Soap: Our Old Friend and Great Emulsifier

Cosmetic chemists are being constantly bombarded by raw material suppliers promising the latest and greatest new chemistry. As each and every supplier greets us, they inform us that they have the answer to our formulation needs. A good formulator will listen intently, ask the right questions, try to understand the chemistry of the material and its benefits and drawbacks (a material will always have both), see if it really offers something they can use, and ultimately integrate it into their existing bag of tricks. All too often we are swayed by the “cuteness” and glamour of a new material and forget our old friends. What I urge you to do is not forget those materials that have worked for you in the past.

Before we take a step backward to explore the positives (and negatives) of “soap emulsifiers,” let me encourage you once again to explore new raw materials; only by exploration can we raise our fine art and science of cosmetic formulation to new heights. Soap has been around for a very long time and was being made in Babylon as early as 2800BC, but probably used only for washing garments. Pliny the Elder (7BC–53AD) mentioned that soap was produced from tallow and beech ashes by the Phoenicians in 600BC.

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