Ingredient trends: Experts discuss xylitol in personal care product formulations

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

“The investment in using xylitol is an investment in consumers’ well-being. As awareness grows and more people experience the benefits of xylitol, I believe the shift to using it in oral hygiene products will become increasingly widespread,” said Nathan Jones, Founder and President of Xlear, Inc. © Sally Anscombe Getty Images
“The investment in using xylitol is an investment in consumers’ well-being. As awareness grows and more people experience the benefits of xylitol, I believe the shift to using it in oral hygiene products will become increasingly widespread,” said Nathan Jones, Founder and President of Xlear, Inc. © Sally Anscombe Getty Images

Related tags oral health Oral care Toothpaste

Plant-derived sugar xylitol is becoming an increasingly popular option for toothpastes and other products as consumers become more aware and concerned about natural ingredients in their personal care products.

As noted in a recent study from the Journal of Dentistry​, while most consumers are familiar with fluoride as a key ingredient in dentistry products for dental health, “in recent studies, combining fluoride with Trimetaphosphate (TMP) and xylitol can be the answer for consumers who struggle with chronic weak enamel as it strengthens the enamel by more than 40% than fluoride alone​.”  

To learn more about xylitol, its impact as an increasingly popular ingredient in personal care product formulations for oral health care, and potential plans for further use and expansion of xylitol in personal care products, CosmeticsDesign interviewed Mark Cannon, DDS and Nathan Jones, Founder and President of Xlear, Inc. for their insights.  

Dr. Cannon has more than 40 years of experience in oral health care, is currently a professor of Otolaryngology, Division of Dentistry at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, an attending physician at Ann and Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital and a member of the International Association of Pediatric Dentistry. He has dedicated his career as a research dentist to the benefits of xylitol, especially for oral health.  

Nathan Jones is the Founder and President of Xlear, Inc., which is the leading manufacturer of xylitol-based products in North America. He has more than two decades experience in oral and nasal hygiene and has funded several research studies in journals such as Clinical Virology, Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Cureus and others supporting the benefits of xylitol.  

CDU: Can you share some background information about xylitol and its role in formulating cosmetic oral health care products?    

Nathan Jones (NJ):​ Xylitol is derived from natural sources like fruits, vegetables, and hardwood trees. Xylitol and other non-hexose sugar alcohols help to not only sweeten and improve the taste of oral care products, but they also help to modulate/regulate the microbiome.  

Xylitol has a sweet taste but is considered non-cariogenic, meaning it does not contribute to tooth decay. This makes it an attractive alternative to regular sugar or other artificial sweeteners in oral health care products.  

Xylitol is safe for diabetics and helps reduce the production of acids that cause tooth decay. As part of a comprehensive oral care routine, xylitol offers numerous oral and general health benefits.    

Dr. Mark Cannon (MC, DDS):​ Research on xylitol goes back decades, with hundreds of published articles. It not only provides sweetness but prevents cavities and inhibits gum disease bacteria. It is safe for diabetics and is completely natural, as xylitol is found in many plants, such as plums, cauliflower, oats, strawberries, and all “good” foods. The human body produces xylitol and xylitol is utilized by human cell mitochondria.   

CDU: What is the potential impact of formulating cosmetic oral health care products with Xylitol on manufacturers and suppliers to the cosmetic and personal care product industries?   

NJ:​ The impact would be positive for the consumers, but most oral hygiene companies have not yet made the switch. This is only because the cost to use xylitol over other sweeteners would be substantial.  

The investment in using xylitol is an investment in consumers’ well-being. As awareness grows and more people experience the benefits of xylitol, I believe the shift to using it in oral hygiene products will become increasingly widespread.  

MC, DDS:​ Xylitol as an additive totally changes the product intent and efficacy. Xylitol modifies the microbiome by acting as a prebiotic, inhibiting bad bacteria, and encouraging growth of beneficial bacteria, promoting oral and systemic health. Xylitol is also an anti-inflammatory; no other additive has those properties.    

CDU: What are some challenges to formulating cosmetic oral health care products with xylitol? 

NJ:​ Cost would be the biggest one. Xylitol costs significantly more than six carbon sugars and sugar alcohols that are commonly used.   

Xylitol and six carbon sugars behave differently when cooked, which can also be a problem.  Xylitol does not crystalize to make hard lozenges.  

CDU: What are some solutions that have been developed and implemented to address these issues?    

NJ:​ You can mix xylitol with other products like isomalt that do not feed the cariogenic bacteria and you can make a hard candy.  While it is still more expensive than a sugar or sorbitol product, continuous research and technological advancements in xylitol production have led to more efficient and cost-effective methods.  

Over time, increased demand and new manufacturing methods are likely to make the cost of xylitol more competitive.  

MC, DDS:​ Educating health professionals and the public as to the great benefits of xylitol still is an issue, and in the case of healthcare professionals, a little puzzling. Institutions, both educational and governmental, should be actively involved in the education of all healthcare professionals in the importance of oral and systemic health and the essential role of xylitol.  

The benefits far outweigh the costs, so adopting widespread use of xylitol would be logical. As for manufacturing, production issues are still revolving around cost.    

CDU: What pain points does formulating with xylitol solve for manufacturers of cosmetic oral health care products?  

NJ:​ The public still thinks sorbitol/maltitol are good for their teeth, when these sugars feed cariogenic bacteria. As the public becomes more aware of the oral health benefits xylitol offers, companies will be forced to make the switch. 

Currently, xylitol offers manufacturers a way to differentiate their products in a competitive market. Products containing xylitol appeal to health-conscious consumers and can help brands expand to non-traditional audiences, such as diabetics, customers with special concerns about maintaining healthy teeth and gums, or individuals trying to avoid sugar or some of the more common sugar substitutes currently available.   

MC, DDS:​ Xylitol has the most published research and broadest applications for over-all oral and systemic health.  

CDU: What are some plans for further innovation using xylitol in cosmetic oral health care products?    

NJ:​ We are working on the development of more cough drops, candies and oral care products. We are even working with a local bakery to formulate xylitol-based cookies. The more options we have available, the easier it becomes for customers to choose oral health care solutions that go beyond basic cleaning and have a positive impact on their dental health. 

MC, DDS:​ An increase in the varieties of candies and food supplements containing xylitol will make it easier for consumers to be exposed to effective levels of the prebiotic. Some ideas being batted around include smoothie packets, hot chocolate mix, additives for organic tea, and school snacks with organic rice or popcorn balls with caramel or chocolate drizzles containing xylitol.  

Products marketed to children and health-conscious parents would be especially effective in improving oral health in the community, since kids tend to crave sugar. The sky is really the limit when it comes to what we can do.   

CDU: Anything else to add?  

NJ:​ It's not just oral care and oral hygiene products that are important.  Nasal hygiene products containing xylitol also provide great health benefits. Washing out the nose and upper airway is just as important as keeping our mouth clean and healthy.  

MC, DDS:​ We can go beyond oral health – why not an ear drop with xylitol for external otitis, or skin lotions for acne? Xylitol has so many applications, and we are just discovering all the ways it can help people.  

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