CELLULOSCRUB™: an alternative to polyethylene microbeads

To replace polyethylene (PE) beads with renewable and biodegradable scrubs, cosmetic formulators have to consider several characteristics of the different materials available on the market that appear to be similar to PE in terms of colour, abrasiveness, suspension capacities, cost effectiveness, stability in various products, worldwide regulatory approval, etc. The traditional exfoliating ingredients from plants and minerals have not given totally satisfactory results for replacing PE because their characteristics were not similar. Celluloscrub tm from Lessonia based on cellulose acetate fills the gaps left by the other products. It is biodegradable and is a highly sustainable product with no impact on agricultural land. Using Celluloscrubtm as an exfoliant allows replacing PE beads successfully. This article concerns its capacity to replace PE and also new available grades to create modern cosmetic products.

Replacement of polyethylene (PE) microbeads for natural and biodegradable scrubs is now more relevant than ever, which is a rather difficult task for a recipe developer. When choosing an alternative, many parameters must be taken into account:

• particles must have the same visual effect (e.g. white color);

• The abrasiveness of the scrub and the feel on the skin should be similar;

• The stability of the scrub and the ability of the particles to suspend in the cosmetic mass should also be comparable to PE granules. In foaming detergents, an alternative exfoliator should retain its color and abrasiveness, and also not affect the pH of the finished product and its viscosity;

• alternative products should be available in large quantities and at a reasonable price;

• important point: global marketing and universal approval.

Let’s analyze the spectrum of traditional abrasive agents as an alternative to PE granules.

Bird stone abrasives (apricot, almond, walnut, cherry, olive, etc.) are very popular in cosmetics as natural exfoliators, as they provide a “natural” image finished product and are usually cost effective. But due to the dark color, stone scrubs cannot replace PE granules without revising the concept / color of the finished cosmetic product.

Scrubs of mineral origin, such as pumice, sand, and others, can be white. Unfortunately, they show too high abrasiveness and also have a very high bulk density, which requires a significant change in the formulation for their use in the form of suspensions.

One of the first biopolymer technologies proposed as an alternative was polylactic acid. Derived from cornstarch, this biopolymer has a perfect white color and is easily biodegradable. However, the color stability of these particles in the cosmetic mass is not guaranteed, as the products become yellowish. In addition, during storage of the finished product, lactic acid is released, and the pH of the cosmetic decreases dramatically.

Another alternative ingredient is microcrystalline cellulose. These scrubs meet all market requirements for biodegradability and renewable sources, but cannot be successfully used to replace PE due to their low stability in water and lack of abrasiveness.

Silica-based abrasive powders combine the white color we need with economy. However, abrasive silica provides a very mild exfoliating effect and is typically used in products for sensitive skin. Various wax-based abrasives are a good alternative and are available in a variety of sizes, colors and hardnesses. The main disadvantage of wax abrasives is their high cost.

Thus, we see that it is rather difficult to find a universal alternative among abrasive agents, somewhere we have advantages, and somewhere we have disadvantages.

Lessonia, which specializes in a variety of natural exfoliators, offers a cellulose acetate-based product under the brand name CelluloscrubTM (INCI name: Cellulose Acetate) as an alternative.

Fig. 1 Chemical structure of cellulose acetate

CelluloscrubTM uses refined white pulp derived from wood pulp. Cellulose is reacted with acetic acid and acetic anhydride in the presence of sulfuric acid, followed by controlled partial hydrolysis to remove sulfate and the required amount of acetate groups to obtain a product with desired properties. The chemical structure of the product is shown in fig. 1.

Cellulose acetate is made from wood, the most widely available renewable material on the planet. Wood pulp comes exclusively from renewable forest plantations, where systematic replanting is carried out after felling. The production process itself is designed in such a way as to minimize the use of chemicals and water at each stage, their reuse is implemented wherever possible.

The biodegradability of cellulose acetate has been carefully and studied, and it was found that the microbiological aerobic degradation of the polymer occurs in two stages. First, acetyl groups are removed with the help of microbial enzymes, and then the cellulose molecule is also destroyed. The anaerobic degradation of cellulose acetate fibers has also been confirmed in measurements carried out in accordance with the European methods ASTM D 5210–91 and ISO 11 734.

