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Lab Lessons—Wise Words From the Bench With Sergio Nacht, PhD
By: Katie Anderson (Schaefer), Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: October 28, 2011, from the November 2011 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
Today, product formulation goes hand in hand with efficacy testing, but nearly 40 years ago, when Sergio Nacht, PhD, started out in the personal care industry, it was a different story. Throughout his decades in personal care, Nacht has developed methodologies that have allowed the personal care industry to establish efficacy of a product and convey this to the consumer. He has also been instrumental in the increased efficacy of personal care products through sustained release.
C&T: What was the first job you had in personal care and what were your responsibilities?
My first job in the personal care industry was in 1973, when I joined Richardson-Vicks Inc. as director of biomedical research. I was responsible for the safety and efficacy testing of skin and hair products, which at that time included the brands Oil of Olay, Clearasil and Pantene. I was also responsible for running clinical trials to help formulators develop efficacious formulations. I developed new methodologies to demonstrate the efficacy, because almost 40 years ago, there were no accepted methodologies. I am one of the founders of the International Society of BioEngineering and Skin, which was formed to develop better methodologies to evaluate efficacy of topical products.
C&T: What methodologies were developed while you were at Richardson-Vicks?
We developed a lot of new methodologies, including one to measure the visco-elastic properties of the skin. This measured the softness and elasticity of the skin to establish the efficacy of moisturizers. Another was to measure the skin friction coefficient. The friction of the skin is the measure of the hydration of the skin and the greasiness of the product. The lower the friction coefficient, the greasier the product is perceived by the consumer. We also published about 30 papers. In 1981, a paper on the skin friction coefficient won a Best Paper Award from the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.
C&T: Was it difficult for you to adjust to the personal care industry?
When I started at Richardson-Vicks, I was a biochemist with experience primarily in academic research. Translating that research into consumer products was a big challenge because there was little research done on consumer products in 1973. We were pioneering in that area, because it was Richardson-Vicks, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and very little else. [Efficacy and safety testing] research grew as a concept when the public became more educated in looking for products that were more efficacious.
C&T: How did efficacy testing come about and how did that impact the product development team?
Until the 1960s and 1970s, people evaluated products from a sensory point of view; they touched, smelled and felt the product. Consumers were not trained to look for efficacy. Then advertisements began to appear on the television that contained efficacy claims such as “softer skin,” “smoother skin” and “less wrinkles.” People even learned to look for ingredients. The industry trained and taught the consumer to look for efficacy and what ingredients to seek. Formulating for feel is important, but there needs to be formulation for efficacy as well. The product has to be superior, or the consumer will not repurchase it. Formulators changed the way they formulate as a response to consumer demands.