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Lab Lessons—Wise Words from the Bench with Paul Thau
By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: May 2, 2011, from the May 2011 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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C&T: Describe a lesson you learned when formulating oral care products.
At Ciba Phamaceutical Co., I was tasked with converting Binaca brand breath drops into an aerosol spray but no one could take that flavor and put it into an aerosol because it would clog the valves. Jack Cooper, the head of the pharmaceutical group, gave me the formulation that had about 38 ingredients in it, two of which were the resins myrrh and benzoin. I knew from my pharmacy days that they had poor solubility with alcohol, so I made that formula without those ingredients and low and behold, it was fine with the propellants.
C&T: What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned in general?
Again at Ciba Pharmaceutical Co., I was working on a Binaca toothpaste and one of the marketing experts asked me if we make a clear toothpaste. I responded that the abrasives used in the system were dense and opaque, but to my embarrassment, about six months later, Unilever came out with the transparent Close-up brand toothpaste. They were using a colloidal silica, which had a fine particle size and low refractive index. That embarrassment taught me to say that nothing is impossible. I learned that when working with marketing, R&D should always investigate before saying that something cannot be done.
C&T: Speaking of tackling the impossible, describe a task that seemed impossible yet proved successful.
I had created a formulation that was 20% petrolatum but when I showed it to the marketing team, it wanted a mousse rather than lotion. My first perception was that—with 20% petrolatum and less than 2% emulsifier—it would be difficult to make a mousse with typical aerosol propellants.
I went to the aerosol labs and worked with Mac Bhuta, who had to experiment with different aerosol propellants. He eventually found a blend of dense propellants that produced luxurious, consistent foam with the petrolatum formulation. That formulation also had limited tackiness. I could not have achieved such success without an aerosol chemist and competent packaging and scale-up experts—you have to work as a team.
C&T: What have your junior chemists taught you?
At Warner-Lambert, I was working with a [polyquaternium-10], and the suppliers of the material said it was not compatible with typical shampoo ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate. Bob Angulo, at that time a junior chemist, had the idea to incorporate this material into an anionic shampoo. He was successful, and the formulation showed conditioning activity. Sometimes you have to listen to the junior person.