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The Chemistry of Cosmetics

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Rasha Seddikioui

on 21 May 2015

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Transcript of The Chemistry of Cosmetics

The Chemistry of Cosmetics
The most common coloring agent for makeup is sadly the most dangerous. Coal-tar is a coloring agent made from a thick, sticky black liquid produced by heating bituminous coal in a large, air-free oven.
Bulking Agents
The third class of makeup ingredients are bulking agents. As implied by the name, this portion of the chemical composition of makeup is used to thicken up the final product. Bulking agents additionally provide even coverage of powdery products such as powder foundation, face powder, contour powder, and eyeshadow. Examples of bulking agents include silk powder (used in eye shadow) and nylon and silk fibers (used in mascara).
The bases of cosmetics make up the second major class of makeup ingredients. The ingredients used to make bases must be meticulously tested to produce a long-lasting makeup effect. After all, most makeup nowadays is available in waterproof versions, allowing it to cling to the face through perspiration, tears, drinking, and even kissing.
Introduction to the World of Cosmetics
For years, cosmetics have been the go-to products for beauty. Ranging from cleansers, to purifiers, fragrances, and the more conventional lipstick, mascara or eyeshadow, makeup and cosmetics are a lot more complex than they seem. They are all based off of chemical formulas and combinations, tested widely and repeatedly until perfectly developed for the human face. Simply reading the ingredients on the back of a product label can give immense insight as to what chemical compounds your favorite fragrances, makeup, or face cleansers contain.


