In response to the trend for mild, sustainable and ethical ingredients, fermentation technology pioneers, Holiferm, have developed 100% biodegradable biosurfactants: HoliSurf HF (high foaming surfactant) and HoliSurf LF (low foaming surfactant). In this blog we take a look at how XCellR8’s XtraMild test method revealed these new products as market leaders in mildness.

Surfactant lowdown

Our most likely interaction with surface active agents (better known as surfactants) in everyday life is with the cleansing and cleaning products we use. Shampoo, body wash, shower gel, washing up liquid, household cleaners – you get the picture. These all rely on surfactants for their cleaning properties and the associated foamy characteristics.

Formulating these products that are intended to be used on our skin, or come into contact with it, is a balancing act. The surfactant needs to be effective at removing the dirt and sebum from our skin but not so ‘active’ that we risk irritating the skin by ‘stripping’ away the natural barrier.

Consumer demand continues to grow for increasingly mild cosmetic products that can be applied and left for long periods of time, or used on even the most sensitive of skins, without concern over irritation or inflammation of the skin.

Cue Biosurfactants

The most common surfactants used today still tend to be derived from petrochemicals and although renewable alternatives exist (think palm oil) they present their own challenges, in the case of palm oil, the deforestation and clearing of animal habitats to farm the crop.

Biosurfactants, however, are surfactants that are produced by bacteria, yeasts and fungi, often from by-products left behind following other industrial processes. Microbial surfactants offer several advantages over synthetic ones, such as low toxicity and high biodegradability, and remaining active over a broad range of pH and salinity. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the adoption of this technology is the ability to scale the process to manufacture the huge volumes required by industry.

Holiferm is a purpose-led company that is taking on this challenge. Their aim is “to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by developing and supplying sustainable, non-fossil based, fermentation-derived ingredients for industrial and consumer products.” They produce their 100% biodegradable biosurfactants from renewable feedstocks via a natural fermentation process, using yeast naturally found in honey and in flowers.

Biosurfactants ticking all the boxes

As part of the development process Holiferm sought to prove the mildness of their candidate products. With such great sustainability credentials like renewable, naturally derived, biodegradable and vegan it was extremely important to Holiferm that any testing they undertake is also 100% animal-product-free.

Holiferm recognised that understanding just how mild their product was versus other well-established mild surfactants could give their products a further point of difference and credibility in a crowded marketplace.

Using XCellR8’s unique test method, XtraMild, HoliSurf HF and LF were confirmed as ‘non-irritants’ following head-to-head testing against comparable surfactants

XtraMild is a highly accurate, sensitive, animal-free in vitro test that detects the subtlest differences between ultra-mild ingredients and formulations. The XtraMild in vitro test was used to assess the mildness of HoliSurf HF and LF compared with other surfactants, including Decyl Octyl Glycosides, C10-16 Alkyl Glycosides, C9-11 Alcohol Ethoxylate (6EO), SLES, SLS, CAPB and another novel biosurfactant.

The results confirmed that HoliSurf HF and LF were the mildest of all the products tested by a considerable margin, with both gaining classification as ‘non-irritants’. The difference between HoliSurf products and the comparators became more pronounced over time, with a sharp decrease in the viability of comparators towards the end of the test period.

These results show that the naturally based, sustainably produced biosurfactants are better suited for use in personal and cosmetic products than their nearest competitors or petrochemical equivalents.

Our recent lab expansion means that we have increased capacity for mildness testing, speak to us today to reserve your testing slot and understand your products in greater depth than ever before. 01925 607 134