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Lipsticks, creams and foundations present a particularly tricky challenge for pump producers, says Laurie Wiegler
UMPS are the workhorses of industry, and they can be sensitive and problematic. In no industry is this situation more vexing than in cosmetics manufacture since perfumes, shampoos, hair dyes and make-up are usually assumed to be safe. Unfortunately for the pump, some of the chemicals and liquids used to make a cosmetic can do serious harm to components such as the rotor, the mechanical shaft seals and gears. What is more, the materials used in cosmetics production are highly viscous and shear sensitive, placing great demands on the pumps. For that purpose, cosmetics producers have to pay significant attention to the designs and everyday use of the pumps they buy.


What is a cosmetic?
The European Commission Consumer Affairs Cosmetics Directive defines a cosmetic product as: any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the external parts of the human body or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance and/ or correcting body odours and/or protecting them or keeping them in good condition.

typical pumps
The cosmetics industry uses a wide range of pump designs, including drum and container pumps for transferring liquids to centrifugal pumps mainly used with solvents metering pumps for cosmetics, as well as flexible impeller, rotary lobe and diaphragm pumps. Screw type variants of positive displacement pumps are used for processing the more viscous liquids because they can bring more horsepower to bear, explains Graeme Norval, associate chair of the chemical engineering department at the University of Toronto. Particularly thick and viscous solutions or slurries are pumped with progressive cavity or Moyno pump, he adds.

Pumps are available for flow rates from microlitres up to 90 m3/h and pressures up to 15 bar.They are connected to the production process either by flexibletube and couplings in the case of peristaltic pumps, or by standard pipe fittings in the case of sine pumps. Some of the top companies selling pumps to the cosmetics industry include HMD Kontro (now part of Sundyne), BHP Pump & Equipment, Flotronic Pumps and Alfa Laval.

from lipstick to stuck liquids

Another manufacturer, UK-based WatsonMarlow, warns that producing lipsticks can be dangerous to the health of rotors, gears, bushes and shaft seals, because the powder pigments used can be very abrasive and corrosive. The company recommends using positive displacement pumps such as sine and peristaltic pumps to minimise the risk. Peristaltic pumps have no problems with abrasiveness, but are not great with highviscosity liquids. Whereas sine pumpscan cope with high suction lift and high temperatures easily, but can be affected by abrasive particles in high concentration, says a company spokeswoman. The one big reason to use a sine pump for handling cosmetic product liquid be it a gel, cream orsuspension is shear-sensitivity, she says. If the liquid is likely to separate or be damaged by pumping, then both sine and peristaltic pumps will offer the process engineer the ideal method of pumping, as they are both very low shear. Chemically aggressive essential oils such as lavender, sandalwood or eucalyptus as well as perfumes, dyes and other liquids are often metered with peristaltic pumps in early production. Often, a single peristaltic pump can be used to meter or dose more than 20 colours or perfumes, because the fluid remains sterile and undamaged. Since in a peristaltic pump, the fluid being pumped contacts only the inside of a tube and no other
september 2011 www.tcetoday.com 41

A colourful problem



parts of the mechanism, replacing the tube at the end of the batch effectively creates a new pump ready for the next batch. Peristaltic pumping is very gentle and creates no shear, and there is no cross contamination of colours or scents and no change to ingredients due to heat transfer, etcetera, from mechanical processes, Watson Marlow says.

cleaning concerns
Thorough cleaning is of obvious importance, as manufacturers dont want to risk ruining a batch through cross-contamination of colours or scents. But its not only that, according to a cosmetics industry activist. Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the California-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the book Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry points out that it is these very contaminants that can cause the most harm and questions the cosmetic industrys secrecy in revealing what really occurs during manufacture. There are a couple of loop holes [in the US and Canada] when it comes to regulations of cosmetics the first is for fragrance. If it has the word fragrance then its a bunch of undisclosed chemicals; the other loop hole is for contaminants, things that arent added to the product but are added because of the chemical processes, says Malkan. Residual cleaning fluids from washing out pumps fall into this category. Malkans group is concerned, not just for the consumers but also the operators

A MasoSine SPS sine pump used to meter high-viscosity shear-sensitive emolient gels and creams such as Doublebase. 42 www.tcetoday.com september 2011

every feedstock must flow through a procession of tubes, reactors, pumps, mixers and other bits of process equipment before it becomes a cosmetic
who can, in theory, be much more directly exposed to cleaning fluids and other dangerous process chemicals used in the cosmetics industry including triclosan, synthetic musks, formaldehyde and formaldehydereleasing preservatives, nitrosamines, lead and other heavy metals, parabens, phytalates, hydroquinone and 1,4-dioxane. The group is calling for companies to use more metering pumps, which only need a limited amount of cleaning chemicals due to the small volumes and short distances involved. Consumers face a particular risk because most cosmetics are designed to be applied directly to the skin, providing a direct route of entry into the body. Consequently, the pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics industries must be far more conscious of people ingesting and absorbing through their skin, Norval says. Another concern is in the manufacturing process itself, which because of its sheer complexity and the wide range of products offers much greater potential for something going wrong, such as somebody mixing the wrong compounds together. Other obvious risks range from innocuous to life-threatening and include spillage, the need to re-do a batch, contamination of fluid by the pump or vice-versa and flammability.

Merle Norman, a cosmetics manufacturer based in Los Angeles, is one of the many wellestablished cosmetics firms making an effort to become greener

how green is my blush?

An enduring trend, especially for the cosmetics industry, has been the move towards natural and eco-friendly products. Merle Norman, a cosmetics manufacturer based in Los Angeles, is one of the many well-established cosmetics firms making huge strides in becoming greener. This effort not only concerns what goes into the jar, but also the container itself: consumers are calling on companies to reduce the amount of packaging they use, and to ensure that the packaging they do use can be recycled, and companies are delivering. Some companies such as Cover FX already use renewable bioplastics and bioresins made from corn and sugar, for their cosmetic and skin care containers. Others tackle the trend at the very top: Este Lauder in 2007 created a position for a chief environmental officer. However, activists such as Malkan remain skeptical of the industrys green commitment. While consumers and activists keep a close watch on cosmetics producers in the US and Europe, she says the cosmetics market in areas such as India and throughout Asia are particularly hard to regulate, and popular products include so-called whitening creams containing high levels of hydroquinone, which breaks down the melanin in the skin a long-standing concern of cosmetics safety campaigners. Ultimately, she claims the industrys not nearly safe enough, and the regulator is not as hands-on as she would like. The FDA has a lot more authority over food and drugs than it does over cosmetics; and for cosmetics, it cant require safety testing and recalls, Malkan says.

letting it flow
Every feedstock must flow through a procession of tubes, reactors, pumps, mixers and other bits of process equipment before it becomes a cosmetic. On its way, it will be in contact with all components, and any weakness, any corroded seal and faulty O-ring would destroy the integrity of the process. More importantly, the degradation byproducts would end up in the product, says Norval. For that reason, all components must be compatible with the material being processed, and preferably use chemically inert materials that also provide a good seal, such as Teflon or, for peristaltic pumps which require inert but flexible tubing, ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber.


Laurie Wiegler is a freelance journalist.

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