Meet Jane, A Cosmetic Chemist

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Meet Jane, a Cosmetic Chemist. 

 In part two of our "What In The World Are We Mixing?" series, we are taking an in depth look at the world of cosmetics. Joining us on the blog today is cosmetic chemist, Jane Barber, from Making Skincare.

Jane, thank you for joining us on the Mixer Direct blog all the way from London, England! Tell us a little bit about your team and what their role at Making Skincare looks like?

Making Skincare consists of a team of scientists located worldwide who formulate for major commercial brands as well as start-ups. We also teach workshops on how to create skin and hair products.

Can you tell us the story behind the initial start and development journey for Making Skincare?

Some 15 years or so ago I gave up my somewhat unrewarding career as a lawyer, to further my passion, cosmetic science. I began formulating and studying with the Society of Cosmetic Scientists. Today, we formulate for start-ups to large retailers and are an ongoing source of education and research, with input from leading figures in the cosmetic industry. We are also a community, our group has grown to nearly 7,000 members.

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For those who might not know, what is a cosmetic chemist?

Cosmetic chemistry is the science of creating cosmetics. A cosmetic chemist focuses their research and development on creating new cosmetic products. It is a challenging job and requires a creative mind to make formulas that stand out. It is so satisfying to walk down the aisles of your local store and see your creation for sale on the shelves.

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How important is mixing in cosmetics?

Mixing is integral to forming stable emulsions. It is an input of mechanical energy that is partly responsible for holding the emulsion together. A good mixer should have sufficient shear force to break dispersed phase (usually oil) into small droplets evenly throughout the continuous phase (usually water). A homogeniser takes a broad distribution of particle sizes and this high shear turns it into a small uniform particle size mixture, minimising droplet size and hence increase stability. Avoiding air incorporation during preparation is important as this will lead to a lower specific gravity, lower viscosity, increased chance of bacterial contamination and also the product will not look or feel the same.

What do you think is the most commonly misunderstood thing about cosmetics?

One of the most commonly misconceptions are that natural ingredients are better for skin than synthetic chemicals. There is no factual basis or scientific legitimacy for that belief and the word "natural" is undefined and arbitrary. Many consumers are still easily seduced by this deep-rooted marketing trend There are many factors to consider, for example, the dose-response relationship, where a sufficiently low dose of something that you might consider dangerous (like cyanide or benzene) are harmless, but a sufficiently high dose of something you might consider benign (like water) will definitely cause you harm. It also does not take into account multiple safety studies done on substances that account for this and quantify their relative harms.

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Can you tell us what a normal day at Making Skincare looks like?

No one day is the same. Our day can vary from working closely with clients and suppliers, discussing and developing formulations to supervising manufacturing and conducting administrative tasks. We are either in the lab, the office or factory, sometimes all in one day.

What are the keys to developing skin care products that are safe and effective?

Effective products contain the optimum type, amount and combination of ingredients. They use ingredients scientifically proven to work.

There are many factors to consider with regard to safety. A key factor, is an appropriate preservation strategy for the development, manufacture and packaging of the formula, thus eliminating unacceptable levels of organisms such as pathogenic bacteria, fungi and mould that could grow and pose a health hazard to the consumer.

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Can you give us a concise version of what the role of stability and preservative testing plays in your day to day activities as a cosmetic chemist?

In order to optimise the preservation of a product, the preservative system should provide broad-spectrum activity. Packaging is designed so it limits contamination during use and strict controls on the raw materials used all play a part. The common factor for almost all spoiled cosmetics is compromised GMP. The total preservative test period is 28 days with plate counts being run on 0, 1, 2, 7, 21 and 28 days. The preservative is judged to have passed if it has the ability to kill the introduced bugs and at the 21 days re-challenge retains its activity. An unpreserved control sample must be run and must fail this test. Preservative testing is vital throughout the lifecycle to ensure the product's safety.

To assess stability, samples (in marketed packaging as well as inert closed containers) are put at different environmental conditions. These conditions include a range of temperatures and lighting levels. Assessment of product stability is concerned with making a judgment as to whether any changes that occur in a product over time, are significant. No product can be manufactured with exactly the same attributes on every occasion. Similarly it is very difficult to imagine a cosmetic product which will experience no change whatsoever, over time. It is our job when formulating the product to set acceptable specifications.

Making Skincare is quite unique in that your company conducts the only live over webcam course taught by a cosmetic chemist. That is a big deal. Where did this idea come from? How did this idea originate? How would someone get involved in this?

With so many homecrafters unwittingly using unsafe and/or unstable formulas, we decided to extend our business globally teaching classes over live interactive webcam because we could see that there was a gap in the market for learning how to make products the right way.

What's the one thing you want people to know about Making Skincare?

We are very passionate about making skincare - the right way and the safe way!

Jane, it was a pleasure! Thank you very much for joining us on the blog today!

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