When it comes to chemical products and the public, the cosmetics industry has gotten a lot of attention (ranging from recent online databases providing information on cosmetic ingredients or state and national legislation directed specifically towards cosmetics). In response to this attention and call for safer, greener product components, the industry and partners have innovated—in the 20 years of the U.S. EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (PGCCA), cosmetics and personal care industries have entered more than a dozen applications for their greener formulations.
When identifying opportunities for greener alternatives, regardless of industry, the goal is always to reduce impact without changing the product and cost. Whether it’s a large company, small business, or academic entrant, this goal is also the foundation of the annual PGCCA competition. The following are some of the green innovations that illustrate how chemistry can green your daily life and the upstream processes that provide your everyday products:
- Richard Gross, a professor at University of Massachusetts at Lowell and David Kaplan, a professor at Tufts University, collaboratively created a new family of bioemulsifiers (which are used to stabilize various cosmetic products). Not only did they replace the traditional technology with one that was derived from renewable resources, the materials are also biodegradeable and achieved unprecedented control over particular polymerizations.
- The Argonne National Laboratory at the US Department of Energy developed a technology removed the need for both solvents and high-or-low temperature resins in the production of some pressure-sensitive adhesives (which are used in a wide range of cosmetics and other personal products to achieve particular textures).
- Eastman Chemical Co won an award for developing a biocatalytic process to produce emollient (skin softening) esters for use in cosmetic products. Overall, this innovation has allowed Eastman to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the production of these materials by over 50%. Some of the esters are even biobased. The process uses enzymes, which has allowed for an elimination of high temperatures, strong acids, and by-products compared to the traditional technology.
These are just some of the examples of cosmetic innovations that have been put forward in the past two decades, not only delivering as good or superior products, but ensuring increased consumer safety and supply-chain sustainability.
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