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Biopolymers for cosmetics

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Consumers increasingly expect sustainability in cosmetic products. BASF’s personal care business is responding with a broad spectrum of solutions, including biopolymers.​ 

The sustainability practices of the personal care industry have come under particular public scrutiny in recent years. In a globally connected world, consumers want to know precisely how and where raw materials are sourced as well as what a given product’s impact on the environment and climate is – and they have no patience with greenwashing. In addition, regulatory demands are continuously increasing. In light of these developments, forward-looking suppliers to the industry are focusing on research to develop alternatives to non-biodegradable and silicone-based cosmetic ingredients.

Monomers and polymers, which play such an important role in the performance and sensory experience offered by personal care products, are a key topic. In a 2019 recommendation, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) called for an EU-wide ban on – or mandatory labeling of – polymers that match ECHA’s definition of microplastics. Fortunately, BASF Personal Care has made considerable progress in the development of biodegradable plant-based biopolymers.

The solution: Biopolymers

BASF has set out to build a holistic product range of biopolymer ingredients for leave-on and rinse-off products. In this lineup, trademarked Verdessence™, the company has so far launched five different ingredients for applications ranging from color cosmetics to haircare. All draw on nature’s bounty, using renewable feedstocks such as rice or algae. Accordingly, they are approved by COSMOS and Natrue, are readily biodegradable (OECD) and have good eco-toxicological profiles. In addition, the ingredients are non-GMO, contain no preservatives and are produced using low-emissions processes. They are exceptionally suitable for products that speak to the growing demand for natural and organic cosmetics.

Five biopolymers from BASF

As its name suggests, the sensory powder Verdessence™ RiceTouch is based on rice starch. Its octagonal particles are very small, designed to create a powdery light and smooth skin feel, for example, in matte-type cosmetics. It reduces stickiness and greasiness of formulations. It is characterized by a low microbial count and easy handling, as the powder is free-flowing and non-dusty. The natural starch is obtained via a 100% mechanical process.

Derived from the tuber of the konjac plant, Verdessence™ Glucomannan is a natural, cold-processable rheology modifier. It is designed for aqueous systems like gels, fluids and serums as well as formats such as patches, jellies and peel-off formulations. The thickening and texturizing polymer supports a smooth and soft haptic experience and has a cooling effect. It performs in low- and high-viscosity systems and is suitable for biome-friendly products. Like Verdessence™ RiceTouch, it has a low microbial count and produces very little dust. In terms of processing, it dissolves fast in cold or warm water without agglomeration, forming a colorless, translucent gel with low peaking.

Verdessence™ Alginate is based on algae. The versatile rheology modifier functions as a sensory enhancer and setting polymer in leave-on or rinse-off skincare and haircare formulations. The beige, free-flowing powder is cold-processable and performs well, for example, as a thickening agent in shampoos.

Suitable for a wide spectrum of application ranging from face care, haircare and body washes to oral care, the rheology modifier Verdessence™ Xanthan is exceptionally versatile. It is based on vegan-compatible xanthan gum, and efficiently thickens and stabilizes emulsions and surfactant-based formulations, including crystal-clear products. The excellent viscosity the biopolymer delivers is further boosted by electrolytes like NaCl. The cold-processable ingredient performs exceptionally well in high-viscosity formulations with pH values of >5.5, including shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers and tooth gels.

Based on tara gum, Verdessence™ Tara performs as a thickener, texturizer and rheology modifier. It enables smooth and pleasant textures in applications including sun protection and after-sun products, antiperspirants and deodorants or body-, hand- and face-care systems. In addition, it is suitable for hair-styling products.

Formulations for a sustainable future

BASF is among the suppliers to the personal care industry leading the trend toward greater sustainability that goes well beyond an agenda point within an ESG program. The company continues to develop its portfolio of plant-based ingredients, with more Verdessence™ product launches planned for the near future.

This is good news for the industry and society. Nature-based chemistry not only enables manufacturers to comply with upcoming regulations well before they go into force, it also allows creation of products that fulfil the personal needs and desires of environmentally-aware consumers. This in turn enhances the image of the cosmetics industry, positioning it on the forefront of the drive for future-oriented consumer goods. And most importantly, products and processes that minimize impact on the environment and climate contribute to overall efforts to preserve the wellbeing of the planet.

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