Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating General Alpha Lipoic Acid Questions

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid Questions

    Posted by DIY_Newbie on June 20, 2019 at 3:59 am

    Hi all!
    ,"y":22,"w":0,"h":18,"abs_x":397,"abs_y":498}”>I’m new to the forum and have been attempting to make my own skincare products for a little over a year now.

    ,"y":79,"w":0,"h":18,"abs_x":397,"abs_y":555}”>I’m wondering if any of the cosmetic scientists on this site have any experience (and success) with alpha lipoic acid (thioctic acid) in their formulation?  If so, would it be possible to get similar results with sodium stabilized alpha lipoic acid?  I’m just trying to learn to make a better product (assuming alpha lipoid acid is even worth it).

    EVchem replied 4 years, 11 months ago 5 Members · 9 Replies
  • 9 Replies
  • OldPerry

    June 20, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    Your question is difficult to answer because it is not specific enough. 
    It is easy enough to add alpha lipoic acid to a formula. It is Very Slightly Soluble (0.24 g/L) in water which means you could put 0.02g in 100g of water and it should go in fine. If you have an emulsion maybe you could put even a bit more.

    But the real question is, so what?  Why are you adding alpha lipoic acid to your skincare formula?  What do you want it to do? How will you measure whether it is doing that or not? Also, what else is in this formula?

    If you just want to put it in a formula and then note in your advertising or on the bottle that the product contains alpha lipoic acid, then just do what I said above. If you have some specific benefit you are trying to get from it, then the answer may be a bit more complicated.

    The same answer holds for sodium stabilized alpha lipoic acid.

  • DIY_Newbie

    June 21, 2019 at 3:39 am

    Thank you for your response Perry (sorry I misspelled the name of the acid in the title)!  I was just curious as to what the opinions are of this ingredient as to wether or not its worth it in a cosmetic product, and if anyone has had experience with this ingredient. Also I was curious about sodium stabilized ALA as an alternative to the R/S mix of ALA (assuming someone has had experience with it).

    I’m attempting to make a antioxidant serum.  I currently have Alpha Lipoic Acid, Resveratrol, CoQ10, Vitamin E, C, A, Gluathoine, and Ferulic Acid in the recipe.  Here is a copy of the complete recipe. 

    Ingredients Percentage
    Phase A Water (Distilled) 26
    MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) 5
    Vitamin A Liposomes 1
    Na-R-ALA 2.5
    Gluathoine 1
    Phase B Propanediol 1,3 19
    Ferulic Acid 0.5
    Trans-Resveratrol 1
    Olive Leaf Extract 1.5
    CoQ10 Powder 0.5
    Phase C Water (Distilled) 20
    Poly Suga Mulse D9 4
    Vitamin E Oil 1
    Phase D Mix A and B 58
    Potasium Sorbate 0.2
    Glucono Delta Lactone 0.3
    Sodium Gluconate 0.5
    Add C 25
    Vitamin C 15
    Hyaluronic Acid (1000kDa) 1

    The whole recipe is cold processed.  I’m unsure if this is a good formula for an antioxidant rich serum.  The final pH is around 3.0 (used a pH strip) and store it in an airless bottle.  Any feedback is appreciated (good or bad).

    Thank you again for your time.

  • EVchem

    June 21, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Have you already made this formula or is this just your plan? 

    My thoughts on seeing this are:
     -good god  how is the smell 
    - Do you have any idea of stability of this formula is over time? I’ve had serious issues with CoQ10, resveratrol, and ferulic  just individually, and these are all at significant percentages. You also have 15% Vitamin C? Is this L-ascorbic acid? you’re definitely going to see stability issues
    - your preservation system looks weak,  you have chelators but your only preservative is potassium sorbate at 0.2%?  need to add something else
    - pH strips are not very accurate, a pH of 3 could be very irritating. 
    -Vitamin E oil (vitamin E acetate I assume, side note try to use INCI names for all ingredients) is not an antioxidant  until it penetrates the skin and from what I’ve seen on this forum the conversion rate is not good. you could switch to tocopherols. 

    If this is for personal use that’s one thing  but if you are planning to sell or distribute this formula  I  would make some heavy revisions.

  • OldPerry

    June 21, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    While I haven’t made your formula I can make this prediction…if you add alpha lipoic acid you will notice exactly zero difference in performance. That is, if I gave you a sample of the formula with lipoic acid and one without you would not be able to tell a difference. So, do you think it is worth adding?

    As far as the overall formula goes, it appears to be a complicated mess to me. But I’m a minimalist formulator. I don’t like to include any ingredient in a formula unless I can demonstrate that it makes a difference.

    It seems to me that you are trying to do way too much with this formula. What is the purpose of adding Alpha Lipoic Acid, Resveratrol, CoQ10, Vitamin E, C, A, Gluathoine, and Ferulic Acid?  You say “anti-oxidant” but what does that even mean to you?  What oxidation are you trying to prevent? How do you know these ingredients prevent it?

    My suggestion to you is to step back and work with 1 ingredient that you believe is an antioxidant. Create a formula that optimizes a single antioxidant and gain some experience. This means you’ll have to figure out some way to evaluate whether the antioxidant you’ve added is having any measurable effect or not. So, you’ll need to figure out how to evaluate it.

    After you’ve optimized 1 ingredient you can start experimenting with a second ingredient. Then do the whole evaluation process again. 

    Coming up with a good, functional formula is not as simple as just mixing together every anti-aging ingredient you’ve heard was good for skin. Most of the reports of ingredients being good for skin are under very specific conditions and the effects are not replicated under real use conditions. Almost no research exists evaluating how these ingredients work when used together. 

