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The Science Behind Beauty Products [EXPLAINED]
Beauty products have become an integral part of our daily routines, aiding us in enhancing our appearances and maintaining healthy skin. Behind the allure of these products lies an intricate web of scientific principles that govern their formulation and interaction with human health and your body.
Here, we will delve into the intricate science behind beauty products to understand how these potions and lotions work their magic.
Navigating the Cosmetics Industry: Science at the Heart of Formulation
The cosmetics industry is a tapestry woven with scientific intricacies. Behind every foundation, moisturizer, or serum lies a symphony of carefully selected ingredients, meticulously combined based on scientific research.
Formulators delve into chemistry, biology, and dermatology, seeking compounds that synergize to deliver tangible benefits to the skin.
The beauty industry spans a wide spectrum, encompassing teeth-whitening toothpaste to exorbitantly priced shampoo promising transformational effects for your hair—from “ordinary to extraordinary.”
The Start of Makeup and Cosmetics
In the UK and Europe, cosmetics are products designed intended for the external parts of yourself, focusing on cleaning, fragrance, altering appearance, managing odors, protecting, or maintaining good condition.
However, if a product contains pharmacologically active substances or makes medical claims, it’s classified as medicine. For instance, toothpaste is a cosmetic, but if it claims to address sensitive teeth, it’s considered medicine.
David McDaniel, a board-certified dermatologist from Virginia, US, notes the contrasting regulations across the Atlantic. In America, the FDA governs certain products that “modify the structure and/or function of the skin,” while the CTFA oversees the marketing of items enhancing skin appearance.
Cosmetics serve as a prime example of how chemistry discoveries integrate into our daily routines. In essence, dissecting the components of different cosmetic products mirrors a chemistry lesson: water, emulsifiers, preservatives, thickeners, pH stabilizers, dyes, and fragrances, meticulously blended in varying proportions for specific purposes.
The utilization of cosmetics, essentially chemical compounds aimed at enhancing our appearance, isn’t a recent trend. Legends suggest that even the famed Egyptian queen Cleopatra indulged in milk baths to maintain her skin’s beauty and softness.
Interestingly, this practice likely worked due to the presence of lactic acid in milk. Scientifically proven, lactic acid operates within the deeper epidermal layers, facilitating the elimination of dead cells and promoting skin renewal.
Dating back three thousand years before Christ in ancient Greece, women employed powdered lead carbonate to achieve paler complexions. Regrettably, the use of lead carbonate is now recognized as toxic, suggesting that some women might have paid a fatal price in their pursuit of beauty.
Many modern cosmetic products embody substantial scientific innovation, often stemming from research labs. The cosmetics industry swiftly embraced nanotechnology’s advancements by utilizing nanoparticles to enhance product quality, fulfilling the desires of their clientele.
This proactive adoption illustrates how the cosmetics sector continually evolves by integrating cutting-edge technology into its formulations for the regular consumer.
What is the Science of Beauty Products?
At its core, the science of beauty products involves a fusion of chemistry, biology, and dermatology. Formulators and researchers delve deep into understanding the composition of ingredients, their molecular structures, and their impact on the skin.
From moisturizers to serums, each product is a combination of meticulously crafted quality substances and chemicals to deliver specific benefits based on scientific research and experimentation.
A Basic Understanding of the Skin
The skin, our body’s largest organ, is a complex structure composed of three main layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutis. Each layer plays a crucial role in protecting the body and supporting its functions. The outermost layer, the epidermis, garners the most attention from skincare products due to its significance in skin health.
Comprising millions of cells, the epidermis boasts a superficial layer called the stratum corneum, consisting of 15 to 20 dead cell layers. This layer is vital for creating a waterproof barrier that shields the body from water loss and external elements. However, this barrier also presents a challenge for skincare items aiming to penetrate and hydrate dry skin.
Within the stratum corneum, natural moisturizing factor (NMF) aids in trapping moisture, preventing dehydration. To do this, each cell contains a mixture of amino acids and salts called natural moisturizing factor (NMF) which is produced by proteins in the living cells below. NMF acts like a sponge, soaking up water to ensure we don’t shrivel up into nasty human raisins.
Microscopic openings known as pores populate the entire skin surface. Each pore serves as an entrance for a follicle containing hair and an oil gland. These glands release sebum intermittently, which travels upward along the hair and reaches the skin’s surface, maintaining skin lubrication.
However, pores can occasionally get obstructed by cells of dead skin, bacteria, or excessive grease production, leading to the formation of acne—a condition characterized by painful, red pimples.
