The hidden challenges of green formulation in Asia-Pacific

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Surfactant

Green formulation is becoming increasingly popular in Asia on the back of growing consumer awareness, but designing eco-friendly formulations for this market can throw up additional challenges.

As Judi Beerling, technical director at Organic Monitor, formulating for variations in the climate and differences in regulations means that key ingredients including surfactants, as well as emulsifiers and preservatives can make the decision process highly strategic.

“Since many Asian countries have high temperatures, cosmetic products may not always be stored under ideal conditions, and thus “milder”, green preservatives sometimes face greater performance and stability challenges,”​ said Beerling.

Besides climatic conditions, Beerling also points out that because many Asian countries follow European cosmetics regulations, there is a gray area particular to ‘natural preservatives, because such ingredients are not registered in the EU Annex.

Differences in regulations throw up more challenges

 “Other countries will not have so many restrictions, so the whole area of claims about how the product is preserved may mean making something that can be marketed as pan-Asian more difficult,”​ she explained.

Distribution and availability of green ingredients can also add to the problems, with Beerling pointing to the fact that as many alternative preservatives are coming from the US or Europe, the small quantities that are shipped into Asia then become very expensive.

Likewise, this also makes it more difficult for Asian brands that target the lower price category to make the switch to greener formulations or more sustainable raw materials.

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Judi Beerling, techical director, Organic Monitor

Conventional low cost surfactants and emulsifiers prove popular

“My general feeling is that the conventional, low cost often ethoxylated surfactants and emulsifiers, such as sodium laureth sulfate, PEG-100 Stearate, Ceteareth-20, Polysorbates, are still widely used, along with betaines and the greener alkyl polyglucosides,”​ said Beerling

Although the trend for greener formulations in the region has been largely driven by the same sort of forces as in other markets, Beerling does also point out that one significant difference specific to the region is that of safety.

“The high number of incidents of adulterated foods and consumer products, such as the melamime scandal, has led consumers to scrutinise product compositions,”​ she said.

“They are turning to natural & organic cosmetics as they want to avoid potentially harmful synthetic chemicals. Western brands are favoured because there is higher confidence in such products, which gives a low likelihood of possible adulteration.”

Judi Beerling will give a will give a workshop on 'Formulating Using Green Preservatives / Emulsifieres and Surfactants' at the Sustainable​ Cosmetics Summit, to be held in Hong Kong, November 12 – 13. http://www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com/Asia/index.htm

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