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Chemical companies must follow natural trend

By Andrew McDougall , 26-Oct-2010
Last updated the 02-Nov-2010 at 10:06 GMT

As more companies follow the natural trend, search for natural emulsifier alternatives and seek to remove silicone from their formulations, the development of natural sensory ingredients has taken on increased importance.

Advances in green chemistry and finding natural cationic emulsifiers as alternatives to soap-based emulsifiers are key steps a chemical organization can take to answer the demand for improved sensory characteristics of natural cosmetics, according to Philadelphia-based chemical company Inolex.

Speaking at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Paris this month, Daniel Winn, business director at Inolex, addressed the current market challenges a chemical company faces and the opportunities available in the future.

“Consumers want performance along with natural… Natural products just don’t have the same sensory experience as typical cosmetics,” he said.

He explained that typical cosmetics use ingredients such as ultra-light esters and silicones to improve their sensory characteristics, although these have a questionable ecological performance.

Advances in green chemistry

The natural molecules currently used can often be too heavy for the formulation and to improve their sensory characteristics they need to be made smaller and lighter. According to Winn, there are two ways to do this.

The first is biorefineries which use fermentation or high tech catalysts to transform agricultural products into small molecules.

“This is very useful to have available for a chemical company, but there are very big questions over the environmental impact of biorefineries.”

Winn used the corn industry as the main example of fermentation in the US, explaining the overplanting of corn has become quite a big political and environmental issue, so it is questionable whether deriving molecules from this method is good practice.

The safer option for chemical companies currently is the existing small molecule technology which is used to produce fragrance molecules that will be preferably deodorized for this use.

Natural emulsifiers offer new options

Another challenge facing the industry today is that although classic polymers and emulsifiers all have positive properties, they are not helpful from a natural perspective.

The issue with green cosmetics is there is a limited pallet of ingredients available. According to Winn many natural systems depend on soap, which tend to have a high pH and to not be good for the skin.

Cationic emulsifiers have lower pH (4-5) which improves skin health, and charged functionality which yields less surface tension with the skin.

“You can get a reasonable emulsion and reasonable sensory experience from an emulsion that does not have silicone or other sensory additives… normally this can be done with vegetable oil and the positively charged cationic emulsifier,” Winn commented.

Breakthrough natural cationic technology

Inolex’s Emulsense was a breakthrough in natural ingredients technology when it was launched late last year, according to Winn.

The Emulsense technology was the first cationic material that was entirely non-petrochemical, 100 percent renewable, and compliant with the latest standards from Cosmos and NaTrue.

The natural cationic is made from only non-GMO fermentation chemistry and the oil from brassica plants using minimal processing and yields almost no waste - the only by-product is water, he said.

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