Science of Skincare Products – Stability

Elisabeth Briand Interview on Science of Skincare ProductsThis is a 4-part series focused on understanding the science behind skincare products so that parents of eczema children and eczema sufferers can better understand what goes into the bottle. For this series, I have Dr. Elisabeth Briand, R&D manager at Skintifique. Elisabeth holds an Engineering Master’s degree in food industry and a PhD in chemistry. Before working for Skintifique, she had 10 years experience in academic research as a physico-chemist, in France at Paris VI and Paris XI faculty of Pharmacy and in Sweden, at Chalmers University of Technology. In this interview, Dr. Elisabeth is helping us to understand the science of laboratory-tested skincare products.

MarcieMom: Thank you Elisabeth for sharing with us your knowledge on skincare products. So far, we have covered the basics of the ‘science’ in skincare formulation and safety, expiration of skincare products. Today we are learning about the concept of stability in a skincare product.

Is it possible that a moisturizer has not spoilt but is no longer effective? Is technology required to hold the ingredientstogether to be stable?

Stability in Skincare Product ingredients

Dr ElisabethGenerally yes. The best skincare products can be quite sophisticated, “high tech” products, so if the structures that hold the different ingredients are degraded, then there can be a significant loss of efficiency. To make a parallel, if you stomp onto your mobile phone and it is crushed, you will still have all the components of the phone, but the structure will be destroyed and the phone may not work any more! Using industrial processes enable to make structures that will increase the stability of a product. You will not be able to achieve these structures with a bowl and a mixer. A lot of scientific and industrial knowledge is necessary to make products that will last for a long period of time.

At Skintifique, we have developed products that have very novel internal structures, which is what give them distinctive properties, be it for moisturizing the skin, protecting it from common allergens and irritants such as Nickel and other metals, or providing long lasting moisturizing and soothing.

MarcieMom: Any tips for parents to make sure that they are buying a product that is safe and stable and not using one which has stopped being so?

Dr ElisabethChoosing a product that is safe and efficient is a major concern for parents and people with sensitive skins. The first tip I would recommend is to choose skincare with the least number of ingredients. No ingredient is completely safe for everyone, and by reducing the number of ingredients you are exposed to, you minimize the probability your skin will react to one of the constituents. So in that case, fewer means safer. Of course, the better known the ingredients, the safer the products: a skincare product that would only contain 8 ingredients but 3 of which no one has ever heard of, or used in a skincare, would not necessarily be the safest choice…

I would recommend buying skincare from a brand you trust and that must fulfill stringent regulation. It can be established brands but also new ones (and as a representative of a new brand, I can only emphasize that some new brands can be even safer and better than established ones!), a keypoint is : do I trust this brand or do I have reasons to? Of course, one sometimes needs to try new products, if only to get better benefits than with current products, so then another keypoint is: can I make a test, eg buying initially 1 tube, or getting a sample etc. Some tips can help to reassure about the professionalism of a company: is there an easy way to contact them, are there some credential that tell you who is behind, are they prone to answer your question to one of their products, are their products manufactured in reliable places

Use products that have been designed for sensitive skins or children. They have been assessed by independent experts in toxicology with more stringent criteria, especially in the EU.

Since 2013, there is a new regulation (european cosmetic regulations) that have clarified what is necessary for a product, and fair labeling is a major part of it. Evidence has to be provided before a product can be labeled as suitable for children and sensitive skin. An independent toxicologist expert is mandated to consider all the evidences claimed for a product. What is not done yet is a previous approval of cosmetic product before it is commercialized, but you have to give all these information as soon as a state authority requests it. So if you are a serious skincare company, you have all the tests done, certificates needed and so on in a « cosmetic file » that is ready to be consulted by state authority. There can always be untrusted company that are selling  products with not all the tests made but if it is discovered, consequences can serious…
What is not described in the regulation is the exact method and tests you have to performed to build your evidence, but some consensual recommendations are coming out from bench of experts in toxicologist. As an example, one of these recommendations is to use much more stringent safe limit for a product destined for a child. To illustrate it, this is roughly how is estimated the toxicology profile of a cosmetic product for an adult and a child:
To determine if a product is safe for an adult and how much of this product, at the maximum, it is advised to applied on skin, you determine the exact concentration of each ingredient, and how much of each of these compound is applied on the skin. You have toxicological profile for each ingredient allowed in cosmetics, with the maximale dose at which it is not toxic. The limit of exposure for each of the component of the cream is determined, and the maximum amount of a skincare that can be applied daily is determined by the ingredient with the lower dose of exposure allowed.
To determine if a product is safe for a child, you make the same analysis, but with more stringent criteria. For exemple, the maximale dose of each ingredient allowed per day is divided by a factor of 2.3 and since you have to take into account the various mass of people (generally a factor 12 between a child and an adult), the overall factor of safety is about 27 compare to a product designed for an adult.

As long as it is within the expiry date or period after opening (PAO), and unopened, it should be safe, but as soon as the product has changed in color, odor, aspect, throw it away.

Thank you Elisabeth – now we all know what to look out for especially when most of us have so many creams and lotions at home for our eczema child and after keeping for some time, we struggle whether to throw it out or still use it.

p.s. Declaration of no self-interest – is that what it’s called? lol Just want to let you know that Dr Elisabeth left a comment on my blog and I felt she was very helpful. When I realized her area of expertise, I suggested that we collaborate on a ‘science-y’ series as I’ve always been intrigued by it. No money has changed hands, only time invested to bring this series to you all!

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