Bio-based ingredients increasingly represent a driving force in the cosmetics sector, engaging companies and consumers in a race towards sustainability, which represents enormous economic value.
The focus put forward by the supply chain in replacing ingredients with a high environmental impact – be it a result of polluting processes or high energy consumption – represents both a challenge for companies and a need for consumers, increasingly oriented towards the “green” and natural world and with a strong interest in brands that are committed to the sustainability of production cycles.
What are bio-based ingredients and what are they?
The most interesting bio-based ingredients are the raw materials of plant origin such as vitamins and their derivatives, functional active ingredients such as peptides and skin structural components such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides for the barrier function. Their production must take place with methods that reduce the “carbon footprint” which means reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production by a cosmetic organization. A further push in this direction is also represented for companies by the restrictions of the Cosmetic Regulation which in recent years have led to a continuous updating of the annexes with the aim of protecting the health and safety of consumers. Therefore, the list of prohibited or permitted ingredients up to a maximum percentage in cosmetic formulations becomes ever longer and more structured.
From a regulatory point of view, there is no Community discipline for bio-based ingredients but there are a number of Bodies that issue distinctive labels for cosmetics that comply with their own guidelines. This certainly represents the guarantee of a control system for consumers, but it does not resolve the diversity linked to the presence of different specifications and therefore of different acceptance criteria of conformity.
The advantages and disadvantages for the environment
Added to this search for the bio-based in order to replace the synthetic, there is the desire for biodegradability of the ingredients for a range of consumers, especially the very young, that have a raised awareness on issues related to environmental impact.
There are however some problems related to the use of these ingredients: the first concern is the cost, which makes these products less competitive on the market, and which is often linked to the more complex production method, such as fractional distillation or cold pressing for raw materials of vegetable origin.
The expiration of these products is, as easy to predict, reduced compared to “traditional” cosmetics, even if this aspect can be converted into an advantage in the perspective of a sustainable and conscious consumption of cosmetics and therefore in a possibility of reducing product waste. The formulation aspect is more complex because replacing an ingredient of petrochemical origin with a bio-based alternative often translates to a loss of texture and pleasantness of the product. Therefore the “adaptation” of a cosmetic to a “green” formula requires an effort in terms of research and development which obviously also influences the final cost of the product to the consumer.
The benefits for the body in the use of bio-based cosmetics
On the other hand, the most perceived benefit by consumers is the reduction of occlusive effects on the skin traditionally caused by ingredients of petrochemical origin.
Moreover, the plant-based ingredients are perceived by consumers as “safer” for the skin – even if the safety of cosmetics is a legal requirement and the use of vegetable ingredients exposes to a potential increase in contact with allergens – and more suitable for sensitive and delicate skin types.
In a cosmetics increasingly oriented towards protecting the skin from pollutants and respecting the environment, vitamins, plant extracts such as Aloe, peptides of vegetal origin and essential oils are the key bio-based ingredients for the future of cosmetic industry.