A growing concern inside a well-known cosmetics company

Is there something GROWING in our finished product? What did they do when cloudy samples were found at multiple warehouses?

The Problem

A global specialty brand cosmetics manufacturer had a product on the market…that had a major issue. Spot checks from each warehouse revealed a strange substance floating at the bottom of a few of the plastic bottles. How could the mysterious substance, from so large a batch, appear so randomly?

The Assignment

Quantum Analytics Group was referred to the company in an effort to positively identify the elusive residue and support the internal R&D group with any formulation issues.

The Challenge

The fact that the R&D group was baffled…was not uncommon. Most cosmetic R&D teams are limited to formulation and production issues. Problems within the ingredients themselves are rare and the internal labs aren’t positioned to perform significant analytical testing.

The Timing

The company had already spent weeks in an exhaustive review of their production processes - with no answers. Shipments were being held back. Their efforts were at a standstill. A fast resolution was now the order of the day.

The Issues

The product in question was one of a group of products formulated from “all natural ingredients” and the assumption was “How could such simple natural extracts, oils, fragrance and purified water spoil? Could it be microbial?” Adding to the mystery, the flocculent only seemed to occur at certain times of the year.

The Approach

“We needed to start eliminating possibilities…and get closer to a solution before we started actual testing. Our initial thought was that if the problem isn’t microbial, then it must be from something in the process”.

The Solution

Samples of the product were first tested via FTIR. Quantum confirmed that the mysterious flocculent was not caused by a bacterial contaminant at all – in fact, the mystery substance was caused by something nobody expected. We used a Perkin Elmer Frontier coupled with the Spotlight 200 Microscope – and Spectrum Search Plus software and Infrared Spectrum Library.

The Work

“During the actual testing…we found the foreign material to be made up of a plant protein. And we validated those results with additional samples from the same batch using HPLC to see how it would chromatograph.” We used an Agilent 1200 Series HPLC equipped with a Diode Array Detector (DAD) to analyze for specific plant proteins by RP-HPLC and SEC-HPLC.

The Insight

In concert with the two analytical techniques, we subjected several test samples to temperatures above and below the typical storage temperatures used by the warehouse facility. Over a 3-day period, the samples held at 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) exhibited the formation of the flocculent.

The Result

Under the right conditions (lower temperature) small, brown masses would start to form at the base of each vessel. A detailed report was produced that the company used to enforce more accurate temperatures within all the warehouse facilities.

The Result

This was a timely and economical solution for a company that could easily have spent months attempting to resolve a problem that was solved in just over 2 weeks.

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