Polyethylene beads are an effective exfoliating agent that does not irritate the skin. For comparative organoleptic testing, two facial scrubs were prepared: one with 5% Celluloscrub 300 µm, the other with 5% PE granules of the same size 300 µm. 12 respondents took part in the testing.

Fig.2 Sensory evaluation of Celluloscrubtm compared to polyethylene granules.

The following characteristics were evaluated: abrasiveness, harshness, effectiveness, irritant potential and final feel after application. The assessment was carried out on a scale from 1 (“very bad”) to 10 (“excellent”). Shown in fig. 2 consumer testing data shows that CelluloscrubTM performs similarly in all important consumer properties.

In addition to consumer properties for biodegradable polymers, the stability of the abrasive agent in the cosmetic mass is very important. Stability with CelluloscrubTM has been tested in various cosmetic products: shower gel, emulsion, oil gel and water-based cosmetic gel, including incubation at 55°C. The following parameters were evaluated during the study: abrasiveness, odor, color, density, viscosity, microbiology and pH. Tests of the above cosmetics, which were carried out during the year, showed the stability of all important parameters.

CelluloscrubTM exhibits excellent stability and can be successfully used in both rinse-off and leave-on cosmetics as a natural and economical alternative to polyethylene scrubs.

Currently, CelluloscrubTM is offered not only as white granules with a particle size of 300 to 1000 µm, but also as blue and pink granules with a particle size of 300 µm. Of great interest is also the CelluloscrubTM Transparent scrub, which, when added to the transparent mass of the shower gel, becomes translucent, expanding the developer’s possibilities in creating new interesting textures. The CelluloscrubTM line is presented in Table. 1.

Table 1 CelluloscrubTM scrub line


RPKA and InterCHARM have become the organizers of the special program “Cosmetic Market Web: Events and Analytics”.

October 24, 2019, Moscow, Crocus Expo

RPKA and InterCHARM have become the organizers of the special program “Cosmetic Market Web: Events and Analytics”. The event took place on October 24 and was dedicated to the analysis of the current state of the perfumery and cosmetics market, changes in Russian legislation and trends in international legislation, topical issues of business development and protection, as well as prospects for the development of exports of cosmetic products.

The Chairman of the Board of the RPKA, Tatyana Puchkova, opened the program by identifying the legislative hotspots in the world in 2019-2020.

General Director of Reed Exhibitions Russia, Managing Director of Reed Exhibitions Middle East and Reed Exhibitions Turkey, Member of the Board of the RPKA, international expert Anna Dycheva-Smirnova spoke about new challenges , features and trends in the system of brand communication with consumers.

DENIS Pharm Group CEO, founder of the Vesna Commonwealth of Independent Pharmacies Alexander Fridman highlighted the topic of cosmetics in pharmacies.

Perfume labeling was a hot topic. The position of the state was presented by the head of the Perfumery commodity group of the Center for the Development of Advanced Technologies Sergey Parfyonov. The first experience of enterprises in the experiment was shared by Maria Grosheva, Head of Operations Department support for the business of NTS Gradient.

Representatives of the Gorodissky & Partners law firm spoke about the legal protection of trademarks and the protection of brands on the Internet.

Counselor of the Trubor Law Office Maria Borzova outlined restrictions on the indication of the declared consumer properties on the packaging of cosmetic products.

The head of the sales department of EuroExpertStandard noted the peculiarities of applying the legislation of 2019 when working with certification bodies.

Irina Kashirina, Export Support Director for the Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries of the Russian Export Center, spoke about financial mechanisms to support exports in the cosmetics industry.

The program was completed by Boris Neiman, General Director of the PAL service company, with a report on the topic: “AliExpress/ TMall Russia – a hypermarket for Russian cosmetics sellers”.

Information partners of the special program were industry publications: Raw Materials and Packaging and the First National Aesthetic Portal www.1nep.ru.

Yulia Popova, Head of Technical Support at Revada LLC

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