Monday, December 16, 2019Ingredient of the month

Polyethylene, a small but sticking bead

© L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

This cosmetic ingredient has been present in many formulations for a long time, and has been acclaimed for its softness on the skin and its low cost as much as for its exfoliating and film-forming properties. But its interesting plastic form has given way to its polluting plastic, especially for marine environments, bringing with it all microplastics. Which are getting more and more bad buzz, and are starting to targeted also by regulations.

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Polyethylene is a thermoplastic resin that is widely used all around the world because it is one of the cheapest and easiest polymers to synthesize.
It is derived from the petrochemical industry and exhibits very high stability, which provides it with a good impact strength and chemical resistance.

There are several types of polyethylene, including LDPE and HDPE homopolymers, and copolymers: LLDPE plastomers, for example.
HDPE is mainly used in stiff goods (detergent or cosmetics jars, bottles, food containers, jerry cans, car tanks, etc.), while LDPE is found in soft goods (plastic bags, films, packets and small bags, flexible containers, etc.).
Polyethylene is also a food additive (E914).

Polyethylene, a cosmetic ingredient

Polyethylene is listed in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients under number CAS 9002-88-4, with three main functions: exfoliating agent, film-forming agent, and viscosity control agent.

It is incorporated in formulas in the form of microbeads between 0.1 and 1 millimetre which offer many advantages for formulators: easily available, cheap, white, and odourless, they are completely inert and do not interfere with the other cosmetic ingredients.

Gentle for the skin

Polyethylene can thus be used for multiple applications and it has long been found in thousands of products …

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