Natrosol™ Plus 330 and PolySurf™ 67 cetyl modified hydroxyethylcellulose

Chemistry: Cellulosics

INCI: Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose (HMHEC)

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Hydrophobically modified hydroxyethylcellulose (HMHEC) is made in a two-step reaction. The first is the standard reaction of alkali-cellulose with ethylene oxide to produce HEC. The second step is a cetyl substitution, which provides the hydrophobic end groups. The resultant nonionic polymer is purified and dried. HMHEC for personal care and cosmetic applications is sold as Natrosol Plus 330 CS and PolySurf™ 67 CS. 

HMHEC polymers are unique in that they function as associative thickeners, meaning they not only thicken aqueous systems via chain entanglement and conventional hydrogen bonding, but also via hydrophobe interactions. In solution, hydrophobe groups seek out other hydrophobes, including oils and pigments, forming weak interactions and effectively creating a three-dimensional polymer network.

The hydrophobic modification imparts many unique properties to HMHEC polymers including pseudoplastic shear thinning behavior, high salt tolerance and long-term stability over a very wide pH range (3.5-11). Furthermore, HMHEC also behaves as a polymeric co-emulsifier and can be used to stabilize O/W emulsions without the use of conventional high HLB, water-soluble surfactants, thus removing the major component leading to skin irritation and enabling a much milder formulation.

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