About 1/2 of the weight of lipstick products are composed of a thick, insoluble mixture of castor bean oil and waxes. This viscous consistency is what keeps the lipstick on your lips for a long period of time—through perspiration, drinking, and kissing, it keeps your lips pigmented in the perfect shade. This mixture does this by preventing the lipstick from dissolving in liquids (ex. when you lick your lips, or sip a drink).
Environment and Animal-friendly Products
Coloring Agents
The first major class of makeup ingredients is coloring agents. The methods used by chemists and scientists to apply natural and artificial dyes to makeup produce the variety of shades and colors found on shelves of cosmetic businesses and stores worldwide.
Almost all makeup worn by celebrities, public figures and even everyday young adults requires some kind of oily or waxy mixture which serves as the base. This base helps the makeup cling to the face once applied, making makeup application effortless for consumers, while enhancing their makeup experience with a long-lasting, durable effect.
Coal-Tar colors are formed from aromatic hydrocarbons. These are ring-shaped carbon-and-hydrogen containing compounds. These compounds are purified from coal-tar.
The unfortunate aspect of coal-tar is that it was found to cause cancer in mice when injected through their skin during lab testing. And in one human case, coal-tar chemicals caused blindness. It also occasionally causes allergic irritations to humans. As a result, all products that include coal-tar in their list of ingredients must undergo specific testing and be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or get D&E (External-use-only) approval. Information about such approvals can be found on most ingredient lists on the back of makeup or cosmetic products. For safety purposes, the FDA also recommends that all products labeled for external-use-only should be cautiously utilized and not be applied to areas where the product can be absorbed internally (such as the mouth or lips).
Keep in mind that waxes are thixotropic, meaning that they don't smear, change shape or melt in heat. Isn't that convenient! Imagine, if lipstick melted on hot summer days, that would cause a gooey, sticky, disastrous mess! However, to accompany the thick wax are added esters. Esters are smooth liquid-like chemical mixtures that make the lipstick glide onto your lips when applied.
Where do dyes come from
But where do dyes come from?
Well, dyes are derived from an abundance of sources. Including plants, bugs, animals, flowers, and even everyday vegetables like red cabbage. Chemical dyes include coal-tar, manganese, iron oxide, and mica flakes. Animal derived dyes include chemicals like carmine, which produce a bright, crimson color (shade of red). Carmine is made of ground up dried cacti-eating bugs called the cochineal insect.
Mascara relies on heavier bases. These include things like a chemical called paraffin and carnauba palm wax. Bases such as these allow lash-darkening pigments to stick to lashes for longer periods of time and through rain and tears (waterproof mascara).
Carnauba palm wax
Anti-microbial and antioxidant additives
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) puts no limits or regulations in place regarding the word "natural" on labels means. This means that not all products labeled "natural" are actually derived from all-natural sources and that they may contain preservatives.
Types of Makeup for your skin
Allergic Reactions to Makeup
Safety Tips for Makeup
A cosmetologist's approach to makeup
Expensive brands vs cheap drug-store finds
The most common agent used in makeup is talc, (a.k.a. french chalk). Talc is derived from a mineral stone similar to pyrophyllite. The stone itself is very soft (measuring a mere 1 on the Mohr's hardness scale) and is greasy to the touch.
Talc absorbs perspiration and has natural smooth texture that eases makeup application.
Inhaling talc however (in large amounts not commonly associated with ordinary makeup use), can be extremely dangerous to your health. It can cause serious damage to lungs and the respiratory system.
Works Cited
In the late 1970s and early 80s sunscreen was added to products to reduce sun exposure and in response to frequent consumer complaints about skin cancer risks as a result of extreme exposure to UV rays.
In sunscreen, UV screening compounds are responsible for the protective cream included in foundations and face lotions. UV screening compounds are composed of para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), its derivatives, as well as benzophenones such as oxybenzone and dioxybenzone.
With the help of all the chemicals included in UV screening compounds, most of the sun's harmful rays are filtered out, protecting the outermost layers of human skin.
Cosmetology was one of the first studies to acclimate nanotechnology and its extraordinary characteristics to improve the quality of cosmetic products and improve products' appeal to consumers.
Compounds such as lactic acids, (which are found in milk) and lead were frequently used during ancient times for makeup. While lactic acid continues to be used, lead is no longer used as scientists now understand the dangers to humans it causes as a result of its toxicity.
Ancient uses of Cosmetics
Interestingly enough, makeup has been around since ancient times. It's not at all a new concept. However, with significant new discoveries and increasingly important information constantly being derived, modern scientists have developed a much better understanding of the chemicals used in makeup and have improved it in accommodation to the modern public's cosmetic needs.
It is believed that Cleopatra, an ancient queen of Egypt, frequently bathed in milk to soften her skin. Incredibly, this would produce the results she was after (due to the lactic acid found in milk and its special qualities). Lactic acid acts on deeper layers of the epidermis to remove dead skin cells and reveal a softer, newer layer of skin.
Examples of Ancient makeup use
In ancient Greece, women used powdered lead carbonate as makeup to make their faces paler. Scientists now know that lead is toxic and believe that it was a common cause of death to the ancient women who used it.
Lead carbonate
The relatively inexpensive makeup found on shelves of drug-stores and supermarkets are surprisingly good deals. Not only are they made more accessible with their low prices, but some "knock-off" brands have been found to use very similar chemical formulas as their large name competitors.
1) Never apply mascara in a car or moving vehicle (common scratching of the eye with the mascara wand can be very risky, as they can cause sight-threatening infections to the eye if not treated properly)
2) If makeup has a strange consistency or scent or changes color, the product could be contaminated with microbes and should be thrown away immediately.
3) Don't add water or saliva to makeup to change the consistency. This could potentially cause contamination (by doing this you are adding harmful microbes to the formula).
4) Avoid Sharing makeup with others to avoid the spread of germs.
5) Keep all your makeup tightly closed and out of sunny areas to avoid causing the makeup to dry up.
6)In stores, test products like lipstick on the back of your hand using a cotton swab to avoid the spread of microbes.
7) Be sure to throw out makeup every 6-8 months as it expires and can cause allergic reactions such as redness, rashes, and swelling to sensitive areas such as the eyes or lips if used after it has expired.
10) Be cautious while using makeup if you have seasonal allergies. During seasons like spring and summer, the sudden increase in pollen levels can cause discomfort to the eyes, nose and throat and can be additionally irritated or provoked if makeup if used while experiencing such symptoms.
11) People with allergy-prone or sensitive skin should test all new makeup products by taking a little bit of the product and rubbing it on their arm for several days, until they are sure no reaction to the product is present.
8) Contact-wearers should avoid silk and nylon fiber or water based mascaras that easily flakes and falls into the eyes and causes irritation to contacts. This is also true for shimmery eye shadow which has sparkles that easily fall into the eyes and cause similar issues.
9) Contact-wearers should also be sure to their hands thoroughly before and after putting in their contacts, and put in their contacts before applying makeup. This will ensure that contaminating particles that can cause bacterial infection are not transmitted to their eyes or into the makeup itself.
The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that there are only about 200 adverse allergic reactions for every million applications of makeup nationwide. Those are pretty good odds, however allergic reactions are a common problem for many people and finding the right cosmetics can be difficult for this small fraction of the population.
Reactions to makeup triggered by an allergy may include rashes, the presence of bumps or redness, itching, swelling etc. Often the reaction is immediate, but more adverse reactions can slowly progress over a prolonged period of time (sometimes several hours or up to a day).
Chemicals that trigger allergies
In sunscreen, para-aminobenzoic acid (PARA), and benzophones

