Presented by Evonik
The concept of sustainability is found everywhere you look in the cosmetic industry. At trade shows, in meetings with vendors, and even big box stores like Walmart and Target are pushing sustainability. This trend will no doubt continue and change the way cosmetic chemists approach formulation. Although every company and formulator will be affected differently, here are some things to keep in mind when you are formulating for sustainability.
What is sustainability?
Just to clarify terms, sustainability refers to the trend in industry to use ingredients that are (at least theoretically) renewable. This generally means plant-derived ingredients and often the standards are considered “natural standards.” It also encompasses the idea that the resulting ingredients are grown, processed, and distributed in such a way that they do not harm the environment. This would exclude non-renewable resources like petroleum-based ingredients.
Formula Function and Consumers
As far as formulating goes, remember that no matter what the consumers tell you, most will not sacrifice quality for natural and sustainable products. People want products that work. And they have come to expect a certain level of effectiveness from products like lotions, body washes and shampoos. I spent many hours behind two-way mirrors listening to feedback about natural products. People frequently claim they want natural, safe and sustainable products, but they buy things that work. As a formulator, you should never lose focus on creating products that work. Fortunately, most consumers have a difficult time telling the difference between formulas, so even if your sustainable formulations don’t work quite as well in lab tests, they may still be acceptable to your consumers. You have to test with consumers.
As suggested above, you can still make products that will work adequately enough for most consumers even while following principles of sustainability. In fact, as long as your formulation meets some minimum performance standard, you’re probably fine. Of course, you will have to find out what the minimum performance standards for your particular consumer are. But the reality is, when you adhere to some type of natural or sustainability standard that prevents you from using unsustainable ingredients (e.g. petroleum derived), you are handcuffing yourself and are ceding a performance advantage to your equally competent, but unimpaired, competing cosmetic chemist. All things being equal, your formulas will be inferior to the best that can be made (at the moment). You need to realize this and pick the right performance benchmarks that you can hit.
Fortunately, future research may change the situation. There may be some yet undiscovered natural, renewable, sustainable, affordable ingredient out there that moisturizes better than petrolatum, but it hasn’t been found yet. Until sustainable replacements are found that perform as well or better than the current, unsustainable ingredients, formulators following sustainability standards will be at a disadvantage.
Of course, this movement towards more sustainable, natural ingredients isn’t all bad for cosmetic scientists. In fact, there is some good that will result.
Innovation – Perhaps the most important benefit is that removing petroleum-based options from your formulation tool bag will force you to be more creative with your formulations. This could lead to innovative new solutions for problems that have already been solved. For example, the natural standards have prompted a movement away from sulfates in shampoos. There are currently enough consumers who believe sulfates are bad (say they are toxic, not sustainable, or just bad for your hair) that companies have reformulated to remove them.
It remains to be seen if these new formulations are liked as well by consumers to justify more formulation in that direction. But a recent example of real innovation in the shampoo market is the proliferation of powdered shampoos. This technology is radically different than standard surfactant technology and was an interesting challenge to turn it into a product that people would buy. It may be a fad but this product form is doing well at the moment and was mostly driven by consumers looking for standard shampoo alternatives.
Formulating Jobs – Another benefit of this trend is that it creates more work for formulators. You are undoubtedly going to have much more work to reformulate all your perfectly fine products to meet whatever sustainability guidelines your company is following. I experienced this first hand at my former company when we expended a tremendous amount of work and resources removing Lauramide DEA from our shampoo and body wash formulas. Nearly half our formulation chemists had to focus on removing a perfectly functional and safe ingredient because of bad press about DEAs. It made good business sense and kept a lot of formulators busy. But it also provided a new and interesting challenge to solve.
Of course, that tremendous reformulation effort didn’t result in any real new benefit to the consumers. We ended up with formulas that worked as well as the ones we were already making. And this is the main problem with shifting to formulating to a natural or sustainable standard. Formulators are not providing actual, noticeable new benefits to consumers. Perhaps this doesn’t matter since the impact of this trend on the overall environment is more important. However, as a formulator never lose sight of the goal of providing new, real cosmetic benefits to consumers. It is only through this type of innovation that you can create sustainable products that consumers will continue to want to buy.
In formulations such as creams, lotions, body wash/shower gels, shampoos and conditioners, Evonik products make a significant contribution to consistency, efficacy and sensory appeal by accepting responsibility throughout the entire product lifecycle, making use of renewables and sustainable technologies. Evonik also addresses the growing demand for pure, natural substances in the cosmetic industry, such as aroma extracts that are used in many cosmetic products and perfumes. With its aroma extraction, Evonik is able to respond flexibly to specific customer requirements.
|TEGOLON® ECO 10-10 by Evonik Industries AG Personal Care is fully vegetable based polyamide particles that is especially suitable for color cosmetics. It provides the high performance benefits of established petroleum-based polyamide particles…
TEGO® Arjuna S by Evonik Industries AG Personal Care is a self preserving solution of standardized plant extract of pentacyclic triterpenes from the bark of the Arjun tree…
ANTIL® SPA 80 – by Evonik Industries AG Personal Care is a liquid monoalkanolamide. In contrary to Cocamide DEA, it is free of secondary amines, which are a potential source of nitrosamines…
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