What is the state of silicones in the personal care industry?Over the last several decades, silicones have been used across the personal care industry for a wide range of applications. However, their use over time has decreased, and brands are shifting towards ‘silicone-free’ claims across all personal care categories.
The function and behavior of silicones in formulation
Silicones are derived from polymers—compounds consisting of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and silicone— that can fulfill a number of different functions in a cosmetic product. Silicones can smooth skin texture by acting as emollients or humectants. Silicones can also behave as antifoaming, antistatic, and even binding agents1. They can act as film forming agents by sealing in moisture and healing wounds over time. Because they are not water-soluble, silicones can also increase shine in hair products, as well as add slip and increase combability. They can also improve the initial spread and feel of cosmetics due to their low surface tension. Similar to other ingredients, like hyaluronic acid for example, molecular weight matters. Silicones with higher molecular weights create a slower, stickier spread, and silicones with lower molecular weights make a faster, slicker spread. However, despite how easy they are to formulate and the benefits they bring to cosmetics, consumers have shied away from silicones.
What makes silicones controversial?
So, where does the concern come in? Silicones are a controversial ingredient for several reasons, but mainly for environmental and health reasons. While many silicones are naturally derived from silica, the processes used to create the varying types of silicones are typically non-sustainable.
Specifically for skin, the biggest concerns come with acne and pores. The perception is that silicones clog pores, and therefore cause acne in the skin, although there is little scientific evidence that supports this perception. For haircare products, silicones are known to cause build up and greasiness since they require clarifying ingredients to rinse them out.
As far as environmental concerns go, silicones do not easily degrade, as they are chemically inert. This means that they are less likely to react with another substance to cause degradation. As a result, silicones can take several years to fully degrade. This also affects the consumer perception surrounding hair products. For example, shampoo and conditioner are typically used as a rinse off products, which go down the shower drain, and into aquatic environments, impacting the entire ecosystem. From a regulatory standpoint, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) has also evaluated the environmental impact of some cyclic silicones and as a result has restricted their concentrations in formulation. Some linear silicones are expected to follow suit as well, considering they have a high environmental impact due to a high carbon footprint industrial process.
So, despite the variety of functional and sensorial benefits, some consumers choose to avoid products that contain them entirely, driving brands to seek alternatives.
Silicone Alternatives by Vantage
Focusing on alternatives for silicones, formulators often look to plant-derived replacements which are usually sustainably synthesized via fermentation method. Many silicone alternatives these days bring high performance, along with additional sensorial benefits that standard silicones may lack. Vantage offers a variety of silicone alternative solutions that serve a variety of personal care applications:
JEECHEM®NDA is a 100% naturally-derived, multifunctional series of products created to serve as silicone alternatives. In addition, the JEECHEM®NDA series exhibit great versatility–vastly simplifying incorporation of difficult ingredients such as UV Filters, high purity actives, silicones, and silicone derivatives into formulations. The JEECHEM®NDA range’s soft and velvety sensorial benefits mask their powerful performance as formulation solutions in cosmetic ingredients. In particular, JEECHEM®NDA –5 proves to be an exceptional match to D5 cyclopentasiloxane silicone.
Jojoba Esters – 15
Jojoba Esters-15 is produced from jojoba oil via interesterification. This allows the fatty acid and fatty alcohols to rearrange themselves, creating a new, "oil-free" product that is virtually identical to the original oil. Jojoba Esters-15 can be used in a broad range of skin care and cosmetic products requiring "oil-free" claims. Joboba Esters-15 provides non-greasy emolliency and a smooth elegant skin feel with a dimethicone-like wetting property on the skin.
Liponate CCC MB
Liponate™ CCC MB is a naturally-derived extra light and fast-spreading emollient that can offer a great alternative to volatile dry silicones such as dimethicone. Liponate™ CCC MB is a clear oil that performs as a very light emollient that spreads quickly upon application before leaving a soft and powdery after-feel on skin. It is certified RSPO Mass Balanced. Liponate™ CCC MB creates an invisible and ultra silky film that provides long-term moisturization. Liponate™ CCC MB is recommended for light skin care, sun care, and color cosmetic applications.
Panalane® L-2E is the latest addition to the Panalane® hydrogenated polyisobutene range, a line of versatile cosmetic high-purity emollients broadly used in a wide variety of personal care products and developed by INEOS Oligomers. It is a clean-beauty and vegan friendly alternative to volatile silicone oils, recommended for hair care, face care, body care, AP/Deo and color cosmetic applications.
Kostic A, “Silicones in cosmetics and their impact on the environment”, Cos ACTIVE J. 2021;1:34–39