In mascara, silk powder (severe allergic reactions), and silk fibers ( commonly irritates eyes)
In foundation, bases such as Lanolin (sheep-derived), or beeswax
Oils and waxes can aggravate acne and their greasy compounds promote the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples by clogging pores
What are nanoparticles?
Coal-Tar Colors
Nanoparticles are intermediately sized particles (between the size of an atom and macroscopic materials). They are approximately 1000X greater than the size of an atom but 1000X smaller than the thickness of a single hair. Chemists change the size of nanoparticles slightly to give unique properties to cosmetics and create nanovesicles as carriers for better permeation of the active ingredients in the product through the skin.
How are nanoparticles used?
Solid lipid nanoparticles are used in perfumes. They allow for slow release of the fragrance or smell of the perfume.
An example of how the modulation and slight alterations made in the size of the particles can give unique properties to the product is with sunscreen. Changing the size of the nanoparticles in sunscreen allow for it to be worn without making the skin appear white. That's why when you go to put on sunscreen at the pool or the beach, it appears very white, but as you rub it in (nanoparticles become smaller) the color blends into your skin.
The fourth and final class of makeup ingredients is additives. Additives are any extra components added to a product that do not necessarily contribute to its initial purpose. Examples of a common additive are fragrances added into most creams, lotions, and body sprays to hide the bad natural odor of oils and waxes. The most common additives are preservatives (lengthens freshness of product/preserves product) called parabens (butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben). These preservatives are rarely allergenic.
Additives account for a large percentage of allergic reactions caused by makeup and cosmetics. A 5-year study conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology found that out of 13, 216 people, 1/3 of the participants had an allergy triggered by fragrance included in the tested product(s).
The second most common additive in most additive-containing products are anti-microbial and antioxidant additives
These additives kill microbes that form in moist solutions (most makeup)
Butylate Hydroxyanis (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are added to prevent oxidation of the product
Unfortunately, the allergy risk posed by natural products is greater than artificial products containing preservatives.
Animal extracts used in makeup and cosmetics do contain more impurities than plant extracts (natural, animal-free, animal-friendly extracts), but both animal and plant extracts contain more impurities than synthetic (artificial) methods.
Most companies with large-name brands test on animals, however those that do not, will often pride themselves on including this information on their labels. The downside to marketing is that these companies will often lie, and even brands that say they do not test on animals, could be lying to consumers. Fortunately, there are brands that truly don't test on animals and sell animal-friendly, organic products. These are generally the best sources for makeup and cosmetic essentials.

Regrettably, some companies like Dior, who formerly sold animal-friendly products, were forced to test on animals. China is an immensely populated area which marketers and large companies like Dior target for sales. However Chinese law states that all cosmetics and makeup must be tested on animals before being approved for human use. This has resulted in companies like Dior forcibly having to change their policies to accommodate Chinese law and be able to make additional profits in China.
Symbols of
Animal-free/Animal Cruelty-free products
should be included on labels of animal-friendly cosmetics)
List of Animal-free cosmetic brands
These companies DO test on Animals
Oily, Acne-prone skin types
Choose water-based, oil-free cosmetics
Look for non-comedogenic products (which do not contain oily and waxy bases that are prone to clog pores and cause whiteheads, blackheads and pimples)
Look for non-acnegenic products (prevent the formation of pimples caused by excess oil application to the skin)
Dry skin
Avoid products that contain any type of alcohol which will dry out your skin even more (this includes methanol, ethanol, isopropyl)
Look for products containing fatty alcohols such as cetearyl and stearyl
Avoid buying foundations with added powder (this is a drying agent and will further dry out your skin instead of nourishing it)
Look for hydrating lotions and cremes to provide more hydration and nourishment to the dry areas of your skin and soften them
The Chemistry of Cosmetics. (2009, August 25). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.Science.howstuffworks.com/the-chemsitry-of-cosmetics-info5.html
Talc. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.mineraleducationcoalition.com/minerals/talc
Putting on a good face-The Chemistry of Cosmetics. (2010, June 1). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.sciencearchive.org.au/nova/083/083key.html
Makeup. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/show/makeup.html
The Chemistry of Cosmetics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.aquimicadascoisas.org/en/?episodio=the-chemistry-of-cosmetics
By Rasha Seddikioui
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