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Visit the Cosmetic Compliance Summit September 15-17

If you sell or product cosmetic products around the world you are going to have to keep up with the various local governmental regulations.  And what better way to learn those than to attend a three day summit?

Learn more about the Cosmetic Compliance Summit

It is going to be held in New Jersey on September 15 – 17, 2014.

Here are the main things you will learn by attending this conference.

• Understanding the need for Good Manufacturing Practices in order for successful trade operations
• How cosmetics companies ensure safety without using animal tests; What are the alternatives?
• Approaching the new and improved Product Information File; Understanding what new information needs to be added
• Understanding the New Requirements of the Cosmetic Product Safety Report
• How are your product claims being backed up by clinical and proved trials?
• Legal and business strategies for Global Cosmetics Regulatory Compliance: US, Latin and Central America
• Identifying who is designated as being the “Responsible Person” for your brand

You don’t want to miss this important industry event especially if you want to produce and sell cosmetics in a compliant way.



Sunscreen science and technology for formulators

Article by -Nitesh Rajput – Cosmetic scientist

Sunscreen, also commonly known as sunblock, sun screen, suntan lotion, sunburn cream, sun cream or block out, is a lotion, spray, gel or other topical product that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the skin exposed to sunlight and thus helps protect against sunburn.

Depending on the mode of action sunscreens can be classified into physical sunscreens (i.e., those that reflect the sunlight) or organic sunscreens (i.e., those that absorb the UV light)

What is SPF

SPF, also known as sun protection factor, is determined by how long you expose yourself to the sun before you start to burn, but in reality it is mainly a measure of UV A-B protection.

How to measure SPF

The SPF can be measured by applying sunscreen to the skin of a volunteer and measuring how long it takes before sunburn occurs when exposed to an artificial sunlight source. In the US, such an in vivo test is required by the FDA. It can also be measured in vitro with the help of a specially designed spectrometer. In this case, the actual transmittance of the sunscreen is measured, along with the degradation of the product due to being exposed to sunlight. The transmittance of the sunscreen must be measured over all wavelengths in the UV-B range (290–320 nm), along with a table of how effective various wavelengths are in causing sunburn (the erythemal action spectrum) and the actual intensity spectrum of sunlight. Such in vitro measurements agree very well with in vivo measurements.

Numerous methods have been devised for evaluation of UVA and UVB protection. The most reliable spectrophotochemical methods eliminate the subjective nature of grading erythema.

SPF math

Mathematically, the SPF is calculated from measured data as

SPF equation

E(\lambda) is the solar irradiance spectrum,
A(\lambda) the erythemal action spectrum, and
\mathrm{MPF}(\lambda) the monochromatic protection factor, all functions of the wavelength \lambda.

The MPF is roughly the inverse of the transmittance at a given wavelength.
The MPF is roughly the inverse of the transmittance at a given wavelength.

The above means that the SPF is not simply the inverse of the transmittance in the UV-B region. If that were true, then applying two layers of SPF 5 sunscreen would be equivalent to SPF 25 (5 times 5). The actual combined SPF is always lower than the square of the single-layer SPF.

Difference b/w Sunscreen and Sunblock

Both sunblock and sunscreen will protect your skin from UVA and UVB light (aging rays and burning rays), they use different chemicals and those chemicals work in different ways, which is why different terms are used.

Sunblock works like a mirrored shield. It contains minute particles of reflective material. They reflect the sun’s rays away from your skin blocking the damaging rays from ever reaching at all.
The ingredients included in sunblocks include Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. (This includes Powder Sunscreen and Mineral Makeup.)

A sunscreen works in a way more like a sponge: where the sunblock reflects the beams away from your skin, the sunscreen soaks them up before they can reach you. Those rays that escape have been altered in wavelength, so that they are no longer in frequencies that endanger the skin. The ingredients that are most often found in sunscreens include PABA, Benzophenones, Cinnamates, Salicylates,

Sunscreen ingredients and there limitations

Here are the primary sunscreen ingredients used around the world.

p-Aminobenzoic acid -15 % (banned in US)
Cinoxate -3 %
Benzophenone-8 -3 %
Benzophenone-3 – Up to 10 %
Benzophenone-9 -Up to 10 %
Octyl methoxycinnamate – up to 20 %
Octyl salicylate – Up to 10 %
Sulisobenzone – Up to 10 %
Trolamine salicylate- Up to 12 %
Avobenzone – Up to 10 %
Titanium dioxide – Up to 25 %
Zinc oxide -Up to 25 %
(% vary according to regions and countries)


