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Q&A with esst Chemist and Formulator

Q&A with esst Chemist and Formulator
“Innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what no one has thought.” Dr Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Hand care has definitely leveled up since we found ourselves amidst a pandemic. Regular hand washing is a genuine way to prevent the spread of any disease, however, the side effects of harsher soaps or high alcohol content in traditional hand sanitisers have left several people’s skin sensitised, dehydrated, and irritated.

Serendipitously, esst sanitising hand cream was in production prior to the pandemic and has the fortuitous outcome of both sanitising the skin while also moisturising it. esst is the intersection of luxury and science because it began when the makeup artist met the scientist* and created their own brand of chemistry.

What initially attracted you to the field of chemistry? My fundamental love for science and fascination with wanting to work for AVON.

What skincare products inspire you?
Results-driven skincare, but simple. Formulas that create more with less, because the combination of ingredients is clever not “trending.” Science has been doing some amazing research and development in the space, where we are creating ingredients to use that have a MINIMAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT. Think algae, peptides, and fermented probiotics. They’re very exciting! Ingredients that are sustainably sourced are the future because our environment is in jeopardy and if we don’t do anything about it right now, we won’t have trees and plants or any valuable living resources for future generations.

When you see a new skincare formulation, what do you look for?
The preservative system. First and foremost, I want to make sure there is a preservation system in place and that it is the right one for the formulation. Preservatives get a bad wrap, however, they protect against bacteria and microbes contaminating products. For me, safety for the consumer is a priority.

Why did esst decide to work with your lab?
My understanding is that Emma (Davis, founder) spoke with many formulators who told her that her idea was not possible. When she came to me, we explored her concept and I was confident that we could succeed on both points of sanitisation and moisturisation, resulting in a beautiful product. Our motto is We Create The Different!

What was the greatest challenge formulating esst sanitising hand cream? Emma wanted a hand sanitiser that wasn’t the traditional 70-80% Ethanol Gel Base, rather something that was more gentle for her industry (as a professional makeup artist) and also safe for the whole family. One of the greatest challenges was trying to create a stable formula with the criteria of killing 99.9% of germs and still have it validated by the government. This was incredibly difficult. We went back to the drawing board, many, many times, but this is not uncommon for development chemists, who are determined to get it right as well as valid.

What challenges do you face when formulating vegan, cruelty-free, eco-friendly products?
Adhering to the “marketing claims” some brands seek is very difficult because not all brands genuinely understand the impact their products have on the environment. When we seek ingredients like “Palm-Free,” meaning the formula contains no derivatives of palm oil, we are inevitably using another resource in ABUNDANCE, such as coconut oil, though not as sustainably sourced. Our suppliers are certified by RSPO, in line with Emma’s sustainability ethos.

Why do traditional hand sanitisers leave skin feeling dry and irritated? Many hand sanitisers are 70-80% Ethanol (usually petroleum-based Ethanol), with a Gel Base to thicken the system. There isn’t anything wrong with traditional hand sanitisers, they are fit for purpose. However, the high percentage of alcohol dries the skin as it evaporates, including the majority of the humectant, preventing the skin’s barrier from remaining intact. Too many of us interchange “bacterial” and “viral.”

Can you clarify the difference?
This is more common than you think and understandable as so many brands have misled the consumers for a “quick sale.” Without writing a thesis; the main difference is that bacteria are free-living cells that can live inside or outside a body, while viruses are a non-living group of molecules that need a host to survive, and are usually covered by fat. This distinction is crucial for explaining why washing your hands with warm, soapy water usually disrupts this “fatty” layer - in turn disrupting the virus.

esst sanitising hand cream kills 99.9% of bacteria, does that also mean it can kill viruses? esst can claim that it kills 99.9% of bacteria and germs as this was independently tested via a government laboratory. Again, as to the distinction between bacteria and viruses above, soap and water break down the “fatty” layer that covers viruses and this is an effective means to rid them from your skin. Then you can apply esst for moisturisation and sanitisation.

Parting Words of Wisdom

  1. The unique formulation of esst is a particularly proud achievement for the team as it passed the Government Testing Lab Kill Rate test. This sanitising hand cream has been tested to kill 99.9% of bacteria and germs when applied to the skin, while also leaving it nourished and freshly scented. Genuine innovation.
  2. The best way to kill viruses (a non-living group of molecules that need a host to survive) is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Then apply esst.
  3. Being informed about the science in beauty does not necessarily mean you understand the science of beauty. For an ingredient deep dive, you can read esst sanitising hand cream’s full ingredient deck.

We hear the term synergistic formulation often in the beauty and skincare industries, but sometimes the real genius is the chemistry between two people.

*esst’s cosmetic chemist is the Director and Chief Chemist of her own government laboratory in Australia. Her extensive education includes a BSc Chemistry Hon, Dip. Scientific Practice, Dip. Cosmetic Science (UK), Adv Dip Organic Cosmetic Formulation Science and Cert IV Training & Assessment. She has been instrumental in creating and building six Technical Laboratories in China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Her dedication to Women In Science has ensured training for all their staff, so as to offer them jobs within the industry and begin valuable careers.