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What’s in a raw material?


Element 44 Inc, Chicago, USA

When you learn about chemistry in college it is easy to get the impression that the name of a compound refers to a specific molecule. You learn that water is H2O or salt is NaCl. In organic chemistry, you learn about more complicated organic molecules like Acetone or Benzene or 1,2-n,n-diethylmetatoluamide.

This creates the erroneous impression that when you see the name of a substance you know the chemical composition of that substance.

Unfortunately, when it comes to ingredients used in the cosmetic industry, you don’t. Here’s why.


Consider a simple example like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). This material is frequently used to create cleansing products such as shampoo, body wash, and it can even be found in toothpastes. If you happen to know anything about naming ingredients you can work out that SLS has the following molecular structure.

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