What’s Hot In The Lab – esprit welcomes Douglas Millar as esprit Magazine Australia’s R&D guru – founder and R&D Manager of Cosmetics Science Australia (CSA). Each issue Doug will bring us some insights into what’s hot in the lab and why.

It’s very easy to delegate or be overwhelmed with parts of your business you may not understand…however, ignorance is not an excuse for failure. Getting your message across quickly and succinctly can be the difference between achieving and missing deadlines. To help a little, here is an insight into the language of the Lab Boffin (AKA Cosmetic Chemist).


A cosmetic is a substance that is designed to be used on any external part of the human body – or inside the mouth – to change its odours, change its appearance, cleanse it, keep it in good condition, perfume it or protect it. From NICNAS website https://www.nicnas. gov.au/cosmetics-and-soaps/cosmetics-and-therapeutic-goods#cosmetic


Therapeutic goods are products that prevent, diagnose or treat diseases, or that affect the structure or functions of the human body. From NICNAS website https://www.nicnas. gov.au/cosmetics-and-soaps/cosmetics-and-therapeutic-goods#cosmetic


Good manufacturing practice is a system put in place by manufacturers to ensure high quality and reproducible goods. It involves recording and traceability of ingredients and procedures. ISO and HACCP are broadly similar but by different organisations


International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients. The official list of names of cosmetic ingredients


A measure of acidity. Skin pH in humans is typically around 5.5


How thick is the product. High Viscosity means a thick product and vice versa


A fine mix of one immiscible liquid into another. Most skin creams are Oil dispersed into Water (O/W emulsions) but Water in Oil and Water in silicone emulsions are also found


Transepidermal Water Loss is the drying out of the skin as water is lost across the epidermal layer


I don’t know how many times clients have asked me over the years to make products that are chemical free. All ingredients (natural and synthetic) and all products are 100% made of chemicals. Please always be specific when you brief your chemist and list specific ingredients that you don’t want like paraben free or sulfate free etc. We Boffins thrive on specifics and detail

Preservative Testing

AKA bacterial challenge testing. We add microbes to test the product’s ability to withstand microbial attack. The best result is a total kill of the microbes in a short time. If this does not happen we review the preservative system and retest


If a product is stable then it will survive in saleable state in normal storage conditions for its full intended shelf life. Particularly looking at properties like appearance, colour, odour, pH as well as its packaging compatibility and how therapeutic or other claims stand up over time

Accelerated Stability Testing

Time is always short and to get product to market ASAP, products are placed in an incubator at higher temperatures (typically 35 – 45C) to see how they perform. From the results we estimate the suitability of products at lower temperatures (say 20C) for a longer time frame. 90 days at 40C might equate to 1 year at 20C

Freeze/Thaw Testing

Samples are held at low temperatures and then warmed. This is repeated to give an idea of the product’s ability to withstand harsh conditions


We have all seen ingredients like Limonene or Linalool at the end of their INCI lists. They’re a part of a list of 26 ingredients that the EU has highlighted as causing allergies. When these are above certain levels they must be listed on packaging


Irritancy Testing

Patch Testing, HRIPT are tests to see if your product is likely to cause irritation to consumers. A small amount of product is placed usually on the back of a human subject and we look to see if any reddening or other reactions occur

Dermatological Testing

Irritancy Testing performed by, or with, a dermatologist, allows for claims such as “Dermatologically Tested”


Some people are irritated when they come into contact with some ingredients. Sensitising ingredients cause worse irritation after each contact

Natural VS Synthetic

Everyone seems to have their own definition of natural and synthetic when it comes
to cosmetic ingredients. Natural is often thought to be occurring in, and extracted directly from, nature. Synthetic is produced completely with man-made processes. There is a grey area depending upon where ingredients are sourced and how they are manufactured. For example, certified organic products are often thought to be natural, yet certifying bodies will accept some products that don’t occur in nature themselves but which are made from natural components.

Certified Organic

Organic products are made within certain standards designed to give better sustainability for our planet. Benefits may include sustainability while negatives can be sensorial (touch and feel) and visual aspects (the look) of products as well as cost

Nature Identical

Made with synthetic processes but is chemically exactly the same as ingredients occurring in nature

Fragrance vs Essential Oil (EOs)

Broadly speaking, EOs are natural extracts from plants where the words ‘Fragrance’ and ‘Parfum’ are often used to describe synthetics. Remember though that technically EOs are fragrances, therefore adding EOs invalidates ‘fragrance free’ claims


The Product Information File or Dossier is a group of documents that informs authorities about a product and its safety. It includes the Formulation, Manufacturing Method, Specification, Safety Report, etc. Without it brand owners will be excluded from regional markets like EU and ASEAN

Safety Assessment

Another critical document if you wish to access markets like EU. It is a summary of the product’s safety, taking into consideration the ingredients, the packaging, instructions for use, consumers (eg children or adults) etc

Doug Millar BSc. 
R&D manager
Cosmetic Science Australia

Doug is a long time member of the Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists (ASCC) and International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC).
With over 25 years of experience in this industry, Doug has a broad understanding of a myriad of products aimed at a large number of markets both in Australia and around the world. Doug’s client profiles include international and multinational companies, large national distributors, top, middle and bottom end skincare distributors, hair salon and supermarket haircare distributors etc. Doug has worked extensively with natural products including certified organic products (ACO and Ecocert) and involving widespread use of essential oils, herbal extracts and other natural ingredients. He has a great familiarity with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).
The products he helped developed include millions of units that have been sold around the world into a range of retailers including, department stores, pharmacy chains, supermarkets, health food stores, gift stores, pet stores, television shopping, skin salons, hair salons, day spas, hotels, etc.
Brands that Doug has worked on include Avon, Schwarzkopf, Sukin and LQD Skincare.

For more information on these or any of your skin or hair care needs contact doug@cleanskinandhair.com


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