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

The Cosmic Chemistry of Cosmetics

Image credit: Flickr user SpooSpa.
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About This Episode

Humans have always desired the power to, as Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “rearrange their appearance.” Cosmetics have been providing people with the opportunity to recolor, reshape, and rearrange since the beginning of humanity. From Neanderthals slathering red ochre on their faces, to Queen Elizabeth painting blue veins on her white powdered face, to the potentially fatal poison belladonna used to flush cheeks and dilate eyes, the cosmetics industry has always been a strange and sometimes dangerous result of our desire to change ourselves. Join Neil and co-host Lynne Koplitz as they dive into an industry that is built on the foundation of humanity’s desire to look young—and have great hair. Discover how cosmetics, appropriately named for “kosmos,” the Greek word for order, have an array of uses—from creating more youthful appearances by increasing color contrast on our faces to triggering memories through applied aroma science. Neil interviews Farleigh Dickinson University chemists Steve Herman and Art Georgalas about the innovation behind cosmetics and the future of this dynamic industry. You’ll learn how eye drops intended to treat glaucoma can be used for darkening and thickening eyelashes, as well as darkening the eyes. Discover how NASA’s application of nanotechnology to sunscreen can eliminate the goopy texture and mimic the moon’s light reflection to prevent sun damage. Find out the various uses for Botox, including preventing armpit sweat. Dive into the various applications for lasers in cosmetics, from eye surgery, to hair removal, to erasing tattoos and scar tissue. Finally, explore the future of cosmetics: in a few years, we may even be changing our DNA to prevent aging.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to the entire episode ad-free here: The Cosmic Chemistry of Cosmetics.

In This Episode

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