Article by: Perry Romanowski

Here’s an interesting trend that will affect cosmetic chemists and formulators in the future. More and more, natural ingredients are replacing standard cosmetic raw materials. What will this mean?

Cosmetic reformulation

Cosmetic chemists will no doubt have to reformulate almost all the products that they have. Anything that contains a petroleum derivative will have to be re-worked to contain only plant and sustainable ingredients. This might seem like a lot of trouble but it is good news for formulators because it gives you some new opportunities to create new formulations.

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a cosmetic chemist is that you make very few changes to formulas. In truth, a company doesn’t want to stray too far from their existing formulations because using new raw materials requires more warehouse storage, raw material ingredient costs will increase because you are not buying in bulk as much and the stability and performance is less well known.

There are forces that work against creating truly new and innovative formulations.

Good for raw material suppliers

Raw material suppliers will also like this trend because they can more easily get chemists to start using new raw materials. One of the biggest challenges raw material suppliers face is that chemists do not like to use new raw materials. The reason is that they are unproven and almost always more expensive. Now, raw material companies will be able to sell new raw materials that are more profitable.
On the other hand, there are some problems with this new trend.

Not all positive

The biggest problem is that substitution of raw materials with new ones will not likely lead to improved products. In fact, it will probably lead to products that don’t work as well. It used to be that a cosmetic chemist would switch out a raw material for some performance reason. They discover that some raw material works better than their current so they make the switch. But with this trend, cosmetic chemists are switching out raw materials for a non-performance based reason. Naturally, performance will likely suffer.

But perhaps the worst aspect of this trend is that consumers will have to pay more money for formulations that do not work as well. They are the losers in this trend.

Although, one could argue that consumers are not paying enough for their cosmetics right now. They are not covering the cost that cosmetic use has on the environment and they should. So, perhaps the fact that consumers pay more for better sustainable products is overall a good thing. I’m just not sure consumers will agree with it.

Do you?


  1. Avatar
    Amanda Vickers

    This sentence… “They are not covering the cost that cosmetic use has on the environment and they should.”

    Yes. I agree! 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Robert Zonis

    Just a note of caution – as we start to replace the more common oils and solvents with natural products, we will need to be aware of at least two of the unintended (and unwelcome) consequences:
    1) Cost and availability – Demand for these products will start to grow, for some ingredients by quite a bit. D-limonene and jojoba oil are examples of this. Shortages and substantial price increases will result, especially since natural products can take a long, long time to ramp up production. There will also be an increased vulnerability to shortages and price hikes due to nature – too much or too little rain, disease, etc. and due to man – political disruptions, strikes, etc. We need to remember the lesson learned from turning 25% of the worlds corn supply into biofuel – corn prices went way up.
    2) Quality and consistency – natural products invariably change in quality from year to year – that’s why wines have vintages. It will no longer be enough to formulate a product in the lab and be certain that the identical product will consistently come out of production month after month, year after year. Our product(s) may be different each time we use a new lot of a raw material. At the very least, much more attention will need to be paid to raw material specifications.

  3. Avatar

    I’m all for sustainability. As a scientist and a consumer I think we always ought to preserve good manufacturing practices. For me that includes the impact on the environment by also on the (human) resources we use in the making of cosmetics. For me combining (life) science, environmental and people friendly (fairtrade) materials is very important. Is up to us, the scientist, to improve the formulations when using biobased raw materials and their performance. I accept a challenge, do you? 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.