From Waste to Value: Driving Skin Care Sustainability Claims with Upcycled Ingredients

Interview with Erin Dunn
CP Kelco Global Technical Lead, Consumer Care Research & Development

When we speak of upcycled ingredients in skin care and personal care, what does that encompass? 

There is a variety of food waste that potentially can be utilized, if it can be shown to be of some benefit as an active or functional ingredient. For example, our KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber is upcycled from citrus peels, an abundant byproduct of the juice industry. It really is a workhorse ingredient that can help skin care formulators develop a range of SENSational textures while providing excellent stability. It can also take the place of synthetic or natural emulsifiers, while enabling the inclusion of a high level of oils.

What is the consumer perception of skin care products that claim to be sustainable or upcycled?

We know that consumers across the globe have a great interest in buying products that are “good for you” and “good for the planet.” However, it is easy to be confused and overwhelmed by all the different “green,” “natural” and other sustainability claims. For example, the European Union states that half of all such product labels offer weak verification, so it has issued a greenwashing directive to help ensure claims are clarified. Upcycling is a simpler concept to grasp; waste is diverted. Materials are given new purpose and, together, we can help lessen food waste. Now that is a great sustainability story!

Speaking of great sustainability stories, can you tell us more about KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber?

We are proud to be recognized as the first Upcycled Certified® citrus fiber ingredient in the industry. It was important to us to verify our commitment to upcycling and a near-wasteless lifecycle for KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber. We actively pursued third-party certification with the Upcycled Food Association, an independent nonprofit, to ensure transparency and credibility. To receive this certification, upcycled ingredients must meet a rigorous threshold of at least 95% upcycled input by weight. In addition, verifiable documentation is required that food waste is being diverted from a waste stream.   

We believe in a circular economy that challenges the linear, take-make-waste model. KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber utilizes a closed loop approach. Leftover materials from the production process are repurposed into animal feed for over 30,000 animals per year and fertilizer to grow crops and orchards near our facilities in Brazil.

CPKelco citrus fiber450

How can you influence more transparent label and sensory properties when replacing synthetics in general?  

We understand that manufacturers are looking to reduce their environmental footprint and want transparency, especially since suppliers affect much of their product’s impact. We provide our customers with a life cycle assessment as a method for identifying the environmental impact of our product and process so they can see for themselves. As far as replacing synthetics, we believe we can help you achieve your product goals and develop a specific sensory profile – everything from silky thin serums to gels to luxe creams. We also have options to support vegan, ECOCERT® and COSMOS® certification claims. 

There are some concerns in the industry about emulsifiers, but how can KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber provide a stable emulsion if it is not an emulsifier? 

Yes, some common concerns about emulsifiers include disrupting skin’s natural pH levels, causing dryness and diminishing the protective barrier. KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber contributes to a stable emulsion by providing viscosity to the water phase. Some emulsifiers are more efficient thickeners than others, some work in limited pH range or require heat, and each contributes a unique feel or texture. These factors all play a role in deciding which alternative ingredient to incorporate into your formulation. 

Can synthetic emulsifiers be replaced 1:1 with KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber?  

This really depends on your specific system and the rest of your formulation. For instance, if you are trying to replace waxy emulsifiers (such as PEG-100 Stearate), you may need to include a waxy component in your oil phase to maintain the same feel. Each stabilization mechanism is completely different and should be assessed individually. 

How can a formulator achieve different textures with KELCOSENS™ Citrus Fiber?

It plays well with other ingredients, so it is easy to create anything from a silky serum to a body lotion with a perceivable fresh feel on the skin to a light face cream with good pick up – or perhaps even powder applications. We are exploring the use of citrus fiber in dry shampoo and color cosmetics to provide formulas with enhanced consumer desirability. With our citrus fiber, use level is tunable. It can be adjusted to match your needs, pH level and oil content.

CP Kelco is a nature-based ingredient solutions company with approximately 90 years of experience working with manufacturers worldwide. We apply ingredient innovation and problem-solving to develop customized solutions that leverage our regional insights and meet manufacturers’ goals to address consumer needs and preferences. Key product lines include gellan gum, pectin, xanthan gum, carrageenan, diutan gum, fermentation-derived cellulose and our new Upcycled Certified® KELCOSENSTM Citrus Fiber. Learn more at


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