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The cosmetics market is searching for alternatives to plastic microbeads in exfoliants

The challenge is to find sustainable raw materials that offer grains in a similar size to the industry standard plastic microbeads that are so well known by consumers.

Volcanic rocks, quartz crystals, clay particles, cupuaçu fruit, açaí, coconut shells and apricot or strawberry seeds. These are some of the alternatives the cosmetics industry have used to replace the plastic microbeads used in exfoliants. The whole world is fighting a war against single use plastic and everyone can do their part.

Feito Brasil's exfoliant with passion fruit seeds

Feito Brasil’s exfoliant with passion fruit seeds

The Brazilian Association of Toiletries, Perfumes and Cosmetics (ABIHPEC) indicated that some companies have voluntarily committed themselves to put an end to the use of solid plastic microparticles in their products by 2021. Beauty product manufacturers and suppliers of raw materials seem to be committed to finding increasingly innovative and natural solutions for their clients.

We have over 10 types of exfoliants of plant-based origin, with different sizes, shapes and colors,” says Paulo Roseiro, Research and Development Director at Grupo Boticário. “We work knowing fully well that the ingredients used in our portfolio provide the exfoliant effect needed for the correct cellular renovation.

According to the organic cosmetics brand Souvie, in the world of exfoliants people are increasingly looking for sustainable and multifunctional products. “Consumers expect their products to offer a number of features other than skin renovation, such as skin clearing and depigmentation, anti-aging, glowing skin and skin elasticity,” says Marcos Iorio, the brand’s marketing director. “There’s also an expectation when it comes to green chemistry in the development of formulas. With a large amount of information reaching people, customers avidly look for lists of ‘free-from’ products before making a decision,” he adds.

The main advantage is that when we eliminate petrolatum from the formula, it becomes ‘biocompatible’, decreasing the chance of skin irritation. Also, some ingredients such as quartz and seeds provide a more intense exfoliation,” says Andréa Guarezi, pharmacist at Feito Brasil.

However, the sector also faces challenges. “Finding raw materials with grains in a similar size to the standard plastic spheres used by the industry is the main problem. As we are always looking for ingredients that have a sustainable extraction process, the suppliers are scarce and the prices are high,” says Guarezi, who mentions passion fruit seeds and bamboo fibers as some of the solutions used by Feito Brasil.

The change in mentality affects the entirety of the production chain. Cosmotec - which recently launched 7 Principles of Formula +Awareness to identify the levels of sustainability in a cosmetic formula – developed substances such as Florabeads® Jojoba for its exfoliants, hard microbeads made of jojoba ester that is available in a number of colors and sizes.

Following the same mindset, Evonik introduced a number of exfoliant particles made of silica to the market. “SIPERNAT 250 PC was developed to be used in body cleansing. The hardness of its particles is perfectly adequate to be used on normal skin,” says Amanda Caridad, marketing analysts for personal care in the chemical industry. “SIPERNAT 9000 PC, on the other hand, is indicated for large quantities of dirt or less sensitive areas of the body, such as the feet,” she explains.

Verônica Domingues

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