October 23, 2012 9:17 pm

Celebrating National Chemistry Week with “The Cosmic Chemistry of Cosmetics”


Image of lipsticks for The Cosmic Chemistry of Cosmetics on StarTalk Radio

Image credit: Flickr user SpooSpa.

In honor of National Chemistry Week, I went back and listened to The Cosmic Chemistry of Cosmetics from last year. And while I normally trust astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to educate me while he entertains me, I did not have high hopes for a show on cosmetics.

But from the first moments of the show, when I found out that there is archeological evidence that Neanderthal wore makeup, to the last, when I found out that the future of cosmetics involves genomics, I was unexpectedly fascinated.

I learned more about Botox than I ever thought I would. (Can you say anti-sweat armpit injections?) I learned that some people put stretch mark cream and hemorrhoid cream on their faces to make themselves look younger.

Thanks to the guests, a pair of cosmetic chemists, Steve Herman and Art Georgalas, there was plenty of the main ingredient of the StarTalk Radio formula: science. For instance, a discussion of how leftover byproducts of explosives production in WWII ended up being critical in the development of modern cosmetics. Or how aroma science and the use of oxytocin-based perfumes can influence human behavior, the use of nanotech and how cosmetic force fields are being developed for personal solar protection, the cancer dangers of tanning beds, and how technology can make animal testing unnecessary.

The other ingredient of the formula was in abundance too, as Neil and hilarious comic co-host Lynne Koplitz took a tour through the cosmetic counter of history, visiting Cleopatra, Jezebel and the Three Wise Men and sharing Queen Elizabeth I’s creepy makeup secrets with us.

Listen for yourself. I think you’ll agree, as I learned listening to this episode, that there is more to the science and chemistry of cosmetics than meets the eye.

That’s if for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons


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