Known to his friends as Ed, Maison G. de Navarre, first took an interest in cosmetic science while studying pharmacy at the College of the City of Detroit (now Wayne University).  As part of his qualifications to take a State Board examination, Ed worked in a drugstore and became interested in the many cosmetics and perfumes sold in there. Maison G de Navarre

Starting the SCC

Louis Spencer Levy, publisher of The America Perfumer, created the Michigan Cosmetic and Extract Association in 1933. Ed became the first president and served as secretary and treasurer in later years. Ed began writing a column for The America Perfumer in 1934 called “Desiderata”, which means “desired things” in Latin.  He shared technical information and advice in these columns. Through correspondences with readers, Ed soon realized the cosmetic industry had a need for a way to share and build collective knowledge.

It was in 1935 that Ed had the idea to create a The Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC). He planned a founding meeting that summer which was to take place in Cincinnati. After arriving in Cincinnati for the meeting, numerous cancellations frustrated Ed and he returned to Detroit disappointed.

In 1938, Ed began the task of creating the first edition of the book “The Chemistry and Manufacture of Cosmetics.” The initial manuscript was one thousand pages long and the book was so popular that it was reprinted six times. (I tracked down a first edition copy for my personal cosmetic science library!) That book has evolved into a multiple volume set that undergoes periodic updates and those books are still essential assets to cosmetic scientists today.

First SCC meeting

In 1944, Ed was ready to give it another shot. He had begun a business consulting in the cosmetics industry and approached many of his clients to gain support for the development of the SCC.  May 23, 1945 the founding members of the SCC met at the Lexington Hotel. A constitution and the name of the organization were adopted and there was a short technical program. Ed served as the first chairman as there the role of president was not yet established.

Expanding to the IFSCC

Ed was also very involved in the creation of the International Federation of the Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC). On September 9, 1959 eight representatives from different national Societies of Cosmetic Chemists met in Brussels, Belgium to solidify the mission and goals.  The first congress was held in Munich, Germany in 1960 with 350 attendees from 16 countries in attendance. Ed served at the first president of the IFSCC.

Today, Maison G. de Navarre’s legacy is celebrated through two awards that bear his name.  The highest honor of the SCC in the US is the Maison G. de Navarre Medal Prize for scientific contributions to the field, and the IFSCC awards a promising young scientist a prize in his name.

SCC today

While dissemination of scientific knowledge is easily accessible through publication, much more so today, Ed realized the importance of personal connections and conversations that could be developed through a professional organization. Today the SCC and IFSCC continue to thrive on the opportunity for personal dialogue and camaraderie.

Go here for more information about the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.


What is scientific skin care?

Here’s a story suggesting that scientific skin care is a great opportunity for cosmetic brands as it is poised for future growth.  The article then goes on to say that “scientific skin care”

“…scientific skin care draws on ‘alternative’ (also known as ‘natural’) medical traditions…from around the world”

They then go on to say that

“in alternative medicine the natural and the scientific are not mutually exclusive concepts…”

This is completely baffling to me.  Calling alternative medicine scientific is ludicrous.  Alternative medicine is specifically treatments that have not been proven to work!  If these were proven to work they wouldn’t be called ‘alternative medicine’ they would just be called ‘medicine’.

Scientific Skin Care

The market research firm that put together this report may be correct that skin care companies can benefit from adopting ingredients and techniques popular in alternative medicine, but they shouldn’t confuse popular with scientific.

This is the cosmetic industry and people are not necessarily interested in buying the best scientific skin care.  They want the best story.  This is why people spend hundreds of dollars on skin lotions that contain gold particles or caviar, or even superoxide dismutase.  There is nothing scientific about these ingredients, or at least they haven’t been proven to be effective from topically applied treatments.  And just because they sound scientific and people buy them doesn’t mean they are.

You know what is scientific skin care?  Moisturizers like Petrolatum, Mineral Oil or Dimethicone.  Humectants like Glycerin or Propylene Glycol.  These are the things that make skin moisturizers work.  Not gold or caviar or ancient herbs or acupuncture.  Petrolatum might not be pretty but it is science.

Alternative medicine is not.

As a formulator you should never lose sight of what is actually working. And don’t fall in love with any specific ingredient.

“The first principle (of science) is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool”

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Making your cosmetic brand stand out

One of the best books on marketing by Seth Godin is his book The Purple Cow. It’s an easy read and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in launching their own cosmetic line. It’s also great for cosmetic chemists who just want to get a better understanding on how you might help improve the marketing of your own formulas.

Being different

The basic thesis of The Purple Cow is that to succeed in business, you have to stand out. And figuring out how to make your brand, your product or even yourself stand out from the crowd is the way to success.

