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Formulating with Naturals—Hair Care
By: Art Georgalas, Georgalas Endeavors LLC
Posted: April 5, 2011, from the April 2011 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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Styling aids: Styling aids and hair sprays depend upon the film-forming or simple adhesive properties of their dry residues. Fiber bundles typically are either coated with a solution of polymer or sprayed with a mist of droplets that “spot-welds” the fibers together, as numerous hair chemists have metaphorically quipped, to affect the style and freeze it in place. Such polymers can come from natural sources–either carbohydrate- or protein-based. The drawback here is their reduced humidity resistance. Proteins such as corn zein and carbohydrates such as plant gums, e.g. acacia or Arabic gum and pectin, currently are used.
In addition, a unique thickening combination of xanthan and konjac mannan carbohydrates reportedly yields clear gels, and potentially could be one alternate to the synthetic polyacrylate carbomer in making clear gels.7 Finally, to modify flexibility and reduce flaking, glycerol may be considered as a universal plasticizer and other glycols, such as fermentation-sourced 1,3 propylene glycol, can be used. In addition, besides being a good cosolvent in water-based products, ethanol at >15% can be a fail-safe preservative in hair sprays but readers should note the importance of microbial challenge testing the final formula in all cases. The formula pH and water activity can also provide strategies to aid in preservation with low pH levels where feasible. The use of water activity control as a strategy has been suggested by Steinberg,8 as water activity can have significant bacteristatic effects in highly concentrated systems like shampoos but yeast and mold will still be problematic. An instrumental determination of water activity is therefore essential.
A full compendium of natural ingredients for hair care would be difficult to compile at any point in time as more materials are being invented or their utility in personal care discovered every day. Many will gain approval by Ecocert, QAI, NaTrue or the Natural Products Association and become additions to the natural formulators’ palette. A complete volume would be too extensive to catalog here but if product developers simply want to work with Mother Nature as she provides, the palette will be limited to nature-made metabolite, e.g. proteins, lipids and carbohydrates that were found on farms, in fields and in oceans before the advent of organic synthetic chemistry. Otherwise formulators can choose a natural certifier and consistently apply their guidelines.
The future will unfold with new ingredients for natural formulations as green chemistry advances yield new functional ingredients. This consumer need for natural and sustainable technologies will not stifle creativity but instead add a new direction to innovation. The bench chemist should monitor activity in the regulatory arena as the overlap between the FDA, USDA and Federal Trade Commission jurisdiction is worked out; in fact, the Personal Care Products Council has established an Organic/Natural Committee to keep abreast of these developments.9 In addition, on both the domestic and international fronts, formulators should follow the non-governmental organizations that are promulgating natural standards as these are evolving as well. Good luck!
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