For centuries, cosmetics have been used to enhance a person’s appearance and to improve the quality of their skin. Today’s cosmetics market is an international superpower, offering an overwhelming variety of options. When faced with all those options, consumers using the quality and safety of a product to dictate their spending. Chemical analysis is often used to ensure both the purity and quality of cosmetics and other dermatological formulations. Unfortunately, cosmetics frequently include toxic ingredients, but the good news is that new technology like spectrophotometers can help producers detect impurities and other harmful additives in makeup. Spectrophotometers provide a safe, simple and effective method of chemical analysis of cosmetics.
Urea and other toxic chemicals
One of the biggest concerns in the cosmetic industry today is the use of urea as a preservative. This substance is popular because of its ability to sustain moisture in cosmetic products, thereby increasing their shelf-life. Trace amounts of urea are harmless and can be found on the epidermal layer of the skin. However, the manmade additive that is commonly used in both cosmetic products and other dermatological formulations consists of a synthetic mixture of ammonia and carbon dioxide. It has also been known to cause contact dermatitis for many people and to release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
Urea increases the rate of skin absorption for a given product, so it is often used to help products penetrate the skin faster and more effectively. However, this enhanced absorption also accelerates its harmful effects. The use of urea as a cosmetic additive has already been banned in Canada. Many consumers and cosmetic safety organizations in the U.S. like the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) are pushing for a toxic chemical reform that would ban the use of urea and other harmful substances.
Common products that may contain urea include (but are not limited to):
- Hair Colorant
- Lip Balm/Treatments
- Nail Polish
Spectrophotometric determination of urea and other elements
How, exactly does this chemical analysis work? According to the NCBI Public Med article Spectrophotometric Determination of Urea in Dermatologic Formulations and Cosmetics, spectrophotometers can provide “a rapid, relatively sensitive, and low-cost method for the determination of water-soluble urea content in dermatological therapy products and cosmetics.” This method of chemical analysis in cosmetics is easy, effective, and time-efficient since it can produce immediate results. The use of simple water as a soluble base provides the safest method of chemical analysis because it does not require the use of other harmful substances. With new FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations on the verge of reform, the cosmetic industry can use this technology to ensure consumer safety and quality in their products and to meet new regulatory standards.
Not only does spectral technology provide an effective method for the detection of toxins, it can also determine other impurities in cosmetics and dermatological formulations for process monitoring and quality control (QC). Using color technology for chemical analysis in cosmetics allows manufacturers to create specific formulations that are free of impurities, which can then be repeatedly used for quality control. This versatile and affordable tool is a “must have” for maintaining uniformity and safety, which is needed to remain competitive in today’s global market.
Spectrophotometric instrumentation and options
Over the past century, spectrophotometric technology has grown in leaps and bounds. New advancements have made this instrumentation both affordable and versatile, creating hundreds of applications for chemical analysis. Sphere-based technology offers the most accurate representation of color, allowing for the differentiation of both chemical elements and visual perception qualities. The cosmetic and dermatological industries depend on this advanced technology for quality and product safety. At HunterLab, we specialize in specific industry needs and develop our instrumentation accordingly. For more information on the versatility of our products and how chemical analysis is used in cosmetics and dermatologic formulations, contact HunterLab today.
Mr. Philips has spent the last 30 years in product development and management, technical sales, marketing, and business development in several industries. Today, he is the global market development manager for HunterLab, focused on understanding customer needs, providing appropriate solutions and education, and helping to solve customer color challenges across these industries and cultures.