Polyglyceryl Esters of Fatty Acids (PEFA) –the Proven Green Emulsifiers

Euro Cosmetics Magazine April 2023
April 2023

The popularity and extent of sustainable ingredients into the formulator toolbox continues unabated. Many chemists and the brands they support are probing away from use of ethoxylated (ETO) surfactants and additives given the current climate and the stigma assigned to these PEGylated compounds. With the negative public reaction to occasional ETO releases from medical sterilization plants, government scrutiny of 1,4-dioxane content, and their non-renewable content, the value proposition of any ingredient having “PEG” or “eth” in its INCI name has diminished lately. Though the ethoxylates continue to serve the industry well for over 75 years, alternative materials and methods are now of keen interest.

The polyglyceryl esters of fatty acids (PEFA) lend themselves to this cause to offer excellent emulsification tools and more. Although these renewable surfactants have been employed commercially since the 1960’s, very little has been published on their utility and strengths. This knowledge gap and the consideration gap that accompanies it are addressed here. Structurally, the PEFA have their origin in glycerin esters such as glyceryl monostearate (GMS.) The emulsifying compound pairing GMS with a small amount of potassium stearate, introduced by Goldschmidt AG in the 1950’s as Tegin A®, proved to be the most widely used cosmetic cream emulsifier of that era. It was only logical that chemists involved in surfactant syntheses recognized expanding the glyceride hydrophile might lead to useful ester oligomers. This proved to be the case. Esterifying polymeric glycerin (PG) led to many amphiphilic materials having diverse properties all from renewable starting materials.



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