Posted: August 20, 2018   •   Posted in: Premium content

When less is more, effective and multifunctional

Clean beauty through minimalist formulas first seen in dermocosmetics brands, is now spreading to all segments, including luxury and masstige/mass market.  Formulators are looking for multifunctional, ultra-performing and eco-responsible ingredients to overcome this new challenge.

First developed for sensitive skin, minimalist formulas are now expanding to a broader market.  Minimalism is a formulation challenge consisting in reducing the number of INCI names used in a product to 10 or less.  For consumers, minimalism is a simple and clear formulation approach highlighting the essential properties, origins, benefits, and percentages of the materials as consumers are still demanding maximum efficacy even though the ingredients have been pared down.

This new purchasing behavior is motivated not only by self-care but also by environmental and animal rights causes, as well as the desire to be informed and educated about product purchase.  It is driving today’s consumers’ purchase behavior; 56% of US consumers have stopped buying products from a brands/retailers if they believe they are unethical (source: The Ethical Consumer US 2015).

Urban lifestyles lead to an increasing number of people suffering from sensitive skin, sleep deprivation, emotional or physical stress, and travel, pollution and excess sun exposure are affecting the skin.  One in two women across the world declares having sensitive skin (source: Mintel). More than 60% of men aged 25-34 in France, Italy, and Spain agree the effects of pollution on the skin are worrying and sensitizing ingredients in personal care formulas can worsen the situation.  The more elements added, the higher the risk for sensitive skin to react. Therefore, this consumer group is looking for minimalist and efficient products to get the best of both worlds.

These consumers are also increasingly striving for more simplicity on a global scale: a simple lifestyle, clean packaging, straightforward claims, and uncomplicated ingredient names for better clarity and understanding.  Mintel research shows that 58% of French female facial product users usually follow a simple skincare regime so that their skin is not overwhelmed. Consumers are moving from over-complicated routines to more curated beauty and are looking for easy and efficient products that align with their overall focus on health.  They would also prefer to have to have a better understanding of the ingredient list and their overall role in the formula.

Self-education on formulations, ingredients, and their benefits are all supported by access to fast technology making knowledge, once reserved for “industry experts,” accessible to all.  For instance, smartphone applications now allow consumers to scan product bar-codes and obtain formula content in real-time as well as the role of each ingredient. These apps also rate the “perceived and trending” health impact of each component.  One of the most noted smartphone applications reported 6,180,473 unique product scans in 2016 alone. New technologies build awareness in personal care through an easy understanding of the formula; nonetheless, the information is not always accurate.  This new era of open-information is undoubtedly a challenge for producers; however, these new technologies could also be used as an opportunity to engage and connect with consumers, to build trust and brand commitment through an authentic and honest exchange.

The food industry has paved the way and pioneered this movement with a strong focus on health and well-being; although consumers still challenge brands for more transparency.  For instance, 74% of US consumers want more clarity in food and drink ingredients (source: Lightspeed/Mintel). Clean labeling is a significant part of this evolution and consists in prioritizing food products with simple and recognizable ingredients and more than a third of the population in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Poland regularly check the product composition on the pack (source: Lightspeed/Mintel).  “Free-from” claims supporting clean label positioning are used to state what ingredients or additives are not used. However, today, food producers have to look beyond the natural claims and include information about how the product is made, incorporating allegations on ethics, environment, process, sourcing, and packaging. These demands ring true for beauty care as well and brands will need to justify the claims they make by providing truthful proofs. Food manufacturers are required to look beyond the regulation and current consumers’ demand to be ahead of tomorrow’s market requirements as will the beauty and personal care sector.

Use of preservatives declined in the food & drinks industry, but not in beauty; the number of food products launched containing preservatives decreased from 36% to 33% in the five last years, while it remained steady at an average rate of 72% for personal care products (source: Lightspeed/Mintel).  Ingredient safety is now critical in the beauty industry too as it is heavily influenced from the food market. More than 78% of personal care consumers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain interviewed by Lightspeed state that brands should make it clearer how safe their ingredients are. It is essential for cosmetics and personal care manufacturers to endorse this trend and offer full transparency to their customers. They have the knowledge and expertise to share and promote the right information about our industry, and it is still time to take the lead in the era of full-truth.

Minimalist positioning is one answer to the customers’ demand. It will also help manufacturers with economic gain thanks to a rationalization of raw materials and inventory, but also to a shorter production process reducing the environmental impact.

Beauty brands and ingredient producers are now internally challenging their own brands or expanding through acquisition and investment to ensure they have something to offer, therefore striping products back to their essentials and leaving out superfluous ingredients to focus on just a few hero products.  