In the cosmetic business, standing out can be difficult. There are thousands of brands and tens of thousands of products. Just getting your product in a store to compete with others is going to be tough. Worse, consumers are not very good at picking up actual product performance differences. So, even if your formulas work better than someone else’s, you’ll have a hard time getting consumers to understand it.

How big brands stand out

The big mass market companies are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. Their biggest weapon is money spent on advertising. This allows them to “tell their story” to hundreds of millions of people. The simple exposure of their story to this many people is going to result in sales. It’s no coincidence that the biggest selling cosmetic brands also spend the most on advertising.

Some big brands that don’t compete with advertising try a different tact. They compete on price. White Rain, VO5 and Suave all shoot for the least expensive products they can create while still getting a decent profit. The profit margin isn’t great but when you are selling 100 million bottles a year, you can still make a lot of money.

How small brands can stand out

For the most part, small brands and independent cosmetic makers can not copy the tactics of big brands. They will not be able to out spend big companies in advertising and also can’t win a price competition.

However, there are still a number of ways that a small cosmetic product / brand can stand out.

1. Unique story. The best way to create a stand out brand is to come up with a unique story. Burts Bees did an excellent job of this and built their brand so large that it got bought for a huge amount by a large company. It should be noted that Burts Bees didn’t simply go for an “all natural, organic, chemical free” marketing position. They had a compelling origin story, a likeable character, some savvy marketing, and fortuitous timing. Beeswax lip balm wasn’t unique at the time but Burts Bees made it unique.

Here’s a company that is trying to stand out. They’ve created a line of nail polish inspired by things like menstrual blood, bruises and famous painters. The kicker is that they sell the polish for $80 a bottle and they are sold out (at least they claim to be). That is impressive marketing.

Action – Find your unique story.

2. Niche consumer group. While it’s critical to have a unique story, it may be easier to stand out by starting with a niche consumer group and creating products specifically for them. The age of the Internet makes it much easier to identify niche groups. These groups are still going to be too small for the big corporations to go after but for small brands, you can make a great living catering to a smaller group.

So, what would be an example of a niche consumer group? Groups like

a. People allergic to Gluten containing products
b. People with psoriasis
c. People who are religious
d. People with a political ideology
e. People who ride motorcycles

Action – Find your nich consumer group.

3. Noticeable differences. The most satisfying way to stand out is to create a cosmetic formula that is noticeably different from all other ones out there. This is exceedingly difficult to do as the cosmetic field is “mature” science and there aren’t a lot of breakthru technologies. But don’t stop looking because you may find something. To create a product that performs better than all others you need to first identify the market leaders. Do some research to find out who actually has the best performing technology. And test it yourself. Then start creating formulas that work better.

Action – Figure out what the current best technology is and work to best it.

4. Novel marketing. The final way to stand out is to come up with some novel marketing methods. Big brands do things like create viral commercials, do public stunts, or wine and dine magazine editors & bloggers. You can do some of those things but don’t stop there. Brainstorm some ideas how you can get people talking about your brand. Then try them out. An excellent book on this subejct is Guerrilla Marketing.

Action – Determine a novel marketing strategy for your product.

Remember, you don’t have to be the biggest brand in the cosmetic business to be successful and make a good living. You just need to be unique. Figure out how you can stand out from the crowd of competitors and you will be able to earn a living from your cosmetic brand for life.


Nail design can prevent date rape?

Sometimes it seems innovation in cosmetic formulation is nonexistent. Most of the new products that are launched every year are simply minor adjustments on current technology. In my view there has been little real innovation in cosmetic formulation in quite some time. And the things that are innovative (e.g. powdered shampoo or beauty patch products) don’t usually becomes big market successes. Rather, the biggest successes are the brands who have the most innovative marketing stories and positioning like Urban Decay which didn’t exist until 1996 and was sold to L’Oreal for ~$150 million a couple years ago. The kicker is that there is nothing innovative about their cosmetic formulas at all. They are high quality products but not anything that a reasonably competent cosmetic chemist couldn’t make. nail design

That’s why I’m pleased to read stories about truly innovative technologies being developed in cosmetic formulas. This story about a nail polish being designed to detect a date rape drug is a good example. According to the report some undergraduate students at North Carolina State University are trying to produce a nail polish that will reveal the presence of date rape drugs in drinks. They were no doubt influenced by the Drinksafe technology which is a coaster that can detect whether your drink is spiked with a drug or not.

Nail designed innovation?

