THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE COSMETIC FORMULATION. The word to the Chemist, Cosmetologist and Researcher Dr. Antonio Avolio

Science and Research are fundamental for the growth and evolution of the cosmetic industry, as they guarantee the continuous innovation of products and their ingredients, responding to the new and growing expectations of consumers, increasingly directed towards effective, safe and guaranteed products.

Beauty and Cosmetics have always reflected the contingent social needs influencing and being influenced by the events that happen around us and that determine new consumption and habits.

The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic do not only concern the effects in physical terms, related to the infection, but a whole series of significant changes in every aspect of our lives, which will remain for a very long period, even after the coveted administration of the vaccine.

Never before has the real scientific value of cosmetics proved to be so important to the public and the consumer, who in the past had rarely perceived the great and constant work of research and innovation that lies behind every single product. Recognition also obtained by the institutions that have allowed the population, with the latest DPCM, to access the rituals of professional beauty in hairdressing and beauty salons conveying protection, respect, safety and dignity through the cosmetic product. Key words that distinguish the current world of cosmetics.

Italian Cosmetic Companies invest about 6% of their turnover in Research and Development against a national industrial average estimated at 3%.

In my group, the investment in Research & Innovation has reached, in recent months, a percentage of 9% of annual turnover.

Today I am with Dr. Avolio, Pharmaceutical Chemist, Researcher and Formulator of cosmetic products and hair coloring. Director of the Research & Innovation Laboratory UBI UNIVERSAL BEAUTY INNOVATION of NG GROUP UNIVERSAL. Author of scientific publications and patents of certified instruments, which exploit innovative raw materials.  He will help us to understand what is behind the cosmetic formula of the most requested products on the market today.

GA: Dr. Avolio the new needs of consumers reflect the need to fight the anxiety generated by the virus, asking the cosmetic to respond effectively through science. Initially there was a boom in demand for hand sanitizing gel, which has now stabilized in terms of volume. How, through Research, have you responded to this request?

AA: We immediately tried to find a solution to the excessive dryness and dehydration caused by the frequent use of alcohol-containing products, in order to be able to sanitize and moisturize the hands in a single solution. After intense days of formula research, we were able to develop the first hand sanitizing and emollient serum, an alcohol-free vegan antibacterial formula, certified by Macrofarm, spin-off of the University of Calabria and dermatologically tested. The purifying and antibacterial action is carried out thanks to the active oxygen and is equal to products containing 70% alcohol. A research is in progress to evaluate the permanence in time of the protective barrier that is created on the skin after the application of the sanitizing serum, as this would allow to have a sort of natural glove for a prolonged period, which we are measuring.

Special attention has also been given to the study of the scent of the serum, developing a bouquet with fresh, relaxing and anti-stress notes. The sense of smell is one of the senses more deeply linked to memory, that’s why we talk about olfactory memory. When this is stimulated, it is able to return memories even far away in time. The sense of smell, perceiving certain odours, can help to acquire a psychophysical well-being to relieve tension, rebalance the state of anxiety and induce pleasant sensations. It is therefore a true multifunctional and polyfunctional product.

GA: In this period there has also been a great increase, especially through digital channels, in sales of products dedicated to Self-Beauty, including those related to hair coloring. Many offers were already on the market, but often these products were disappointing, due to the poor coverage of white hair, limited colors and not meeting expectations and often too aggressive. How are you responding to this request through the Research & Innovation Laboratory?

AA: For years a study was in progress on the search for a solution dedicated to home coloring kits, which could achieve all these performances, but through a faster shutter speed. Finally, speeding up the research during lockdown, we have formulated the “10 minutes” coloring, which meets these needs allowing to obtain the maximum result in terms of coloring, in the shortest possible shutter speed.

It is a Vegan formula, dermatologically tested, for which many shades have been developed, very intense with bright highlights and maximum coverage of white hair.  The formula does not contain Gluten, Parabens, Silconi, MEA, SLES/SLS, Formaldehyde and Phosphates. Inside we have inserted an active, patented by us, based on taurine, in order to increase the elasticity of the hair and restore its natural physiology, with the result of greater resistance to traction and breakage, protection of the cuticular structure and greater shine. We have also included a mix of amino acids of vegetable origin with restructuring, repairing and strengthening characteristics of keratin. It has been a great effort by the whole laboratory, but the result obtained is excellent both in terms of natural color and cosmetic properties.

GA: Detergents with antibacterial action are another category of products in great demand in this period, perhaps because they are entrusted with the desire and the need to deeply clean skin and hair, eliminating any possibility of contamination by bacteria and viruses. The shampoo is the category subject to the greatest competition between companies, resulting in the release on the market of a wide variety of preparations, which boast the most diverse effects. What are the formulation characteristics of a new generation hair cleanser?

AA: Today, in order to formulate a quality cosmetic, it is not only necessary to know the chemistry of the substances that make it up and guarantee its stability from a molecular point of view, but also to know the physiological factors and mechanisms that interact in the problem or in the functionality of the product. A hair cleanser must contain several components, whose function is not only washing, but also to make the product slightly conditioning, pleasant in texture, fragrance and easy to use. It is a complex set of different substances, whose active ingredient is the surfactant: washing agent, which we formulators call SAL (washing active substance).

The most used surfactants in shampoos are anionic, cationic, amphoteric and non-ionic and can be classified into primary and secondary, according to their use in the formulation, but also to their chemical characteristics. The primary surfactant forms the basis of the shampoo and is usually an anionic surfactant. However, there are exceptions, such as in shampoos for children, where amphoteric or non-ionic surfactants are used in order to reduce the aggressiveness and irritating effects on the eyes potentially caused by these. Secondary surfactants, on the other hand, are generally used to reduce aggression, improve the appearance and amount of foam, improve skin feeling. These are followed by numerous substances that serve to stabilize the foam (foam stabilizers), to make the shampoo denser (viscosity control agents), and to correct the pH to bring it to more physiological values (5.5:6.5) (viscosity corrector).

Preservatives play an important role in ensuring a low level of microbiological contamination, as shampoo, being composed of a large percentage of water, is a fertile environment for the development of bacteria and mold. The fragrance is crucial to convey the consumer’s choice and, in this period, is playing a fundamental role, as it is an evocative factor of cleanliness and freshness. It can act not only on the sensory but also curative when it is obtained from the use of essential oils. Functional agents are substances that give the shampoo other qualities, such as anti-dandruff, anti-irritant, conditioning agents, etc..

GA: The scientific value of cosmetics becomes more and more essential. Research provides considerable impetus to the sector and creates collaboration between laboratories, both in universities and industry. The boundaries with other disciplines are reducing: now many products are on the borderline between medicine and cosmetics, since they are able to cure and prevent skin anomalies, while simultaneously performing cosmetic functions.

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