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Fluid Gels Based On Natural Polymers For Cosmetic Applications

Contact Author Peter A. Williams and Martina Hickey, Centre for Water Soluble Polymers; and David Mitchell, Chesham Chemicals Ltd.
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Water-soluble polymers are widely used as thickeners and gelling agents in a broad range of cosmetic and personal care products today. Examples include shampoos and conditioners, hair and body gels, skin creams, liquid and cream foundations, toothpaste, sunscreen lotions and sprays. Numerous polymers are available commercially and these include both natural and synthetic polymers.

The natural polymers are mainly polysaccharides and their chemical derivatives. Polysaccharide thickeners include guar gum plus its derivatives (hydroxypropyl-, carboxymethyl- and hydroxypropyltrimonium-), locust bean gum, cellulosics (carboxymethyl-, methyl-, methylhydroxypropyl-, hydroxyethyl-, cationic hydroxyethyl- and others) and xanthan gum. Gelling agents include alginate, carrageenan, pectin and gellan gum.

The synthetic polymers used are largely acrylate-based and may be crosslinked or in alkali-soluble or swellable forms.

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There is an increasing trend, which is driven by environmental concerns and consumer awareness, for the use of natural materials in cosmetic formulations. This article reports on the development of a novel thickening system with unique rheological characteristics and natural ingredients. The system consists of a combination of two naturally occurring polymers, namely xanthan gum and konjac mannan. The two polymers interact synergistically and will form “fluid gels” under the appropriate processing conditions.

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