Now, I don’t know if these students will really be able to create a nail polish that replicates the effect of this color changing coaster. It’s not even clear that the coaster is effective. But the idea is interesting and if they could do it, it would definitely be an innovative new product. Depending how they do it, this could be a stand alone nail polish or a raw material that is put into all nail polishes.

I doubt this will be available any time soon and it is unlikely that these students will be the ones who bring it to market. It’s more likely they will have to partner with someone who knows something about formulating nail polish, but time will tell. It’s an excellent idea even if it is a small niche product at the moment.

Cosmetic product innovation

So there is still room for innovation in cosmetic formulating. This nail polish is designed to have a multi-purpose effect and this is one way that you can come up with new cosmetic formula innovations.

Think of your cosmetic product and add a second feature. Here are some examples off the top of my head.

Nail polish that generates electricity – paint on solar panels?
Makeup with ID tag chemical for identification
Scratch & sniff nail polish – releases a different scent for a pick-me-up when you’re tired
Nail polish water purifier – great for camping!

These may not be great ideas but they would be innovative if created. Feel free to take the ideas and do whatever you like with them.

Now, what are your cosmetic formula innovative ideas?


Chemical Reactions in Cosmetic Science

In college, most chemistry classes were focused on creating chemical reactions. We were constantly challenged to figure out what reaction would happen when you mix chemicals together.

Cosmetic science is not usually reactive

So, you might find it surprising that cosmetic scientists usually do the opposite. We mix chemicals together and hope that nothing happens. In a cosmetic formula, chemical reactions are bad. They are a sign of instability and we do everything we can to prevent them.

This drive to make nonreactive systems might lead you to wonder whether all those chemical reactions you memorized in Organic Chemistry were a waste of time. And if you work as a cosmetic formulator, you might wonder, “Are there any chemical reactions in cosmetic science?”

Yes, there is!

Reactive cosmetic products

While most of the chemical reactions in our industry occur at the raw material suppliers labs, there are some cosmetic products specifically designed to chemically react.  Here’s a list of the most common.

Permanent Waves

These products are designed to permanently change the shape of hair. People with straight hair often use permanent waves to get a little curl in their hair. A permanent wave formula has a reducing agent like thioglycolic acid that reacts with the di-sulfur bonds in the cystine amino acids breaking down the hair structure. Hair is first shaped into curlers, then the product is put on hair. It begins reducing hair and is rinsed with water to stop the reaction. A neutralizing chemical like hydrogen peroxide, is added which reforms the di-sulfur bonds into the new configuration.

Hair Relaxers

These products do the opposite of permanent waves. They make curly hair permanently straight. The method is similar you chemically break down hair, reshape it, then reform the protein bonds in the new configuration. Sometimes ammonium thioglycolate is used but most often it is sodium hydroxide or lithium hydroxide. The compounds break down the di-sulfur bonds in hair and the neutralizing step stops the reaction.

This is the most damaging chemical treatment for hair.

Hair Bleach

Hair bleaching is a process used to turn brunettes into blonds. You didn’t really think that there were that many blonds in the world did you? Hair bleach is a chemical reaction between melanin (the material in hair that gives it color) and hydrogen peroxide.

Hair Colors

Hair coloring is a slightly more complicated version of hair bleach. It uses hydrogen peroxide to break down hair’s natural color, then the peroxide also oxidizes a polymeric reaction with dye monomers. When the dye polymerizes inside the hair, it creates a color molecule that is too big to easily come back out.

Skin Darkening

These products are designed to give fair-skinned people a tanned look. They work by using an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone or DHA. It reacts with the proteins in the stratum corneum via the Maillard reaction to produce the brown (although sometimes orange) color. All the steps haven’t been worked out, but basically when DHA is exposed to skin protein, it is converted to pyruvaldehyde, which then reacts with arginine, lysine, and histidine amino acids in skin to form brown/yellow pigments called melanoidins.

Be sure to see Kelly’s article about DHA in Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine.


These are products designed to help people to remove unwanted hair. The primary active in these types of cosmetics is some version of thioglycolic acid. The acid reacts with the cystine amino acids in hair and breaks down the S-S linkages. The hair is reduced to a jelly like mass that can then be wiped away. Note this is the same reaction as in permanent waves.

2SH-CH2-COOH(thioglycolic acid) +R-S-S-R(cystine)—–> 2R-SH + COOH CH2 SS CH2 COOH (dithiodiglycolic acid)

Chemical reactions are not the primary focus of most cosmetics, but there are a few reactions so don’t fret. Memorizing those reactions in Organic Chemistry wasn’t a complete waste of time.


