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Climate Change and Ingredients Sourcing

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

The acceleration of climate change driven events is creating an increasing pressure on the environment and living organisms that depend upon it with consequences that will be hard to fix or reverse in the future. Every living organism that is exposed to environmental changes is impacted. We need to understand the scenario to put in place effective actions to mitigate the changes that will affect the environment we know and the way we source natural ingredients for cosmetic use. The call for action is now.

Global Warming
We exist in a thin layer of the atmosphere, 7 miles above sea level. Life has been preserved for thousands of years with the right conditions of temperature and air, mostly nitrogen and oxygen, but also greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide that released in the atmosphere contributed to stabilize the right temperature for living organisms. However, since the industrial revolution in the late 1800s, increasing burning of coal, oil, and natural gas, has caused more carbon dioxide to be released in the atmosphere, eventually trapping the heat, with the consequence of increasing its temperature, a process referred as global warming. Extreme weather has also triggered melting of glaciers, ice caps and contributed to sea level rise. In the US, greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming, have been associated with transportation, electricity production, industry, residential/commercial heating, and agriculture practices.1

Climate Change and its Effect on Plant Growth
A plant needs water, air, sunlight, optimal temperature, and the right soil to properly grow. Climate change is affecting all the above, except for sunlight.

With most of the water being saltwater from the ocean, only 3% is fresh (glaciers, groundwater, lakes, rivers, etc.). A warmer climate is causing an increased water evaporation, eventually trapped in the atmosphere. Cycles of rain are altered; dry areas are getting drier and wet areas wetter. Plants would find it difficult to adapt to these changes and in dry areas, farmers would need more and more ground water to sustain irrigation.

With carbon dioxide increasing in the atmosphere, plants are growing faster, but weeds also, with the difficulty to control them. Plant-feeding insects are proliferating due to the decrease in plant nutritional value and increase in sugar content when plants are grown under a higher carbon dioxide atmosphere. This decrease in nutritional value is a concern for the human diet but also for other uses (such as cosmetics and supplements and their ingredients quality). Plants contain less protein, zinc, iron, and vitamins, especially B vitamins.2,3

Temperature changes during nighttime or daytime alter the normal growth of the plant and its reproductive stage. With increased heat some plants grow faster, and farmers would need to manage irrigation, planting, harvesting, etc., but extreme heat would harm plants, especially during pollination, and the yield would decrease dramatically. Many plants like winter exposure and warmer winter will also reduce yield or select out many plant varieties. In general, because of increasing heat, the plant cultivation geographical map is shifting, moving northern.

Finally, climate change is also affecting the quality of the soil, so essential for life development. A healthy soil is a living system that sustains plants, animals, and humans.4 It contains billions of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, spiders, and many other organisms interacting together and with the plant’s roots. Soil contains organic matter, often derived from living organisms but also from plant decay (humus). This organic matter is vital for life, it absorbs water optimally. The symbiosis between the soil and the plant’s root is very important, and it helps keep the plant healthy. The quality of the soil translates in the quality of the plant and its products, the massive cleaning of forest for land cultivation is depleting the soil and carbon is released in the atmosphere instead of being kept in the soil.

Some examples of Plants disruption
Many plants providing ingredients for our cosmetic products grow in coastal zones, such as 70% of coconuts trees. These zones are threatened by rising seas. Moreover, scientist studying coconuts plants have shown a negative impact on growth by rising temperatures.5 The cultivation and yield of Lavender, Jasmine, and Rose, in Grasse, France, have been seriously affected recently by more extreme weather, including droughts.6 These plants are essential to produce essential oils for the fragrance industry. Medicinal plants are more and more popular in our industry due to a wellness push. Many species of medicinal plants grow on mountains and many of them are difficult to cultivate. Warmer temperatures are threatening most species, pushing species to adapt and grow to higher altitudes to remain viable with species not able to adapt and possibly to disappear.7 Basic life is changing in the ocean, too. Phytoplankton and Algae are declining due to a warmer ocean and efficiency in photosynthesis is affected.8 With declining fishing and algae availability in the arctic sea due to climate change effect on temperature and on El Nino driving stream, global sourcing of omega-3 has been challenged with main production shifting to indoor algae cultivation and fermentation.9

Climate change is real and we, as an industry, need to work with our suppliers to sustain our ingredients sourcing. Development of climate change resistant species, vertical and cellular farming to balance the pressure on cultivation and wild picking, and finally optimization of plant usage by improved extraction and process methodology, are urgently needed to reduce the demand on classical supply chain and implement a more sustainable use of resources.

1. Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. EPA, 2015
2. Samuel S et al. Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition. Nature 510 (7503):139-42, 2014
3. Chunwu Zhu, et al. Carbon dioxide levels this century will alter the protein, micronutrients, and vitamin content of rice grains with potential health consequences for the poorest rice-dependent countries. Science Advances 4(5); 2, 2018
4. Soil Health. USDA, 2019
5. Sunoy J, et al. Impact of climate change on plantation crops: coconuts. In Impact of Climate Change on Plantation Crops, ed. KB Hebbar et al., 2017
6. Quito A. The top luxury company in the world is fighting to save the flowers that go into its perfume. Quartz, 2019
7. Das M, et al. Impact of climate change on medicinal and aromatic plants: review. Indian J Agric Sci 86: 1375-82, 2016
8. Roxy MK, et al. A reduction in marine primary productivity driven by rapid warming over the tropical Indian ocean. Geophysical Research Letters 43(2): 826, 2016
9. Cheung W, et al. Climate change exacerbates nutrient disparities from seafood. Nature Climate Change 13: 1242-49, 2023


About the Author

Giorgio Dell’Acqua is passionate about the environment and sustainability. He has given many lectures in the past on sustainable supply chain, natural ingredients and upcycling as well as publishing several articles for the industry on this topic (see below for references). Giorgio is currently Chief Science Officer at Nutrafol, a company specialized in natural based supplements and topicals for healthy hair and scalp. After obtaining his PhD in Cell Biology in 1989, Giorgio worked in Academia for 15 years as an investigator in applied medical research. Moving to the private sector in 2000, he has spent the last 20+ years as an executive and cosmetic scientist in the personal care industry. During his career, he directed R&D, Innovation, Science, and Product Development at multiple companies. He has helped bring 200+ successful active ingredients and finished products to market, has authored more than 90 publications in medicine and cosmetic science, and he holds 2 patents. Giorgio is also on the executive board of the US Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) as its 2024 secretary, he is the chair for the NYSCC outreach committee and he is a member of the NYSCC Scientific Committee.

References (sustainability)

Han M, Dell’Acqua G. Exploring extremophiles: a novel and sustainable path for innovation in the cosmetic industry. Cosmetiscope 30(2): 1-7, 2024
Dell’Acqua G. Green isn’t enough. Social Progress is the next chapter for naturals. Cosmet. Toil. (Cover page article), 134(7): 28-40, 2019
Dell’Acqua G. Recycling natural by-products from food and agriculture waste into powerful active ingredients for cosmetic applications. H&PC Today 13(3): 16-19, 2018
Dell’Acqua G. Sustainable product development. CTSCC Nutmeg Newsletter 35(3): 7-11, 2018
Dell’Acqua G. Communities under the forest – Can we separate humans from trees? NYSCC Cosmetiscope, 24(2): 15-16, 2018
Dell’Acqua G. Garbage to glamour: recycling food by-products for skin care. Cosmet. Toil. (Cover page article), 132(2): 28-37, 2017
Dell’Acqua G. The challenges of sustainable development. NYSCC Cosmetiscope 23(2):1-6, 2017
Dell’Acqua G. Sustainable ingredients with scientific edge. Midwest SCC Scoop 47(6):7-11, 2015
Dell’Acqua G, Calloni G. Sustainable ingredients and innovation in cosmetics. Cosmet. Toil., 128(8): 528-536, 2013

Embracing a Comprehensive Approach to Skin & Hair Beauty

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Defining beauty is a complex and multifaceted task that can be accomplished both topically and from within. Beauty is one of those feel-good life deliverables that both gives and receives, making it a personalized priority for all of us.

Beauty is a matter of interpretation, appreciation, and commitment. It all starts with a strong dedication and willingness to pursue practices that feed overall wellness persistently. Beauty is intricately linked to health, with factors such as restful sleep, regular exercise, and a balanced diet playing pivotal roles in maintaining radiant skin, bright eyes, and lustrous hair and nails.

As time passes, aging becomes a concern for many people, prompting changes in the way we view our routines, diet, and abilities. The use of topical products is first line defense and a natural progression towards influencing the rate at which you age as it hits on many sensorial notes both on a neural level and through repetitive muscle entrainment, making it easy to create a positive habit toward maintaining your health. The downside is that topical products typically work on or underneath the superficial surface of skin and hair. The epidermis, and the hair cuticle, respectively, are designed by nature to keep things out in an environment that is constantly changing. All of this is a good thing. From a product development perspective, it becomes a never-ending effort to correct and maintain your skin and hair without adding to the everyday stress of imbalance that already exists.

