Formula Troubleshooting: Acrylate-based Thickening

Some of the first things a cosmetic scientist is introduced to are the different options available to build and thicken a formula. Although certain waxes, fatty alcohols and gums are available, most formulations rely on acrylate-based thickeners to provide the backbone of a formula’s design. These thickeners are commonly used to help with stabilization, suspension capabilities and aesthetics. Acrylate-based ingredients have been modified over the past decades, and their benefits are increasingly evident in many industries outside of cosmetics, such as paints, coatings, inks, textiles, etc.

These polymers have been hydrophobically modified, pre-neutralized and also made easier to disperse. In personal care, they are found in the majority of skin care and many hair care formulations, as well as pharmaceutical preparations. In fact, a 2007 study showed that the skin and hair care segments used more than 1.8 million pounds of carbomers and acrylate derivatives.1 In 2014, the global skin care market is projected to reach more than US $98 billion,2 and with strong growth forecasted in this market, the use of carbomers will undoubtedly grow. Also, skin care formulations have become increasingly sophisticated with the addition of actives, making the use of novel acrylate-based polymers more essential. Very often, the actives used in personal care contain low levels of electrolytes, which negatively impact the performance and texture provided by traditional acrylate-based polymers. Thus, there is a need for a new generation of acrylate-based polymers that are less sensitive to electrolytes and that provide viscosity, suspension and stability in such challenging systems.

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