Liquid polyurethane film formers are a powerful alternative for the production of more sustainable cosmetics

The trend towards increased environmental protection and sustainability has long been present in the cosmetics sector. Nowadays, consumers expect cosmetics that are both safe to use and have a reduced impact on the environment. 

One term in particular has recently fallen into disrepute: Microplastics. This refers to solid polymer particles that are used in many cosmetic and hygiene products to improve their performance. These non-soluble particles are considered difficult in terms of biodegradability and can thus have a negative impact on the environment.

More sustainable alternatives to microplastics are therefore urgently needed. More and more cosmetics manufacturers are turning to biodegradable polymers to meet the dual demands of performance and increased sustainability for their products. But there are also still major reservations and a lack of knowledge about the biodegradability of polymers.

Not all polymers are microplastics

The fact that microplastics are always polymers often leads to the opposite conclusion: All polymers are microplastics and must therefore be classified as harmful to the environment. But is that really the case? The answer is: No! Because besides polymers in solid form, there are also polymers in liquid form. 

There are also differences in the environmental compatibility of liquid polymers: Some are not biodegradable whereas some are, including liquid polyurethanes (PU) from the Baycusan® product family by Covestro. This makes them an interesting alternative for more sustainable cosmetics, both from a manufacturer’s and a consumer’s perspective.

For most cosmetics manufacturers, doing without polymers altogether is hardly an option. After all, their customers not only want more sustainable products, but also high-performance ones. Baycusan® makes an important contribution here with high-performance formulations. This includes polymers such as polyurethane that form a thin and elastic film and protect hair from moisture and heat or ensure water resistance in make-up formulations.

It all depends on the chemical structure

From an environmental point of view, however, the decisive moment comes after application. This is because the ingredients of hair styling and other cosmetic products end up with the wastewater in a sewage treatment plant or, in some cases, directly in the natural water cycle. There, liquid polyurethanes bring considerable advantages compared to microplastics: Thanks to their composition, they are ultimately biodegraded in the water by microorganisms to carbon dioxide, water and mineral salts. 

The advantage is clear: While microplastics and some liquid polymers accumulate as waste in the oceans, liquid polyurethanes decompose and re-enter the biological cycle. For example, some of the PU film formers from the Baycusan® product family achieve average biodegradability rates of up to 82 percent within 28 days according to the OECD 301 standard for easy biodegradability.

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Baycusan®: polyurethanes for biodegradable and high-performance formulations

It is not surprising that the cosmetics industry is increasingly using biodegradable liquid polymers such as polyurethanes for hair styling products, in make-up or in sun protection products. After all, the substances combine two properties that until now seemed contradictory to many in the industry: improved sustainability and high performance.

Hair care products with Baycusan® C 1001 (INCI: Polyurethane-34), Baycusan® C 1008, (INCI: Polyurethane-48), and Baycusan® eco E 1000 (INCI: Polyurethane-93) achieve curl definition and anti-frizz. The biodegradable polymers leave no residue, are non-sticky and vary in hold from light to strong. For skin care and sun protection as well as make-up products, Baycusan® C 1000 (INCI: Polyurethane-34) ensures water resistance and active ingredient boosting. 

Biodegradable liquid polymers offer cosmetic manufacturers the opportunity to meet growing consumer demand for more sustainable products without compromising on performance. High-performance and biodegradable cosmetic products for the future!

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