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Editor’s note: While formulating skills are built from a strong chemistry background, they are refined by years of experience. “Lab Lessons” features interviews with veteran members of the industry to share practical advice from the lessons they have learned.
Ease of application has made aerosols one of the most demanded product forms in personal care and many innovative launches in this form, including dry shampoos, sunless tanners and sunscreens, among others, have been seen in recent years. Technologies continue to advance this product category, and Mukund “Mac” Bhuta, who has nearly 50 years of experience with aerosols, is responsible for a number of them.
Bhuta began his career in 1962 at Pennwalt Corp., a major fluorocarbons manufacturer. As a chemist there, he worked to adapt aerosol products such as hair sprays, shave foams, industrial formulas and more with fluorocarbon propellants—and was quickly introduced to the ins and outs of the application. Bhuta was charged with selecting the correct valves, actuators, can materials and internal varnishes, and testing the finished products for compatibility, functionality, flammability, weight loss, etc. In the years following, he moved on to positions at Wyeth Pharmaceutical, Phillips Petroleum and L’Oréal USA, and each position taught him invaluable lessons he continues to pass on as an aerosols consultant.
When I started at Pennwalt, I knew nothing about aerosols and it took a few months to catch on. At that time (1957–1965), aerosols were becoming popular in the United States and Europe, so I was excited to learn about them from Allen Reed, my supervisor then. A valve system for an aerosol can had previously been developed (1931/1933) to dispense insecticide for soldiers in the Pacific during World War II to prevent mosquito bites [and potential malaria].
Always test the end product for compatibility, functionality and weight loss before launch. Compatibility tests look into interactions between the formulation and packaging materials such as aluminum and tin cans. These tests also indicate if the formulation is incompatible with the propellant selected, with tell-tale signs including separation and changes in pH, color and odor. Functionality studies check the can and valve system for issues such as clogging and problems with spraying. Weight loss studies determine the [spray-ability of] the product; if weight loss is high, the product will not spray because the propellant has leaked.