The Sustainability Challenge: Quats

Quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats”, have long been a favorite hair care ingredient for consumers and formulators alike. These molecules come in many forms and are used in shampoos, conditioners, and treatments for conditioning hair, providing repair benefits, preventing frizz and static build-up. Quaternary surfactants also offer formulation function like emulsification of high oil loads by building lamellar gel network structures. Quats all have one commonality - a permanent cationic charge. This cationic is beneficial when it comes to adhering to hair and skin but there are some issues associated with the permanence and strength of that charge when it comes to safety and sustainability.

- Quats can be irritating to skin and eyes because the molecule adheres so strongly to cells. [1]
- The permanent cationic charge remains in the environment at the ingredient’s end of life stage and can adhere to microorganisms, invertebrates, and fish, resulting in toxicity to aquatic life. [2]
- These molecules are persistent in the environment and the longer they persist, the more potential there is for the toxicity to harm those ecosystems and organisms.
- There is always a component of a quat molecule, the quaternary ammonium group, that must be sourced from a petrochemical feedstock.

The solution: multi-benefit amino lipids

To achieve the performance benefits of cationic molecules that condition, repair and emulsify, INOLEX created a technology platform of amino lipids [3]. Amino lipids are made from naturally occurring amino acids that are esterified using a novel process to produce long chain fatty esters of amino acids. The molecule consists of a cationic head group, derived from the amine functionality of the amino acid and a fatty tail group that comes from a plant-based fatty alcohol. The cationic character is necessary for deposition on hair and skin. The long chain fatty component adds lubricity on hair and enables emulsification properties. This novel route produces a cationic ingredient that provides benefits to consumers, formulators, and improved sustainability profile that meets the needs of the evolving hair care market. [4]

The ingredient example explored below is AminoSensyl HC, a multi-benefit system specifically designed for hair care. It has three primary benefits that deliver on formulation and performance needs.

1. Lamellar Gel Networks - This amphiphilic amino lipid combined with fatty alcohol forms lamellar liquid crystals and vesicles which allow high oil loading with a soft, powdery and non-greasy feel on skin & hair.
2. Consumer-Perceivable Hair Benefits – Through the cationic amino acid-based head group, the amino lipid strengthens hair to resist breakage, creates a smooth and defined appearance for all hair types, and conditions damaged hair.
3. Pre-neutralized for Ease of Use: The pH-dependent nature of this molecule enables the cationic to be temporary which is important for aquatic safety. In order to easily formulate at its optimized pH of 5.0, the AminoSensyl HC system is pre-neutralized with a natural mineral-based adjuster.

The sustainable life cycle of AminoSensyl HC

To design a functional cationic that solves for some of the sustainability issues of quats, INOLEX closely adhered to the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry [5] and the result of that molecule design is an excellent Sustainable Life Cycle of the ingredient. There are six major stages of an ingredients life cycle that are considered and optimized: feedstock sourcing, ingredient manufacture, ingredient shipping, product manufacture, consumer use, and end of life. The green chemistry principles that were employed in this ingredient design yield sustainability benefits in each of those life cycle stages.

1. Feedstock Sourcing: The amino lipid contains 100% certified biobased content and is derived from non-GMO brassica seed oil. (Green Chemistry Principle # 7).
2. Ingredient Manufacture: The process of making amino lipids consists of a one-step, simple esterification. The reaction does not involve solvents, is highly atom efficient, and the only byproduct is water (Green Chemistry Principles # 1, 2, & 5)
3. Ingredient Shipping: The ingredient is delivered as a solid, 100% active material in convenient pastilles. No water or non-value-added material is shipped.
4. Product Manufacture: AminoSensyl HC is pre-neutralized for ease-of-use and processing simplification. Amino lipids can also eliminate the need for non-biodegradable thickeners. (Green Chemistry Principle #6)
5. Consumer Use: The molecule is non-irritating to skin or eyes while still providing efficient conditioning, repair and emulsification benefits. (Green Chemistry Principle #4)
6. End of Life: The amino lipid is non-toxic to aquatic life, readily biodegradable, and nonpersistent in the environment. (Green Chemistry Principle #10)

Replace Quats, unlock ingredient claims for the conscious consumer

100% natural, safe for aquatic life, COSMOS certified, readily biodegradable, plant-powered - are all consumer-desired claims that can be achieved by replacing quaternary ammonium technology with advanced amino lipids. As the hair care industry moves to more natural and sustainable products, amino lipids are a core ingredient to deliver the performance, safety, and environmental benefits consumer expect and brands promise.