You’ve seen skin pH on packs and adverts. Should you be worried about it?
Skincare is a crowded and busy market where you have to shout loud to make yourself heard. So it isn’t surprising that just about anything you can think of has been used to sell products at some point. I don’t think there is an idea so ridiculous that somebody won’t base a skincare range on it.
I’ve covered before the cases where Johnson and Johnson have had huge damages awarded against them. This is due to the suggestion that the talc they sell contains asbestos, and that this has increased the risk of users getting cancer as a result.
I have blogged before about collagen, and how it is one of the keys to understanding skin ageing. I’ve also pointed out that this hasn’t so far translated into effective skin care products. Basically collagen, and its cousin elastin, are the proteins that give your skin its lithe springy behaviour. The collagen content is the biggest determinant of how old your skin looks and feels.
There is a very serious and worthy video online made by the West Yorkshire police about the risks of medical creams that contain paraffin. I get what they are thinking. Policemen do of course look younger all the time, but no doubt there are still some that are old enough to remember paraffin heaters. These large but portable oil fired devices were a must to get through a cold English winter in the days before central heating. They might even remember the little paraffin burners with cotton wicks that were used in chemistry sets. I certainly do. So you can see why they might be worried. It really doesn’t sound like a good idea to get paraffin onto towels.
And they had an illustration of the risks involved when an elderly woman was involved in a house fire. It got out of hand and killed her. She suffered from a skin condition and had cream soaked towels around her at the time of the unfortunate incident.
Sodium benzoate is a preservative that crops up on ingredient lists for skin care products. It is safe, works well enough and doesn’t give rise to many skin reactions.
I don’t think it is many formulators favourite though, because there are other preservatives that work better. Not every preservative works in every formulation and against every organism, and sodium benzoate is one that really needs a low pH to work well and even then isn’t enormously effective against all the microbes you’d like it to be. So it has its uses, but it isn’t especially versatile.
To a chemist though, the name is quite interesting. It is the salt of benzoic acid, and benzoic acid has played a key part in the development of organic chemistry. It was first derived from an asian shrub. Specifically, it was extracted the gum of the Styrax platanifolius. This had been used for centuries but was purified still further by a sixteenth century French chemist. He got it into a crystalline format from which he concluded, correctly, that it must therefore be a single compound. I think that this was the first pure natural compound to be identified.
The chemist’s name was Nostradamus. He’s still famous, not for his science but for some confusing predictions he made that continue to be talked about.
The chemistry of this compound was the focus of intense interest in the nineteenth century. It was studied by many chemists. But the prize for working out its structure was taken by Friedrich Wöhler and Justus von Liebig. These are two of the giants in the history of chemistry. Their work was later built on to create the discipline of organic chemistry.
There are quite a lot of cosmetic ingredients that are derivatives of benzoic acid, so you see ‘benz’ quite often on the backs of packs. It is a neat little history lesson.
I think this is a universal truth, but it is certainly true in labs. The most stressful role is middle management. I enjoyed my time as a bench chemist doing the actual work. I enjoy supervising projects at a higher level. But most of my bad memories of my career are when I was in between – managing a team but reporting to senior management. Continue reading →
2017 was a remarkable year for the aviation industry. There was not a single passenger death from flying. The industry was quick to point out that there was an element of luck involved. But even so, given that their business is ferrying people around the world in metal tubes at a great height, to not have lost a single person in 12 months is quite an achievement. Continue reading →
I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up, or indeed how long people will put up with it for. But for the last week I have started the day with a 60 second video on my new Instagram account. If you aren’t familiar with the platform – you can’t post anything longer than 60 seconds. It is quite tough to say anything in such a short time frame, and I am finding that once I start it is a bit frustrating that I can’t get out everything I want to say. So here is a bit more detail on this morning’s one. Continue reading →
There is an article I have seen posted on Facebook a couple of times that highlights the health risks of synthetic fragrance ingredients. I won’t link to it, but if I am seeing it there is a good chance you will have seen it too. The thesis it proposes is that synthetic chemicals in fragrances are toxic and might be dangerous to people who inhale them in public places, even if they aren’t actually wearing the fragrance themselves. Continue reading →
Fashions come and go in the cosmetics and personal care world, and everyone is keen to be on the latest trend as soon as possible. The latest buzzy thing seems to be Cannabidiol or CBD. This has an interesting background, being a derivative of hemp which is also the source of cannabis – which has been a popular if illegal recreational pharmaceutical since the sixties. So CBD comes with ready made notoriety. But it is currently being sold not as a gateway into a counter culture, or even as an aid to relaxation, but as a substance with health benefits. Continue reading →