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What is in a cosmetic raw material?

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PERRY ROMANOWSKI 
Element 44 Inc, Chicago, USA

When you learn chemistry in college you typically focus on identifying individual molecules. You learn that water is H2O or salt is NaCl. In organic chemistry, you learn about more complicated molecules like Acetone or Benzene or 1,2-n,n-diethylmetatoluamide. When creating a cosmetic product, manufacturers are required to list the ingredients in the formula.

This creates the erroneous impression that when you see the list of ingredients on a product, you know the chemical composition of that product.

The reality is you don’t. Here’s why.

More than one type of molecule

Consider a simple example like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). If you happen to know anything about naming ingredients you can work out that SLS has the following molecular structure.



When you buy SLS from one of the many raw material suppliers it’s reasonable to ...




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