in hair care and hair color in Southern California. She is the Chair Elect of the California Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. You can follow her on Twitter as @thelahobo.