Current global supply chain shortages have impacted all industries, and the personal care industry has not been exempted. The formulator is now often faced with identifying an appropriate alternative for an unavailable ingredient, usually within a short timeframe and often with a degree of urgency so as to avoid disruption in product supply. Under these circumstances, options must be considered, not just based on INCI name similarity, but on a comparison of chemical and physical properties, the manufacturer’s description and, importantly, the performance of the alternate in the product.
INCI name similarity can sometimes be misleading since ingredients that share INCI names can have additional components that are not included in the name. This can be the result of differences in how products are manufactured or even simple differences within a supplier’s own portfolio, such as active content. Additionally, if the customer has specific criteria that must be met, such as palm-free, organic etc., those are other factors that must be taken into account. If there is an imperative to maintain the ingredient listing, that will also need to be factored into the decision-making process.
When attempting to identify substitutes, some chemical classes can present more of a challenge than others, e.g., quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats), widely used as conditioning agents. Can one conditioning quat effectively replace another while still maintaining the conditioning efficacy of the product? For example, is behentrimonium chloride an acceptable substitute for behentrimonium methosulfate, or vice versa? It is known that increasing the length of the alkyl chain of a monoalkyl quat makes it more hydrophobic and increasing the number of alkyl chains increases deposition. Tricetylmonium chloride will have greater deposition than dicetyldimonium chloride, which in turn will deposit more than the monocetyl quat1.
Blends can be particularly challenging. The formulator might be tempted to reconstruct a composition by adding the individual components, which might require repetitive trials, and which may or may not yield the desired results. This is true of simple two-component blends and even more so for multi-component systems such as surfactant blends or an amino acid cocktail, like Prodew 500.
Identifying a suitable raw material replacement on an accelerated timeline can be a daunting task but can be successfully accomplished through diligent research, a thorough knowledge of the raw materials being evaluated and a firm resolve.
1Andre O. Barel, Marc Paye, Howard I.Maibach. Conditioner Properties and Hydrophobicity. Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology: Fourth Edition: p. 564
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