Not all cosmetic chemists are evil

Posted on October 26 2020

Chemists aren’t very popular among cosmetic consumers. Consumers want products that are “clean & sustainable” with ingredients from nature not products that are “toxic & evil” with “chemicals made in a lab”.


Sustainability in the beauty industry

I know many of the people who develop & manufacture these “toxic chemicals made in a lab”. They’re all very nice, with a vast knowledge in chemistry & manufacturing and they all have a passion to produce safe, sustainable ingredients. Here are some examples of what they do:

Switching from petroleum to renewable sources

Petroleum used to be the base of the most common ingredients in beauty products. Manufacturers are now developing new manufacturing processes in order to replace petroleum with plant-based oils. Many of these processes involves using microorganisms to product the ingredients, for example bio-surfactants. (Perhaps I will geek out about this in a future post. It’s very exciting)


Cold processing

Traditionally, a moisturizer is made by heating up an oil & water phase separately to 85 C, mixing the two & then cooling the blend again. Heating water requires enormous amount of energy, to then cool the mixture requires tons of water. Chemists have now developed ingredients that can be mixed at room temperature, eliminating the heat/ cool processes and hence energy & water consumption is reduced significantly. For example, a small manufacturing plant could save enough energy to heat 90 houses per year using cold processing.


Zero-waste manufacturing

Ingredient suppliers are actively working towards being zero-waste. This involves changing the chemical synthesis (the chain of chemical reactions required to produce the ingredient) to use less energy & solvents during the manufacturing. They’re changing their production processes (which can involve redesigning plants) to minimize energy & water used. One company I know is now producing its top selling ingredient completely zero-waste, saving 100 tons of CO2 emissions each year. They’re now working on applying the same technique on their top 5 selling ingredients, aiming to reduce CO2 emissions even further.

All of these changes are incredible difficult & costly to do, but thanks to chemist working in the labs the industry is becoming greener by the day.

This is how real change happens. Indie brands sourcing natural oils from exotic places will not make the beauty industry sustainable; chemist in the labs & manufacturing plants will.


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