Using a Carbon-13 NMR for quality control…

This is an auto sampling carbon NMR!

This machine can help you identify organic materials based on signals from carbon atoms. Carbon-13 nuclei have a “spin”, and this machine can read signals produced after the nuclei are subjected to a strong magnetic pulse.

This is just one of the techniques we can use to identify and test the quality of material. Unfortunately a piece of paper from a supplier saying the material is of high quality…just isn’t enough! As cosmetic chemists we have our clients’ health and skin as our responsibility, so it’s important to make sure that the material going in to our products are what they’re supposed to be, as pure and high quality as possible, and pathogen and contaminant free.

The FDA recently reported a fungal contamination of eye shadows from a small company, as well as unacceptably high levels of lead in a bentonite clay product – marketed for babies.

Sure, it’s a little bit of time and money spent on doing your own quality control….but can you put a price on your clients’ trust and health?

Yesterday I had some samples of hyaluronic acid tested. I wanted to make sure that the material was of high quality, free of heavy metal contaminants and pathogens, and was actually hyaluronic acid

I’ve heard horror stories of suppliers (and repackers) passing off other material as more expensive material. One person told me that they had received an order of product and only the top layer was what it was supposed to be! The rest of the container was just cheap filler!


There’s only one way to prevent these kinds of oversights… and that’s constance vigilance…in the words of Alastor Moody!

And it’s not just the cosmetics industry…Consumer Reports did an experiment a few years ago and found that only 20% of the fish they bought at restaurants and markets were actually the labeled species

C&EN: Stop and smell the volatile organic compounds

In this video from C&EN, Judith Lavelle talks about volatile organic compounds – molecules responsible for many fragrances. Volatile organic compounds are carbon containing chemicals with a low boiling point and a high vapor pressure at room temperature. This means at room temperature and warmer, they evaporate into the air.

While many flowers smell pretty to us (thanks to the VOCs), they’re produced to help attract pollinators. VOCs evaporate from the flower and waft into the air, tempting bees and other animals to come investigate.

VOCs can also be used by plants to communicate among themselves. For example some plants release VOCs when cut (or chewed), when neighbouring plants detect these VOCs they may activate their defenses, like increasing production of bitter chemicals.

Not all VOCs smell nice. Titan arum produces dimethyl trisulfide, which smells like rotting flesh – giving it the nickname corpse flower. The scent tricks bees and beetles into thinking it’s a carcass, which increases its chances of reproducing.

Even the nasty smelling dimethyl trisulfide has benefitted humans. The compound is often used on fly traps to help bait them.

In skin care, VOCs are often used as fragrances, preservatives, penetration enhancers, or active ingredients.

One study even found that synthetic sandalwood VOCs, Sandalore and Brahmanol, could be “smelled” by the skin and sped up wound healing!