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The Future of Cosmetics—There's an App for That

By: Steve Herman
Posted: July 10, 2013, from the July 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Then there is the future of smarter formulation. In 1949, all cosmetic formulators had was trial and error and a new concept from Bill Griffin that provided a method to streamline the selection ingredients. In recent times, Joe Lin* has promoted low energy emulsification, and Bob Lochhead* has shown the value of high throughput analysis. Johann Wiechers* shined rational light on the delivery of actives.

Now a brilliant outsider is giving us another way to move our industry forward as a science. Steven Abbott* was the programmer for Hanson Solubility Parameters in Practice (HSPiP)2 and Formulating for Efficacy (FFE),3 and he has moved away from conventional computing and into app development—something he does for the intellectual challenge, making them freely available on his website.4

Print has its limitations for certain content—notably when it’s time sensitive content, such as regulatory news. For formulating and product development content, apps and e-tools make it possible to have better technical books in regard to supporting equations and ability to interact with dynamic Web content. Apps greatly enhance the potential to drive life to formulas and graphs; they are mobile and interactive.

Take a real-world product development example addressed by a TEA-Stearate app. The most common anionic emulsion is created by a reaction of triethanolamine and stearic acid. Common commercial stearic acid is 50% palmitic acid and only 45% stearic acid, plus some minor components, so one really needs the acid value of the exact material being used. Then complete neutralization creates soap with very high pH, so more acid is added to bring the pH down. There are, of course, formulas for this. But put this in an app, tell it the percent of emulsifier in the formula, slide a scale to the desired pH and, voilà, there is your optimized ratio of ingredients.

In short, the future will be in your pocket—even more so than it is now. Resources will become steadily more digital and Web based—and valuable to the industry—as more useful material is made searchable and interactive. This new flow of information will be the most revolutionary change to how we do science since the Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary was first published and desktop computing arrived, and should give everyone the tools to do better, smarter product development.


  1. S Herman, INCI Name: Fragrance, GCI. Nov 2011

(All sites accessed May 31, 2013)

Steve Herman is president of Diffusion LLC, a consulting company specializing in regulatory issues, intellectual property, and technology development and transfer. He is a principal in PJS Partners, offering formulation, marketing and technology solutions for the personal care and fragrance industry. He is the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists' 2013 chapter chairman and an adjunct professor in the Fairleigh Dickinson University Masters in Cosmetic Science program. He is also a Fellow in the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

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