Forensic science and cosmetics

This story about University of Kent scientists who have discovered a way to identify the brand of lipstick at a crime scene reminded me of an idea I had a few years back.  I’ll tell you about it but first, the science.

Lipstick and Forensics

In their study, scientists figured out a way to use Raman spectroscopy to analyze the composition of a lipstick sample left at the crime scene.  In Raman spectroscopy light is shone on the sample and the scattered light is collected.  Each type of lipstick has a distinct scattered light signature and this can be used to identify the brand / type.

This new technique is particularly useful because it can be done without directly interacting with the sample.  Current methods require destruction of the sample for analysis.

Forensic Cosmetic Reliability

This method of analyzing the sample is interesting but I’m curious how accurate it can be.  It seems like they would have to have analyzed every brand of lipstick to be able to identify the brand.  Although maybe this kind of thing is just needed to verify that some specific lipstick found at the scene matched that of the victim / suspect or something like that.  Interesting.

Cosmetics and Forensics

As I said the story reminded me of an idea I had a few years back.  At that time I gave a talk about cosmetics at a Forensic conference.  I told them all about the basics of cosmetics and how they were made.  The one thing they wanted to know was how to identify a specific type of cosmetic brand from a sample.  I told them there really wasn’t a simple way.

But there could be a simple way.  What if every cosmetic manufacturer was required to put some inexpensive, non-reactive material in their cosmetic formula which would clearly identify who made it?  This would make the job of identifying cosmetics simple.  You could get government mandates to have every manufacturer comply and you would be able to make a ton of money.  Exclusive government contracts.  This is a business idea waiting to happen!  I wonder what raw material company would be interested in starting this up.



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