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PEG-free cosmetics: three facts and answers

Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are often used in shampoos, shower gels and creams. However, many consumers are concerned and are switching to alternative products. The Zero Waste collection from BTC offers innovative formulation ideas for cosmetics manufacturers.

1. The effects of PEGs in cosmetics
Polyethylene glycol (or PEG) performs a whole array of functions in shampoos, creams and other care products. The synthetic polymer and its derivatives are produced from mineral oil products (ethylene oxide, EO). In cosmetics, PEGs are used as emulsifiers, humectants, moisturizing agents, rheology modifiers, consistency enhancers or surfactants.

“PEGs can therefore be used very flexibly,” comments Josefine Schröder, Senior Technical Expert Personal Care at BTC. “They cover a broad spectrum of viscosity and solubility properties and generally do not cause skin irritation.”


2. Why many consumers are sceptical about PEGs
There is a downside, however: PEG and ethylene oxide derivatives (EO derivatives) are manufactured from mineral oil. Ingredients based on mineral oil – such as PEGs or silicones – are often the subject of controversial public debate and, for example, are prohibited in certified natural cosmetics. As a result, many end consumers are sceptical and instead choose PEG-free shower gels and other body care products.


3. How BTC Europe is supporting cosmetics manufacturers
To meet this demand, cosmetics manufacturers are looking for natural alternatives that are effective and skin-friendly.

BTC is supporting manufacturers in this task, for instance with its Zero Waste collection. This includes an array of innovative formulation suggestions for cosmetic care and cleaning products based on 45 ingredients produced by BASF, many of which are free from PEG and EO derivatives.


Using these highly effective alternative ingredients, the personal care experts at BTC have developed a range of formulation ideas. A few examples are listed below:

Plantacare®is a natural and highly effective surfactant that is characterised by its particular mildness.

  • The skin-compatible Plantacare® 818 UP shows good foaming and outstanding cleaning properties, for example in the Kiwi Peeling Stick.
  • Plantacare® 2000 UP was used for the Clean and Relax Cleansing Concentrate. With its low potential to cause skin irritation, this Plantacare® product is also ideally suited for sensitive skin.

Rheocare® XGN is a versatile xanthan gum. The naturally occurring polysaccharide is COSMOS-compliant and vegan.

  • In the Lavender Soap Bar, it functions as an excellent thickening agent.
  • It has the same effect in the Power Shower Powder, which can be mixed with water and cleans especially gently.

Emulgade® PL 68/50, a mild emulsifier based on natural raw materials, and Eumulgin® VL 75, which can be used when warm or cold, are flexible and natural emulsifiers that are ideal for use in O/W creams and lotions. 

  • Both are among the main ingredients in the Moroccan Oil Lotion DIY. It can easily be mixed with hot water and provides a soft and smooth skin feeling. It also contains argan oil to make the skin even more beautiful.
  • These products also provide good emulsification in the Strawberry Melting Mask, which is based on a premium cream texture that melts on the skin. The mild cream base with Emulgade® PL 68/50 provides a similar lamellar structure to the skin’s lipids and results in the surface of the skin being soft and smooth.


The Zero Waste collection contains many more PEG-free product ideas. Our BTC experts will be happy to advise you. The contact information of your local BTC contact is available in the Solution Finderand further information can be found on BASF’s Care Creation platform.

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Our Expert

Josefine Schröder has been working in the area of cosmetics, detergents and cleaning products for 23 years. In this time, she has gathered experience in a number of different fields, including research and development, analytics and marketing. 

Her career began in 1998, when she took her diploma thesis at Henkel. Following this, the qualified chemist joined the newly founded company Cognis, which was later taken over by BASF. Since switching to BTC Europe around eight years ago, she has been responsible for cosmetics throughout the whole of Europe as a Senior Technical Expert. 

Schröder is fascinated by “the work with and at customers all over Europe, different cultures, ways of thinking, requirements and markets”. She loves the variety that her career offers her, and “of course, working in a fantastic team”.