A Comprehensive Approach to Replacing DEA in Formulations


Once California added diethanolamine to the list of regulated chemicals in personal care formulations under Proposition 65, chemists began seeking surfactants that were DEA free yet still provided the many benefits that made cocamide DEA so common and effective. But according to Lubrizol’s Shannon Smith Butz and Timothy Roach, any decision to replace coconut oil diethanolamine condensate (cocamide diethanolamine) and diethanolamine (DEA) should be based on deep knowledge and a clear direction.

Q: Quickly summarize the rise and fall of DEA in personal care?
A: Broadly used in cleansing products, cosmetics and toiletries, cocamide DEA is primarily a thickening agent, but also serves as an effective foam builder and foam stabilizer. It is a common, economical way to build viscosity and obtain good flow and foam in finished products. When California added coconut oil diethanolamine condensate (cocamide diethanolamine) and diethanolamine (DEA) to the California Proposition 65 (1986) list of chemicals known to cause cancer, the listing caught almost no one by surprise, especially those in personal care. DEA (and some other amides) were already out of favor in other areas such as Europe. Chemists sought, and will continue to seek, products that deliver the benefits these surfactants offer to formulations, while not containing the offending DEA.

Q: Are drop-in replacements possible?
A: One of the problems with replacing cocamide DEA is that it is a multifunctional ingredient. It not only helps build viscosity, but also helps stabilize foam, can build flash foam and helps with things like grease cutting and fragrance solubilization. So when it is removed, it can be difficult to just drop in a replacement.

Take, for example, the formulator who believes that his or her amide is only building viscosity. When they start to work with their formula to replace it, they may suddenly find that they are having other challenges that they weren’t expecting. Testing will need to be conducted to see whether the one replacement ingredient chosen will take care of all of the issues.

Q: How long has the industry sought DEA replacements?
A: DEA has been a mild to heavy concern for quite some time. As far back as the 1990s, some Lubrizol customers were asking “to get away from cocamide DEA.” At least 15 years ago, Lubrizol Advanced Materials was already working on different solutions to replace cocamide DEA. Today, because of that early start, we have a number of different solutions--different replacement strategies that we can use for replacing the cocamide DEA.

Q: Can DEA be replaced with a non-DEA amide?
A: The formulator can replace cocamide DEA with a non-DEA amide. Lubrizol is still making an amide with lauric acid or coconut oil, but instead of using DEA as our amine, we’re using monoisopropanolamine (MIPA). We have a lauramide MIPA (Amidex™ LIPA surfactant) and a cocamide MIPA (Amidex™ CIPA surfactant). There are no DEA byproducts or DEA carryovers in either of those products, so not only  is cocamide DEA removed from the ingredient list, but the chance of having free DEA in the formulation is elliminated. The formulator also achieves good viscosity building with these amides. They can actually use about half the amount of these products as they would cocamide DEA to build approximately the same viscosity.

Q: Can you substitute cocamide DEA with another type of surfactant?
A: Lubrizol also suggests replacing cocamide DEA with another type of nonionic surfactant. There are two: a PEG-3 glyceryl cocoate (Chemonic™ LI-3 Surfactant) and a PEG-7 glyceryl soyate (Chemonic™ LI-7 Surfactant). Both build viscosity nicely and can also give the foam nice lubricity (that desirable cushion in the foam that you get from the cocamide DEA). These are multifunctional ingredients.

Q: Can you replace cocamide DEA with a surfactant blend?
A: Lubrizol Advanced Materials has another amide replacement: a blend called Chemory™ LB-30. It has oleyl betaine and sodium lauroyl lactylate in it, which gives a nice skin feel as it builds viscosity similar to cocamide DEA.

Q: Is there a new and natural solution to cocamide DEA?
A: This new solution is particularly interesting because it is ethoxylate-free as well as being amide-free. Glucamate™ CCO Thickener (INCI: Methyl Glucose Caprate/Caprylate/Oleate (and) Propanediol) is an efficient viscosity booster that is ideal for those desiring formulations with a high level of bio-based content.

Q: How do chemists make better DEA replacement decisions?
A: Rather than beginning the process of finding new ingredients, we suggest that chemists work with a Lubrizol technical service partner that will help them find the solution that is right for what they are trying achieve in their formula.

All formulations vary, and even when there are subtle differences, they behave quite differently. When Lubrizol speaks with its customers, we’re most interested in trying to understand what they are specifically getting from the cocamide DEA. What’s the benefit? If it is foam, then we would maybe talk to them about one solution. If it is viscosity, we would talk to them about another. If it is a sensory component, or a natural content component, we have other solutions to offer.

Q: Is it always good to get good advice?
A: We do have starting formulations with most Lubrizol DEA-replacement solutions to help customers get started with their amide-free formulations. We also offer guidance. For instance, if a formulator is using a different amide replacement like the aforementioned Amidex LIPA and CIPA, they might have to boost their betaine a bit to get a richer foam or bigger bubbles. And they may have to warm the DEA replacement solution, where cocamide can generally be mixed in at RT. Chemists will be best served not by a materials company that wants to sell new ingredients, but by a company that wants to help customers build their formulations.

Q: What should someone do if interested?
A: For product details, more information, samples and starting formulations visit www.lubrizol.com or www.facebook.com/LubrizolPersonalCareTrends or follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LZPersonalCare.

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