As consumers continue to demand more natural options for cosmetic and personal beauty care products, the sun care product category is a space where the popularity of natural and biodegradable options is on the rise. As reported by the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of seventy, and one of the greatest risk factors for developing skin cancer is repeat sun exposure without adequate sun protection through the regular application of sun screen products rated SPF 15 or above.
The need for effective sun care options for consumers intersects with the demand for product options formulated with natural ingredients, and the responsibility to research, formulate, develop, and launch these products lies with personal care product manufacturers. Global chemical and ingredients distributor, Univar Solutions, is one organization working in tandem with formulators to make these product options possible through ingredient innovation and development.
To learn more about the benefits of formulating products with effective naturally derived and biodegradable ingredients for manufacturers and suppliers, how Univar Solutions’ is working to address the challenges of product formulation with natural ingredients, and how the company is researching and developing ingredients that solve these challenges, we spoke to Arnita Wofford, Marketing and Technical Director, Beauty and Personal Care at Univar Solutions for her insights.
The need for natural and biodegradable ingredients in sun care products
One of the reasons that mineral-based sun screens or sun protection products with naturally-derived ingredients are growing in popularity with consumers is that “mineral sunscreens can be great for anyone with sensitive skin or children,” said Wofford. While “chemical filters remain a staple in sunscreen formulations,” she added, “the popularity of mineral-based sunscreens is a formulation opportunity to create high-performance hybrid formulations” for consumer use.
Formulating sun care and sun screen products with naturally-derived and biodegradable ingredients is currently “one of the most exciting innovation spaces for PBC,” she shared, and “every year, manufacturers create better biodegradable and naturally derived ingredients delivering improved sensorial profiles for sunscreens.” For manufacturers to do so successfully, “understanding the benefits that each ingredient brings to the skin and how they affect the texture and stability of the formulation is key,” she said.
Further, she added, “this space is evolving because we are pulling inspiration from adjacent industries like food, coatings, and biotech.” To best address the needs of manufacturers formulating new sun care products for consumers, Univar Solutions is working on research and development in different ingredient areas.
When addressing its research and development process for naturally derived or biodegradable ingredients for sun screen and sun care product formulators, it is important for manufacturers to “consider all natural ingredients (or nature-derived) are not all biodegradable (mineral filters such as titanium dioxide (TiO²), ZnO (zinc oxide), or wood derivatives are surprisingly not biodegradable because they take longer than 28 days to decompose),” she explained. With the understanding that “a universal answer is impossible” for product formulation in this space, coupled with the fact that “regulatory differences across the regions add another layer of complexity,” Univar Solutions has devoted time and resources to developing ingredient innovations for manufacturers.
Challenges to ingredient innovation
There are pressing challenges for manufacturers seeking naturally derived ingredients for sun screen and sun care that Univar Solutions are working to solve. For example, said Wofford, “it is tricky to formulate mineral filters into a stable and desirable texture that leaves no white cast, and there is an opportunity for manufacturers to design these filters with improved coatings that aid formulation.”
Further, she added, “the main challenge with naturally derived/biodegradable ingredients is finding easy to use offers at more affordable prices, and some of the first natural emulsifiers were not intuitive and did not create great textures.” Ultimately, she explained, “using any ingredient can be a challenge” for manufacturers unfamiliar with or unsure of how to use them in product formulation.
For example, she illustrated, “some natural/naturally derived products do require a different approach—longer mixing times, understanding of emulsion formation and stability, and that can be daunting for formulators” to work with when designing and testing new products, particularly sun screen or sun care products. Therefore, when approaching new product formulations, “manufacturers may want to think about combining ease of use and performance when developing new ingredients, irrespective of their origin.”
Those manufacturers seeking to utilize the potential of naturally derived or biodegradable options for sun care or sun screen products are also aware that while “natural ingredients can bring new benefits to formulations, no brand wants to sacrifice performance for the sake of origin,” she said. Univar Solutions has subsequently honed its focus on developing solutions in this area for manufacturer utilization in new product formulations.
Effective ingredient solutions for formulation
To address the needs of manufacturers, the Univar Solutions team “surveyed our main sun care customers in each region on what were their main pain points with sun care formulations were,” said Wofford. From there, “navigating the different customer blacklists allowed us to propose an array of solutions,” Wofford explained.
These solutions included adapting “an existing SPF method for powders, screening different solvents to add powder on the helio plate and then adapting the powder quantity to have accurate SPF values and are also studying how to enhance the SPF values by adding SPF boosters (film formers and/or filters dispersing agents),” she shared.
Ultimately, “sunscreens are successful and meet their purpose if the consumer uses them,” she said. As “the number one goal is protection” for consumers, she added, then if “the formulator can create a great texture, meet SPF requirements, and incorporate additional benefits - the formula is a hit.”
Moving forward, she summarized, “there are many natural actives, emollients, and emulsifiers that can enhance the formulation process and cater to consumers with more sensitive skin or that are looking to have a better environmental impact (i.e., biodegradable materials, recycled packaging, etc.).” Univar Solutions is dedicated to further research and development in this space in order to diversify and innovate and afford formulators the options for natural or biodegradable ingredients they need to deliver sun care and sun screen product options to meet (and exceed) consumer expectations for effective protection.