Today, cosmopolitan women and men are looking for a responsible and educated way to consume, in general, they are searching for:

  • Transparency on ingredients with traceability and sustainability
  • Simplicity and clarity on labels and claims
  • Simple formulations with natural and useful ingredients
  • Responsible & Ethical brands
  • Waste reduction and recycling


Univar, a specialty ingredient distributor, is constantly adding to its eco-responsible portfolio in anticipation of growing market demand.  The range of responsible ingredients includes products from Hallstar, Cargill Beauty, Elevance, Dow Organics and KAO. The recent investments in both technical and marketing capabilities demonstrate how they are striving to deliver not only exceptional ingredients but accompany clients with their innovations through illustrative formulation concepts and on-demand technical support.  The Technical Excellence Centers, located in Versailles, France, and Milan, Italy, partner with industry leading suppliers to help brands create truly unique products.

The Univar innovation platform, SIM (Strategic Ingredient Marketing Campaigns), include formulas in line with market trends showcasing new and hero ingredients from their curated portfolio. The SIM SEVEN focuses on minimalist beauty routines of formulas with less than 10 INCI names, efficient processes to win time and conserve energy and highlights authentic claims that can be easily added into any beauty kit.   Two examples are below.



Beauty sleep in a bottle! Inspired by Korean sleeping packs, this peachy water gel follows tradition and revives your skin with a rich cocktail of actives all night long. Apply on your face right before going to bed and enjoy your dewy, plumped skin and refreshed glow in the morning. This cold process formula yields a fluid light pink gel.

Key ingredients:

Dow ACULYN™ 38 Polymer is a rheology modifier that gives a smooth and soft jelly texture. It also has good suspension properties to stabilize the oil and the clay. You can create a texture from fluid and smooth to rich and tacky according to the pH of the formula.  It is supplied as a white liquid dispersion.

  • Dow METHOCEL™ 40-0101 PCG is a rheology modifier that increases the viscosity and brings a cushion feel like to the product. It also reduces tackiness. It is a white powder.
  • ANGUS TRIS AMINO™ ULTRA PC is a multifunctional additive with an excellent safety profile. It is used in this formula to neutralize the ACULYN™ 38 Polymer and stabilize the pH over time. It also helps to disperse the METHOCEL™ 40-0101 PCG. It is supplied as a white liquid dispersion.
  • Dow POLYOX™WSR 205 is a high molecular weight polymer that has excellent compatibility in skin care formulations. It improves spreadability and slipperiness of the product for an enhanced sensorial experience. It is supplied as a white powder.
  • Baerlocher Lyophilized Royal Jelly Powder is an active ingredient, lyophilized to ensure efficiency.  It is very nourishing for the skin as it contains vitamins and proteins, a nutritive cocktail for the skin. Supplied as a yellow powder.
  • Evonik L-Arginine L-Aspartate is an amino acid with good skin and hair conditioning properties. It can be used at very low levels and is easily dispersible in water. White powder.
  • Hallstar Sensolene® is an emollient derived from olive oil with great sensoriality. It restores the skin barrier and prevents water loss. It brings softness and spreadability to the product. China approved. Supplied as a yellow liquid.
  • Akema Stabil ZERO is a preservative-free ingredient, providing multiple benefits including broad-spectrum antimicrobial protection, emolliency, moisturization, co-emulsification, while enhancing skin feel. Supplied as a clear liquid.


Don’t waste time at night, be NIGHT ACTIVE.   Apply this luxurious overnight hair mask from root to tip before bed. It works while you rest… absolutely genius. It is a simple, smart and efficient hair routine for busy modern women and men living an urban lifestyle and looking for some “me-time”. Its treatment properties via an active system both repair and revitalize the hair.  It is made with a hot process.

Key ingredients:

  • Hallstar Olivem® 2020 is a naturally inspired polymeric emulsifier based on olive oil chemistry. This ingredient combines excellent emulsification performance and natural dermollience. It can also be used as a sensorial modifier, stabilizer, and thickener to provide added benefits to a very wide range of formulations. China compliant. Viscous yellow liquid.
  • Hallstar Biochemica® Cocoa Butter Nat is Ecocert approved, natural and biodegradable. The product is obtained from the cacao tree fruit. The butter is extracted from its seed kernels, processed and refined to obtain a tan colored butter with a chocolate-like odor. It is solid at room temperature, looks like a butter, but melts readily in contact with the skin. It is used as a natural hair conditioning agent at 1%.
  • Dow DOWSIL® CB-3046 Fluid is a blend of silicones dedicated to hair care. It is suitable for leave-in products, in order to give a natural look, a long-lasting frizz control, and the ability to style the hair after use. It can also be used as heat protection and shine. Listed in the Catalogue of Cosmetics Ingredients used in China.
  • Dow DOWSIL® CE-8411 Smooth Plus Emulsion is a nonionic silicone emulsion with amine and polyether functionalities. It adds moisturizing feel and conditioning benefits to the mask. It improves hair slipperiness, smoothness and shine. Imparts ease of wet and dry combing and flexibility without weighing the hair down. Supplied as a milky white solution.
  • Akema Kem Nat is formaldehyde and paraben-free, COSMOS approved, preservative. Very low odor, effective in broad pH range 4-8. It is soluble in alcohol, glycols and polar oils, but very slightly soluble in water making it perfect for emulsions.