One of the overlooked functions of skin is that it acts as an excretory organ, much of what goes on inside your body has a direct effect on how your skin functions and ultimately looks. Furthermore, being the largest organ, it is privileged with miles of vessels moving nutrients and metabolites of every category to all parts of our skin, hair, and nails. Because of this nutrient flow, many of these nutrients and by-products of their metabolism find their way to the surface of the skin acting in concert with the skin’s topical biochemistry and microbial ecology, influencing immune learning and defense. As all of this occurs, your gut health, mental health, sleep patterns and attitudes are being transmitted through your skin in both acute and long-term ways. Like growth rings on a tree, your skin, hair, and nails, reflect a moment in time and the conditions within that moment.  If beauty is what we seek, I suggest blending all the possibilities there are into the best possible moment in time.

Taking a new perspective on empowering beauty is leveraging the wonders of a comprehensive approach to both topical care and support from within.

Beauty-from-within supplements are becoming more popular amongst consumers. It is one of the fastest-growing categories in the nutraceuticals industry with an above average CAGR.

Internally supporting beauty is a strategy that can address skin and hair at almost every level, leading to lasting results and a more consistent routine resulting in less overall stress.  This integrated approach, focusing on creating a positive feedback loop of promoting overall health and wellness, can lead to healthier, more radiant skin, brighter eyes, and lustrous hair. This exponentially grows the possibilities of intervention in terms of product development and gives the consumer a sense of control over their aging process and creating enduring foundational results with significant benefits over a single armed beauty approach.

Under this approach, beauty is linked to overall wellness, lifestyle, diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management, which become additional targets to support through dietary supplementation and lifestyle changes.

I encourage you to visit the events page on the NYSCC website and register for the “Beauty from Within: Next Level Beauty Care & Wellness Strategies” event being held at the Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange, NJ on March 26th. There is a great line up of speakers that will explore and inspire all the wonders of beauty from both sides. I look forward to seeing you there.

Author Bio:

Michael Anthonavage serves as the VP of Innovation at Vitaquest International, dedicated to expanding the supplement market footprint and ensuring their customers gain a competitive edge. With expertise in bringing new technologies to market, championing innovation and growth for all areas of health and nutrition as well as many aspects of skin and haircare product development.  Michael is a seasoned skin biologist, research scientist, educator, and a member of the scientific advisory board for the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists for the past 5 years.

Aging Is Rusting. How Do We Address Rusting in Skin?

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Here’s a hot flash you may not have heard before.  You’re not aging.  You’re rusting. As we get older, we start to face a complexion that looks duller, dingy, cloudier, less luminous. And more unevenly discolored.  The reason?  Iron is the most abundant transition metal in human body and the best-known driving force behind oxygen free radical formation through Fenton and Haber-Weiss reactions (Pierre and Fontecave 1999). Yes, the irony of iron is that iron is the element essential for building strong structures and machines but can also be the cause of their deterioration through rust. Oxidative damage a.k.a. – rusting is due to two distinct but surprisingly related functions: the build-up of iron in the skin as we get older coupled with a slowing of the skin’s natural exfoliation process. These result in iron staying in the skin for 56 days instead of 28 days as skin turnover time (Weintraub et al. 1965).

Here’s another conundrum.  In pre-menopause, excess iron in the body and skin is eliminated two ways: through monthly menstruation and through exfoliation. When menstruation ceases, iron levels can surge. Excess iron in the body is common with the onset of menopause.  In fact, iron can accumulate in the skin and is clinically shown to increase by as much as +42% pre through post menopause (Pelle et al. 2013). This excess iron is normally eliminated through menstruation as well as natural exfoliation.  The cessation of menstruation coupled with the deceleration of exfoliation limits the capacity to remove excess iron from the skin.

When body iron storage increases, skin too is exposed to higher levels of iron, which in turn can cause oxidative damage as the excess iron reacts with UVA. The result: skin aging and photoaging is accelerated. For example, ferritin is the iron storage protein for excess iron with a capacity of binding up to 4,500 atoms of iron per ferritin. It consists of heavy (H) and light (L) chain subunits. It was shown that ferritin can be immediately degraded by UVA doses of 100 and 250 kJ/m2, releasing large amounts of iron for Fenton and Haber-Weiss reactions, producing oxygen free radicals (Pourzand et al. 1999). In a cell culture model mimicking menopausal conditions, increased iron and UVA were found to significantly increase an enzyme called collagenase-1 (Jian et al. 2011). Increased activity of collagenase-1 increases collagen degradation, causing wrinkles initially and skin thinning when we get older.

Like rust on metal, higher levels of iron when exposed to UV radiation, blue light, air pollutants and irritants from other sources results in increased oxidative damage in skin.  If you’ve ever seen a rusty bicycle, you know the corrosive damage the environment has on metal.  Oxidative stress begets skin-aging yellowing, dullness, dark spots and discolorations as well as wrinkles, loss of elasticity and other signs of aging.

Until now, antioxidants have been the only defense to attempt to neutralize oxidants after they are formed. Chelation can be used to sequester “free” iron, but it cannot compete to take away from iron in ferritin. The antioxidant and chelation approaches are retroactive and often too late (Table 1). They can only battle the symptoms, but they do not treat the underlying cause.

Table 1. Mode of actions of antioxidants, chelation, and de-ironizing inducer (DII) *

Antioxidants Chelation De-ironizing inducer (DII)
Reduce damage

Attempt to reduce the cumulative damage to skin by neutralizing some of the radicals before they can damage skin

Diminish damage

Try to sequester “free” iron is not bound to proteins. Chelation is reversible, and chelators cannot compete with ferritin, the strongest iron chelator

Prevent damage

DII consists of ascorbic acids and pearl powder to safely remove iron from ferritin, the landmine forming oxygen free radicals


Antioxidants fight oxidants

Reversible and incomplete Ineffective protection Proactive

DII stops skin aging one step earlier than antioxidants and more complete than chelation.

*: The skin is subject to a constant onslaught of free radicals catalyzed by iron-mediated Fenton and Haber-Weiss reactions.

A novel class of actives termed De-ironizing Inducers Technology (DII®) can do what no free-radical neutralizing antioxidant or chelation can do. It reduces iron in ferritin before it is converted to skin-damaging free radicals.  The patented DII® features 3-o-ethyl-ascorbic acid and pearl powder in the right ratios to effectively reduce iron in skin (US Patent 10792240). Research shows that when either alone or when too much of one exists without the other, iron reduction cannot be accomplished.  Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C helps release iron deposits from ferritin. Pearl Powder, a soft form of calcium carbonate, absorbs the released iron ions by exchanging them with calcium ions and, thus, removes skin-rusting iron deposits (Figure 1). These two previously incompatible ingredients work in unison to help prevent oxidative stress from forming in the first place, rather than attempting to neutralize free radicals after they appear as most antioxidants do. Without the need to fight free radicals, skin-rejuvenating Hyaluronic Acid plus Tetrapeptide-11 repair previous damage done and the goes one step further to help rebuild collagen, clarity, elasticity and tone / skin’s health and appearance.

Your skin glows with good health. And rust is history!

It is important to note that, while this discovery is made using menopausal model, the DII® is applicable to all ages. Estrogen peaks at age 25 and iron starts to increase from the same age. While estrogen sharply decreases during the menopausal transition period, iron dramatically increases during the same period. DII® may be more age defying in young women but more disrupting with higher success rate in older women. Man starts to accumulate iron from the 20s to the 30s and skin pigmentation is higher in man than in woman (Rahrovan et al. 2018). As a result, DII® is also applicable to man.







Jian J, Pelle E, Yang Q, Pernodet N, Maes D, Huang X. (2011). Iron sensitizes keratinocytes and fibroblasts to uva-mediated matrix metalloproteinase-1 through tnf-alpha and erk activation. Exp Dermatol 20:249-254. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20701626

Pelle E, Jian J, Zhang Q, Muizzuddin N, Yang Q, Dai J, et al. (2013). Menopause increases the iron storage protein ferritin in skin. J Cosmet Sci 64:175-179. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23752032

Pierre JL, Fontecave M. (1999). Iron and activated oxygen species in biology: The basic chemistry. Biometals 12:195-199. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10581682

Pourzand C, Watkin RD, Brown JE, Tyrrell RM. (1999). Ultraviolet a radiation induces immediate release of iron in human primary skin fibroblasts: The role of ferritin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 96:6751-6756. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10359784

Rahrovan S, Fanian F, Mehryan P, Humbert P, Firooz A. (2018). Male versus female skin: What dermatologists and cosmeticians should know. Int J Womens Dermatol 4:122-130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30175213

Cosmetic Colorants

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Coloring agents are essential components of certain cosmetic products, especially color cosmetic formulations. Most cosmetic colorants are synthetic and are regulated globally.  In the US, they are regulated by FDA with monographs for each and all located in Title 21 of the Code of Federal regulations, Parts 73 and 74. In the EU, allowed cosmetic colorants are listed in Annex IV, Regulation 1223/2009/EC on Cosmetic Products, as corrected by Corrigendum to Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/850, 17 June 2021. Many colorants on that list are also used in food and have corresponding E (Europe) numbers such as E-171 for TiO2 and E-172 for iron oxides. In such cases, the specifications for food colorants are used for cosmetic application.  Therefore, it is common to see a note in technical datasheet for a cosmetic colorant stating it complies with the 21CFR and E number (like E-172 for iron oxides) specifications.

