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Skin care is forecast to be the fastest growing use for plant-derived chemicals
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Millennium Special Report

C&EN 75th Anniversary Issue

April 16, 2001
Volume 79, Number 16
CENEAR 79 16 pp.23-28
ISSN 0009-2347
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Consumer demand helps natural and active ingredients gain headway in a wide variety of personal care formulations


Chemical products and processes pervade the manufacture of personal care ingredients. And while the formulated personal care products that consumers purchase usually arrive on store shelves in plastic packaging, the labeling often proclaims the virtue of pure, natural, nutritive contents. How ironic to see the efforts of a science-based and process-intensive industry whittled down to a list of ingredients that proclaim "natural" ingredients superior to "synthetic" ones.

7916actives montage
But perhaps it is not so ironic that the public associates "safe and wholesome" ingredients with plant-derived components, especially in light of the current scare surrounding animal maladies such as mad cow disease and hoof and mouth disease. And public suspicion of ingredients with unfamiliar, often unpronounceable chemical names is also understandable.

Consider diethyl phthalate (DEP), for example, which is used in soaps, cosmetics, and shampoos and as a fixative for perfumes. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) found levels of DEP metabolites in the body that are higher than expected given their production volumes (C&EN, March 26, page 18). CDC points out that the presence of DEP in the body does not necessarily indicate that it is a health risk, but the presence of a substance that most people have never heard of is worrisome to them.

And since perception drives reality in the trendy and fashion-conscious personal care business, many consumers today look for products with "natural" plant-derived ingredients that are like the nutritional supplements they take to promote good health. Manufacturers are ready and able to answer the call.

Market research firm Freedonia Group says consumers "prefer natural ingredients, which are generally perceived as milder, safer, and more healthful than products with long, complex chemical names." The firm's study, "Plant-Derived Chemicals," estimates that perfume, skin care and hair care products, and other cosmetic and toiletry preparations sold in the U.S. last year contained plant-derived chemicals valued at $358 million at the producer level.

  FASTEST GROWING is the category of plant-derived chemicals for skin care. Freedonia projects that demand will grow 5.6% annually between 2000 and 2005, to about $243 million. "Trends and factors contributing to growth include increasing demand by an aging population for products to reduce visible signs of aging on the skin's surface," according to the report.

Freedonia estimates that the value of plant-derived chemicals was 11.6% of the $31 billion of cosmetics and toiletries shipped in the U.S. last year. Lotions, shampoos, and sun care products use plant-derived chemicals not only as antioxidants, but also as moisturizing agents, emulsifiers, thickeners, and film-forming and gelling agents.

Chemicals with therapeutic active ingredients are often termed "cosmeceuticals," the Freedonia study points out. Many ingredients are plant derived. Ingredients such as a- and b-hydroxy acids and other extracts are "sold primarily on the basis of performance and associated benefit claims rather than price." Suppliers know the score here: They would prefer to sell more of a product with a therapeutic benefit, but "the manufacturer is more interested in market appeal than therapeutic benefits."

Of a total U.S. specialty raw material market he estimates at $1 billion, Eric P. Vogelsberg, vice president of consultant Kline & Co., estimates the value of vitamins and botanical active ingredients sold to personal care formulators in 2000 at about $140 million. Use of these active ingredients allows formulators to claim, for instance, that a product contains vitamins or antioxidants.

7916-46206 Formulators often incorporate only enough of an active ingredient to justify its inclusion on a product label, Vogelsberg says. However, a cosmetic is not a prescription product, he points out. Personal care product formulators often walk a fine line between the claim they place on a product label to entice a consumer to make a purchase and the claim of an actual therapeutic benefit requiring closer Food & Drug Administration regulation.

  FDA SAYS the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, which gives it oversight of the personal care products market, "does not recognize the term cosmeceutical." But FDA acknowledges that the cosmetic industry uses the word to refer to cosmetics that have "medicinal or druglike benefits." And the agency is aware of the line that personal care formulators walk when they make claims for their products.

"Drugs are subject to a review and approval process," FDA cautions. But "cosmetics are not approved by FDA prior to sale." However, the agency adds, "if a product has drug properties, it must be approved as a drug."

And as long as personal care product formulators adhere to FDA's distinctions between cosmetics and drugs, the agency will be happy. Cosmetics, it says, are "applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body's structure or function."

