Big beauty pivots as microbeads fall out of vogue

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Alban Muller, President, Alban Muller International, France
Alban Muller, President, Alban Muller International, France
At the end of the year, US personal care and cosmetics manufacturers will be legally prohibited from formulating with plastic microbeads. Many are already reformulating with natural alternatives, as ingredient supplier Alban Muller tells Cosmetics Design.

The natural ingredients company has already seen an uptick in industry interest in its exfoliating products: Scrubamis and Silicami. For Muller and his eponymous company this is validation of a long-standing business strategy: “The US ban on microbeads is showing that we were right to offer alternative natural solutions to exfoliate [for] 35 years,” ​he tells Cosmetics Design.

And so it begins

The microbead ban in the States has been a long time coming. And, it didn’t exactly catch the beauty and personal care industry by surprise.

Muller points to the State of California’s ban on PE beads as the real start of the alternative bead ingredient trend. Since that legislation took effect late last year, brands have been buying alternative natural exfoliating ingredients. And current demand, according Muller, is approaching 500 tons per year. 

Building the new

Reformulating product with an alternative ingredient is rarely as straight forward as replacing the old with the new. Natural exfoliating ingredients, of course, require that the product formula includes stabilizers that can accommodate the particular particles. 

After choosing the new exfoliant, formulators need to determine what suspension agent will work best. Alban Muller wisely has a stabilizing product, an Amigel polysaccharide, in its portfolio that the company believes works well with its alternative natural exfoliating ingredients.

These aren’t beads

Natural alternative microbead ingredients, Muller tells Cosmetics Design, “work better than PE beads.” ​And accordingly, the alternative ingredients have unique attributes: “Silicamis are of a standardized mesh size which allows for a better exfoliation; the silica isn’t porous, which avoids rheology changes." ​While, "Scrubamis are sterile and may be easily dispersed into formulations,”​ explains Muller.

Consumers are already looking for formulations that are not only made without PE beads but are more ecologically intelligent. “Scrubamis are part of a more complete useage of biomass, as usually, these [fruit] pits are thrown away,” ​notes Muller. Bead alternatives have "both technical advantages and a beautiful marketing story."

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