Gleams & Notions

Some Cosmetic Solutions for Skin Care Problems

By Harvey Fishman, Consultant | April 30, 2008

The skin is the largest organ of the human body and can be affected by many different maladies or diseases.  This month, I’ll detail the problems associated with acne and provide a couple of formulas to treat it. Acne is one of the most common skin problems, especially for teenagers, although adults suffer from it as well. Acne typically begins at about age 10 to 13, and lasts for five to 10 years.  The height of the activity is around the age of 14 or 15.

Both sexes get it, but males are more likely to have a more severe case.
More boys than girls have severe acne.
Acne is caused by the increased production of sex hormones in adolescence, especially the male hormone androgen which enters the blood stream and causes the sebaceous glands in the skin follicles to produce extra sebum. This excess sebum is discharged into the hair follicles. Eventually, the sebum moves outward to the skin’s surface to cause a comedone or clogged pore.
The plug consists of sebum, dead skin cells, hair fragments and, possibly, bacteria. If bacteria are present, they may cause infections and inflame the follicles. This plug is called a whitehead, but when it emerges on the skin’s surface, it is referred to as a blackhead, due to the presence of melanin.
Preventive measures include washing the face twice a day and patting it dry, avoiding picking or squeezing the pimples, avoiding prolonged exposure to airborne grease such as in a fast food restaurant or motor oil in an automotive shop, and selecting cosmetic skin products labeled noncomedogenic.

Chemical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide are used to kill the bacteria by oxygenating its environment. A safe dosage is 2.5 to 10% as illustrated in the following formula from RT Vanderbilt.

Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Cream

Ingredients:    %Wt
Phase A
Magnesium aluminum silicate    0.90
Xanthan gum    0.40
Water    75.55
Phase B
Propylene glycol     6.00
Benzoyl peroxide (70%)     7.15
Phase C
Laureth-4     5.00
Acetylated lanolin alcohol    5.00


Mix the first two powders together in phase A and then add to the water slowly. Mix until smooth. Mill phase B ingredients until smooth. Blend B with C and add to A. Mix until smooth and uniform.

Another chemical treatment is sulfur, which kills the bacteria by exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin. It is safe and effective at concentrations of 3-10%. Sulfur’s efficiency may be enhanced by using it with 2-3% resorcinol. A typical formula might be as follows:

Acne Cream

Ingredients:    %Wt
Phase A
Glyceryl stearate     6.0
Isopropyl myristate     3.0
Stearic acid     2.0
Phase B
Sulfur     3.0
Bentonite     5.0
Alcohol SD40     10.0
Phase C
Propylene glycol     3.0
Resorcinol     2.0
Trietholamine     1.0
Methyl paraben     0.2
Water    64.8


Heat phase C ingredients to 65°C. Disperse sulfur and bentonite in C. Melt phase A and then add A to C with good agitation. Add alcohol slowly with mixing. Cool to 30°C and fill.

About the Author
Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm at 34 Chicasaw Drive, Oakland, NJ 07436,, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.