There is a lot of wiggle space in the FDA's definition of cosmetics, but drugs subject to the agency's review are "products that intend to treat or prevent disease or otherwise affect structure or function of the human body."

Even the more esoteric categories of personal care products--such as lip care--now contain cosmeceutical and vitamin com- pounds. Packaged Facts, a division of, has issued a study, "The U.S. Market for Suncare and Lipcare Products," noting that "natural products are a sales-nurturing supertrend that shows no signs of abating.

"Consumers often perceive natural ingredients as 'good' and 'pure,' and they are far more willing to try out--and pay premium prices for--health and beauty care products with natural formulations and ingredients," the study points out. With estimated retail sales of $383 million in 2000, up 9% from the year earlier, "lip care products benefit from a cleaner mesh with the cosmeceutical movement than do fashion color cosmetics such as lipstick or lip gloss," the study says.

"A terrific number of baby boomers and ex-hippies all over the country are looking for natural products," says Susan Meluso, marketing manager with Jason Natural Cosmetics. The company is a privately held formulator of beauty, bath, and oral care products that distributes its products mostly through health food stores. "We've found that if people have a little extra money, they will allocate it to buy a better grade of product such as a more natural shampoo," she says.

Personal care products distributed through mass merchants also tout their "natural" contents to tap into consumer demand for "healthy" products. For instance, Johnson & Johnson just introduced its Bedtime Lotion for babies and toddlers to "help ease your child into his or her nighttime routine."

7916buswheatgrass The lotion works because "it contains a special blend of natural herbs, including lavender and chamomile, which are known for their soothing and relaxing aromatherapy properties," J&J says. Then, too, "natural" products are not just featured among the mix of products on a retailer's shelves. Some retail outlets--such as The Body Shop and stores featuring Crabtree & Evelyn products--now focus entirely on the distribution of "natural" cosmetics.

Many of the largest personal care companies have undertaken collaborative research programs to develop materials and formulations to satisfy consumer demand for products with a therapeutic effect. Henkel, for instance, has undertaken a project with the Laboratoire des Substituts Cutanes, a research institute in Lyon, France, to decipher the aging process of the skin.

Henkel's department of skin biochemistry is working with the institute to design an artificial skin modeled after human skin with a dermis, epidermis, and horny layer. Henkel notes that sunscreens and antioxidants can help keep skin healthy, and the skin model it is now working on will help the company to design next-generation antiaging products that it says might not just delay skin aging, but "even reverse it to a certain extent."

Cognis, the Henkel specialty chemicals business soon to be sold, has been cooperating with NeoStrata to develop second-generation a-hydroxy acid (AHA) technology that might work in products like those Henkel is trying to develop. NeoStrata holds more than 100 patents relating to the use of AHAs derived from fruits and vegetables and for speeding exfoliation and thus rejuvenating the skin. Formulators that make product claims associated with the uses of AHAs do so with a license from NeoStrata.

Cognis has licensed 10 NeoStrata patents and has developed AHCare G60 and AHCare L65. According to Gary J. Dee, skin care and specialty raw materials business manager for Cognis, AHCare G60 is a glycolic acid and arginine complex, and AHCare L65 is a lactic acid and arginine complex. The arginine temporarily slows the release of the lactic and glycolic acids into the skin, almost entirely eliminating skin irritation associated with the use of the acids alone. Purchasers of AHCare will have a license through Cognis to make claims for the moisturizing and skin rejuvenation benefits of the AHA-based products.

Symyx Technologies and consumer products maker Unilever extended their research collaboration an additional two years in January to discover functional ingredients for use in home care and personal care products. Symyx says it transferred several compounds to Unilever for further development at the end of the first contract.

  THE RESEARCH EFFORT applies Symyx' high-speed combinatorial technologies to give Unilever a market edge in developing new functional ingredients, according to Peter DiGiacomo, director of technology and licensing for Unilever Research. Results of the collaboration are proprietary, he adds.

Symyx President Isy Goldwasser says, "We can make formulas of interest on a small scale." Then Symyx can rapidly screen the formulas for one or two key properties that Unilever is seeking. Symyx can shave as much as 18 months off what would have been a two-year project, he says.

But aside from research now under way to isolate new natural and active compounds, formulators can choose from a large variety of products already on the market. International Specialty Products (ISP), for instance, offers a lamellar gel matrix for skin care products called ProLipid 141. According to Mary R. Davis, skin care development director, ProLipid 141 contains lecithin, a food emulsifier derived from soy.

