Thursday, June 12, 2008

solvent chemistry: makeup edition

A brief deviation from the molecules of scent to look at the far simpler vectors that carry pigments.

I normally don't care much about the ingredients in beauty products. Usually, the stuff that is flaunted in ad copy (peptides, liposomes, vitamins, virgin caviar) are present in such minute quantities that if they do anything at all they do it homeopathically. (See Meg if you would like to buy some homeopathic heroin for one million dollars.) So mostly I look at the main ingredient, which is some flavor of oil (including waxes), water (including alcohols) or some modern silicone construct.

In preparation for my nuptual face spackling, I have picked up a few industrial strength products, and I've been impressed with the chemical compositions of these newfangled things.

1. Napoleon Perdis China Doll Foundation: Isododecane
The name reminds me of my dearly departed goth roommate in college, who loved Bowie and was on a perpetual quest for the whitest foundation around. Despite the name, this foundation provides coverage and looks extremely natural - it was even undetectable to Dave. I had assumed it was silicone based but now looking at the ingredients I see the main shmutz is isododecane. Should I be worried that an aliphatic 12 carbon chain will clog my pores? It looks fantastic, and it is half off at Sephora right now so I'm not going to worry about it.

2. Revlon Moondrops: Lanolin
It's been around forever, but the color saturation for colors like Persian Melon and Peach Silk is out of this world. The base is lanolin, or sheep sebum which is both conceptually gross and a known allergen. Although lanolin is extracted from the sheered wool of sheep, I imagine that much like human sebum it is an apocrine secretion made from fatty cells lining the oil gland that committ suicide and rupture and spill out their waxy black-head forming goodies. Lanolin happens to be the only thing I know I am allergic to, and wool sweaters and lanolin skin products will both give me hives within a few days. Bummer. For some reason though, all the lipsticks with fantastic pigment suspension and color saturation (MAC, YSL etc) are lanolin based, and I don't know what makes this particular solvent better than any other saturated fat like cocoa butter or even crisco. If you know why it's so beloved by the cosmetics industry please let me know.

3. Perfekt: isododecane, polysilicone-11, dimethicone
All primers are made from different compositions of silicone polymers. As far as I am concerned they are magic. I really know very little about silicone based compounds but I assume they are amphiphilic, and thus double their chances of a date on a Friday night. It seems they work well with water as well as non-polar (generally speaking, oily) gunk, and actually seem to suck the oil from my skin. Awesome.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

On Lanolin: It's probably so popular because it's inexpensive. It is very close to the natural sebum in humans, which makes it a very good moisturizer. And BTW, a study in the British Journal of Dermatology (July 2001) concluded that their sample of over 24,000 patients showed only a 1.7% of sensitivity- and that was at a concentration of over 50%. Surprising to me too, but if you haven't used those products in a while maybe you can patch-test and try them again- you never know...