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Biobased, biodegradable, non-bioaccumulative and non-toxic, what does it mean, and why should I care? Because environmentally friendly ingredients are somewhat new and not always as clearly defined as other ingredient categories, many people struggle with certain terms such as bio-based and biodegradable. It is imperative to apply the proper terminology and to understand why these words should not be used interchangeably.

Biobased - The term bio-based specifies the origin of the raw material. This involves the annually renewable raw material utilized to construct the raw material. Some examples of these base materials would be soybean, rapeseed and sunflower products. These raw materials can offer good efficacy but can encounter oxidation stability challenges, depending on the formulation and product shelf life.

Biodegradable - What identifies biodegradability is more focused on the back end. It considers how the environment has a tendency to break down the raw material, if exposed, as well as the function and timeframe for this breakdown to occur.

Non-bioaccumulative - Bioaccumulation in humans and animals occur when substances, such as chemicals or metals, are stored in the organism instead of being broken down and expelled from the body. A bioaccumulative substance is stored in the body and more is added with every exposure. This means that the substance, in many cases, is never fully degraded or destroyed. Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT) chemicals are of particular concern not only because they are toxic but also because they remain in the environment for long periods of time, are not readily destroyed, and build up or accumulate in body tissue.

Non-toxic – Non-Toxic is defined as not causing illness, disability or death to persons who are exposed. The skin is the body’s largest organ. Many experts believe that toxins absorbed through the skin are more dangerous to your health than those you ingest or inhale. Mainly because once they’re absorbed through the skin they go right into the bloodstream, bypassing detoxification by the liver.

It is important to understand the differences between biobased, biodegradable, non-bioaccumulative and non toxic personal care ingredients. While some ingredients may be biobased, this does not necessarily make them biodegradable. This is true for a couple of reasons; first, a biobased ingredient might not be the only base stock in the oil; second, in rare occasions, the biobased base stock may not be biodegradable. It’s important to ensure products are biobased, biodegradable, non-toxic and non-bioaccumulative without sacrificing the quality of the final product. One such product is the BioEstolides line, which are biobased emollients made primarily from castor oil that still provide excellent resistance to oxidation for better longevity. By recognizing these differences and knowing what to look for in raw materials, you should be able to apply the proper terms when discussing “natural” or “green” or “organic” clean beauty personal care ingredients.


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