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Techniques & Tools Mass Spectrometry, Gas Chromatography

Pretty Risky?


A group from the Guangzhou Quality Supervision and Testing Institute in China has successfully developed an analytical method to determine and quantify prohibited glycol ethers and acetates in cosmetic products.


Thought to contribute to health conditions, such as fetal toxicity and testicular deformity, the inclusion of glycol ethers and their acetates has been restricted in many countries for almost a decade, but are suspected to be still lurking in our beauty products. Although research has previously been conducted on environmental samples and food, very few have focused on cosmetics –  though there are rising concerns about the health risks of chemicals in cosmetics since absorption can occur so easily through the skin (2).


The analysis was performed on spiked samples using GC-MS. The analytes showed a linear relationship in the range of 0.05–25 mg/L with determination coefficients larger than 0.9987; limits of detection and quantification were in the range of 0.09–0.59 and 0.31–1.95 mg/kg, respectively.

So when it comes to detecting nasties in our nail polish, GC-MS is up to the task.

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  1. J Huang et al., “Simultaneous determination of glycol ethers and their acetates in cosmetics by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry”, J Sep Sci, [E-pub ahead of print], (2018).
  2. California Department of Public Health, “Glycol Ethers” (2008). Available at: Last accessed: April 30, 2018.
About the Author
Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.

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