Dow Personal Care, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company, has introduced EcoSmooth Silk (INCI: Ethylene/Octene Copolymer (and) Ethylene/Sodium Acrylate Copolymer), a non-cationic conditioning polymer that is designed for use in hair care products to decrease hair breakage while not causing buildup.
The conditioning polymer is a non-cationic ethane-1-copolymer (polyolefin) dispersed in water with an acrylic-based proprietary polymer dispersant. According to the company, it does not utilize the coacervation mechanisms associated with traditional cationic conditioners. Rather, it binds hydrophobically to the hair shaft and replaces fatty acids stripped from the cuticle.
The polymer has a typical pH range of 9.5–10.5, as delivered. Solids content ranges between 40–44%. The conditioning polymer reportedly matches silicone in wet and dry combing performance.
Product buildup on hair is reportedly a common consumer concern. Therefore, the company conducted a study comparing the conditioning polymer to dimethicone; after 10 washes, the conditioning polymer produced more volume. The reduced volume and buildup effects of silicones such as dimethicone are well-known; however, no perceivable buildup effects were noted with the conditioning polymer.
In addition, in a series of comparative performance tests, the conditioning polymer was shown to provide equal conditioning performance without the use of silicone for an equivalent cost. The conditioning polymer was also found to perform as well as silicone in two-in-one shampoos for Asian virgin hair, and in 8-hr bleached hair.
The company further compared the wet comb and hair breakage benefits imparted by both the conditioning polymer and silicone on bleached European brown hair. In wet comb testing, the polymer reduced the peak load by 39%, compared to silicone's 41% reduction. Regarding hair breakage, the polymer reduced the number of broken hair fibers by 59%, compared with silicone's 51%.