Although many of us formulate with colorants frequently, we seem to need help on gaining complete clarity on certain aspects of them. In this blog, we will go over some fundamentals and a few common confusions about certain pigments.  Let’s first start with some terms that we often hear.

Dye:  It is a material that imparts a color and is soluble in the vehicle or substrate in which it is dispersed.

Pigment:  It is a material that is insoluble in the vehicle or substrate in which it is dispersed. True pigments are colorants completely insoluble based on their chemical structure and constituent groups. They typically do not contain the normal substitution groups that promote water solubility, such as sulfonates (-SO3), carboxylic acid (-COOH) or hydroxyl groups (-OH). Hence, there is no bleeding in hydrous systems. There are only two examples of true pigments used in cosmetics:  D&C Red No. 30 and D&C Red No. 36.

For leave-on cosmetic applications, pigments instead of dyes are often used because dyes are hard to remove after use, thus, stain the skin. Dyes are more commonly used in rinse-off products such as shampoo and mouth rinse. Now let’s go a little further:

Toner:  It is a pigment that is produced by precipitating a water-soluble dye as a metal salt. Typical metals used for this precipitation are sodium, calcium, barium and strontium. e.g., D&C Red 7 Ca Salt. (be aware that it is not a lake)

Lake:  It is a pigment produced by absorbing a water-soluble dye or a primary toner onto an insoluble substrate. All the lakes are pigments.

F, D and C codes in the names of a colorant stands for its approved use in Food, Drug and Cosmetics. A colorant must meet its purities requirements to ensure its safety. FDA separates color additives into two categories:

  1. Colorant subject to certification: they are derived primarily from petroleum and are known as coal-tar Most synthetic, organic colorants fall in this category. They must be batch certified by the FDA. They are further divided into two categories:
  2. Certifiable Primary Colors: They are pure color which contain no extenders or diluents. They have color names and numbers assigned such as FD&C Yellow 5, D&C Red 6 and Ext. D&C Violet 2.
  3. Certifiable Color Lakes: Lakes follow the same restrictions as the primary colors with the additional rule that they must have the name of the precipitating metal and the word “lake”. An example would be FD&C Yellow 5 Al Lake.
  4. Colorant exempt from certification: These are natural organic colorants and synthetic inorganics obtained largely from mineral, plant, or animal sources. Although batch certification is not required, purity must be tested by the manufacturer to meet FDA specifications. Examples are Titanium dioxide and Iron oxides.

Now that we have gone over the general terms and regulatory aspects of colorants, let’s look at common ambiguities about a few specific pigments:

  1. Rutile and anatase

First, they both are TiO2, but refer to two crystalline structures. It is like using Coke or Pepsi to represent carbonated soft drinks. Anatase is slightly softer and less abrasive than rutile. This makes little difference to the skin feel but can make a big difference in TiO2 production process.  Rutile is so abrasive that it can wear out the equipment that processes hundred to thousands of tons per campaign. Consequently, rutile is often surface treated with alumina to extend the useful life of the equipment in addition to provide other benefits.

Rutile has a slightly higher refractive index than anatase, and thus, it can scatter light more effectively. So, does it mean that Rutile is more opaque? Not quite. Opacity is the result of scattering which depends as much on the size and size distribution of the pigment particles as on its refractive index. In reality, it is rare to find a rutile and an anatase that have the same particle size, let alone size distribution. Therefore, being rutile or anatase does not necessarily indicate a higher or lower opacity.

Commercial anatase is usually made to have a small primary particle size, in a range of about 140 – 170 nm. That of rutile is often bigger, roughly 170 – 250 nm.  Due to its smaller size, anatase scatters blue light slightly more, and thus, imparts a blueish undertone.  This is the reason that anatase is often said to be bluer than rutile.

Lastly, the production processes, chloride and sulphate, are often brought into discussion about TiO2.  In Chloride process, TiCl4 is vaporized and burnt into rutile.  In sulphate process, Ti(SO4)2 is neutralized with base to generate anatase. If aluminum salt is used as the inducer, rutile TiO2 can also be made via the sulphate process. TiO2 made from a Chloride process often has a lower level of contaminants, which translates into high purity and clean color. This had been indeed the case in the past, but not so much anymore since the sulphate process technology has been greatly improved over the years.

  1. Carbon black

 Carbon black can be made via several processes. In the US, carbon black as a cosmetic color additive is called D&C Black No. 2, a high-purity carbon black prepared by the oil furnace process.1 It is manufactured by the combustion of aromatic petroleum oil feedstock and consists essentially of pure carbon, formed as aggregated fine particles with a surface area range of 200 to 260 m2/g.

JSCI monograph requires Carbon black to be obtained by incomplete combustion of natural gas or liquid hydrocarbon. Such carbon black is often called channel black and is not approved by the FDA.  This, unfortunately, adds unnecessary complexity to formulating for the global market.

  1. Chromium oxide and Chromium hydroxide green

Hexavalent Chromium (Cr6+) is known to be carcinogenic, thus, it should not be present or at a very low level in cosmetics products. However, its presence is unavoidable due to the chemistry and manufacturing process. For both pigments, the FDA set a limit of 2% NaOH extract, not more than 0.1% as Cr2O(based on sample weight). 2 This limit is equivalent to 684 or 513 ppm maximum Hexavalent Chromium, respectively. The actual level of Cr6+ in a commercial grade needs to be tested for calculating the final level in a finished formulation.

  1. Mica and Pearlescent pigments

A common restriction people often talk about is the size limit of 150 mm. Mica is an approved colorant for drug use, and the FDA has imposed a size limit on it.  Mica can also be used as a colorant for cosmetic applications for which the FDA does not list any size limit in the monograph. Moreover, mica can be used in cosmetics as filler, a category that the FDA does not regulate with specific requirements.

Efforts have been made to list Mica-based pearlescent pigments as approved colorants for cosmetic purposes, but this has not happened yet. as of now, such pigments have been approved as colorants only for drug use, and the corresponding specifications require that the mica meets the colorant specifications for drug use.  This is likely the reason that we hear the 150-mm size limit in our industry.  As mentioned above, mica-based pigments are not approved colorants for cosmetic use. Consequently, the composition has to be expressed as a mixture of individual components such as, for instance, mica and titanium dioxide. Each of these ingredients needs to meet the corresponding FDA specification if applicable.  The size limit on mica for drug use may not be observed.

  1. Zinc oxide

Zinc oxide is a long approved cosmetic colorant, though its use as opacificer in cosmetics is limited. That main reason is that its opacity is much lower than TiO2 due to its lower refractive index (2 vs. 2.7).  Roughly 3 times more ZnO is needed to achieve the same degree of opacity of TiO2. Moreover, ZnO is slightly soluble in water, resulting in the pH of formulations containing ZnO to be above 7.5.

As of August 7, 2022, the use of TiO2 as food colorant has been banned in the EU, directly affecting its use in lip and oral products. Respirable TiO2 is considered carcinogenic, according to Proposition 65 of the state of California, affecting the use of TiO2 in some powder and spray formulations. TiO2 is difficult to replace because of its unique performance and inertness. In light of the regulatory restriction, ZnO with the right size and high opacity has gained attention recently, especially for anhydrous formulations.

  1. Red 6 lake and red 7 lake in Japan

Most FDA approved colorants can be used in Japan. Red 6 lake, widely used in lip products, is a notable exception. The reason is that Red 6 lake is Red 6 Barium salt laked on barium sulfate, but Red 6 Barium salt is not an approved colorant in Japan. On the other hand, Red 7 lake is Red 6 Calcium salt laked on barium sulfate but Red 6 Calcium salt is approved in Japan.  In the case that the shade cannot be achieved without Red 6, Red 6 sodium salt can be used. However, it must be noted that red 6 sodium salt is water soluble, which is opposite to Red 6 lake.

Currently, the FDA has approved 64 color additives for cosmetic use, each of which has its merits and drawbacks due to their unique chemistry and production process.3 The knowledge is important not only for formulating the right color shade, but also for troubleshooting instability and especially, regulatory compliance. The author hopes that this blog will contribute to your learning of cosmetic colorants.



  1. https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-21/chapter-I/subchapter-A/part-74/subpart-C/section-74.2052
  2. https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-21/chapter-I/subchapter-A/part-73/subpart-C/section-73.2327
  3. https://www.fda.gov/industry/color-additive-inventories/summary-color-additives-use-united-states-foods-drugs-cosmetics-and-medical-devices#table3A



Restore hair and scalp equilibrium for holistic beauty!

