Sucrose Esters – The Next Big Thing?

There’s a lot you can do with sugar.

After the huge success of BB creams a lot of attention has been given to the rest of the alphabet.  We still don’t know what the next combination to take the industry by storm will be.  A lot of us thought that the trend would stick with consonants, but there has been interest in vowels as well.  It’s a crazy world out there.  But another line of enquiry is to look at what is happening in the East, and specifically Korea, to see if there are any more innovations heading down the line.

One thing I have heard is that Korean formulators seem to be showing a lot of interest in materials called sucrose esters.  These are esters of sucrose – the same sugar you put in your coffee – and fatty acids.  Fatty acids or things like cetearyl alcohol which get used a lot in cosmetics as they are.  Reacting oil soluble fatty acids with something water soluble to create an emulsifier is an old trick, but using sucrose as the water soluble bit is fairly recent.

Both parts of the molecule are familiar components of food, so you would expect the esters to be pretty safe.  This is indeed the case and sucrose esters have already found use in the food industry.  They even have an E number.  If you see E473 on a pack it contains a sucrose ester.

The naming system is different for cosmetics, with each ester getting its own name and individual billing on the ingredient list.  As an industry we are probably guilty of oversharing.  Sucrose laurate for example is the ester of sucrose and lauric acid.   They are a bit trickier to formulate with than more widely used emulsifiers.  The suppliers have responded to this by producing blends that make them a bit easier to handle.

The trouble is worth it because they can bring some benefits to the end user.  They can produce liquid crystal structures that are good for solubilising things and for delivering moisturisation to cleansing products.  They can also pull off tricks such as turning a gel into a milk when it comes into contact with water.  Primera body scrub is an example.

Another trick they can play is to create products that give you the option of rubbing in or rinsing off.  Innisfree massage oil is an example.

I doubt that there will be a clammer for sucrose ester products by name.  Consumers are not that interested in chemistry.  But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next big thing from Korea is a product type that relies on the unique properties of a sucrose ester.

Thanks to Jennifer Cargill at Alfa Chemicals for help with the background to this post.

Photo credit: Jeanny Schmidt via photopin cc

3 thoughts on “Sucrose Esters – The Next Big Thing?”

  1. I think it can be influence from the Japanese cosmetic industry… Sucrose esters are very common in Shiseido’s (biggest Japanese company) products. In Korean cosmetics I often see influence from Western and Japan.

  2. Interesting – I was just reading about sucrose esters last night, particularly the Alfa variety. I think they may just be the next big thing. Thanks for sharing!

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