    I agree with all the suggestions @Evchem has listed. However, if you just want a serum that has all these ingredients in it and you don’t really care or are interested in whether it really works, the formula you have is probably fine (for personal use) as long as it doesn’t burn or irritate your skin (it might at that low pH). 

  • Pharma

    June 22, 2019 at 12:32 pm
    Lipoic acid, coenzyme q10 and the version of glutathione you’re likely going to use are not antioxidants. They come in a more stable oxidised form and have to be recycled by the body to become part of redox cycles. “Antioxidant” is basically a marketing term.
    MSM is not an antioxidant and it does not form cysteine/methionine. Only oral administration over several days increases sulphur content of bodily fluids. What kind of sulphur isn’t known, it’s likely just sulphate and due to microbial mineralisation in the guts. However, skin application can have positive effects by completely unknown mechanisms and it might increase skin penetration of other ingredients.
    You also risking pro-oxidative effects at such high concentrations of antioxidants especially if air is present.
    Lipoic acid or its salt sodium lipoate (that’s the chemical name of you mysterious marketing term “sodium stabilised alpha-lipoic acid”) reeks of sulphur! Especially lipoic acid and that’s what will, at the chosen pH, be present in your serum. Since sodium lipoate is water soluble and lipoic acid will form micelles or the like with suga mulse, working with it shouldn’t be a problem. I really don’t see what it should finally achieve in your serum or on your skin, respectively… The same is true for glutathione which will not penetrate skin good enough to do anything other than boosting formula costs.
  • DIY_Newbie

    June 22, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you EVchem and Perry for your responses.  The goal IS to make a product that works (benefiting the skin). My assumption is that skin care is used to clean, feed, and protect the skin and I want to applying products that will accomplish that.  

    To EVchem questions and comments
    “good god  how is the smell?”:

    When mixing the ingredients, only the olive leaf extract had a significant odor (not nauseating by any means)  It was dulled when everything was added near the end of the formation.  Once done I didn’t notice any real odor that seemed good or bad.  Although I made this a couple weeks ago so I’ll see if that changes over time.

    “Do you have any idea of stability of this formula is over time?” 

    I have no idea what the stability of this serum is.  I haven’t done any testing since I’m just doing this as a hobby I suppose.

    “your preservation system looks weak,  you have chelators but your only preservative is potassium sorbate at 0.2%?”

    I used what was the recommended percentage by MakingCosmetics.  They said “Typical concentration 0.15-0.3% (if used alone) or 0.1-0.2% (if used in combination with other preservatives)”.  I also used Glucono delta Lactone which was an ingredient from Lotioncrafters and was a part of an ingredient for the preservative “NeoDefend”.  I thought it would behave as a preservative.  Should I have used more potassium sorbate?

    “pH strips are not very accurate, a pH of 3 could be very irritating.”

    I’m looking into getting a quality pH meter but haven’t purchased one at this time.  It was just for a sanity check (I was intending the serum to have a pH between 2.5 and 3) Most Vitamin C (L-ascorbic Acid) serums have around this pH, should I be concerned?

    Vitamin E oil (vitamin E acetate I assume, side note try to use INCI names for all ingredients)”

    The vitamin E oil I used is d-alpha-tocopherol.

    This is intended to be a personal product since I am not a chemist, chemical engineer, or any other relatable field of occupation.  I do have an interest in making a good product, but I am only an alchemist at best at this point.  I’m here to understand what works, what doesn’t, and learn how to apply it to make a good skincare product.

    To Perry’s question and comments

    “I don’t like to include any ingredient in a formula unless I can demonstrate that it makes a difference.”

    THIS is what I want to know.  What is useful (according to current reliable data) and what is not.  Any insight into what ingredients (or combination of ingredients) are going to make an impact.

    You say “anti-oxidant” but what does that even mean to you?  What oxidation are you trying to prevent? How do you know these ingredients prevent it?”

    My intention was to use antioxidants to aid in various applications.  Some aid in skin health while some regenerate other antioxidants.  This is the paper I used to “inspire” this attempt of a serum.


    I don’t know if this paper is useful or junk but I used it as a starting point.  Thank you so much for taking the time to critique me.  Sorry for writing a book but I just wanted to answer the question you had for me. 

  • DIY_Newbie

    June 23, 2019 at 1:46 am

    Thank you Pharma for the reply.  I will cut out a lot of the additional ingredients and simply it down to just a few proven ingredients.  I appreciate all the comments and feedback. 

  • Chemistrygirl

    June 23, 2019 at 9:16 am

    @Diy newbie I make AHA with
    8 Tablespoons distilled water.
    1/4 tsp AHA
    1/8 tsp glycerine
    2 Tablespoons aloe vera
    1% Optiphen
    Refrigerate after mixing
    Use next day.

  • EVchem

    June 24, 2019 at 11:44 am

    @DIY_Newbie glad you took some of the feedback! It makes a big difference whether the formula is for personal use or for distribution for several reasons.

    For example, if this formula was for you to sell I think you would be in violation  of the Skinceuticals patent. That’s partly why I asked for the INCI names. And I was wrong in my assumption of the vitamin E type so that’s another case for using the INCI names which are standardized and can help you communicate your goals  on this forum better.

    Tangentially, I’ve always heard that too much tocopherol can become a pro-oxidant at higher concentrations, but there was a post on here recently that showed the oxidative activity was more dependent on temperature than I thought.

    Anyway, gluconolactone finds use in the food and cosmetic industry as a moisturizer, antioxidant and chelant. Chelators are important for stability and product efficacy, but they won’t prevent mold or bacteria formation. Unless you buy some micro slides for testing you won’t really know if your preservative  is working effectively, so I’d be careful batching this very far ahead of use.

    The low pH is better  both for your potassium sorbate and ascorbic acid, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be irritating to your skin. Again knowing this is for personal use, just be careful.

    Interested to see your updates and how you revise next!

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