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments


For years, hair care products have been focused on addressing damage by providing solutions to repair, prevent and maintain hair health. With increased awareness, consumers now recognize that healthy scalp is also a fundamental foundation for healthy hair. Holistic care means to restore the hair at its core while maintaining a healthy scalp. With personalization and self-care at the forefront, consumers are looking for solutions that are inspired from skin care with an emphasis on natural and clean ingredients. In this article, we will discuss factors that affect scalp and hair health and provide an overview of the innovative technologies including specialized product treatments that help restore hair and scalp equilibrium.

Stressors that impact hair and scalp equilibrium

Hair and scalp are affected by several factors such as UV exposure, pollution, humidity, mechanical, chemical, physical stressors, and occlusion such as hats and head protectors (like wigs, protective styles etc.) [1]. Sebum on the scalp diffuses along the hair shaft and can attract product build-up and dust from air which can affect the scalp’s overall health. Additionally, the bacterial and yeast proliferation on the scalp is commonly associated with enhanced desquamation, itching, scratching and redness [1]. Some hair products may leave deposits on the scalp, while others can strip hair’s natural oils to the point that it begins to over-produce sebum [2].

Oxidative stress, i.e., free radicals from sources like UV and pollution, can weaken scalp skin health and cause aging [3]. Sensitive scalp syndrome has been reported to arise from increasing levels of air pollution. Symptoms of sensitive scalp include itching, prickling in the scalp, dandruff, oily scalp, and pain in the hair roots. Pollutants also can migrate into the dermis and through the hair follicle (HF), leading to oxidative stress and hair fall [3]. Hormonal changes, medical conditions, heredity, and aging are cited as common causes of hair fall, but there has been a lot of searches for hair loss associated after COVID-19 (+250%) and how to stop hair fall post COVID increased by a whopping 1,250% [4].

The skin surface and follicular openings are recognized sites of rich microbial colonization and intense immune citation, with crosstalk across the skin barrier [5]. A disrupted microbiome may cause infections and inflammation to the scalp [6]. This disruption may aggravate scalp disorders that can lead to acne, eczema, alopecia, scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis/dandruff, etc. The aforementioned diseases of the skin and the hair follicles [HFs] are all due to the dysfunction of dysbiosis – the imbalance of the skin microbiome [5]. Scalp conditions also impact the quality of hair causing the resultant cuticular cells to be less flexible than normal, which may impair both anchorage and subsequent fiber surface integrity due to an oxidative stress environment [7]. Hair fibers become more brittle and chip off. This results in a rougher cuticle that is also less functionally effective [7].

Cleansing of hair and scalp is also vital. How often you should cleanse your hair is determined based on your overall scalp health and can be attributed to hair texture. Some cleansers can be harsh and overly stripping, removing all natural oils, which disturbs the bacterial environment and can lead to irritation, redness, and flaking [8], while others may have a high oil load that can have a detrimental effect on oily scalp.

As scalp and hair go hand-in-hand, there is also tremendous focus on the damage hair sustains from the environment, washing, bleaching, coloring, and the use of different styling regiments. Hair damage affects all types of cross-linking bonds, including disulfide bonds, and can negatively affect the overall structure and ordering of hair lipids and CMC lipids [9]. Bleaching and coloring leads to dry, brittle-feeling hair and fiber breakage. Repeated washing results in lifted cuticles, while heat damage from drying, straightening, or curling leads to a loss of moisture, frizzy hair, and split ends [10].

Market drivers and trends

Over the past five years, scalp-focused searches have increased by 270% which is tied to the fact that one in two people suffer from a scalp issue [11]. Reportlinker projects the global hair and scalp care market will reach $121.4 billion by 2027 and will grow at an estimated 6.5% CAGR over the next five years [12]. Based on the latest data, Spate recommends that brands offer hair and scalp solutions that support skin barrier repair, moisturization and conditioning of damaged locks [12]. There has also been a rise in complex hair and scalp routines among millennials [4]. Need for different scalp products has increased globally, which aligns with consumers’ desire for benefits that address their individual scalp and hair needs. Consumers are also demanding transparency from brands and want to learn more about the ingredients used in their products and their mechanism of action. They also place a growing emphasis on the use of natural, organic, and clean alternative ingredients.

Advances in technology targeting hair and scalp concerns.

There have been many advancements in technology that provide holistic solutions to help protect, prevent, and restore hair and scalp equilibrium.

Sebum Control:

An ingredient that leverages a novel encapsulation technology*, ensures targeted delivery and controlled release of actives onto the scalp and hair to deliver instant sebum reduction [12]. This ingredient allows consumers to leave more time between washes, leading to water conservation [12]. A naturally occurring amino acid (INCI: Glycerin (and) Water (and) Sarcosine) effectively aids in the reduction of an oily scalp. It helps to reduce flakes on the scalp and assists in rebalancing the microbiome. Additionally, this ingredient also helps fight against stress, pollution, and product build-up [2]. Another ingredient, based on lamellar body-inspired delivery system (INCI: Aqua, Lecithin, Niacinamide, Lysolecithin, Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylyl Glycol, Phytic Acid), has been designed to target hair follicles where it delivers actives to regulate sebum and the microbiome [6].

Oxidative Stress:

Antioxidants are very well known and can be added to any kind of hair product due to their water-based molecular structure. They help to prevent the formation of oxidative stress and provide a wide range of benefits to both hair and scalp. A blend of three natural and powerful antioxidants, an extract of a medicinal plant forms a non-occlusive shield against urban pollution and protects hair and scalp against environmental stress [13]. A fermented extract of organically grown yerba mate leaves (INCI: water (aqua) (and) glycerin (and) Ilex paraguariensis leaf extract) is designed to help protect hair from oxidative stress-induced damage and help maintain healthy hair roots for optimal growth after only one shampoo treatment [12]. Brands like Keep It Anchored (P&G owned) are developing formulas that are powered by a combination of antioxidant salts that relieve oxidative stress, a zinc compound to improve scalp condition and B vitamins known for skin barrier health [8].


* INCI: Aqua (and) Cetyl Palmitate (and) Cucurbita pepo seed extract (and) Disodium EDTA (and) Ethylhexylglycerin (and) Helianthus annuus seed oil (and) Lauryl Glucoside (and) Melaleuca alternifolia leaf oil (and) Phenoxyethanol (and) Rosmarinus officinalis leaf extract (and) Sorbitan Stearate (and) Tocopheryl Acetate



With zinc pyrithiones (ZPT’s) ban in Europe in cosmetic applications, formulators are now scouting for new active ingredients. A biomarine ingredient derived via biotechnology (INCI: Water (aqua) (and) Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract (and) Sodium Salicylate) has been shown to reduce sebum, itchiness, and flakes on the scalp, while also preventing their recurrence in both rinse-off and leave-on applications [4]. An algae oil (INCI: Triolein), containing more than 90% of the beneficial omega-9 helps hydrate, rejuvenate, and repair the scalp. It also nourishes hair follicles and protects against hair fiber lipid degradation upon UV exposure [4]. In addition, another ingredient positioned as an emollient with antimicrobial properties (INCI: decylene glycol), helps protect the skin from scalp to toe. Among other functions, this ingredient supports dandruff control concepts. It also provides a China-compliant alternative to the antidandruff active zinc pyrithione [12].

Hair Loss:

Broccoli and pumpkin seed seem like unexpected choices for formulators developing anti-hair loss products. Sulforaphane, which is an isothiocyanate isolated from broccoli, increased the expression of an enzyme in the liver that accelerated DHT degradation and consequently inhibited hair loss, as shown in an animal model [14]. Clinical efficacy of pumpkin seed oil (PSO) versus 5% minoxidil foam in subjects with female pattern hair loss (FPHL)after three months of treatment showed the pumpkin oil significantly decreased hair shaft diversity and the number of vellus hairs with results comparable to the minoxidil foam [14]. Another ingredient, a protein and peptide combination (INCI: Keratin (and) Hydrolyzed Keratin (and) Oxidized Keratin (and) Water) stimulates skin cells to proliferate by up to 160% faster than a placebo while simultaneously stimulating human keratinocyte migration and the expression of collagens IV and VII, thus improving the anchoring of follicles. The ingredient’s anti-inflammatory agent reduced the PGE2 response in cells undergoing inflammatory stress by up to 70%, reducing scalp inflammation, itching and premature hair follicle death [15].

Balancing the Biome:

Inhibition of the growth of harmful bacteria can lead to a better balance in oil secretion; this can be achieved using a unique probiotic fermentation technology rich in amino acids, polysaccharides, protein, and other biologically active substances [16]. A natural prebiotic (INCI: Inulin) can also help rebalance the skin’s microbiota and offer skin hydration that outperforms hyaluronic acid. The prebiotic is based on inulin extracted from chicory root and agave and works by selectively supporting protective organisms to help restore the microbiota layer [6]. Since 2020, We have witnessed a burgeoning of scalp products with Cannabidiol (CBD) boasting microbiome benefits [5] and recently we also have seen use of Cannabigerol (CBG) that helps to rebalance the scalp microbiome and promotes hair growth. Lastly, an ingredient (INCI: Lactobacillus Ferment Lysate) that utilizes the properties of prebiotic oligosaccharides as an approach to postbiotic bacteriocin procurement can deliver scalp moisturization and redness reduction [4].

