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3D Makeup Printers are Making it Up

There's much more to lipstick than mixing pigments with "raw material."

Several people have sent me this video of a Harvard student "inventing" a 3-D printer that cranks out cosmetics at home. She starts out by telling us that the cosmetics industry, a $55 billion annual business, is bulls--t. Well there is a lot of BS in that industry, selling hype and hope for lots of bucks. That's true. But there is a lot of interesting and important chemistry there as well when it comes to the formulation of the various products.

Now, talking about bulls--t, that's just what this video is. Her idea is to use some type of 3-D printer to make a little cake of pigments. That is, in theory at least, possible because what these printers do is lay down substances layer by layer so you could create different colours by dispensing different pigments. In the video she shows such a cake of pigment being produced...well..not exactly. We see her lifting it out of the contraption but we do not see it actually being produced. I think it is contrived. It would be very difficult to keep the nozzles clean and to mix the pigments just right. But not outside the realm of possibility. Then she goes on to claim that the machine will also be able to produce lipstick, creams and various other cosmetics. This girl has no idea of cosmetic production. She seems to think that it is just a question of mixing some pigments into what she calls "raw material." I don't think the notion of bacterial contamination has ever crossed her mind.

When she is queried about how the pigments are combined with the raw material, she opines that "this is where the bulls--t comes in," suggesting that cosmetics manufacturers just take the pigments and do a little "hocus pocus" to mix it with the "raw material" and then charge an arm and a leg. Well, that mixing is the crux of cosmetic manufacture. This is where particle size, emulsifiers, temperature gradients and mixing speed come into play. There's much more to lipstick than mixing pigments with "raw material."

This video activated my bulls--t detector, big time. Let's see a working model rather than hear chirping about how easy it is to print out any type of cosmetic. And I would like to hear how bacterial contamination is going to be prevented. Will the preservative be printed out too? 


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