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Quantification of low-content encapsulated active cosmetic ingredients in complex semi-solid formulations by means of attenuated total reflectance-infrared spectroscopy


Attenuated total reflectance-infrared (ATR-IR) spectroscopy is a robust tool for molecular characterisation of matter. Applied to semi-solid formulations, it enables rapid and reliable data collection without pre-analytical requirements. Based on nano-encapsulated Omegalight®, a skin-lightening active cosmetic ingredient (ACI), incorporated in a hydrogel, it is first demonstrated that, despite the high water content and the chemical complexity of the samples (i.e. number of ingredients), the spectral features of the ACI can be detected and monitored. Secondly, with a total of 105 samples divided into a training set (n = 60) and an unknown set (n = 45) covering a 0.5% w/w–5% w/w concentration range, the study further investigates the quantitative performance of ATR-IR coupled with partial least squares regression (PLSR). Through a step-by-step approach in testing different cross-validation protocols, accuracy (root mean square error of cross-validation (RMSECV)) and linearity between the experimental and predicted concentrations (R2) of ATR-IR are consistently evaluated to be respectively 0.097% (w/w) and 0.995 with a lower LOD = 0.067% (w/w). Subsequently, further evaluation of the accuracy (relative error of the predicted concentration compared with the true value, expressed as %) of the analysis was undertaken with the 45 unknown samples that were defined as unknown and analysed by PLSR. The outcome of the analysis demonstrates the ruggedness and the consistency of the determination performed using the ATR-IR data. With an average relative error of 2.5% w/w and only 5 samples out of 45 blind samples exhibiting a relative error above the 5% threshold, high accuracy quantification of the nano-encapsulated ACI can be unambiguously achieved by means of the label-free and non-destructive technique of ATR-IR spectroscopy. Ultimately, the study demonstrates that the analytical capabilities of ATR-IR hold significant potential for applications in the cosmetics industry, and although the path remains long, the present study is one step further to support validation of the technique, albeit for the specific case of Omegalight®.

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This work is part of the project MISTIC 2017-00118114.


This research received financial support from Conseil Régional Centre Val de Loire and the Cosmétosciences programme.

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Correspondence to Franck Bonnier.

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Bonnier, F., Miloudi, L., Henry, S. et al. Quantification of low-content encapsulated active cosmetic ingredients in complex semi-solid formulations by means of attenuated total reflectance-infrared spectroscopy. Anal Bioanal Chem 412, 159–169 (2020).

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  • Infrared spectroscopy
  • Attenuated total reflectance
  • Omegalight®
  • Alginate nano-carriers
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Hydrogels
  • Label-free quantification