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 competitors. 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:
- 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.?
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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.
- What is it soluble in?
You need to know if the ingredient type is compatible with the solubility of your system.
- 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.