Blinding Them with Science

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | January 1, 2014

The scientific community must issue a clarion call for good science, said the keynote speaker at the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ Annual Scientific Meeting & Technology Showcase.

Most adults can tell you who won the Super Bowl last year, and most kids can show you how to download songs to your iPhone, but ask them the difference between protons and electrons or mitochondria and chloroplast, and both young and old will be left scratching their heads. Scientific illiteracy is a dangerous thing, for people, industry and science in general, said Joseph Schwarcz, McGill University and the keynote speaker at the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) Annual Meeting & Technology Showcase in New York City last month.

The event attracted more than 660 registrants, and hundreds more roamed the corridors of the New York Hilton Hotel, as for the first time, the Society let registrants and non-registrants visit the poster session. The event also marked the debut of the Society’s new executive director David Smith who, prior to this appointment, served as business development director at the New York Academy of Science.

Is the Sky Falling?

“We live in a ‘Chicken Little’ society,” charged Schwarcz, who is director of McGill’s Office for Science and Society. “An acorn falls on someone’s head and we cry that the sky is falling.”

The speaker noted that the dangers of lipstick have made headlines in mainstream media, but the articles never note that a woman would have to eat (not apply) five lipsticks a day to ingest the amount of lead necessary to cause damage. And while phthalates have been blamed for causing endocrine disruption, Schwarcz noted that milk, soy and red wine all contain endocrine disruptors and no group is calling for them to be pulled from the marketplace.

“Selective use of words can make anything seem dangerous,” Schwarcz warned. “Apples contain acetone and formaldehyde.

Another mistake made by the scientifically illiterate is the notion that synthetic is “bad” and that natural is “good.” 

“Alarmists are having their say and they are winning,” noted Schwarz. “We have to start winning some battles.”

When a member of the audience asked him how he accounts for the “exponential” growth of cancers in society, Schwarz didn’t waver.

“I think you need to find a dictionary and look up the word ‘exponential,’” he cautioned.  “Cancer rates are falling in most cases.”

He also noted that as research gets better and better, scientists are able to find toxins at even the smallest of levels.

“Just because we are able to find a needle in a haystack, does that mean we should stop rolling in the hay?,” he asked.

Instead, he urged the scientific community to teach the general public the difference between risk and hazard.

“People are so worried about dying that they are not living,” he charged.

And how can things turn around? He called for more science at the elementary school level, when a child’s mind is eager to learn.
“Curiosity is to science as a spark is to a flame,” he told the audience. “The word ‘chemical’ is not a dirty word!”

Few in the audience would disagree with Schwarz; after all, the majority of them make their living in cosmetic chemistry! And their work was on full display during the scientific meeting. The opening session, moderated by Committee on Scientific Affairs chairman Christine Popoff of Energizer, looked at cosmetic dermatology.

Yulia Park of Amway detailed the benefits of a new lip appearance index (LAI) created using VISIA-CR images of 30 study patients to objectively quantify the textural parameters of lip appearance and the impact of cosmetic products. She noted that 88% of consumers perceived improvement in lip appearance after  application. An improvement in barrier property was manifested in a significant decrease in transepidermal water loss.

Consumer perception of science is bad enough—but when regulators get into the act, it can be a formulator’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, warned Karl Lintner of Kal’Idees, the EU Commission is taking aim at product claims. In July 2013, the Commission issued EU 655/2013, the “common criteria for the justification of claims used in relation to cosmetic products.”

But as Lintner noted, there is no EU-wide standard or agreement on what constitutes an admissible cosmetic claim. Specifically, the text is divided into six sections devoted to:

  • Legal compliance;
  • Truthfulness;
  • Evidential support;
  • Honesty;
  • Fairness; and
  • Informed decision-making.

Unfortunately, noted Lintner, different stakeholders make different interpretations of the law.

“The rules are very vague,” he warned. “The world should get together and become unified.”

If formulators and their suppliers are breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of disparate rules and regulations around the world, at least there’s an easier way to measure all that moisture. Gert E. Nilsson of WheelsBridge, detailed measurement of sweat gland activity using reflection of polarized light.

