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Chemical Reaction: The Basics

By: Steve Herman
Posted: February 4, 2009, from the February 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Some makeup is inherently waterproof, either because it is anhydrous or it is a water-in-oil emulsion. Aqueous systems can be made waterproof by adding materials such as polymers or dimethicone copolyols.

6. What are some basic, important ingredients common in different cosmetics?

The most universal ingredient is water. Not only does it moisturize the skin and dissolve many important ingredients, but it is extremely cost-effective.

The magic engine for many products are amphiphilic molecules, with structures that partly love oil and partly love water. The specific version called “emulsifiers” makes creams and lotions stay together. The ones called “surfactants” are used to create foamy products, such as soaps, shampoos and bath gels.

7. Are there major differences in [luxury] brands and [mass] brands of cosmetics?

Yes, but more in aesthetics than basic functionality. For example, “luxury” skin care products can use multiple humectants and emollients for cushion and overall feel. A less expensive shampoo or lotion will clean hair or help moisturize skin but may lack refined properties.

8. Do most companies test on animals?

No, animal testing has been phased out of all major companies. Many regulations and company guidelines explicitly ban the use of animal testing. Johns Hopkins is the home of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), a leading example of the commitment to finding new approaches to safety. CAAT has many resources online, including videos.4

9 . How many people are involved in creating a product at an average company?

The basic process usually involves marketing and R&D, but the number of individuals varies greatly from one company to another. One good chemist at the bench can create a formula, while a large multinational will employ hundreds in R&D, all contributing expertise to create a state-of-the-art product.