Jacks of all trades: How multifunctional ingredients are saving time and money

By Julia Wray | Published: 25-Feb-2021

With brands desiring streamlined INCI lists, formulators looking for speedy, easy-to-use options and everyone hoping to save a dollar or two, multifunctional ingredients have never been hotter

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Multifunctional, or multitasking ingredients – by definition, one ingredient that combines two, three or even four key formulation needs – are helping beauty brands pare down products’ ingredients lists at a moment in time where financial pressures are intersecting with consumer desire for transparency and greater focus than ever on the ‘back of the box’.

“A multifunctional ingredient has, as the name implies, more than one purpose in a cosmetic formula and some can offer a number of benefits to skin, hair or both,” a leading independent formulator tells Cosmetics Business, under condition of anonymity.

“For example, in a formula, some fragrance materials can also act as a preservative, certain emulsifiers perform as stabilisers and also thickeners.

“As actives, certain individual ingredients cover a range of benefits, such as wrinkle reduction, radiance, firmness and lifting, all from one ingredient.”

Interestingly, while the global cosmetics industry’s hesitation to veer away from materials outside of China’s Inventory of Existing Cosmetic Ingredients has been blamed for stymying innovation, it has, says the formulator, encouraged greater exploration of tried and tested ingredients, leading to the revelation of heretofore undiscovered secondary properties.

“The desire for China-compliant efficacious ingredients has led to more efficacy testing on well-known and established materials that has resulted in finding that many of these are actually multifunctional.”

Fabrice Lefevre, Marketing & Innovation Director for Active Beauty at supplier Givaudan, describes multifunctionality as a “competitive criterion in our industry”.

“It responds to brands’ demand for rationalisation of the cost of formula and optimisation of the number of ingredients to fit the ‘clean’ beauty, transparency and less-is- more trends,” he says.

As well as enabling a ‘light’ INCI, “it is also a way for these brands to rationalise their portfolio of raw materials”, Lefevre adds.

Another benefit is that “beauty and personal care formulations can be complex and often unpredictable in terms of critical parameters like viscosity or stability”, Lisa Gandolfi, Director Of Marketing at Inolex, tells Cosmetics Business. “Fewer ingredients can make new formulation design easier from a compatibility point of view.”

She also notes: “Commercially speaking, multi-benefit ingredients provide a more favourable cost-benefit ratio.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from UK ingredients distributor Alfa Chemicals further observes that multifunctionals also facilitate easy processing, time saving benefits and cost effectiveness for formulators, while requiring less coding adding to the system – a benefit in any industry!

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