Gleams & Notions

Cosmetic Chemistry in the News

By Harvey M. Fishman, Consultant | March 31, 2010

It is time once again for my periodic media survey to uncover news, both good and bad, relating to cosmetics.

First, the good news. A Japanese scientist has identified a gene linked to early hair loss in mice, raising the possibility of an eventual cure for baldness. Bald mice were missing a layered cuticle that held hair in place, preventing it from falling out.The same effect may be key to “curing” baldness in men or women.

“It is entirely possible that the gene is also a cause of thinning hair among humans,” said the author of the study. In theory, people with the hair loss gene could be identified and treated before baldness begins. Unfortunately for me, and many others, it is too late.

Now, the not-so-good news. In a nationwide survey, researchers found that 70% of children lack sufficient vitamin D, which puts them at risk for a number of ailments including rickets, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.This was reported on CNN’s website. Girls were more likely to be more vitamin D deficient, as were the obese, kids who drank milk less than once a week, and those who watched TV, used computers or played video games for more than four hours a day. Children with darker skin that can block sunlight were also at greater risk.

But, here’s the chilling part for industry: “The common use of sunscreens which block the UVB rays that the body needs to make vitamin D has only compounded the problem,” is a quote from the study’s author. The suggested solution is to make sure the children take a multivitamin pill with vitamin D, and let kids play in the sun for 10 minutes before applying the SPF lotion.

Apparently, keeping out of the sun completely is not beneficial to children’s growth.

Vicks VapoRub, a common treatment for babies with colds,can turn breathing problems into severe ones when rubbed on the infant’s chest.When VapoRub (active ingredients: camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil) was used on ferrets, whose airways and lungs look like ours, it was found that the production of mucus was increased, which caused the air passages to become narrower. This could be a problem for babies since their airways are already much narrower than adults’.The head researcher said hold the Vicks, but use love, hugs, chicken soup and time, according to an article in Chest, the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians. For its part, the brand also markets a BabyRub that is intended for children ages three months and older.

In other news, a new use has been found for cellulose, the most abundant polymer on the planet.A “nanopaper” has been developed which is made from tightly woven nano-sized cellulose threads, which are stronger and tougher that cast iron. Swedish scientists used enzymes and a blender to chew wood pulp into a slurry of much finer particles—about one-thousandth of their original size—which was pressed into a tight-woven sheet.The cellulose material may one day be a Kevlar-replacement in bulletproof vests.

Strange but True...

On the lighter side, an Austrian chemist studied his belly button for three years to discover how we get belly-button lint. His conclusion, which is not a surprise to me, is that abdominal hair collects fibers from cotton shirts and directs them into the navel where they are compacted to a felt like material.To solve this serious problem, he recommends wearing older garments as they shed less lint. Another one of his major projects was monitoring the erosion of his wedding ring!

My last bit of news involves an Indian man who was recognized by Guinness World Records as having the world’s longest ear hair. The symmetrical tufts of hair sprouting from his ears measure 5.2 inches at their longest point.Upon hearing that the Guinness people were recognizing his ear hair, he said, “God has been very kind to me.”
About the Author
Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm located 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.
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