Silicone-based ingredients are widely used in skin and hair care products to help improve the texture of formulations, lend a silky soft feel to the skin and hair and improve spreadability of products.
Although a large proportion of their mass starts as silicate or sand, the ingredients undergo synthetic processing and are not generally regarded as natural.
In addition, concerns over the safety and environmental profile of a number of silicones have been voiced by various groups, leading some organic and natural brands to move away from the ingredients.
However, some of the world’s largest silicone suppliers are reacting to the trend for all things green by highlighting what their ingredients can bring to formulations, as well as launching new ranges that are partly vegetable-derived.
Silicones to help increase natural content
Earlier this year, Momentive Performance Materials launched a number of new ingredients including Velvesil 034 that it said can help the dispersion of ingredients in a formulation and give it silky soft, non-tacky feel.
The company said that its ability, and that of many other silicones, to improve the sensory qualities of a product and reduce tackiness, could help formulators increase the concentration of natural ingredients in their products.
Formulating with a high proportion of natural ingredients can lead to slightly oily feeling, tacky products, Momentive senior scientist Dr Roy Rojas-Wahl explained, which can be improved by the addition of a number of silicone-based ingredients.
In addition, silicone giant Dow Corning recently stated that one of its future focuses will be investigating the potential of silicone-based ingredients and technologies to combine with naturally derived ingredients.
“The intention is to deliver benefits for consumers who want beauty care products derived from plants but at the same time want the performance features that silicones can bring,” a Dow Corning spokesperson explained.
Vegetable alkanes replace petrochemical part
Furthermore, silicone supplier Grant Industries has been developing a range of partly vegetable-derived silicone-based ingredients for the last few years, which incorporate vegetable-derived alkanes in the place of the petrochemical-derived solvents that are more traditionally used.
“The basic principle is to replace the volatile alkanes available from pure petroleum sources with those from vegetable sources.” Grant’s director of regulatory affairs John Gormley told CosmeticsDesign.com USA, and the company is hoping this will appeal to formulators in the natural arena.
Gormley was also keen to underline the long safety record of the ingredients, saying they are some of the mildest ingredients with the lowest irritation profiles. When looking at silicone-alternatives he warned against swapping them for ingredients that could be harsher on the skin.
Although the ingredients may hold formulation benefits, it is unclear whether they will be fully embraced by the stricter requirements of organic and natural formulators, as a number of certification systems do not accept silicones.
Nevertheless, certified products still represent a small slice of the emerging naturals market.
For Gormley, it is about giving customers a choice: “Formulators want different levels of natural, we are offering things of natural origins, as opposed to maybe petroleum; we are giving people choices.”