news | 2020-12-13
Cosmetic products gathered on a table.

Case study aims for cosmetics without silicones

Silicones are widely used in cosmetic products such as skin creams, foundations, make-up and hair products. Some of them have shown toxic properties. A case study in Mistra SafeChem is trying to find alternatives with lower health and environmental impact.

Silicones are used in cosmetics to enhance the spreadability, improve the visual appearance of shine and gloss, provide smooth and slippery touch and reduce foam creation. Many different substances are used, both silicone polymers of varying viscosity and cyclic siloxanes that due to their high volatility and quick evaporation are beneficial for providing slip during application without leaving a film.

Substances of very high concern

The risks to human health and the environment potentially caused by siloxanes and silicones are currently under debate. Whilst these chemicals are deemed safe in several parts of the world, such as Australia and Canada, the cyclic siloxanes D4 and D5 have been added to the REACH candidate list of substances of very high concern, due to their persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic properties.

Octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4) is not allowed in cosmetics since 2019 and Decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5) is restricted from January 2020 in EU in rinse-off products. A wider restriction has been drafted, including D4, D5 and D6 (Dodecamethylcyclohexasiloxane), in leave-on personal care products and other consumer and professional products in concentrations over 0.1 percent.

Cooperation with H&M

– The case study within Mistra SafeChem is about finding alternatives to cyclic siloxanes and silicones for use in cosmetic products together with our industry partner H&M. The focus so far has been on mapping the H&M product portfolio of products containing silicones, types of silicone ingredients and used amounts, says Lisa Skedung from RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, who is leading the case study.

The next step is to select which products to focus on in the project, what specific silicones to find replacements for and to define inclusion criteria for alternatives.

The Mistra SafeChem toolbox is useful

The toolbox within Mistra SafeChem will be used to screen both selected silicones and new potential alternatives in terms of human and environmental toxicology, qualitative life cycle mapping and technical performance to avoid regrettable substitution. The aim is to find one or several alternatives with lower health and environmental impact with similar performance as the silicone chemistry used today.

Interested? Contact Lisa Skedung, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.