Sunscreen formulas may be hazardous to sea life

Here is a story that caught my interest about the ingredients in sunscreens harming ocean life. It turns out that the active ingredients in mineral sunblocks, Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) and Zinc Oxide (ZnO), undergo a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen peroxide. sunscreen-phytoplankton

The way it works is that when a photon hits the molecule it is converted to heat and a free electron. The free electron reacts with Oxygen to produce an oxygen radical which reacts with free hydrogen which then combines with another to form hydrogen peroxide.

Anyway, this increased level of hydrogen peroxide in the ocean water can kill off some of the marine phytoplankton. This is a significant food source for larger sea creatures so when phytoplankton is reduced it has devastating effects on other animals.

Unintended Consequences

This just makes me think of the advice that is given by organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They do an annual recommendation for sunscreens and always choose TiO2 and ZnO based products as the “safest” choice for consumers. There is no good evidence that organic sunscreen ingredients like Oxybenzone or Octinoxate are dangerous for people but that doesn’t stop the EWG from suggesting they are.

As this story about the effect of TiO2 on aquatic life demonstrates, there may be unintended consequences to what you think is good advice. If you care about the environment it is probably better for you to use sunscreens based on different UV filters that don’t include mineral sunscreens.


Often, I wonder about the history of our industry. So I’ve been collecting old cosmetic formularies and books. They tend to be rare. There were only two copies of my latest purchase, published in 1935, available on Amazon. That book is Canitics: The Art and Science of Hair Dyeing, written by Florence Wall. It appears that Florence was one of the first women to be recognized as a cosmetic chemist and the first female medalist in the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. cosmetic chemist florence wall

Florence Wall

Florence Wall was born in Patterson, NJ in 1893. She attended the College of St. Elizabeth and graduated with Bachelors’ degrees in Arts and Education and honors in both English and Chemistry. There were few opportunities for women in chemistry at the time, so Florence spent time teaching high school science.

World War I opened doors for women in many careers when men were sent off to war. Florence began working as an industrial chemist and later a cosmetic chemist. In 1924 she took a position at the leading manufacturer of hair dyes, Inecto, Inc. She was to be a liaison between the lab and the salon where product testing occurred.

Soon, her technical writing skills and knowledge of several languages caused a change in course and she was put in charge of library research and the department of technical advice. Shortly thereafter she was asked to write a text on the science of hair dye and coined the term canitics to mean the art and science of hair dyeing. Florence continued to write throughout her career. She published 5 books and published over 300 articles.

Inetco created the Notox Institute for postgraduate education in hair dyeing and Florence was charged with developing the curriculum. Soon after, Inetco purchased the Marinello Company, a beauty and cosmetology school still in existence today. Florence began developing curriculum for the Marinello schools as well.

Florence fought for recognition of cosmetic science as a true science and was involved in updates to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic legislation. She attended hearings and worked closely with Senator Royal Copeland. She intended to fight scientific inaccuracies and ensure accurate representation of the cosmetic industry.  She earned her doctorate at the New York University School of Education.

Dr Wall continued writing and lecturing late into her career and even set up a class in cosmetic hygiene at New York University. She was inducted into the Cosmetology Hall of Fame at the New York World’s Fair in 1965. Florence passed away at the age of 95 in 1965.


OTC Drug Monographs and Cosmetics Part 2

Monographs specify the active ingredients, levels of actives and permitted combinations of active ingredients that can be used in cosmetics that make OTC drug claims. Monographs also contain guidance on labeling and test methods to verify efficacy.

Components of the Drug Facts Label

  • Active Ingredient(s) – Active ingredients and the percentage of each in the product are listed. Generally these are weight percent but there are exceptions. For example the Tentative Final Monograph for OTC Healthcare Antiseptic Drug Products used % volume.
  • Uses – Symptoms or disorders that the OTC drug is indicated for.
  • Warnings – When the product should not be used, what at physician or pharmacist should be consulted, factors that may alter the expected response to the product, and common side effects.
  • Directions – Dosage and frequency of use. Can be sub-dived by age group, size, or other factors that may affect response to the product.
  • Other information – Special instructions as needed. For example, storage conditions to preserve the shelf life of the product.
  • Inactive Ingredients – The ingredients that comprise the delivery vehicle of the product.

Test Methods

The appropriate test method is designated in each monograph along with details regarding laboratory validation, instrument calibration and standard materials to test against when appropriate. The final product must pass the test as described by the monograph to claim efficacy.

While monographs are lengthy and complicated, they exist to protect consumers. That’s why it is important to have a deep understanding of the monograph when working on formulating cosmetics that are also OTC drugs.

Click this link to see part one of over the counter drugs and cosmetics.