The science behind healthy hair
Expediting naturalness in hair protection products requires innovative ingredients
In the post-Covid world of personal care, hair health is a hot topic. Consumers have realized that taking proper care of one’s hair is not something that should be overlooked – especially when styling trends are tilting in favor of long hair – and that requires using products that offer protection against the many elements that impact it, from inclement weather to excessive heat. Simultaneously, demand for natural-based products is growing steadily, and synthetic, non-biodegradable molecules are increasingly shunned.
The quest for silicon-free hair care products
Which leaves brands and manufacturers with an equation that’s not so easy to solve: creating products that use bio-based active ingredients while being just as effective as silicon, the go-to solution for hair protection, yet increasingly unwanted today. "Silicones are very efficient for conditioning or thermal protection, but they are progressively being removed from the market since they are not considered as biodegradable,” explains Margot Bon, Research Scientist at Solvay’s Novecare HPC Lab.
Silicon also tends to lead to buildup on hair fibers and on the scalp, which is detrimental to the hair’s sensory quality and to its health. “Consumers understand this and don’t want silicon anymore,” continues Margot. The crucial question of efficacy thus remains. In hair care perhaps more than in any other market, performance is non-negotiable: consumers may want bio-based alternatives to silicon, but they will only use them if they work just as well.
“We want to grow in the field of active ingredients that come with specific associated claims such as long-lasting styling or silicon-free heat protection. This allows us to bring even more value to our customers.” - Stéphanie Neplaz, Global Innovation Marketing Director for Hair Care, Solvay
A new range of active ingredients
It’s with all these parameters in mind that Solvay’s teams started developing a new range of active ingredients for hair health: Polycare®. So far, three actives have been launched, and more will come. What they all have in common is the search for natural-based molecules offering top-of-the-line effectiveness, as well as versatility. “Our solutions can be formulated in all types of products: a shampoo, a conditioner, a mask…” says Stéphanie Neplaz, Solvay’s Global Innovation Marketing Director for Hair Care. “Our customers enjoy that; they can be added at any stage of a consumer’s hair care routine.”
The three ingredients launched so far are Polycare® Split Therapy, which offers long-lasting repair for split ends thanks to guar, a legume grown in Northern India - and a solution that’s unique to Solvay; Polycare® Frizz Therapy, which tackles the challenge of keeping one’s hair decently styled for several days whatever the weather; and the latest release designed to offer thermal protection, Polycare® Heat Therapy.
Once again it’s an efficient alternative to the dominance of silicon, as it is also based on guar, which provides softness, conditioning properties and thermal protection all at once. “Simply put, heat damages the hair fiber, as it burns the cuticles that protect it,” explains Margot. “So if you want to keep using a flat iron for example, you need to protect the fiber, but not too much or the heat won’t have its desired straightening effect.”
All technical and performance challenges overcome, Polycare® Heat Therapy was officially launched in April 2023 at the in-cosmetics trade show in Barcelona. “It is the #1 bio-based silicon-free solution for thermo protection’, as it outperforms competing bio-based products,” says Stéphanie. “It also answers the market trend towards multi-functional ingredients.”
More actives, more value
Indeed, the lines are blurring in hair care between product categories. This is because in addition to naturalness, consumer demand is also pushing for more ease of use, with products that can address several needs and hence allow the streamlining of daily routines.
For Solvay, these shifts in the market are an opportunity to expand its offering to hair care brands. “We want to reach beyond our portfolio of functional ingredients such as surfactants and conditioners and grow in the field of active ingredients that come with specific associated claims such as long-lasting styling or silicon-free heat protection,” explains Stéphanie. “This allows us to bring even more value to our customers, as well as tailored solutions.” Watch this space for more Polycare® releases in the near future…