Desmosomes, which link skin cells, are essential for maintaining skin cohesion. Enzymes assist in shedding old cells and facilitating cell turnover. However, factors like dehydration or harsh weather conditions can disrupt this process, leading to flaky skin. Moisturizing becomes crucial in restoring and maintaining optimal skin function.
Moisturizers, Desmolytics, and Actives
The chemistry of moisturizers, the cornerstone of skincare routines, are categorized into humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Humectants draw in moisture, with glycerin and hyaluronic acid being common examples. Emollients like jojoba oil or squalene soften skin by filling gaps between cells, while occlusives, such as beeswax or petroleum jelly, create a barrier to prevent water loss.
However, a moisturizer typically contains more than just these three components. Despite their negative reputation for being artificial, preservatives play a crucial role.
“When you put your hands into these jars, you introduce bacteria, and all these lotions and creams provide an ideal environment for mold growth,” explains Victoria Fu, a cosmetic scientist holding a degree in chemical engineering.
“Preservatives are necessary to prevent bacterial growth.” Common preservatives like phenoxyethanol and disodium EDTA pose no significant alarm.
Desmolytics, or chemical exfoliants, accelerate cell turnover by breaking down desmosomes. These include Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), which can treat conditions like acne and hyperpigmentation.
Glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane juice, stands as the tiniest example among the common Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), enabling deeper skin penetration. However, this characteristic can also lead to heightened irritation in the skin.
Consequently, individuals with sensitive skin are advised to opt for products containing lactic acid or mandelic acid, possessing larger molecular structures. Alternatively, BHAs like salicylic acid serve as a milder option for sensitive skin, being less potent than AHAs.
Active ingredients like retinoids, Vitamin C, and Niacinamide target specific skincare concerns. Retinoids, derivatives of Vitamin A, are known for their anti-aging properties, while Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant against free radicals. Niacinamide regulates sebum production and brightens skin tone. This relatively gentle active ingredient is suitable for even those with dry and sensitive skin.
The Importance of Sunscreen
However, regardless of skincare routines or product choices, your dermatologist will say that sunscreen and sun protection remain to be the ultimate defense against skin damage. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB rays, crucial in preventing premature aging and skin cancer.
In essence, understanding the intricate science behind skincare aids in making informed choices for healthier skin. Prioritizing quality skin health through hydration, protection, and proper skincare practices contributes significantly to overall well-being.
What Is the Science Behind Makeup?
Makeup, an art form in itself, relies on scientific principles for its effectiveness. Foundations, eyeshadows, and lipsticks are formulated using various pigments, binders, and emollients. These components interact with the skin’s surface, creating a desired appearance while considering factors like skin type, pigmentation, and light reflection.
The Role of Dead Skin Cells in Beauty Products
The cells from dead skin form a natural barrier on the skin’s surface, affecting the efficacy of skincare items. Exfoliants and peels target these cells, facilitating their removal and allowing deeper penetration of active ingredients, leading to smoother, rejuvenated skin.
Is There Any Science Behind Skincare?
The shiny bottles and containers hinting at eternal youth as you explore them are as close as modern science gets to magic. But beyond the attractive promises and packaging, the skincare and anti-aging industry is starting to show real, scientifically proven results with its new chemistry.
Skincare products, such as cleansers, toners, and serums, are rooted in scientific principles to maintain and improve skin health. Ingredients like retinoids, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants undergo rigorous testing to understand their effects on skin cells, collagen production, and hydration levels.
Scientific advancements and further research continue to pave the way for innovative formulations catering to diverse skin concerns.
What Is the Principle Behind Skincare Products?
The underlying chemistry of skincare items revolves around their ability to penetrate the skin’s layers effectively. Formulators engineer these products to ensure optimal absorption and delivery of active ingredients, addressing concerns like aging, wrinkles, acne, or sun damage.
Skin Care: A Miracle of Science or All Marketing?
In 2007, the University of Manchester’s Chris Griffiths and his team stirred immense excitement by revealing that a specific skin cream yielded noticeable changes in the skin of its users. The news spread through a BBC Horizon program, prompting long queues of predominantly female shoppers interested in the new skincare product camping outside stores nationwide, eager to acquire the seemingly miraculous cream supported by scientific evidence.
For years, consumers lacked substantial evidence to make informed decisions about their purchases, especially in the realm of skincare. Limited sample sizes and subjective opinions from women, often reported by the companies promoting the products, led to skepticism about their effectiveness.
Surprisingly, despite these challenges, the cosmetics industry has consistently expanded. Could Griffiths’ experimentation mark a fresh start for the skincare industry, providing substantial evidence to support the claims made by marketing departments?