ProLipid 141 closely mimics and "nourishes" the lipid structure of the skin and so can be used to deliver to the skin active ingredients such as vitamin E, emollient oils, color pigments, or sunscreens, Davis says. A castor oil-based product, Ceraphyl RMT, is a skin moisturizer that might be used in shower gels and body washes.

Ceraphyl RMT is produced through the reaction of castor oil with maleic anhydride. "Most surfactants in body-cleaning formulations strip oils and dehydrate skin," she says. But Ceraphyl RMT "forms a complex on the skin as the user rinses, leading to a moisturizing effect that persists for two days."

"Food is an important source of raw materials and ideas for the personal care industry," says J. Chris Dederen, Uniqema's global personal care application technology manager. And so ICI's Uniqema has borrowed its new food emulsion stabilization technologies from sister companies Quest International and National Starch and developed them for personal care.

Arlatone Versaflex V-100 is a nonionic blend of polysaccharides, esters, and ethers. A second emulsion stabilizer, Arlatone Versaflex V-175, also a nonionic product, is a blend of polysaccharides and esters. The V-175 is entirely vegetable-based, while the V-100 includes one component that is synthetic in origin, Dederen says. Consumers psychologically expect that "natural" plant-derived materials are safer, he says. "As a supplier, it is our job to come as close as possible to consumer expectations."

Used at levels as low as 1% by volume--compared with other emulsion stabilizers that must be used at levels up to 6%--the Arlatone Versaflex products offer very good emulsion stability, says Tania Roach, Uniqema's European strategic marketing manager. They also provide a "neutral skin feel," are mild, can be used with a wide variety of thickening systems, and do not require heat for processing, Dederen says.

Uniqema plans to extend its line with other ingredients also using techniques borrowed from food processing.

 National Starch itself has a "tremendous wealth of knowledge on naturally derived polymers," Personal Care Sales Director Natalie Morawsky says. Amaze, a nonionic, biodegradable, modified corn starch, provides a "soft, nontacky" feel to hairstyling gels and mousses while also holding hair in place.

Celquat, a line of cationic modified hydroxyethylcellulose conditioners, is derived from starch, Morawsky says. Its use in conditioning shampoos, for instance, makes it easier to comb wet or dry hair and imparts a healthy appearance to hair, she says.

Bill Williams formed Actives International, a three-year-old virtual company, to provide concentrated active ingredients from natural sources. Williams says he has worked for companies such as Henkel and Quest and decided to go out on his own to develop ingredients that other producers make for his company. "Baby-boomer enthusiasm for herbal products and vitamin supplements has spilled over into cosmetics," he says. Jon E. Anderson, a medicinal chemist who has worked for Est¯ee Lauder, is vice president of technology for Actives and supervises development of ingredients.

"We use natural products as a source to develop new compounds," Anderson says. With five people in Actives' labs, "we do the bioassays and develop prototype extracts and processes. We then take our products to one of our contractors that produces the product." Actives' contractors include Alchem International in India; Kaden Biochemicals of Germany; Chemisches Laboratorium Dr. Kurt Richter, also of Germany; and CPN, a fermentation company in the Czech Republic. Actives also distributes products these labs have developed on their own for U.S. markets.

Williams says Actives will soon begin to distribute a new hair-growth stimulant from Chemisches Laboratorium. The as-yet-unnamed stimulant will not grow new hair, but it will retard hair loss. It contains ingredients from milk, dl-ethylpanthenol, inositol, and the amino acids n-acetylcysteine and n-acetylmethionine. Chemisches Laboratorium says the ingredients work in part by stimulating scalp metabolism; the sulfur-rich amino acids help prevent dandruff formation.

Among the products that Actives has developed is an extract of Boswellia, the plant source of frankincense. The 95% active extract can act as an anti-inflammatory compound when used in a skin formulation, Anderson says. Alchem produces the extract for Actives, and it also produces Andrographis, a 95% active extract of the plant Andrographis paniculata. Actives helped to refine the extraction technique to produce Andrographis, which is also an anti-inflammatory compound for the skin.

Rhodia's vice president for personal care, Phil Matena, says some companies provide active ingredients, while others make cost-effective delivery of actives possible. Rhodia is focusing on the latter approach with its Jaguar line of conditioners. Based on quaternized guar, Jaguar conditioners help deliver active ingredients such as vitamins, silicone oils, or UV-light protectants to hair. Although most guar comes from India and Pakistan, Matena says Rhodia has contracted with farmers in Texas to grow guar "to ensure a balanced global supply and to stabilize prices."