More than a trend, minimalism is a movement and Univar is investing in developing formulations that will support brands in their go to market strategy.  The most recent SIM campaigns also include minimalist formulas: Fitspiration, focused on wellness, fitness and beauty, and #univarevolution, focused on green’ethic cosmetics.

GAME FACE – H2O Foundation

All about texture, this super fluid, stable, silicone free, long-lasting and water-based formula provides natural sheer coverage with no transfer. You are ready to sweat it out in any situation without ruining your look. Game Face ON. The challenge was to formulate and stabilize a silicone-free ultra-fluid formula with water dispersible pigments and a high amount of water. The aim was also to develop a formula with a good skin feel and sweat-proof long lasting properties compatible with active consumer lifestyles. This formula is made with a hot process.

  • Elevance Soft CG-100 is a plant-based alternative emollient with elegant sensory feel, moisturization and spreadability. It helps to reduce the waxy feel given by Olivem® LV Flex. Supplied as a light yellow glossy paste.
  • Hallstar Olivem® LV Flex is a very versatile O/W primary emulsifier. It was specifically designed for the development of light, hyperfluid and sprayable emulsions while ensuring a pleasant skin feel. 5% of Olivem® LV Flex can emulsify a low amount of oils, up to 10%; ideal choice for this fluid foundation as it contains almost 80% of water. The fluidity increases when you shake the product before use as Olivem® LV Flex has thixotropic effect properties. To ensure a good emulsification, high shear is necessary. Supplied as ivory waxy solid flakes.
  • Dow EPITEX™ 66 Polymer is a water-soluble film former with good long lasting and non-transfer effect. Supplied as a white liquid.
  • Akema Kem CP is a combination of the well-known preservatives Phenoxyethanol and Chlorphenesin with the boosting agent Ethylhexylglycerin. It is soluble in water. A screening of several preservatives was made, the best results were obtained using Kem CP. Supplied as a colorless and odorless liquid.

Renaissance Artisanal Micellar Water

This is the new edition of micellar water! Responsible, effective and relaxing. Formulated with green, eco-friendly and very mild surfactants, this micellar water is extremely gentle on your skin and removes all traces of makeup and impurities. Challenge test results show the efficacy of the preservative system. Enriched with lemon myrtle extract, its soft fragrance will help you to relax at any moment of the day. One pot, cold process. Transparent, liquid micellar water with flower petals and light fresh smell.

    • Colonial Poly Suga® Mulse D9 is a PEG-free, nonionic surfactant made from 100% bio-based raw materials. It is hydrophilic, freely soluble in water and particularly non-irritant for the eyes. It has also very good solubilizing properties especially with fragrance and essential oils. In this formula it is used to gently clean the face and remove the makeup, and it solubilizes very well the fragrance and the preservative. The fragrance and the solubilizer should be premixed for scale-up. ECOCERT approved. Readily biodegradable. Supplied as a yellow liquid.


  • Kao EMANON® EV-E is a 100% active, vegetable-based eco-friendly surfactant that is biodegradable and has low aquatic toxicity. Specifically in this formula, its affinity for oils makes it perfect to gently remove the makeup while being easy to rinse.  Supplied as a transparent non-viscous liquid.


    • Down Under Enterprises Lemon Myrtle Hydrosol contains molecules of essential oil, as well as water-soluble elements of the plant. Safe, gentle and a less expensive alternative to the essential oil. 100% natural.


  • Akema Stabil is an alternative system supporting the claim “preservative-free formula” as it is not listed as a preservative in Annexe V. It provides multiple benefits as broad spectrum antimicrobial protection, emollient, moisturizer, skin feel enhancer. Its efficacy was proven as the challenge test was successfully completed after 28 days, showing total inactivation of bacteria and yeast C. albicans in 2 days and of mould A. brasiliensis in 7 days. Supplied as a colorless liquid.

The 9th edition of SIM, #univarevolution, launched during in-cosmetics Global 2018, was focused on natural beauty, green’ethic consumers, and responsible personal care. Each one of the 13 formulas features the functionality of the focus sustainable ingredients and offers a unique sensorial experience. In an effort to boost innovation and time to market in the natural cleansing and toiletries segments, this campaign focused on rinse-off products for hair, skin and face as well as makeup.  For more information visit

Access your exclusive overview. Please fill in the form below and you will instantly be able to view the content.
I agree to signup to Univar Personal Care's mailing list & agree to their Privacy Policy

Share with others