Dow Corning's global hair care technology leader Beth Johnson told CosmeticsDesign.com that the company's intention in developing the product was to "go beyond the well-known conditioning properties of silicone and add quaternary functionality to achieve new benefits."
The patent protected technology derived from pure research carried out by Dow Corning. Based at the company's premises in Midland, Michigan, Johnson works with the innovations team in life sciences trying to find applications for these nascent technologies.
Johnson explained the product's evolution from laboratory to hair care product market: "My colleagues were looking at extending organo-functionals and quat is one of the materials they were interested in. The pure research started in 1998/9 and within two years it was subject to feasibility studies."
"In this case, the process took four-five years, between developing the molecules and looking at the patent landscapes and taking the product to market," explained Johnson. "While product line extensions can be developed relatively quickly, perhaps a couple of years, because this was a completely new product, the timescale was longer."
Even then, it was not simply a matter of spending a few years in the lab and producing a ready-for-market product. The initial feasibility study was carried out in 2001, and the decision to bring it forward to commercialisation was taken in 2002.
While Johnson declined to comment on the percentages of research projects resulting in products that make it to market, she pointed out that it was not just a case of coming up with a new formula or technological breakthrough, she said the whole process is subject to commercialisation.
"We make decisions earlier. There are different stages and milestones, it's almost like a funnel," she explained. At an early stage in the process, the innovation team gets involved. Johnson's colleagues provide technologies while she and her team look for benefits of these technologies in personal care applications.
And applications in this case include volumising conditioners, conditioning shampoos and rinse-off conditioners, amongst others. It is also suitable for use in clear formulations.
Silicones in hair care products have been around since first used in a 2in1 shampoo in 1979, and they began to penetrate personal care products in the early 1980s (when INCI names were publicly used in the US on packaging); at that time, a quarter of all new products contained silicones.
By the early 1990s, that proportion had grown to one third, and by the end of the decade half of all new products contained silicones.
So if silicones are not new, what is so innovative about Dow Corning's Silicone Quat Microemulsion? It is part of an increasing trend for the use of multiple types of silicones in one and the same formulation, a trend noted in US industry analysts Freedonia's recently published report on Specialty Silicas to 2008.
According to Freedonia: "Consumers are increasingly seeking hair care products that add body, shine, moisture and manageability or impart other properties without creating a heavy, weighted down feeling. Silicones are among the primary beneficiaries of this trend."
This particular product, said Johnson, has "very good multi-functionality". Dow Corning concedes that other products on the market condition the hair and offer heat protection benefits, but point out this is a single ingredient that offers multiple, combination benefits.
It offers the conditioning properties of silicone, plus, according to Dow Corning, it has been shown in tests that hair treated with Silicone Quat Microemulsion retains more moisture when subjected to thermal heat. Added to these functions, the company claimed, are colour retention and enhanced body and volume properties.
Johnson said that during the initial R&D phase, her team was the first to spot the potential application of the new Silicone Quat Microemulsion in hair care products, although it could just as easily have been her colleagues in the textiles division. Why? "Because there is a lot of cross-over with textiles," she said, "wool fibre is similar to hair fibre and they are looking at similar types of softening properties."
Dow Corning is not only innovative in terms of developing new products from pure research but also looking for alternative applications, and so the different divisions often benefit from research and product development carried out by colleagues in different industry sectors.
The company is also responsive to customer demands. As well as having a team of people looking at launching products across different industries, Johnson said that product development is a combination of both in-house research and development and responding to customers' suggestions or requirements.
At the moment, according to Johnson, customers want this kind of multi-functionality; they want conditioning, shine, body and volume. Currently the trend is for heat protection products, but they are currently working on hair strengthening as she predicted this would be a growth area in future.
Another growth area, she predicted, is the market for ethnic-specific products. While a recent report entitled 'US Market for Ethnic Cosmetics, Hair Care, and Beauty Products', published by market researchers Packaged Facts, stated that only a fifth of all beauty and personal care products bought by ethnic consumers were specifically formulated for that market, this perhaps does not represent a disinterested consumer-base, but a lack of appropriate products.
Johnson thought ethnic-specific products was a growing market. In fact, she informed CosmeticsDesign.com, Dow Corning are launching an amino phenyl resin. It provides long-lasting shine and hair straightening benefits in relaxers and will be introduced later this year.
Product datasheets are available through the following link: Dow Corning's Silicone Quat Microemulsion