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X-Ray Fluorescence Instruments and ICP-OES Analyzers for the Elemental Analysis of Cosmetics

Application Briefs and White Paper

Regulations and standards have made it increasingly important for the manufacturers of cosmetics to monitor and test the elemental compositions of their products to ensure consumer safety and health. Only materials and products that conform with the respective specifications can be distributed. Quality control laboratories are responsible for ensuring that the required testing methods are applied to confirm that the product complies with acceptance criteria. It is also necessary to use defined test methods to perform the appropriate controls. 

For example, residues of heavy metals in cosmetics can be dangerous because of their toxicity. Possible sources of metals in cosmetics can be contamination of basic ingredients, of color additives, and processing. Therefore, it is also important to monitor the ingredients for cosmetic products for critical trace elements. For some heavy metals, internal, for others external, maximum concentration limits are set. Typical elements of concern include arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, mercury, and nickel. For example, the FDA demands a maximum concentration of 3 ppm for arsenic, a maximum of 20 ppm for lead and a maximum of 1 ppm for mercury.

Having the right analytical tools directly at-line or in the internal QC lab helps to reduce the number of samples sent to an external lab and with this allows for faster reaction times.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is one of the analytical tests described in "ISO/TR 17276 – Cosmetics – Analytical approach for screening and quantification methods for heavy metals in cosmetics". XRF is characterized by its relatively simple sample preparation, in many cases the sample to be analyzed has just to be filled into a standard XRF sample cup, by its ease of use as well as by its precision. Newer generations of energy-dispersive (ED) XRF instruments like the SPECTRO XEPOS can achieve detection limits for heavy metals, previously only possible with more expensive other laboratory instrumentation. Thus, it can be used to determine the content of additives as well as active ingredients quickly and accurately.

Recent developments also allow for conducting lab-quality food analyses right at the production line: The SPECTROSCOUT ED-XRF analyzer applies a new generation of high-resolution rapid screening technology to provide precise analytical results while avoiding substantial costs and delays to processing schedules.

Optical emission spectrometers with inductively coupled plasma (ICP plasma) excitation sources are also an excellent choice for analyzing cosmetic substances. These analyzers offer ease of use, high sensitivity and precision and relative freedom from matrix interferences. They deliver rapid results (less than 2 minutes) and are capable of analyzing both trace elements (ppb-level) as well as major element concentrations (percent-level). Furthermore, ICP-OES analyzers can run safely without supervision and, thus, allow for a high grade of automation. This can increase the sample throughput substantially. Up 1,000 samples may so be analyzed per 24 h.

SPECTRO, with its comprehensive range of X-ray fluorescence and ICP-OES spectrometers, offers optimum solutions for the elemental analysis of cosmetics.

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