“We need a new, versatile easy-to-use measurement technique for validation,” he explained.

His methodology uses a digital camera fitted with a zoom-in objective, magnifying lenses, polarizing filters and a ring of 15 light emitting diodes (LEDs). As sweat glands secrete water, the LEDs create reflections of 15 small white dots on the surface of each droplet. A computer software algorithm detects the appearance of the dotted rings of varying sizes, identifying the location of active sweat glands. The system software analyzes these integrated marked maps, identifying and quantifying active sweat glands and creating a temporal sweat gland activity graph.

The technique created some interesting results for researchers.

“One product claimed 48 hours protection, when in reality, it was only 20 hours of protection,” recalled Nilsson.

Nano Is Not a No-No

Fireworks erupted during a session on nanotechnology, as the widely-used technology led to controversy between a presenter and a member of the audience. The session, moderated by Dennis Laba of Presperse, began innocently enough when several speakers noted that nanotechnology has been safely used in the cosmetic industry for decades.

In his Henry Maso Award Lecture, for example, Jay Ansell of the Personal Care Product Council noted that safety testing of nanomaterials has been robust, and yet there is no clear definition of nano for the cosmetic industry.

“There’s been a convergence of science but a divergence of regulations,” he observed. “We are tracking over 30 separate definitions.”

And while regulators in the EU, Canada and the US, all agree that nanomaterials are safe to use in cosmetics, non-government organizations have urged regulators to study nano’s impact on the environment. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada are studying the issue.

Similarly, Steven Verberckmoes of Umicore reviewed results of sub-chronic inhalation testing for nano zinc oxide. He noted that overall, micronscaled zinc oxide induced significantly stronger effects than nanoscale zinc oxide. In a tiered inhalation assessment, researchers found no significant zinc oxide accumulation in the body. And while there are some concerns about long-term inhalation effects, the speaker noted that any impact was reversible after 14 days post-exposure.

“Zinc oxide is not persistent,” he concluded.

In a dual presentation, Caroline Guetta and Addie Gombauld of Ariel Laboratories reviewed the influence of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on the stability of a cosmetic nanoemulsion. They noted that titanium dioxide increased the droplet size by nearly 100%, due to the agglomeration of particles leading to a greater size of droplets while slowing down the Ostwald ripening. 
However, Guetta and Gombauld concluded that the introduction of titanium dioxide nanoparticles didn’t significantly change the rheological properties of nanoemulsions.

The session became heated when M. Serpil Kislalioglu of the University of Rhode Island discussed emerging health and ecological concerns from nanoparticles in personal care formulations. She said nanoparticles can cause the formation of reactive oxygen species, nanoparticles of silica and asbestos can cause cancer and other nanoparticles can cause inflammation. She also concluded that the environmental impact of nanoparticles is not understood, insisting that they are difficult to track and accumulate in fatty tissue.

“Nanoparticles should be treated as new chemicals and subject to new safety assessment before being allowed in cosmetics and consumer products,” warned Kislalioglu.

An attendee, industry veteran Steve Herman of Diffusion LLC, took exception to Kislalioglu’s conclusion. He noted that all the previous speakers had shown detailed research that proved the safety of nanotechnology, while her presentation included little scientific backing. Following a lively debate, the session closed with a risk review of sun care and nanotechnology by Paul Staniland of Croda, who noted that nanotechnology enhances both a product’s efficacy and aesthetic properties.

“Major studies have shown that nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safe,” said Staniland, noting that sun care formulas that contain these ingredients reduce erythema, skin cancers and photoaging.

The Future of Cosmetics?

The nanotechnology session was followed by another controversial topic, cells and genes. The session was moderated by Tom Polefka, Life Science Solutions, who also provided an introduction to molecular biology for the cosmetic chemist. He reviewed the eukaryotic cell (the basic unit of life), key biomolecules and the key cellular processes:

  • Replication, the process of making an exact copy of DNA for progeny;
  • Transcription, the process of converting the information inherent in DNA into a message for making protein; and
  • Translation, the process of making a protein from the RNA message.

