Esters | their role in cosmetics | skin conditioning properties


Esters play an important role in cosmetics as they form the backbone of many ingredients, such as perfumes and naturally occurring fats.

What are esters? And where do they come from?

An ester is a compound formed between the reaction between an alcohol and an acid via the elimination of water. Most esters have emollient and skin conditioning properties, with the added benefit of being non-irritating and very good for dry skin.

They are derived from carboxylic acids are the most common esters available and they are usually colourless, volatile liquids (meaning they tend to vaporise easily) with a pleasant scent, so they are found in perfume and essential oils.

Carboxylic acid esters are the main compound responsible for the fragrance and flavour of flowers and fruits, both naturally and synthetically. For example isopentyl acetate is in bananas and eythl butyrate in pineapples.

Waxes made from animal and plant sources are esters formed from long-chained carboxylic acids and long-chained alcohols.

Fats and oils are made from large complicated esters and, the main difference is that the fat (like butter) and the oil (like sunflower oil) is the melting point of the esters they are composed of.  An example is that Argan oil has a low melting point and thus are still liquid at room temperature, whereas lanolin has a high melting point and still remains solid at room temperature.

The term ‘esthers’ was first introduced in early 19th century by German Chemist Leopold Gmelin.

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