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How Much Does the Personal Care Environment Affect Silicone Use?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

How Much Does the Personal Care Environment Affect Silicone Use?

We’ve seen the impact that silicone is currently having on the personal care industry, now we take a look at the environmental and political landscape that revolves around their inclusion, with Belinda Carli, Director, Institute of Personal Care Science.

What are the current attitudes towards silicones?

A lot of consumers mistakenly think they are comedogenic (pore clogging), create non-breathable films on the skin, and are non-biodegradable.

There is also a big trend towards ‘natural’ as so many consumers think ‘natural is safer’ and ‘synthetic is bad for you’ — this is not actually correct but is the widely-held perception. As a result, this of course has led some consumers to avoid silicones.

How do silicones appeal to corporate responsibility initiatives and trends such as clean beauty?

Clean beauty is about avoiding suspect/toxic ingredients – which aren’t permitted in cosmetics anyway; and ethical sourcing of ingredients. Silicone is the most abundant chemical found on earth, so it is completely responsibly sourced.

Also, the materials we use in cosmetics (not just silicones, but ALL cosmetic ingredients, used within regulatory limits) are safe. Silicones fit within this ‘philosophy’. 

Recently in the EU we have seen the ban of D4, D5 and D6 materials​ due to the biodegradability of products. What are your thoughts on its entry and application?

It actually doesn’t make formulation sense. These materials are now banned in wash off products, but we don’t use these volatile materials in wash off products — why would we?

You use a volatile silicone in a LEAVE ON product for its low evaporation point — so it can deliver other materials in the formula. You don’t use a volatile material in a wash off product because there is no point having a volatile material in a wash off product since it will be washed off shortly after application. The volatility therefore has no purpose, so why use it?

Sure, ban it if you like, but it is not the correct use of these materials, so it is a bit of a misnomer to ban them in wash off products as they are not used that way. If they are, they are easy to replace because they don’t need to be there.

What role does the ingredient supplier provide on supplying information?

Silicones is such a huge and diverse class of materials that you can’t just ask a supplier for a silicone. It is like walking into a supermarket and asking for some food.

Therefore, questions to ask, include:

  • What do you want it to do for your formula?
  • What sensory and performance enhancements are you looking to achieve?
  • What product form are you making?
  • And what innovation or formulation solution do you need?

They really do have multiple, multiple solutions for each of these questions — it is such a pity to not use them just because a consumer has been misinformed about their usefulness and diversity in formulations.

What is the influence of the new free from rules?

There is nothing wrong with consumers having choice, but when that choice is driven by fear or misinformation, there is everything wrong with that.

The EU free from rules​ will hopefully curb some of this misinformation, in time, so we can get back to creating innovative and high performing personal care products.

In the meantime, we are also seeing some eco silicone and green silicone alternatives being launched, which adds to choice.

Why do we need alternatives?

We don’t ‘need’ alternatives for safety or functionality. We might ‘choose’ alternatives to support consumer choice.

For more information on silicones and their alternatives, watch Belinda Carli, Director, Institute of Personal Care Science’s video​.

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