The perfect scrub needs no microplastics

Natural calcium carbonates are the ideal alternative to polyethylene beads in cosmetics and toiletries

With the USA signing the Microbeads-Free Waters Act in December 2015, “prohibition against sale or distribution of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads” will begin in July 2017 for US markets. Replacing these potentially harmful petroleum derivatives with natural ingredients is one of today’s key trends in cosmetics and toiletries. An ideal replacement, natural calcium carbonate is a real all-rounder that is not only sustainable but is also organic and environmentally friendly.


Pure, white and natural: active ingredients from calcium carbonate

Millions of years ago, marine organism skeletons and shells settled on ocean floors, forming rich deposits of calcium carbonate in carbonated sedimentary rocks. Over time, the Earth’s heat and pressure have converted these deposits into naturally white calcium carbonates. These resources, today found in marble, limestone and chalk, have now been developed by Swiss company Omya into a portfolio of ingredients that comply with the most stringent regulatory and quality standards, offering high chemical purity and controlled low microbiology.

Omya has more than 130 years of expertise as a global producer of natural calcium carbonate. Highly sophisticated processes are implemented to develop tailor-made solutions that address the specific needs of the cosmetics and toiletries industries. The company’s Omyacare range consists of different natural calcium carbonate particles that provide multifunctional ingredients for innovative formulations and are active and sustainable alternatives to microplastics. The natural minerals are sustainably produced under clean and controlled manufacturing conditions that have a reduced carbon footprint and generate minimum waste. Omyacare particles comply with recognised natural and organic cosmetic standards, including COSMOS and ECOCERT.


A question of size and form: scrubbing formulations

Skin feel and peeling performance are related to the hardness and morphology of the cleansing particles within a formulation, and various particle structures from 140µm to 400µm satisfy different specific demands. Omyascrub S 20, for example, is designed to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. The bright white particles are easy to incorporate and non-dusting. By altering the amount of ingredients used, the cleansing effect and the consistency of the formulation can be adjusted. After application, particles are simply removed while rinsing the skin, leaving no residues on it. And once washed off, the calcium carbonate simply returns to the natural environment it came from.

Besides polyethylene (PE) microbeads, Omyascrub products can also be used instead of other plant-based abrasives such as apricot kernels, nut shells and bamboo, all of which require extensive thermal treatment before use. Another advantage of calcium carbonate is that its millions of years’ worth of natural biological purification makes irradiation treatment – which is needed to process plant-based materials – unnecessary. Due to their low microbiological activity, the particles guarantee hygiene and enhance the shelf-life of end products.

The sparkling brightness and opacity of Omya’s minerals means that they are ideal for use in both white and coloured cosmetics. They can even be used to enhance whitening effects, replacing, for instance, titanium dioxide totally or partially.

When used in toothpaste, the size of the particles defines the grade of abrasion. Expressed as RDA (Radioactive Dentin Abrasion), toothpaste formulations can be developed to offer low (60 RDA, Omyacare HP 900-OG), medium (90 RDA,

Omyacare S 70-KP) or high (110 RDA, Omyacare S 100-AV) abrasion. The more sensitive the teeth, the gentler the cleaning should be. Additionally, different mixtures of particle types and sizes can be used to adjust cleansing level, texture, viscosity and mouthfeel.


Further benefits for skincare products

As well as being used in face and body scrubs, microplastics are regularly incorporated into other cosmetics and toiletries for several reasons – for instance, as binders, film formers and fillers. But natural calcium carbonate can fulfil these functions too.

Omyacare minerals can be used in a variety of skincare products, such as emulsions (o/w and w/o) and anhydrous (non-powder) formulations, to provide body and texture. They deliver smoothness and a pleasant skin feel when used in body lotions, body creams, or coloured cream formulas which are formulated for a smoother skin feel, reduced tackiness and faster drying times. Whatever the formulation, Omyacare minerals can be heated up to 85 °C and homogenised without affecting their properties. As they can be used at high concentrations while still maintaining the quality of the formulation, they are also cost-effective fillers.

In essence, calcium carbonates are a perfect fit for the key trends of natural, organic and sustainable products. As tailor-made ingredients that can be supplied in different particle structures and sizes to suit different needs, they are the ideal choice for a wide range of innovative, environmentally friendly, respectful functional cosmetics and personal care applications.

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