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The Garden State Of Cosmetic Chemistry

In New Jersey, a conclave of ingredient makers and formulators showcases personal care advances

by Marc S. Reisch
June 3, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 22

Credit: Evonik
Technician Dana Adkins formulates a skin care product sample at Evonik’s lab in Hopewell, Va.
Photo shows technician Dana Adkins formulating a skin care sample at Evonik’s lab in Hopewell, Va.
Credit: Evonik
Technician Dana Adkins formulates a skin care product sample at Evonik’s lab in Hopewell, Va.

In a nondescript convention center in Edison, N.J., the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists sponsors an annual conclave of international chemical ingredient manufacturers and U.S.-based personal care product formulators. Only 40 miles, but a world away, from Estée Lauder, Avon, Colgate-Palmolive, and other giant cosmetics companies with headquarters in New York City, the event is where some of the sausage making behind personal care products takes place.

Many of this year’s 7,000 attendees were on the lookout for the latest ingredients. About 350 exhibitors, ranging from small, innovative companies such as France’s PolymerExpert and Pennsylvania-based Gelest to large multinational firms like Evonik Industries and Bayer, came to show off their most recent molecular advances for skin care, shampoos, sun protection, and color cosmetics.

PolymerExpert, a 12-year-old firm spun off from the University of Bordeaux, showed off a water-soluble polyurethane it calls ExpertGel. Designed to be incorporated at low concentration into water-based cosmetics, the polymer is a liquid at ambient temperatures but turns into a gel at skin temperature.

Marc Dolatkhani, the firm’s chief executive officer, said ExpertGel can be used, for instance, in spray-on sunscreens that suspend ultraviolet light filters in a nonpenetrating skin film. It can also be incorporated into foundation makeup because it uniformly distributes pigments to even out skin tone.

The polymer, Dolatkhani explained, is composed of thermosensitive hydrophobic blocks of polypropylene oxide and hydrophilic blocks of polyethylene oxide. It was originally developed for eye drops to ensure more of the active ingredients are delivered to the eye instead of running down a patient’s cheek, he said.

Another polymer expert, Bayer, said its polyurethanes also can provide benefits for skin care formulators. The salicylic acid used in acne treatments can irritate skin, explained Paula Rodrigues, head of cosmetics for Bayer. But Baycusan C 1000 film-forming dispersion allows the antiacne active ingredient to diffuse out of the film and onto the skin slowly, according to tests the firm recently conducted. Delivered this way, the salicylic acid is less likely to cause irritation, she said.

What’s more, because of its urethane structure, the dispersion is breathable and has a velvety smooth feel, Rodrigues said. And because it is resistant to water, it can remain on the skin for a long time, during which it continues to meter out the antiacne treatment.

Another small firm bringing innovative chemistry to cosmetic formulators was Gelest. Best known as a maker of silicon and metal-organic compounds, Gelest entered the cosmetic ingredients market a few years ago. It started by using specialty silanes and silicones to modify micrometer-sized particles such as pigments, talc, or mica to give them tactile, hydrophobic, hydrophilic, or other desirable characteristics.

The firm used the New Jersey event to introduce SiQube Q1850, a polysilsesquioxane for bodywashes, sun care products, and cosmetic foundations. Although polysilsesquioxanes are used in aerospace and electronics applications, they haven’t been tried until now in the cosmetics industry, said Gelest President Barry Arkles.

“The only way a company like ours can succeed in the cosmetics market is by bringing in new chemistry,” Arkles added.

Sold as a dry powder, the new polysilsesquioxane is a water-soluble molecule with organic and inorganic components, Arkles said. Gelest touts it as being able to cleanse and remove dead skin cells, reduce the need for preservatives in a formulation, and reduce body odor generation.

Evonik showcased silicone technology in a new emulsifier suitable for stabilizing color cosmetics. A woman shopping for color makeup often has a hard time knowing whether the color she sees in the bottle will be the color she will actually get on her skin, said Anna Howe, the firm’s applied technology manager.

Abil EM 120 is an emulsifier that has a silicone backbone with glyceryl and lauryl attachments “for excellent pigment wetting” and “color trueness” in makeup, Howe said. Formulators that use the new emulsifier “will help reduce a woman’s frustration when choosing a color cosmetic,” she noted.

Another source of frustration for both women and men is wrinkles, and Howe pointed to a new solution for them: Stemlastin, an extract from the red microalgae Cyanidium caldarium. The mix of minerals, amino acids, and algae polyphenols in Stemlastin has oxygen scavenging and other benefits that reduce the appearance of fine lines and improve skin texture, Howe offered.

Consumers typically don’t think of the ingredients that go into colorful or wrinkle-reducing personal care products. But the products on display in a New Jersey convention center last month underscored the thought and development effort formulators and chemists put into cosmetics before they reach store shelves.



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