Clean and Green: A Review of Modern Day Surfactants and Emulsifiers

Aug 1, 2013 | Contact Author | By: Judi Beerling, Organic Monitor Ltd.; and Tony Gough, Innospec Personal Care
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Title: Clean and Green: A Review of Modern Day Surfactants and Emulsifiers
surfactantsx emulsifiersx claimsx organicx naturalx standardsx performancex
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Keywords: surfactants | emulsifiers | claims | organic | natural | standards | performance

Abstract: Many certified organic shampoos and body washes use soaps such as potassium cocoate as their primary cleansing agent, partially due to a lack of suitable, organically approved foaming alternatives. This article reviews the use of modern surfactants and emulsifiers developed based on a green and eco-conscious philosophy.

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J Beerling and T Gough, Clean and Green: A Review of Modern Day Surfactants and Emulsifiers, Cosm & Toil 128(8) 566 (2013)

Market Data

  • Global demand for organic personal care was more than $7.6 billion in 2012, and is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2018.
  • The global organic market has grown due to increasing consumer concerns regarding personal health and hygiene.
  • Widening distribution channels and new product development have contributed to growth.
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Surfactants are used in many industries for various reasons but their functionality primarily rests in the ability to lower the surface tension of a liquid and the interfacial tension between liquids. They may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, solubilizers, foaming agents and pigment dispersants. In personal care, surfactants are used to create lather and cleanse the skin and hair of dirt and excess sebum; in fact, soap is the oldest surfactant still used today.

Emulsifiers are an important category of surfactants for personal care. They are essential to produce creams or lotions by enabling oil and water/aqueous components to mix and remain stable over a long period of time. Choosing an optimum emulsifier system helps create evenly dispersed, small droplets, thus providing kinetic stability and an elegant texture, skin feel and appearance. Typically, emulsions have a milky white, opaque appearance due to the type and levels of emulsifiers used; however, there are microemulsions that appear clear or transparent to the human eye. These are used in specialized applications, such as enhancing skin permeation of active substances.1 Emulsifiers often impart a specific texture or sensory aspect to the end product, so their selection is important for marketing appeal as well as technical aspects.

The global market for personal care surfactants was estimated to be around US $10.5 billion in 2012.2 Green or renewably based surfactants, although initially a small market base, are predicted to grow rapidly over the next decade, as new technologies emerge ­­to produce lower cost raw materials. Currently, many certified organic shampoos and body washes use soaps such as potassium cocoate as their primary cleansing agent, in part due to a lack of suitable, organically approved foaming alternatives. This article reviews the use of modern surfactants and emulsifiers developed based on a green and eco-conscious philosophy.

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Table 1. Chemically modified surfactants and emulsifiers acceptable to major European certification standards

Table 1.  Chemically modified surfactants and emulsifiers acceptable to major European certification standards

There is little consensus between many of these bodies regarding allowable green chemistry processes, and their selection may seem somewhat arbitrary (see Tables 1 and 2).

Table 2. Chemically modified surfactants and emulsifiers acceptable to North American certification standards5-7

Table 2. Chemically modified surfactants and emulsifiers acceptable to North American certification standards<sup>5-7</sup>

There is little consensus between many of these bodies regarding allowable green chemistry processes, and their selection may seem somewhat arbitrary (see Tables 1 and 2).

Figure 1. Structure of Quillaja saponins11

Figure 1. Structure of Quillaja saponins<sup>11</sup>

An example of a typical chemical structure is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 2. Synthesis of alkyl polyglucosides by acid catalyzed acetylation of glucose with fatty alcohol14

Figure 2. Synthesis of alkyl polyglucosides by acid catalyzed acetylation of glucose with fatty alcohol<sup>14</sup>

Figure 2 shows a typical reaction scheme for APG surfactant production.

Figure 3. Synthesis of the novel sulfate-free surfactant sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate17

Figure 3. Synthesis of the novel sulfate-free surfactant sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate<sup>17</sup>

Two examples of surfactants with high amounts of bio-based content include the sodium salts of cocoyl/lauroyl methyl isethionate (see Figure 3) and methyl cocoyl/methyl oleyl taurate.18

Footnote (CT1308 Beerling)

a Phytofoam (INCI: Water (aqua) (and) Acacia Concinna Fruit Extract (and) Balanites Aegyptiaca (Desert Date) Fruit Extract (and) Gypsophilia Paniculata Root Extract) is a product of Croda Inc.

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