Howard Epstein, EMD Chemicals, reviewed a variety of techniques, including Northern Blot and serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE), both of which enable researchers to generate multiple copies of genetic sequences.

“Gene expression is a dynamic event,” noted Epstein.  “We must make sure that we use the right protocols.”

He revealed expression data showing anti-aging relevant genes expressed in an anti-wrinkle study for a cyclic structured peptide.
How do genes relate to skin? Anna Langerveld of Genemarkers explained that changes in gene expression impact sirtuins, collagens, keratins, growth factors, metalloproteinases and interleukins; which lead to changes in biological and physiological processes such as inflammation, cell cycle/regeneration, oxidant formation/antioxidant production, aging molecules and extracellular matrix integrity; which ultimately manifests in fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and dullness. She noted that genomics is becoming regularly used in the skin care industry, as it is an ideal method for screening new actives, products in development and finished products. Specifically, genomics is used to identify new biomarkers and monitor biomarkers.

“Genomics provides a great roadmap for additional work using other tools to fully characterize biological cause and effects,” explained Langerveld.

Paul Slavashevich of Symrise explained how a ginger extract, Zingiber officinale (ginger) root extract, is able to maintain the activity of stem cells. Specifically, the material inhibited the induction of apoptosis by 25.5% at a concentration of 0.0005%. Furthermore, the material improved skin texture and showed significant anti-wrinkle activity after two months.

EMD’s Epstein performed double duty during the session when he detailed the benefits of palmitoyl dihydroxymethylchromone, a new melanogenesis-stimulating agent. After 10 days of daily application, there was a clear increase of dendritic melanocytes—a crucial morphological prerequisite to support the transfer of melanin to keratinocytes.

Finally, Cristina Carreño of Lipotec, a Lubrizol company, explained how a new marine extract counteracts the circadian regulation of white adipose tissue. According to Carreño, the material improves the appearance of cellulite by reducing lipid accumulation in human primary adipocytes and stimulating collagen synthesis.

The annual meeting also included a scientific session devoted to hair.

Society Honors Wertz with deNavarre Medal
• Philip Wertz a professor at the University of Iowa and the Dow Institute was presented with the Maison G. deNavarre Medal Award, the Society’s higher honor, during the Theresa Cesario Awards Luncheon on Dec. 12. Dr. Wertz was recognized for his significant contributions toward the understanding of the structures, functions and metabolism of the lipids of the skin and oral epithelium. During the awards luncheon, the Society recognized several outstanding papers, with awards including:
  • Shaw Mudge Award (sponsored by BASF): Christopher C. Heisig and Peter Karanja, “The Impact of Formulation on Microbial Efficacy of Active Ingredients in Hand Hygiene Products.”
  • Allan B. Black Award (sponsored by Presperse): Joseph Chris Dederen, Cornelis Verboom and Peter Landa, “Sensory Mapping Methodology Detects the Substantial Perceptible Effect of Emulsifiers in Emulsions.”
  • Hans A. Schaeffer Award (sponsored by Lonza Personal Care): Amy Vanden Heuvel and Kathleen Englebrecht, “Use of Neutral Polysaccharides to Control Bacterial Biofilms on the Skin.”
  • Joseph P. Ciaudelli Award (sponsored by Croda): Paul Carpenter, Fraser Bell and Stephen Bucknell, “Advantages of a High-Throughput Measure of Hair Fibre Torsional Properties.”
  • Des Goddard Award (sponsored by Lonza Personal Care): Andrea Keenan, Terri Powell, John Reffner and David Sutton, “Personal Care Polymers for Thermal Protection.”
During the annual business meeting on Dec. 13, Stephen Greenberg was presented with the SCC Merit Award for his outstanding services and distinguished leadership in Society activities, especially serving as the Society’s 34th President, as a member of the Committee on Scientific Affairs (COSA) and several other committees spanning more than 43 years as a member of the SCC.

Also at the meeting, Guy Padulo was awarded a certificate of appreciation for serving as the Society’s 67th president.