Protecting hair, beyond the scalp,

Hair, after it rises from the scalp surface, also goes through damage from consumers’ grooming practices and external stimuli. Cleansing, conditioning, and strengthening solutions have been extensively discussed in the past. Currently, the use of bond builders is trending and growing in hair care. They are promoted as being able to penetrate into the hair to improve or restore the internal structure, giving rise to an improvement in mechanical properties [9]. According to this definition, bond builders include a broad range of actives, including organic acids, proteins, and lipids [9]. Brands are employing patented peptide technologies and amino acid complexes in multiple product formats that can help prevent and protect hair from the inside-out against all forms of damage.

What’s new and what’s next.

Ingestible hair care products, such as Nutrafol are gaining popularity for promoting hair and scalp health which has helped fuel further ingredient innovation. The introduction of Keranat in food supplements for hair (soft gels, capsules, beauty drinks/shots and cosmetics is said to offer a natural, vegan solution to effectively fight against hair loss while restoring beauty and brightness [12]. The design of neurocosmetic ingredients that modulate neuronal response to improve scalp care and hair quality could be a promising approach for the development of new hair and scalp care routines [17].

Finally, brands like L’Oréal are fostering partnerships with health tech companies to better understand the biological, clinical, and environmental factors that contribute to skin and hair health over time. This comprehensive understanding contributes to the development of a more precise and inclusive skincare approach that cater to the diverse needs of individuals worldwide [18].


The beauty and personal care industry has made great advancements in understanding the role of microbiome that impacts scalp and hair health. New research and findings help steer brands and ingredient suppliers to develop natural, organic, and sustainable solutions that will be a key focus area for future innovation. Furthermore, ingredients inspired by skin care, traditional ingredients, and biotech will continue to drive the growth of the hair and scalp care category.  It is imperative that brands continue their efforts in developing inclusive and personalized solutions to address consumers specific scalp and hair care needs. Finally, educating consumers on choosing the right products and regime that address their specific needs is crucial, in addition to providing guidance on how to use the products effectively to achieve the desired benefit.


  1. Luigi Rigano, Ph.D., Rigano Laboratories S.r.l., Milan, Italy, “Hair and Scalp Care Go Hand-in-Hand,” Global Cosmetic Industry, 2016
  2. BASF Corporation, “Rebalance the scalp microbiome with Scalposine,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (March 2020)
  3. D. Roddick-Lanzilotta, Ph.D., R.J. Kelly, Ph.D., and P.R. Sapsford, “Keratin Blend Anchors Follicles and Prevents Pollution-induced Hair Fall,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (September 2019)
  4. Ashlee Cannady, Aprinnova Juliana Gomiero, Stephanie Neplaz, Raphaelle Tron, “Hair and Scalp Cleansing and Care Skinification, ZPT Ban, Fermentation and Damage Repair Self-care,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (June 2022)
  5. Sharleen Surin-Lord, Dermatologist, “The ‘Skinification’ of Hair Care” Happi (June 2021)
  6. Laura Lam-Phaure, “Formulating on Trend: Skinification of Hair,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (June 2022)
  7. “Effect of Scalp Health on Hair Growth,” MedEsthetics (December,2021)
  8. Christine Esposito, “Natural Ingredients in Shampoos & Conditioners Benefit Scalp & Hair” Happi (December ,2021)
  9. Paul Cornwell, Ph.D., TRI Princeton, Princeton, NJ; and Jennifer Marsh, Ph.D., Procter & Gamble, “How Bond Builders ‘Repair’ Hair,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (February 2023)
  10. Rachel Grabenhofer, “Patent Pick: Binding Agreement for Hair Repair,” Global Cosmetic Industry (October 2019)
  11. Julia Wray, “Why applicators are the secret ingredients for scalp care,” Cosmetic Business (April 2023)
  12. Lisa Doyle, “Hair & Scalp Care: Targeted and Premiumized,” Global Cosmetic Industry (September 2022)
  13. Rahn Ag, “Radicare®-Eco: The Urban Antidote for Hair and Scalp,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (April 2022)
  14. Mohamed l. Elsaie, Lee Reuveni, Stephanie Neplaz, Sebastien Massard, “Restoring and Reviving Hair: Scalp Health, Laser Treatments, Natural/Sustainable and Deep Repair,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (February 2022)
  15. Michele Behrens, “FK Scalp from Keraplast Prevents Hair and Scalp Health Pollution,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (February 2020)
  16. Peter Smedley, “Bloomage Highlights Hair Shield, Scalp Care and Fermented Anti-aging at SCC76”, Cosmetics & Toiletries (December 2022)
  17. Maria Jose Lopez-Gonzalez, Nuria García and Isabel Devesa, AntalGenics S.L., Elche, Spain, “Neuro-cosmetic Targets for Scalp and Hair Care,” Cosmetics & Toiletries (June 2022)
  18. Julia Wray, “L’Oréal embarks on world’s ‘largest and most diverse’ skin and hair study”, Cosmetic Business (July 2023)




The Use of Natural Oils to Treat the Skin

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

The Use of Natural Oils to Treat the Skin

Roger L. McMullen

Fairleigh Dickinson University and Ashland Inc.


The term natural oil refers to a fixed (nonvolatile) oil of animal or plant origin. These types of oils—in contrast to essential (volatile) oils, which are obtained by steam distillation methods of plant matter—are typically obtained from plant seeds and nuts by a mechanical pressing technique or solvent extraction. Natural oils have been used to treat the skin for millennia. For example, evidence suggests that the ancient Egyptians used almond (Prunus amygdalus), balanos (Balanos aegyptiaca), castor (Ricinus communis), moringa (Moringa oleifera), olive (Olea europea), and sesame oil (Sesamum indicum) in cosmetic preparations (1). The natural movement in cosmetics of the twenty first century has led to renewed interest in formulating skin care products with botanical ingredients. In this article, I highlight the use of natural oils in skin care and their benefits for skin health.


Benefits of Natural Oil Treatment

Natural oils nourish, smoothen, sooth, and clean the skin. Skin nourishment is provided by biologically active ingredients in natural oils such as antioxidants and essential fatty acids (2). As an example, the antioxidant activity and health benefits of grape seed oil (Vitis vinifera) mostly stems from the presence of tocopherol, linolenic acid, resveratrol, quercetin, procyanidins, carotenoids, and phytosterols in the oil (3). Essential fatty acids, obtained through the diet or applied topically, are important for maintaining skin health (essential fatty acid deficiently leads to dermatitis) and preventing trans-epidermal water loss (4, 5).


Dry skin is typically rough due to ineffective desquamation. Plant oils can smoothen the surface of skin by providing a lubrication effect and by helping the skin maintain a healthy level of hydration through fortification of the skin barrier. Natural oils can also have a soothing effect on the skin. Anti-inflammatory compounds in the oils can help to reduce skin redness and irritation. Studies have shown that olive, sunflower seed (Helianthus annuus), coconut (Cocos nucifera), safflower seed (Carthamus tinctorius), argan (Argania spinosa), soybean (Glycine max), sesame, jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), and oat (Avena sativa) oil provide an anti-inflammatory effect in skin (6).


Natural oil-based cleaners are used to remove sebum and makeup from the skin. While conventional surfactants can be very efficacious at cleaning the skin, they can also disrupt the barrier function of skin and remove lipid components important for barrier integrity. A good example of a natural oil-based cleaner was provided by researchers at Mae Fah Luang University in Thailand who demonstrated the effectiveness of tea seed oil (Camellia sinensis) at removing foundation and eyeliner (7).


Composition of Natural Oils

The chief components of natural oils are triglycerides. They usually represent greater than 95% of the composition of natural oils. Triglycerides are formed by the esterification of free fatty acids to glycerol resulting in a molecule with a polar headgroup and three hydrophobic tails (see Figure 1). Triglycerides are synthesized by animals and plants as energy reserves and contain various proportions of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fatty acids. In animals, the fatty acid constituents of triglycerides have greater levels of saturated fats (relative to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), whereas in plants there are greater amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. For this reason, most plant oils are in the liquid state at room temperature.

Figure 1: Molecular structure of a triglyceride. In this example, that fatty acid moieties of the triglyceride contain three distinct entities. The three fatty acid chains in triglycerides can be the same or they can be a mixture. Starting from top to bottom, this triglyceride is composed of palmitic acid (16:0), oleic acid (18:1), and alpha-linolenic acid (18:3).


The fatty acid components of triglycerides can vary in chain length—they can be short (≤ 6 carbons), medium (≤ 12 carbons), or long (12 – 22 carbons)—which effects their physicochemical behavior. In some cases, triglycerides may contain omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 essential fatty acids. The overall composition of the triglycerides (the types of fatty acids, their length, and the degree of saturation/unsaturation) is unique for each natural oil. For example, coconut oil has higher levels of saturated fats than most plant oils, which is why it exists in the solid state at room temperature.


