In a recent article, we were mentioned about the interest that a particular ingredient has in relation to its properties: isododecane.
Isododecane is a low molecular weight isoparraffin (170) which consequently has the characteristic of being volatile or at least, having a certain volatility (flash point 43 °C). It’s what we call a volatile oil. This ingredient owes its use in cosmetic products to this property. It is regularly found as the basic ingredient in so-called waterproof makeup, that is, resistant to water, tears and baths. Other products like sun products regularly claim this property. However, this allegation is false. While its use is often noted in products having this type of claim, this effect is not due to it, or not directly. The process is significantly different. The waterproof effect is made :
- Either through the use of dyes that tint the skin deeply, which makes the water resistant effect. This is the case with decals or some semi-permanent makeup products.
- Either by the formation on the skin surface or the appendage (hair, eyelashes, nails, etc.) a film of water-insoluble substances which will resist elimination by water. This is the majority of waterproof products.
It is in the latter use that isododecane finds its raison why. In order for the film to be strong enough, it must be “continuous”, that is to say, not showing any surface deterioration. This is achieved by the use of so-called film-forming substances which are dissolved in a solvent. This solvent gradually evaporates to form a continuous film which becomes water resistant. So the substances which contribute to this effect are those which remain and not those which evaporate !!! however isododecane evaporates. Isododecane is not who forms the film-forming effect, he is the solvent, but he simply contributes at least. You will say : what importance? It’s just that when you want to be educational and informative, you have to put things in the right order.
It turns out that isododecane has been of particular interest lately. A natural constituent of petroleum, this product (2 methyl undecane) is conventionally obtained by distillation from petroleum fractions. It’s not very fancy, let’s face it. If we add to this that oil, although being perfectly natural, has become a poison in the eyes of everyone, we have drawn up the picture. It therefore became urgent to find a substitution. This is what has been done in very current procedures that can be classified as Up-cycling. Several programs have embarked on this adventure, which is to produce hydrocarbons by alternative routes, often starting from plant residues from other activities. Isododecane is part of this series. Quite recently, a French company, Global Bioenergies, succeeded in obtaining isododecane without petrochemicals, thanks to biotechnology and from renewable natural resources (cellulose obtained from beet sugar, corn, wheat, agricultural and forestry waste. ). The process relies on bacteria selected and modified to teach them how to produce isobutene by fermentation. The isobutene is then combined to form 100% naturally occurring isododecane.
The company behind this development has even gone so far as to create a cosmetics brand, LAST, using this ingredient extensively: you are never so well served as by yourself.
This virtuous process can be found in quite a few other developments aimed at the cosmetics industry, such as what are now called bioalkanes or even substances such as so-called vegetable squalane. You will find a lot of information in the pages of the Cosmetotheque dealing with these questions. These ingredients are only a distant memory and their users often know little about them. In almost all cases, these approaches are described to us as being voluntarist, originally having the deliberate desire to produce greener substances for more virtuous uses. We should not doubt this good will, it regularly described and highlighted as one of the essential trends. They reflect the desire of the companies concerned to move things forward. It wouldn’t matter or matter if a few didn’t have fun trying to make it look better than before and perfectly fine. However, these processes, which are often heavy and very energy intensive, also require colossal investments. Is it really the cosmetics industry that is the inspiration? It turns out that a sector weighing more heavily than the cosmetics industry can provide legitimacy in a somewhat different quest: biofuels. The head of Global Energies also mentions in the pages of economic news, that failing to be able to supply aviation, he refocuses on applications allowing a higher cost, cosmetics, while waiting for the costs become economically competitive !!!!
So, is the real desire of an industry that wants to be more and more “responsible” or the effect of opportunity by using a well-known process, the transfer of technology, to be in line with trends? Very complicated to know.
But in all cases there are remarkable effects of innovation where the border between chemistry and naturalness is much more subtle than some would have us believe. And in which also the creativity of chemists and the contribution of techniques from both chemistry and biotechnology combine to get things done.
So more than ever, let’s stop opposing chemistry and naturalness, they are incredibly intertwined and allow us to envision a more responsible tomorrow!