Another delivery vehicle for actives is Rhodia's Miranol Ultra L. Based on coconut fatty acids, Ultra L is an amphoteric surfactant that allows formulators to incorporate high levels of solids or insoluble liquids in a structured surfactant system. Matena explains that the surfactant acts as a structuring agent to form stable layers. Examined under a microscope, "the layers look like those formed by an onion," he says.

Solvay plans to introduce its European-made diglycerol in the U.S. market. Noel Boulos, North American organic products business manager, says it can be used as a humectant by itself or it can be esterified for use as an emulsifier. Solvay does not make diglycerol esters, but it sells diglycerol to manufacturers that do. Solvay obtains diglycerol, Boulos explains, through the reaction of glycerin and epichlorohydrin, followed by hydrolysis, neutralization, and purification.

 THE GLYCERIN itself can be synthetic or from a vegetable source. Solvay produces the former and buys the latter to manufacture diglycerol, Boulos says.

Unlike glycerin, diglycerol is a mild skin-conditioning humectant. In a skin cream, diglycerol makes the skin feel smoother, and its effect lasts longer than a cream containing glycerin alone, Boulos says. Thus formulators can justify the higher cost of diglycerol compared with glycerin. And they can make the label claim that skin feels smoother longer.

Degussa Marketing Manager Janet C. Kosiek comments, "We are in the process of scaling up more vegetable-sourced products to extend our line of emulsifiers and emollients." Kosiek came to Degussa through the Goldschmidt personal care business that recently merged with Degussa. She explains, "We are looking at anything that promotes the appearance of youth." However, it is important that such ingredients be mild, particularly as the baby-boomer population approaches maturity "and their aging skin is more susceptible to damage."

Degussa recently introduced a vegetable glycerin-derived humectant and emollient, Cosmocare P813, to the U.S. market, Kosiek says. Manufactured by the company's Cosmoferm business, P813 was developed as a mild, nonirritating emulsifier in deodorants, but it has applications in skin care products as well.

Another new product, Cosmocare C100, is a derivative of the amino acid creatine--widely sold as a nutritional supplement. Just launched in the U.S., C100 is "aimed at an older population to moisturize and sooth skin." It can also be used in hair rinses and sprayable conditioners to "strengthen" hair, Kosiek adds.


Formulators have used vitamins in personal care products for a number of years now. Volker Schehlmann, BASF's technical development manager, says vitamin use in skin and hair care products continues to grow. Panthenol, a precursor of vitamin B-5 used in hair care products, adds shine to hair and may penetrate the scalp to help promote hair growth as a cofactor in the formation of coenzyme A.

Vitamins C and E are the workhorse antioxidants for nutritional supplements, but in personal care vitamin E acetate is more widely used, Schehlmann says. BASF introduced a stable form of vitamin C for liquid formulations, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a few years ago. When combined, the two antioxidants have a synergistic effect and help prevent wrinkle formation better together than each would alone, he says.

To meet demand for vitamin E, BASF said in March that it would spend about $90 million to double production in Germany to 20,000 metric tons by 2002. However, the company will shut down its vitamin E unit in Wyandotte, Mich., and source U.S. product from the German plant.

Phil Brown, brand manager for Inter-Cal Nutraceuticals, says his company has had some success introducing its pH-neutral version of vitamin C under the name of Ester C. About 95% of the company's Ester C output is sold as a nutritional supplement, Brown says.

The company makes Ester C by neutralizing ascorbic acid with a mineral carbonate to form a vitamin C metabolite. Suspended in polyglycol, Inter-Cal's vitamin C remains stable in a customer's personal care formulation for up to two years, Brown says. In a skin care product, Ester C penetrates the epidermis to help restore collagen and rehydrate the skin, he says.

Brown and other cosmeceutical and plant-derived personal care ingredient suppliers know--as does Kline's Vogelsberg--that "what drives this industry is labeling and content claims." Under the eye of FDA they often tread carefully when they offer a benefit, because a measure of reality still has to back those claims. And they do so using ever more sophisticated chemical technology to justify the claims and to satisfy consumer demands.


Skin care is forecast to be the fastest growing use for plant-derived chemicals
Skin care
hair & oral care
SOURCE: Freedonia Group

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