Natural Oils in Wound Healing

Wound healing consists of the regeneration and tissue repair processes after the development of a chronic (pathological condition) or acute (trauma) lesion in the skin. There are three principal stages in wound healing, which include the inflammatory, proliferative, and remodeling stage. Essentially, these stages are characterized by a series of biochemical and cellular events that involve cytokines, growth factors, and other important bioactive molecules that eventually lead to fibroblast proliferation, collagen synthesis, and epithelialization.


In recent years, it has been established that bioactive fatty acids play an important role in the inflammatory stage of wound healing (8, 9). Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids and their metabolic products are believed to play an integral role in modulating wound healing. Omega-3 (e.g., alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 (e.g., linoleic acid) fatty acids metabolize to a number of different molecules including leukotrienes, lipoxins, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes—twenty-carbon chain length bioactive compounds known as eicosanoids (10). In addition to alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, omega-9 fatty acids (oleic acid and erucic acid) were also reported to provide positive anti-inflammatory effects during wound healing (11). In summary, anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties have been demonstrated for various botanical oils including olive oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, and numerous other oils (6, 12-15).


Natural Oils and Diseases of the Skin

A brief survey of the scientific literature reveals a number of studies investigating the effects of oils on various diseases encountered in dermatology (16). In addition to fatty acids and other lipids in the oils, there are numerous biologically important molecules such as monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpines (e.g., cannabinoids, tocopherols), triterpenoids (e.g., squalene, sterols), carotenoids, and polyphenols (17). These phytochemicals have been shown to efficaciously alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory skin diseases, such as contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis. In addition, dietary supplementation with essential fatty acids has shown beneficial effects in the treatment of acne, atopic dermatitis, pruritis, psoriasis, and skin ulcers (18-20).  Furthermore, supplementation with an omega-3 fatty acid was shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer in organ transplant recipients (patients who undergo transplant procedures have a very high risk of developing skin cancer) (21). There has also been considerable interest in utilizing natural oils produced by the plant Cannabis sativa for the treatment of skin inflammatory diseases. Hemp seed and cannabidiol (CBD) oil have been found to be the most efficacious oils from Cannabis sativa for treating skin inflammatory conditions (22).


Therapeutic Benefits of Natural Oils

One of the principal benefits of treating skin with natural oils is to alleviate dry skin by enhancing its barrier function. Due to compositional differences, each natural oil interacts uniquely with the skin. Some of the most commonly used oils for skin therapy are almond, argan, coconut, evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), jojoba, oat, and olive oil (23, 24). It is noteworthy that while olive oil has a number of reported benefits for skin—mostly for treatment of skin aging, pruritis, and xerosis—there are concerns that it negatively affects skin barrier function (25). Regardless, natural oils help form a physical barrier on the skin surface and function as a source of lipids to fortify the skin’s barrier. Future research could help identify specific oils that should be used for a particular skin treatment modality (26).


Aroma massage therapy consists of the use of essential oils in conjunction with massage techniques. Natural oils are used as carrier oils for the essential oils. In addition to diluting the essential oil, the carrier oil lubricates the skin surface facilitating the massage procedure. Some common carrier oils are almond, coconut, grapeseed, jojoba, and sunflower oil. In general, carrier oils should have a pleasant scent and be aesthetically pleasing when applied to the skin. When choosing a carrier oil, it is best to find an oil that is absorbed well by the skin that does not result in an oleaginous (greasy) sensation.


Neonatal Skin Care

Newborn infants are especially prone to developing dry skin conditions as their skin adapts to life outside of the uterus. From a physiological perspective, infant skin is quite different from adult skin. In infant skin the stratum corneum and epidermis are thinner and there is significant risk of trans-epidermal water loss due to less barrier lipids and natural moisturizing factor. In addition, there is an accelerated breakdown of corneodesmosomes due to the higher surface pH (which affects desquamation) (27). Several studies highlight the possible benefits of treating neonatal skin with botanical oils, such as sunflower, coconut, almond, olive, palm (Elaeis guineensis), and mustard oil (Brassica juncea); however, there seems to be a consensus that further study is warranted to determine efficacy and any proposed mechanisms (28-30). For example, researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK found that treatment of neonatal skin with olive oil compromised skin barrier integrity and induced mild erythema in patients (31). Furthermore, researchers at Columbia University in New York City reported that olive oil can exacerbate atopic dermatitis and xerosis in pediatric subjects (32).


The Paradoxical Behavior of Natural Oils in Relation to Epidermal Barrier Function

The stratum corneum of skin contains corneocyte cells embedded in a matrix of endogenous lipids consisting of long-chain ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids, organized into multilamellar structures. Sebum is found on the surface of the skin and contains a mixture of triglycerides, wax esters, free fatty acids, squalene, and cholesterol esters. One would expect that treatment of skin with natural oils could help maintain the moisture levels of skin by enhancing its epidermal barrier function via the formation of an occlusive lipid layer on the surface thereby preventing trans-epidermal water loss. However, in recent years it has been discovered that some natural oils may disrupt the skin’s structural lipids thereby compromising stratum corneum barrier function.


Treatment with some oils can fluidize stratum corneum lipids and compromise epidermal barrier function. In fact, natural oils have been used as penetration enhancers in the transdermal delivery of active pharmaceutical ingredients (33, 34). More than likely, the triglycerides in oils that are applied to the skin will be hydrolyzed by resident lipases resulting in the formation of free fatty acids, which can disrupt the ordered structure of lipid lamellae in the stratum corneum (35). In general, the paradoxical effect produced by some oils is thought to be more prevalent in patients suffering from atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions.


Concluding Remarks

Natural lipids are employed in several applications in skin care. In this article, we introduce some of the traditional treatment modalities and highlight some of the most recent studies published in the scientific literature which find health benefits to the skin. The available data suggest an important role for natural oils in treating skin inflammatory disorders, wound healing, skin therapy, and neonatal skin care. Despite the widespread use of natural oils in cosmetic formulations, there is considerable need to conduct further research in this area to better elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the efficacious nature of the oils. Looking ahead to the future, such action will require us to proactively investigate the bioactivity of the components of a broad range of natural oils in a systematic manner. In addition, a better understanding of the detrimental effects of certain oils to epidermal barrier function in specific types of skin needs to be elucidated in future studies.



The author expresses his sincere gratitude to Drs. Gopinathan Menon and David J. Moore for revising the text and offering useful suggestions.



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Biodegradability considerations for cosmetic ingredients

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

The topic of “biodegradability” has become extremely important over recent years, but still may not be fully understood. The following is a basic overview for formulators and anyone wishing to know more about this critical issue. (Note that regulations, definitions, and practical guidelines on biodegradability are continually changing, and the comments in this blog are intended to offer general insights, not legal definitions or advice.)

Simply put, biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi[1], and once broken down, the byproducts are carbon dioxide and water vapor. “Bio” is the key prefix here; the difference between “degradable” and “biodegradable” is that while “degradable” products can be broken down by chemical or biological processes, “biodegradable” materials can only be broken down by biological processes.

The concern for biodegradable products began with the issue of microplastics, first detected in the 1970s in the ocean as plastic residue, but not termed “microplastics” until the mid-2000s. (A good and comprehensive article on this by Napper and Thompson was published online in 2020[2].) Many multinational companies have stopped using microplastics (microbeads) in their formulations and other brands are following, but let’s clearly define what are, and are NOT, microplastics! To qualify as a microplastic, four criteria must be met:

  1. It must be a polymer
  2. It must be solid (at RT)
  3. It must be in particulate form
  4. It must be under 5mm in size

All four criteria must be met – if even a single one of these four is not present, the substance is NOT considered a microplastic. And to complicate matters further, there are many exclusions even if these four criteria are met, including the following:

  1. The material is natural
  2. The material is degradable
  3. Its solubility is > 2 g/liter
  4. No carbon atoms in its chemical structure
  5. Its release to the environment is prevented when used
  6. Its physical properties are permanently modified during end use
  7. It is permanently incorporated into a solid matrix during end use
  8. And likely more…

Just because your products may be “natural” does not mean they are “biodegradable” – measurement is key! As mentioned by Dr. Martin Perry, Advanced Development Safety Laboratories, at SCS Formulate in 2021: “Although natural content is good to know, and there is a perception that natural ingredients are more biodegradable than synthetic ones, knowing the biodegradability is important. The natural content of your product or your organic content is not going to be sufficient for you to substantiate anything on biodegradability.”[3]

To be precise, most companies adhere to the standard of “readily biodegradable”, defined as the ability of a product to biodegrade quickly and completely (≥ 60% by OECD 301A-F/ASTM D7373 testing) within 28 days. You might also hear the term “inherently biodegradable,” defined as between 20% and 60% biodegradability as measured by OECD 301A-F testing, but “readily biodegradable” is stricter and preferable.

