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The rise of eco-friendly hair care products

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Syensqo launches a biodegradability score for its beauty ingredients

The demand for environmentally friendly personal care products is on the rise. Consumers, brands and ever more strict regulations, especially in Europe, are driving a shift in the arena of shampoos and conditioners in particular. Responding to this trend, manufacturers are hard at work adapting their formulations, replacing synthetic ingredients with bio-based ones to be able to add claims such as non-ecotoxicity, naturalness and biodegradability to their products.

The problem is that certain ingredients are harder than others to replace with environmentally friendly alternatives with comparable performance levels. Such is the case with polymers, for instance. Derivatized polymers are used in hair care products as conditioning and thickening agents. If you enjoy the fact your shampoo or conditioner has a nice thick flow, you can thank polymers for that.

To help answer this challenge and reach its circular economy objectives in line with the company’s sustainability roadmap, Syensqo recently launched a biodegradability score for its ingredients for beauty care formulations. Ranging from A to D, the score is based on OECD testing standards to evaluate the degradation by microorganisms of materials. Products rated A and B are respectively considered as “readily biodegradable” and “inherently ultimately biodegradable”.

This means they would degrade in nature within a few weeks, hence not remaining in the environment,” details Vincent Miralles, Hair Care Global Marketing Manager at Syensqo. “The main challenge with polymers is that the more they are cationized, the better they perform, but the less biodegradable they become.

Discover our Renewable Materials and Biotechnology growth platform helping to develop safe and biodegradable ingredients 

Syensqo Biodeg Label

Biodegradable hair care efforts continue

So Syensqo’s Research & Innovation team, spurred by demand from big name customers who often have their own biodegradability objectives in place, worked on developing bio-based ingredients, primarily for thickening and conditioning purposes, that would be readily or inherently biodegradable, and therefore rated A or B. The result was the launch in 2023 of NaternalTM, a new line of bio-based and biodegradable polymers stemming from Syensqo’s “Biodegradability by Design” program. NaternalTM ingredients leverage the properties of guar, a legume cultivated in Northern India that can be used as a thickener or a conditioning agent.

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This range’s latest references were unveiled at the in-cosmetics  trade show in Paris in April 2024, such as conditioning agent NaternalTM Care Clear SGI, the very first product on the market combining non-ecotoxicity, high performance and biodegradability (rated A on the scoring system). “The objective for Syensqo is to offer products that are 100% scored A & B in the long term,” says Vincent. “There is still innovation needed to replace certain high performance grades that are non-biodegradable and have very specific sensory signatures, and continued demand from customers drives us to keep working to develop these new grades”.

The journey towards biodegradability is only just beginning. It presents other hurdles such as the replacement of silicones, which are used in most hair care products for smoothness, but are non-biodegradable. Here too, strides are being made: Syensqo recently launched Dermalcare® Avolia MB, another world first as it’s an alternative to silicone derived from avocado oil, offering a biodegradability score of A and the same level of performance as non-volatile silicone oils.

Watch this space for the future of fully biodegradable beauty care products, for the good of people and the planet.