COSCI 101 – The Basics: Cosmetic Padacts

Cosmetic Science 101 — Learn the basics with Cosmetic Padacts

What is cosmetic chemistry?

Cosmetic chemistry is the science that deals with the mixture and combination of substances and how they interact with us during its use – say, when you apply it to your skin, hair, nails, etc.

Simply put, it’s the science that goes behind creating a cosmetic product and ingredient. To create a cosmetic product, you need to understand the interactions occurring in your formula to have a stable product (essentially, you’re working with chemicals that need to work together & be stable — dun, dun, dun). You also need to ensure that the product is safe for use – e.g. microbial testing, toxicological data, irritation tests, efficacy tests.

Basics in cosmetic chemistry

  • Surfactants – surface active agent that reduces the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved
    • function can include: detergent, emulsifier, foam booster, etc.
    • example: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Emulsifiers – stabilizes two non-soluble or non-miscible substances
    1. oil in water, water in oil, water in silicone
  • Polymers – substance that has a molecular structure consisting of a large number of similar units bonded together
    • functions can include: film former, rheological modifier, occlusive agent, etc.
  • Silicones – (-Si-O-Si-O-)n
    • functions can include: conditioning agent, defoaming agent, slip agent, etc.
  • Preservatives – inhibit the development of micro-organisms
  • pH adjusters – ingredients used to adjust the pH of cosmetics
    • use a base to increase the pH
    • use an acid to decrease the pH

So… What is a cosmetic then?

When consumers think about cosmetic products, they tend to think of:

  • makeup, skincare, hair care, body care, nail care

As a consumer myself, these are the first things that I think of, as well (hence, why I mentioned them lol but of course, there may be other categories of products that you may think of).

On the other hand, as a cosmetic chemist, I familiarize myself with the FDA’s cosmetic definition.

“articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance”

FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)

The above definition covers any and all cosmetics that you can possibly think of. If you can apply the product onto yourself in any of the above forms to cleanse, beautify (Google definition of beautify: improve the appearance of), promote attractiveness, or alter the appearance, it’s probably a cosmetic.

This definition does not cover soaps or products that have drug claims (e.g. anti-dandruff shampoo, antimicrobial soaps, deodorants that are also antiperspirants).

I also familiarize myself with the EU cosmetic definition to begin understanding the thought process behind the EU market and become more helpful to EU customers/brands.

“any substance or preparation intended to be placed in contact with the various external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance and/or correcting body odours and/or protecting them or keeping them in good condition

Ref. Ares(2015)4230487 – 12/10/2015

I like how the EU definition includes teeth and mucous membranes of the oral cavity because you may neglect that oral care products are cosmetics — again, this does not include products that have drug-related claims. If you’d like a quick overview about drug claims versus cosmetic claims, please let me know.

Look forward to the next sections of COSCI 101 – The Basics: Cosmetic Padacts

Continue learning about the basics of cosmetic chemistry with Cosmetic Padacts in the next sections of COSCI 101. Get information on skin chemistry, hair chemistry, and more in-depth information on topics in cosmetic chemistry. Follow us on Instagram (@cosmeticpadacts) & Facebook for updates on upcoming posts.

Comment below if you found this post helpful or if you have any questions. You can also submit comments/questions through the Contact tab or directly e-mail:  Thank you for being a part of this journey!

– Cosmetic Padacts

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