From the OECD iLibrary: “The OECD Guidelines for the Testing of Chemicals is a collection of about 150 of the most relevant internationally agreed testing methods used by government, industry and independent laboratories to identify and characterize potential hazards of chemicals. They are a set of tools for professionals, used primarily in regulatory safety testing and subsequent chemical and chemical product notification, chemical registration and in chemical evaluation. They can also be used for the selection and ranking of candidate chemicals during the development of new chemicals and products and in toxicology research. This group of tests covers environmental fate and behaviour. In 2017, the section 3 “Degradation and Accumulation” was renamed to “Environmental fate and behaviour” to take into account Test Guidelines measuring endpoints such as dispersion, aggregation.”[4]

As a final note, microplastics and biodegradability concerns are part of a larger issue of minimizing environmental pollution. Some may equate this trend with the apparent discovery of reef damage caused by certain organic sun filters, specifically octinoxate and oxybenzone. There are bans in place on octinoxate and oxybenzone in many countries, including the US (Hawaii, Florida, US Virgin Islands), Aruba, Bonaire (off the coast of Venezuela), Palau and parts of Mexico. However, this is not a biodegradability issue as much as it is a toxicity issue, and the science is still unclear as to the actual effect of residual organic sunscreens on coral reefs.


[1] Focht DD. “Biodegradation”. AccessScience. doi:10.1036/1097-8542.422025.

[2] Napper & Thompson, “Plastic Debris in the Marine Environment: History and Future Challenges”. Global Challenges. doi: 10.1002/gch2.201900081.

[3] https://www.cosmeticsdesign.com/Article/2021/11/18/Biodegradable-beauty-focus-needed-in-natural-and-organics-before-regulatory-change-says-expert#

[4] https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/test-no-301-ready-biodegradability_9789264070349-en


Ben Blinder is the Executive Director, Business Operations at Gattefossé USA, with P/L responsibility for the personal care and pharmaceutical business units in the US and Mexico. He is also a founding member of the Advisory Committee on Diversity & Inclusion for Gattefossé in North America. Ben holds a BS in chemical engineering from Lehigh University.

Sunscreen formulations – emphasis on inorganic sunscreens

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Ever since the FDA published their proposed monograph ruling in February 2019 recognizing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as the only Category I (Safe and Effective) sunscreens, a cascade of reformulations of most sunscreens products on the US market took place.  Inorganic sunscreen formulations are now center-stage and are slowly replacing organic sunscreen formulations.  In fact, the trend started in 2018 when the state of Hawaii proposed a ban on Octinoxate and Oxybenzone stating that these two sunscreens have a negative effect on coral reefs.  Now that the ban is in effect, another bill is proposing to ban sunscreens containing Octocrylene and Avobenzone for the same reasons.  It is true that many regulatory bodies including the FDA did not support the Hawaiian ban, and the Personal Care Product Council (PCPC) is addressing the proposed monograph rulings. All these actions might lead to uncertain outcomes.  In fact, in a few years the US consumers might be limited to the use of products containing inorganic sunscreens only (with the exception of Ensulizole and Ecamsule).  There is some hope that certain Time and Extent (T&E) molecules are being reviewed by the FDA and may be approved for launch.  Bemotrizinol is a front-runner and its use in formulation is quite good as it protects both in the UVB and UVA areas.

Selecting the right inorganic sunscreen

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide not only refract light but also absorb it.  The refractive index of titanium dioxide is 2.8 whereas that of zinc oxide is only 2.0.  This makes titanium dioxide much more effective at scattering light in a formulation.  From and absorption point of view, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have conductance bands around 3.4 and 3.1 eV, respectively.  This makes zinc oxide a bit more efficient in protecting against UVA rays and titanium dioxide more efficient at shielding UVB rays.  As particle size decreases you get much more pronounced blue shift due to a change in the band-gap width.  For example, a 0.15 eV blue shift has been reported for 4.7 nm titanium dioxide compared to bulk.

Keep in mind, when particles become smaller than their optimal light scattering size (typically half their wavelength) they become much more transparent.  For example, zinc oxide becomes transparent at below 200 nm whereas titanium dioxide becomes transparent at sizes around 10-20 nm.  This makes formulating with zinc oxide much easier to achieve transparent formulations but harder to reach high SPF due to its performance in the UVB region.

Sometimes the so-called “boosters” can help many formulators resort to using salicylates as UVB boosters in their formulations.  Butyl octyl salicylate is not an approved sunscreen in the US but many formulators use it to boost their inorganic sunscreen SPF while claiming no organic sunscreens added.

Dispersion versus powder

The choice to use inorganic sunscreens as powder or dispersions in formulations is a very polarizing decision and many formulators prefer to use one type over the other.  In general, dispersions claim to have a smaller primary particle size which results in better dispersion of the pigment into the emulsion and leads to higher SPF and less whitening on the skin.  However, dispersions come at about 50% w/w solvent/pigment which limits the flexibility the formulator to tweak the formulation.  In addition, when working with w/o or w/Si formulations, it is harder to control the viscosity of such emulsions when using dispersions.  In these types of emulsions, the viscosity is built by the internal phase (water).  Using dispersions  ultimately increases the amount of external phase and reduces the amount of water used which will make such emulsions less viscous and less stable.

The use of powders, on the on the other hand, gives the formulator a lot of flexibility and reduces the cost of the formulation.  Although, when using powders, it is important to have manufacturing capability to grind the pigments at the factory scale to reduce agglomeration and produce formulations with good aesthetics.

Selecting emulsion type

Most inorganic sunscreen formulations on the market are w/o or w/Si emulsions.  These types of emulsions are much easier to preserve, as you only preserve the internal phase, and their pH does not fluctuate since they are anhydrous.  These types of emulsions inherently have very good water resistance as well.  Some of the drawbacks of w/o emulsions are their greasy feel mainly imparted by the surfactants and co-surfactants used. They tend to be more whitening on the skin and harder to spread.  W/Si emulsion have a superior end-feel, but they are not particularly biodegradable or earth-friendly by today’s standards.  They share the same characteristics as w/o emulsions when it comes to preservation, pH and water resistance.  In general w/Si emulsions are harder to stabilize and require the use of more than one surfactant to obtain stable emulsions.

It is very rare to see o/w emulsion formulations on the market, since they are harder to preserve and stabilize.  The presence of zinc oxide ultimately shifts pH towards 7.5 which renders most preservatives less effective.  In addition, at that pH very few polymers work well at stabilizing such emulsions especially naturally derived polymers.  On the other hand, these emulsions typically have a nicer feel on the skin and could be cost effective.

Adding a film former or SPF booster

Selecting a film-former or SPF booster for the emulsion is a critical step and one that should not be avoided.  The selection of the appropriate polymer depends mostly on the experience of the formulator and the in vivo results previously obtained with such polymer.  Many polymers are marketed to the formulators and some of them could work in one formulation or another.  However, it is crucial that the film former works across many formulations and especially in vivo since such tests are quite costly and hard to schedule.  As scientists, we should always test the formulations in vitro for water resistance and SPF to ensure that the addition of the polymer will give the desired results.  This will enable the formulator to refine the level of polymer in the emulsion as well.

In conclusion, I hope I shed some light on formulating inorganic sunscreen emulsions and I leave it up to the creativity of formulators to create excellent formulations with great aesthetics and high SPF.


Dr. Fares started his career in personal care studying the effect of solvents on sunscreen chemicals.  His interest in skin drug delivery especially from polymeric matrices grew during his graduate work at Rutgers, where he received his Ph. D.

Dr. Fares worked at Block Drug and GlaxoSmithKline where he held positions in research and development in the areas of skincare and oral care.  After that, he joined L’Oréal where he held several positions of increasing responsibility leading to AVP of skincare.  He is currently the Senior Director of skincare and oral care at Ashland Specialty Ingredients.  Dr. Fares is the author of many publications, and patents and made many presentations in national and international meetings in the areas of suncare, skincare, and oral care.  Dr Fares chairs the NYSCC scientific committee and has won multiple awards in the areas of sun care and polymer chemistry.

Supplements in the beauty industry – not just vitamins and minerals

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

The recent introduction of holistic wellness as a major component of “I feel better and I look better” is not new to the beauty and cosmetic market. However, the explosion of nutritional formulations in the space of beauty from within is today associated with more robust and convincing scientific evidence than in the past. Supplement formulations appear more complex and not limited to collagen, vitamins and minerals to cite some of the most popular ingredients. The introduction of phytochemicals, sometime in the form of standardized plant extracts, along with vitamin and minerals, is providing an increased targeting and holistic approach to inner mechanisms associated with stress, diet, metabolism, aging, etc. that eventually influence our external look. This is not surprising as our cosmetic targets such as skin, hair, nail are part of our body and therefore react to our body unbalance. The connection between our gut and our skin, when a diverse gut environment is associated with skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, etc.1 and the influence of hormonal and stress-induced changes that can trigger hair conditions such as androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluvium.2 are some examples.

Modern formulations would use a wide range of ingredients that, when ingested, specifically target biological mechanisms associated with our health and wellness as well as our look (and I underline the specificity). It is possible then to create formulation that when tested deliver real efficacy and stand up to the claims.

