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Cosmetics Ingredients
The material selection platform
Cosmetics Ingredients

Formulating for Sensitive Skin

Belinda Carli – Feb 6, 2019

TAGS:  Skin Care      Anti-inflammatories    

Formulating for Sensitive SkinIt is a company responsibility to ensure cosmetic products entered into the personal care market are safe when used as directed. But, when as much as 50% of female skin care users self-diagnose themselves as having ‘sensitive skin’, how do you not only ensure your product will be mild on the skin/hair but high performing.

Also, how do you not ensure additional care for those with truly sensitive skin or easily reactive skin types?

Before we look at some specific materials to reduce potential irritancy, let's look at how you can improve mildness in various cosmetic formulation types.

Make it Mild: Formulation Basics

The following should form the basis of your formulation principles and then include additional mildness and anti-irritant actives.

  • Start with a skin friendly pH - the pH of the product should be around the pH of the skin (5.5). Highly acidic (alpha-hydroxy acid products; pH of around 3.5) and highly alkaline (traditional soaps; pH of around 9.5) should not be marketed to people with skin sensitivities. This also means care when formulating male shaving foams using potassium or sodium hydroxide as they will, by the way they are created, have a pH above 9 which can be irritating.

  • Include high levels of lipidsoils and emollient lipids form a layer on the top of the skin to stop trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). And by capturing moisture levels within the skin, conditioning the surface of the skin and providing a barrier to moisture loss, products with a high lipid base content can help reduce irritation reactions. Barrier creams, for example, which have a high lipid content, can be applied to skin before exposure to harsh chemicals, providing moisture protection and decreased chemical penetration.
Formulating Mild Cosmetics

  • Re-hydrate the skinhumectants can hold water within the skin and also attract moisture from the surrounding atmosphere; helping it to stay plump, moist, and resist dehydration.

  • Clean with combinations – if you’re looking to create a foaming cleanser, use a combination of surfactants to ensure an effective yet mild clean. Not only does combining anionic, amphoteric and non-ionic surfactants boost the foaming and cleaning capacity of a surfactant product, but the addition of amphoteric surfactants and non-ionic surfactants and superfatting agents can also greatly reduce the irritancy profile of the anionic component. Adding pearlescing agents is a great way to provide a perception of mildness too. 

  • Clean with cremes – crème cleansers can also be a gentle cleansing option. Using very high HLB non-ionic emulsifiers to create the structure of the product with a small input of anionic emulsifier not only helps create an effective cleansing agent but also imparts a perception of mildness from a crème form. 

  • Balance your emulsions – waxy non-ionic emulsifiers not only help boost a creamy viscosity in your emulsions but also support that protective layer against TEWL and improve mildness in the formulation. You can use a small input of anionic emulsifiers for stability purposes, but ensuring there is a far higher input of non-ionic emulsifiers will dramatically boost the mildness of any emulsion you create.

Sensitive Skin Actives

While allantoin and bisabolol are used as industry ‘standards’ in sensitive skin care products, they are now a host of other actives with proven efficacy. Here are just a few of the latest launches we’ve seen in this space:

There are also many, many other herbal extract based products that can help reduce sensitivities, boost moisture and moisture protection and condition the skin. These can be great companions to high-end actives to boost your marketing claims, product performance and help make your product unique. Try a search – there will be something particularly suited to your next development! 

Sensitive About Claims…

Now you know how to create mild skin care and products specifically targeted for sensitive skin, you need to know one more thing: careful with your claims! While suppliers of raw materials can show you efficacy data for their actives with claims about reducing sensitivity and irritation, and showing the reduction in the skin’s inflammatory response, just remember that is permitted in marketing materials to Chemists, but not to the final consumer.

Remember that cosmetics are defined as products to be applied to external, unbroken skin to help maintain it, keep it clean and improve its appearance, they must not make claims that suggest:

  • An anti-inflammatory reaction – inflammation is a physiological response so cosmetics cannot claim to have a physiological activity against this response
  • Suitability on broken skin – only medical products should be used on broken or damaged skin tissue
  • They can be used for healing – to suggest a healing benefit would be to suggest a physiological/therapeutic activity
  • Suitability for named, irritated skin conditions – cosmetic products must not claim suitability to use on eczema, dermatitis, nappy rash or other diagnosable skin condition
  • Soothing in the sense of relief or anti-irritation – these are again physiological/therapeutic type claims

Claims for Sensitive SkinAny claims made must be about moisturizing, hydrating and maintaining the skin in good condition. Where supported by evidence or functionality, claims can be made about:

  • Suitable for sensitive skin types
  • Soothing as in cooling or conditioning in a sensory way
  • Providing a gentle clean on dry skin
  • Hydrating dry skin
  • Reducing the appearance of redness
  • Providing a barrier to TEWL 
  • Improving suppleness 

Keeping Consumers Calm

Combining sensitive skin formulation principles with key actives with in vivo efficacy data and extracts to build your unique point of difference is the best way to keep your consumers calm… and happy! Remember to keep your claims compliant to keep regulators calm too. Consumers with sensitive skin will know what works best for them and be brand loyal where their skin is kept calm.

Happy formulating!

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