6 Essential Steps in New Cosmetic Product Development19 December 2019
Healthy Scalp and Hair19 June 2020
Skincare trends come and go and quite often follow general consumer trends. The move towards a more sustainable, natural and eco-conscious lifestyle has influenced skin care trends as well. The term CLEAN skincare has crept onto labels and into marketing copy and generally refers to products that are free from certain ingredients but definitely does not mean all natural or organic.
The issue with natural and organic is that it is perceived to be better than chemical alternatives, however the reality is that often these ingredients can cause sensitivities. Rather it would seem the emphasis when referencing the concept of ‘clean cosmetics’ needs to be placed on ingredient safety, be it for the user or the environment.
According to the retail giant Sephora “Clean is simple: the beauty you want, minus the ingredients you might not.” These ingredients include the sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan and triclocarban. Therefore, it is more about what clean beauty is not than what it is.
One requirement for clean beauty remains consistent: ingredient safety, be it for the user or the environment.
Silicones, have for some time now been under scrutiny – with the industry very much divided as to its value and/or dangers.
WHAT IS SILICONE?
Silicones are a group of semi-liquid substances derived from silica. The main component is sand but that doesn’t mean that silicones fall under the “natural” umbrella. This is because Silica has to go through a significant chemical process to become silicone.
Silicones are best known for their occlusive properties, which means they form a barrier-like coating on the skin that’s resistant to both water and air – much like “breathable film.”
They have a unique texture and give skincare products a silky, smooth feel, which is essentially the main role of silicones in serums and moisturisers. They make for easy application, lend a velvety texture, and often leave skin looking plump and smooth, thanks to that filmy coating.
Critics, however, claim that despite the short-term superficial effect of silicone, they do not offer any long-term benefits. Rather they have been criticised for being difficult to wash off and for clogging pores due to their hydrophobic nature; causing breakouts; and affecting product layering.
Silicones have for a long time been criticised for their use in hair care. They get a bad rap for coating the hair, eventually causing build-up that leaves hair weighed down, dull, and lifeless.
Silicones are often used in shampoos, conditioners, and styling products to help create the slip needed to detangle and give hair a silky shine. They can also be used as heat protectants although these are often more volatile, which means they evaporate quite rapidly. It is the thicker silicones often found in leave-in treatments and serums, that can build up along the hair cuticle over time like a film and require clarifying shampoos for removal. Co-washing, which is replacing regular shampooing – particularly amongst the natural-hair movement – does not clear silicones effectively thus leaving hair weighed down and dull because the silicone coating attracts debris and dirt.
Regardless of the perception of silicones, the truth is that they are some of the most innocuous ingredients known and have an extremely low incidence of causing allergies, which actually makes them ideal for safe skincare and haircare.
Over the past decade or so silicones have evolved with new technologies having led to the creation of what is known as silicone elastomers which offer the cosmetics industry a unique replacement for traditional high oil and fatty alcohol systems, which have dominated formulations for most of the 20th century.
This new generation silicone has allowed formulations to deliver exceptional aesthetics while providing additional benefits such as soft focus and line-filling, without the oiliness attributed to traditional systems.
In many cases, these elastomers create a mattifying effect upon application, providing a smooth, soft and even skin appearance. Elastomer powders also provide distinctive aesthetic properties that can range from smooth and silky, to powdery with a dry yet soft finish.
Another attribute provided by silicone elastomers is sebum absorption without the risk of over-drying and irritating the skin, when compared to alcohol and other lipid-stripping solvents. This makes silicone elastomers a popular choice for anti-acne products.
Elastomers can also encapsulate actives or fragrances in their matrix, enabling them to act as delivery vehicles within formulas.
Silicones have also been blamed for their environmental impact as they are said to be bioaccumulative, meaning that once they have been rinsed down the drain, they contribute to the build-up of sludge pollution in oceans and waterways, and don’t break down for hundreds of years.
However, it is important to note that not all silicones are equally bad for the environment. There are some variants that are no longer or rarely formulated into products (octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane or D4) whilst other varieties are used in strictly governed concentrations.
In most applications, these restrictions provide a greater than 100-fold safety margin; the threshold used in all data-driven toxicology for leave-on cosmetics. What is more, even after decades of using them at unrestricted levels, only minuscule amounts of silicones, if any, have been detected in environment samples.
Most silicones evaporate rapidly and degrade in air under the influence of sunlight. The small amounts that may enter soil degrade, catalysed by clays present in the soil and in water, they partition out, again to be degraded in soil or in air. Ultimately, silicones return to their basic silica (sand), carbon dioxide and water components.
In reality, silicone-based raw materials can and are a crucial contributor to natural, clean and ethical products.
[Sources: 2019 Clean Beauty Ebook/www.CosmeticsandToiletries.com; www.healthline.com; www.howstuffworks]