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Erythritol in cosmetics

Jun 4, 2023 | Ingredients

Erythritol

1. WHAT IS ERYTHRITOL?

Erythritol is naturally occurring sweetener (can be found in lichens, fungi and algae),cariostatic agent,  humectant and a hair conditioner. It looks like white sugar – it forms small white odorless crystals. Its INCI is Erythritol and please don‘t mix it with Erythrulose (this is a very different ingredient that is used for tanning).

The one that I have is made by fermentation process from corn, beets or sugar cane and it is vegan. It also has a moderate solubility in water at room temperature (about 37-43 grams in 100g of water).

However, the usage rate is much much lower, typically 3-5%, so the solubility in water should not be the issue. Also, as it has moderate solubility in room temperature, so there is no need to heat the water phase (unless you need to). In solid formulations (oral care) it can be used in higher concentrations – up to 25%.

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2. BASIC PROPERTIES OF ERYTHRITOL

Erythritol basic properties

INCI Erythritol
Function Cariostatic agent, humectant, hair conditioner
Origin Derived from corn, beets, sugar canes by fermentation
Appearance White crystals, resembles sugar
Scent No scent
Usage rate In hair care and skincare typically used in 3-5%, in oral care solid formulations up to25%
Solubility Water
Other Criteria Vegan
Method Can be used in cold or hot process
Alternatives Mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol. But I have never used them, so I am not sure how would that go.

3. Chemical formula of erythritol

The chemical formula of erythritol very much reminds glycerin. It has -OH groups (alcohol groups) that are water loving groups and it means that it is very soluble in water. You can see that the main difference between glycerin and erythritol is the backbone – erythritol has additional carbon with -OH group.

Here you can see glycerol molecule on the left and erythritol molecule on the right. As the C (carbon) atom is added to the latter molecule, it becomes more complex and chiral. This can be seen from the bolded and dashed lines to the -OH groups.

glycerol-and-erythritol-chemical-structure

4. HOW TO use this ingredient?

Erythritol is used as a cariostatic agent. In these applications it reduces the adhesion of oral bacteria and the quantity of plaque. More over, it also enhances mouthfeel due to its flavour-enhancing properties. It can mask unpleasant aftertastes and rounds off the overall taste of oral care products (toothpastes, mouth washes, etc.) leaving the mouth feel clean with an intesne cooling effect.

As erythritol is also a humectant, it helps to maintain the water in the skin. It also softness and smooths the skin even when the product is rinsed (for example shower gels). What is interesting that erythritol has a very good moisturizing synergy with glycerin.

In hair care erythritol can act as a conditioning agent to make hair more easily combed and managing hair frizz. The very simple experiment showed that adding 3-5% of erythritol can greatly reduce the combing force, however the used shampoo formulation was very simple.

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When comparing only a surfactant system and surfactant sytem with this ingredient it can show these results, but it may not show the same results in more balanced shampoo formulations.

Nonetheless, I would say that erythritol can act as a conditioning agent, but in the end the whole shampoo formulation matters to really see the effect.

What is also interesting is that erythritol has an effect on the foam and the size of the bubbles. Formulations with this ingredient make the foam more stable and create smaller size bubbles that are more dense. Which may be the feeling that you are looking for.

  • in hair care and body care: 3-5%
  • in oral care: up to 25% (solid formulations)
Erythritol

5. What can be made with it?

Erythritol can be used in a lot of cosmetic formulations, but there would be main 3 areas where to use it.

It can be used in these oral care formulations:

  • toothpaste (solid or not)
  • mouthwash

It can be used in these body care formulations, but not limited to:

  • shower gels
  • micellar lotions, make-up remover lotions
  • lotions, creams, milks
  • toners, serums
  • face masks

In hair care it can be used in:

  • shampoos
  • conditioners
  • hair masks
  • leave-in hair creams
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6. Where to get erythritol?

As erythritol is also widely used as a sweetener, there are not so many cosmetic ingredient shops that sell it. But you may find it in the health stores or similar places. Here is my list where I know they definitely sell this ingredient.

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