Many of the active components present in various anti-aging treatments and cosmetic products initially found their use in clinical dermatology. For instance, retinoids were initially employed for treating acne, addressing skin tone issues, and demonstrating anti-wrinkle properties.
Additionally, various chemicals and acids were integrated to exfoliate older surface skin. Antioxidants, including Vitamins C and E, were also discovered to diminish wrinkles and pigmentation while offering protection against UV damage.
Despite the potential increase in concentrations of active ingredients in over-the-counter formulations, they often remain lower than those administered in clinical settings. Two primary reasons contribute to this disparity, beyond mere cost considerations.
Higher doses in the chemistry of products, akin to medicinal levels, can prompt side effects such as skin irritation and redness, undermining sales. Moreover, when dosages mirror medicinal levels, skin creams may transition from being classified as cosmetics to drugs, triggering additional regulatory requirements.
Thus, a delicate balance exists between creating cosmetic products containing sufficient active ingredients to be effective and avoiding excessive levels that could attract stricter regulation. This equilibrium aims to market the product persuasively to customers while steering clear of regulatory scrutiny. This navigation between two regulatory realms led to the term “cosmeceutical,” although its definition remains somewhat ambiguous and lacks strict boundaries.
Chris Smith of the formulation developers from Chrysalis Health & Beauty in Nottingham, UK, explains that the majority of moisturizers available today are oil-in-water emulsions, relying solely on diffusion to deliver active ingredients. To enhance penetration, formulators have borrowed techniques from the pharmaceutical sector, such as substituting glycerine with various glycols known for aiding penetration.
However, the favored approach, according to Smith, involves using liposomes and multiphase systems, like oil-water-oil colloidal systems, to compartmentalize ingredients. Enclosing an aqueous phase within liposomes facilitates its passage through the stratum corneum, enabling deeper penetration into the skin.
Reflecting on formulations between 1995 and 2005, Smith noted significant improvements in delivery and active ingredients. However, in recent years, formulations have shifted less towards enhancing delivery and active compounds and more toward addressing marketing considerations. Initially, mineral oil, present in most skincare products, was removed due to pore-clogging tendencies.
Subsequently, silicones and high molecular weight silicone elastomers were added, imparting serums with a silky texture. Despite their purely cosmetic nature and wash-off property, these additions became immensely popular due to their non-oily, desirable feel.
Smith acknowledges this shift significantly altered the market, creating demand for non-greasy yet silky-feeling products. However, from a performance perspective, Smith views these changes as lateral steps rather than advancements in cosmetics. With recent negative attention surrounding silicones, the cycle of formulation adjustments continues.
The vast majority of tests they perform never determine if the active ingredients are delivered to where they are needed, but instead examine whether the formulation is having the desired effect, may it be to reduce wrinkles or to reduce acne and the like.
The Science in Hair Coloring
Hair coloring showcases chemistry’s pivotal role in the beauty realm, evolving into a refined science. Two prime instances illustrate this:
Bleach effectively lightens hair by interacting with melanin and the hair itself, removing color. This process involves an alkalizing agent raising hair cuticles and an oxidizing agent allowing color removal, resulting in lightened hair.
This involves embedding small molecules into the hair shaft, reacting with the hair, and enlarging it. These molecules are too large to wash out, ensuring color retention after washing.
Understanding these chemical processes is vital in assuring clients. It demonstrates professionalism and dedication, enhancing the likelihood of positive recommendations and return visits.
How Beauty Products Interact with the Human Body
Upon application, beauty products interact with the skin through a process involving absorption, chemical reactions, and biological responses. Skin, being the largest organ, absorbs these products to varying degrees, influencing its health and appearance.
Although current scientific consensus deems many of these chemicals safe for use, the decision to buy and use personal care products containing certain ingredients and chemicals rests with each consumer. Opting for reputable brands from established sellers is advisable.
Cheap imports or online copies may lack proper testing and validation, potentially differing from their claims. In our pursuit of beauty, it’s crucial to recognize that cosmetics comprise intricate chemical compositions.
Gaining even a fundamental grasp of the lengthy chemical names listed in product ingredients—understanding their nature and functions—empowers consumers to make informed choices about their usage. This knowledge proves valuable in selecting the products that contribute to showcasing one’s best appearance.
Zeph Dela Cruz is a budding enthusiast in the world of makeup and skincare. As a beginner, Zeph aims to discover new techniques, products, and tips while sharing the joys and challenges of this beauty adventure.