Natural ingredients are taking center stage in these formulations, also inspired by the use of naturals in traditional medicine, with the possibility to merge knowledge from the western and eastern world.

When having a closer look at the applications and studies of supplements targeting wellness and beauty, recent reviews have highlighted their use as adjuvants and/or treatment for different dermatology or cosmetic conditions such as hair loss, acne, skin aging3-5. Since supplements are not FDA regulated, large, peer-reviewed clinical studies are necessary to determine the efficacy and safety of these supplements, especially since most of them haven’t been clinically tested. To avoid running lengthy and sometime expensive clinical trial, product manufacturers often rely on supplier’s data and/or academic literature about the ingredients in the final supplement composition. However, it is necessary to test the finish product since ingredient’s dosage and ingredients interaction and/or synergy can determine the outcome both from a safety and efficacy point of view. The quality of the clinical study is also important (number of subjects, inclusion/exclusion criteria, end points measures, data significance). Finally, Institutional Review Boards (IRB) approval is becoming increasingly in demand prior to the clinical study especially if dealing with compositions that are new to the market and carry some safety risk, and is often requested by scientific journals when trying to publish the data.

In conclusion, the cosmetic and the nutrition (supplements) industry are getting closer, with beauty as a shared target. Innovative supplement formulations carrying high end natural ingredients are becoming popular and demanded by the market. Rigorous science and testing is mandatory to make sure the formulation can survive scrutiny by the consumers and the FDA. Combination of topical and ingestible treatments in the beauty market will continue to grow in the following years.


  1. Ellis SR, Nguyen M, Vaughn AR, Notay M, Burney WA, Sandhu S, Sivamani RK. The Skin and Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Common Dermatologic Conditions. Microorganisms 7(11):550, 2019
  2. Hadshiew IM, Foitzik K, Arck PC, Paus R. Burden of hair loss: stress and the underestimated psychosocial impact of telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia. J Invest Dermatol. 123(3):455-7, 2004
  3. Adelman MJ, Bedford LM, Potts GA. Clinical efficacy of popular oral hair growth supplement ingredients. Int J Dermatol 60(10):1199-1210, 2021
  4. Clark AK, Haas KN, Sivamani RK. Edible Plants and Their Influence on the Gut Microbiome and Acne. Int J Mol Sci 17;18(5):1070, 2017
  5. Sardana K, Sachdeva S. Role of nutritional supplements in selected dermatological disorders: A review. J Cosmet Dermatol 21(1):85-98, 2022

Giorgio Dell’Acqua

Giorgio Dell’Acqua is Nutrafol’s Chief Scientific Officer. Part of the Leadership team, Giorgio spearheads the brand innovation, product formulation and scientific communication. After obtaining his PhD in Cell Biology in 1989, Giorgio worked in Academia for 15 years as an investigator in applied medical research. Moving to the private sector in 2000, he has spent the last 22 years as an executive and cosmetic scientist in the personal care industry. During his career, he directed R&D, Innovation, Science, and Product Development at multiple companies, including La Prairie and Kiehl’s. He has helped bringing more than 200 successful active ingredients and finished products to market, has authored more than 80 publications in medicine and cosmetic science, he holds 2 patents and has been a keynote speaker on clean beauty and natural ingredients. Giorgio serves on the NYSCC board as advisor.

The Dermal-Epidermal Junction

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

The skin barrier function has recently dominated the cosmetic media and consumer market segment. The dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ) is a region within the skin which does not get a lot of face time relative to its high-profile neighbor (epidermis / stratum corneum). The DEJ is the birthplace of the epidermis so it seems reasonable to shed some light on light on this structure, and to ask some questions on why this skincare target may be under promoted for anti-age benefits. For this blog post we will use a marketing style “fact sheet” format to guide us through our chat on “The Dermal-Epidermal Junction”

What it is:

Many are aware of the well-known “brick and mortar” model of the epidermis. That structure (house) needs a foundation for stability and functionality. The DEJ is the foundation of the brick and mortar “house”. The DEJ is composed of four component areas:  the basal cell plasma membrane with its specialized attachment devices or hemidesmosomes,  an electron-lucent area, the lamina lucida,  the basal lamina, and the sub-basal lamina fibrous components, including anchoring fibrils, dermal microfibril bundles, and collagen fibers (1).  Hemidesmosomes (HDs) are highly specialized integrin-mediated epithelial attachment structures that make cells firmly adhere to the extracellular matrix by establishing a link between the underlying basement membrane (BM) and the internal mechanical stress-resilient keratin intermediate filament (IF) network (2). The next region progressing downward in the skin is the lamina lucida (LL), it is approximately 30–40 nm in width. This region is directly subjacent to the plasma membranes of basal keratinocytes. The layer underneath the LL is called the lamina densa (LD). This layer of the DEJ is 30-50 nm wide and has biochemical/physical interactions with the extracellular matrix (ECM) of the upper dermis (3).

Image Source Here


What It does:

The dermal-epidermal junction has several functions This area anchors the epidermis to the dermis and is responsible for the exchange of oxygen, nutrients and waste products between the vascularized dermis and the avascular epidermis. This connectivity between the epidermis and the dermis allows for a strong resistance against a possible physical stress (4). The DEJ provides both a structural support to keratinocytes and a specific niche that mediates signals influencing their behavior. The DEJ is also a highly interactive zone acting as a substrate for melanocyte/keratinocyte interactions for melanin distribution as well as a selective permeable barrier for epidermal and dermal cross talk in both directions.

Why isn’t the DEJ a more consistent focus of cosmeceutical product development:

The DEJ forms a fine line between the epidermis and dermis. It is known that the undulating rete ridge area becomes flatter with aging skin. This event lowers the surface area thereby decreasing cellular cross talk and nutrition movement in this region. The dermal capillary structures near the DEJ are a link to the human body and its systemic circulatory network. Could this be a cause of concern for cosmetic products? What if systemic absorption reduces a portion of the active from its sight of action? Another concern may be the potential for a portion of the cosmetic ingredients being moved in the body’s circulatory system. That is a “line in the sand” many companies may not want to cross. The DEJ is complicated, maybe the ability to produce some anti-age benefits in this region is outweighed by the complexity of the task.

Image Source: Kynan T. Lawlor, Pritinder Kaur: International Journal of Molecular Sciences 16 (12):28098-28107


How can the DEJ be evaluated or monitored?

If the DEJ is so important, how can we evaluate this area in a noninvasive fashion. One way is to look for a particular protein (Laminin 322) using immunofluorescence (5). Another option to evaluate the DEJ is to use Raman spectroscopy. This technique has been used to evaluate melanin distribution in vivo (6).

What are some DEJ biomarkers of interest for cosmetics?

The dermal-epidermal junction consists of a network of several interacting structural proteins that strengthen adhesion and mediate signaling events (7). Collagen VII stimulates renewal and improves cohesion of the DEJ. Collagen IV is a major constituent in basement membranes. It is involved in maintaining a functional interface between the epidermis and the dermis. Laminin 322 is a key target for DEJ anchoring and cohesion. Peptides have also been identified as opportunities to target to DEJ (8). With this said, there aren’t a lot of cosmetic brands positioning towards the DEJ.  The same can be said for raw materials suppliers, I didn’t find a lot of cosmetic materials targeting the DEJ.

In summary, targeting the DEJ can be challenging due to its location in the skin.  Caution should be taken as any intended influence of the DEJ from a topical strategy may become systemic due to the proximity of the circulatory/lymphatic vessels.  However, that disadvantage may be an opportunity to “feed” the DEJ from a targeted nutritional point of view from within.




R A Briggaman, C E Wheeler Jr : The Epidermal-Dermal Junction, J Invest Dermatol, 1975 Jul;65 (1):71-84

Gernot Walko et al. Molecular architecture and function of the hemidesmosome, Cell and Tissue Research 2015; 360(3): 529–544.

Eduardo Calonje , The structure and function of skin : McKee’s Pathology of the Skin, Chapter 1, 1-34.e3

Zhizhong Shen, Rete ridges: Morphogenesis, function, regulation, and reconstruction, Acta Biomaterialia Volume 155, 1 January 2023, Pages 19-34

Lincoln et al. : Gentamicin induces LAMB3 nonsense mutation readthrough and restores functional laminin 332 in junctional epidermolysis bullosa, National Academy of Sciences, PNAS | vol. 115 | no. 28 |

P . Yakimov et al. Melanin distribution from the dermal–epidermal junction to the stratum corneum: non‑invasive in vivo assessment by fluorescence and Raman microspectroscopy, Scientific Reports | (2020) 10:14374

Stephanie Goletz et al. Structural proteins of the dermal-epidermal junction targeted by autoantibodies in pemphigoid diseases, Exp Dermatolactions Dec;26(12):1154-1162. doi: 10.1111/exd.13446.

Sekyoo Jeong et al. Anti-Wrinkle Benefits of Peptides Complex Stimulating Skin Basement Membrane Proteins Expression, Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21, 73;

About the Author

Marc Cornell, BS. is a consultant at Mar-key Consulting LLC where he services the consumer product industry with innovative product development concepts.