Hair care manufacturers who wish to create products without silicones must find effective and innovative ingredients that provide a sensorial profile close to silicone, while keeping performance and cost in mind. Silicones are synthetic polymers made up of repeating units of siloxane, which is a chain of alternating silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, frequently combined with carbon and/or hydrogen. High molecular weight silicone grades and silicone derivatives are usually included in hair care formulations for conditioning and shine effects.
Over the years, ingredients such as silicones have been revered as excellent conditioners that improve both wet and dry combing, but consumers are increasingly influenced and educated through social media, and are more aware and concerned with the impact the products they buy have on their health and the environment. As such, there is an unwavering push toward personal care products based on alternative ingredients.
By the 1980s, silicones had become a mainstay for hair conditioning benefits. In January 2009, the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency concluded that siloxanes D4 and D5 are not a concern for human health but deemed them harmful for the environment (David Suzuki).
As consumer concerns grew, silicone substitutes started to gain momentum in the shampoo category, growing 47% for North American shampoo launches from January 2012 to September 2016 (Mintel’s Global New Products Database).
There is also growing concern in Asia over the use of silicone-containing hair products. Asian consumers’ hair is generally straight, stiff and strong, and these consumers typically look for products that will give their hair a silkier texture or provide additional softness. Silicone has historically been the solution, providing smoothness and a silky/shiny appearance. However, reports of the negative effects of silicone on the scalp started to get traction a few years ago, and Japan quickly developed a silicone-replacement segment. This is also seen in South Korea with many launches now touting a silicone-alternative solution.
BASF Care Creations has identified the need for replacement options to silicone on the market, and currently offers several products that meet this requirement. The latest in its growing portfolio is Plantasil® 4V, an economical, tailor-made compound for a strong hair-conditioning effect in shampoos. It provides a significant improvement in wet-combing and sensorial performance on different hair types equivalent to those of silicone-containing benchmarks. Even with higher levels of hair damage, Plantasil 4V significantly reduces combing force. These effective properties are also demonstrated with low surfactant levels.
When it comes to formulation, BASF’s new ingredient shows clear benefits: It is easy to use in cold processes and compatible with all relevant conditioning polymers. The new compound also offers the clear solubilization of oils in surfactant bases, andhas less impact on foam and no stabilization issues, compared with other hair care additives.
As for the future of silicone, you can expect to see the choices for silicone to evolve with more consumers looking for other conditioning solutions.