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That ever elusive ingredient. Why you can’t always get what you want (or need)….

January 10, 2017

OK so I’m writing this in Australia but I’ve also lived and worked in Europe.  The markets and access issues are different in both places and I’m sure they are different again across the other continents.

I have been working on a formula and, as sometimes happens, I’ve hit upon a problem.  I won’t tell you exactly what the problem is (it’s to do with boosting the performance of this product) as that’s not that relevant but I will tell you what I learned from this experience as I think it’s relevant to others. Maybe even you!

So my problem is that I can’t achieve the performance I want in my formula without a specialised ingredient or set of ingredients that I don’t currently stock in my lab.

So I come back to my desk and start searching the internet for an ingredient that might just fix this issue I have and I find one!


Being forever grateful for my ten years of product management (Supply chain/ tech support) once I’ve found this wonder chemical I know a few of the avenues I can go to access it.  I try them and fail.  NOTHING TO SEE HERE….

Not that I was particularly optimistic in the first place as the supplier that has created this awesome chemical is one I know well and one that rarely has its awesome technology available in neat small packs that can be purchased from a local wholesaler.

I was also sort of meh about it because living in Australia the chemicals we use for cosmetics (and for anything else for that matter) have to come through a regulatory board called NICNAS and I pretty much assumed straight off the bat that this little beauty wouldn’t have got through that door.  Sure I could arrange a low volume permit but that would set up hassles for my customer and I don’t want to do that.


During my internet searching I came across a thread on a cosmetic science discussion where someone was asking for the exact same thing as I needed and yeh, they got no joy either.  However,  that did make me think and that is why I’m writing now.

The person asking the question was a self-confessed newbie asking after this ingredient with all of the optimism of a person who hasn’t tried for months to get the paperwork together for a NICNAS permit,  try and get a new ingredient sponsored through the system or put their 10kg pack speciality order into a supplier only finding it still not here 15 weeks later (got to wait for a consolidated load and sea freight it) OR had to pay almost double to get the stuff in via air.


So the moral of this story is this.  Professional chemists and newbies alike are sometimes faced with finding the most awesome life-changing solution-bringing chemical online only to find it impossible to access.

Things have got a little better over the years as more small lot wholesale companies have sprung up but it is unlikely that the market will open up completely given that being able to purchase something once is only half the battle (regulatory, testing, re-order etc).  I’ve known many a large ingredient manufacturer drop products from their local range because they became too expensive to support – not the market for them.  So just as you get hooked on something it becomes impossible to re-order.  Not good.


Everyone is different and everyone’s needs are different but what I do is this.  I formulate for clients (I don’t have my own brand) so I have to think about the ease of access to the materials I formulate with so I screen out all the problems I can before we get too far.  You might not care about that.  How I then go about solving my problem is by using my knowledge of chemistry and my creativity.


Gross saying BTW but anyway….

So what I’ll do is to think carefully about what I am trying to achieve then see if other ingredient combinations that I can more easily access can help me get there.  This involves more time, more failed attempts in the lab and more fiddling than just buying one thing and whacking it in the pot but on the plus side this also improves ones chemistry skills,  artisanship, problem solving and increases the likelihood that the resulting formula will be unique and interesting.


Well as a teacher type of person I think this is just wonderful as it creates the perfect environment for innovation and further learning but if your focus is on fast results then probably no.


That is waiting for a couple more ingredients that are easier to access (and NICNAS registered) to come in so I can play with them and failing that I’ve got a more clunky ‘fix’ in the bag.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2017 4:38 am

    Funny…I just stumbled upon your blog post and believe I am approaching the end of the same issue. The culprit – finding an alternative chelating agent to EDTA with a better toxicity profile and greener footprint! 🙂

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