Takeaways From the SCC76 Cosmetic Trade Show

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Earlier this month, we were pleased to attend the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ 76th annual meeting, known as SCC76. Usually held in New York City, this major trade show kicked off this year in Los Angeles, California, for the first time. Applechem was represented at SCC76 by Senior Chemist Dr. Tim Cuneo and Sales Manager Kyle Gormley. 

In today’s blog, we’ll share a few of our key takeaways and the things we learned from the event. 

SCC76 Themes

This event focuses on scientific communication, bringing together the academic and industry sides of cosmetic chemistry. With a wide range of subject matter, from biotechnology to sustainability, SCC76 offered a great opportunity to learn about new developments in our industry and what our colleagues at other companies are working on. 

The event was well attended, with around 1,000 delegates, and we enjoyed the opportunity to learn from so many of our peers. It also featured over 40 speakers, three keynotes, and over 100 posters and exhibits from various companies. 

Sustainability in Non-Ionic Thickeners

We presented a poster on the sustainability of polyethoxylated materials—in particular, non-ionic associative thickeners used in a number of products such as cleansers and body washes—at this year’s show. 

Contrary to popular belief, polyethoxylated materials can be biodegradable. It is possible to synthesize the precursor molecule, ethylene oxide, as a biosource material from bioethanol. This means these materials can become fully sustainable if we also synthesize a substance that can biodegrade at a sufficient rate so as to avoid bioaccumulation. 

Our study looked at end-use applications, examining the difference between substances that used no surfactants versus those that used a small amount of surfactants. Our results noted a significant increase in the bioavailability, helping the polymer to better dissolve in the test system, with the latter. 

We also examined the structure property relationship, synthesizing large numbers of molecules with small differences and examining how those differences impact the final biodegradation in an industry-standard test called OECD 301B. We determined ways to improve the biodegradability and are proud that our resulting product is inherently and ultimately biodegradable. 

This is a huge step forward for sustainability that eliminates the need for manufacturers to source biodegradable alternatives, many of which are scientifically complex and economically unfeasible, for their products.

What We Learned at SCC76

Throughout the event, we attended many useful talks and had numerous fascinating conversations with others from across the industry. Over the course of three days, several major themes emerged. 

Sustainability and Biodegradability 

As in so many fields, there is currently a significant push for sustainability and environmentally friendly practices within the beauty and personal care industries. A number of sustainability initiatives were presented at SCC76. 

Many larger companies now have deadlines set to reach certain sustainability standards, such as replacing nonsustainable materials. In most cases, these standards are not legally required but voluntarily undertaken to keep up with the changing demands of the market and our consumers. Certain legacy brands, for example, are striving to make both personal care and household products, such as dish soap and laundry detergent, completely biodegradable by 2030. 

As materials suppliers, we have a duty to provide materials that satisfy these needs and work toward the scientific advances necessary to realize them. Ideally, these need to be “one stop” ingredients with a wide range of applications as replacements for nonbiodegradable ingredients currently in use. 

Looking Forward to 2023

Many of those we spoke to during SCC76, including people who are typically optimistic about the growth of our industry, are foreseeing significant challenges in 2023. This is for several reasons, including the national and global economic situation as a whole.

There has been a tremendous growth of indie brands over the last three years, many of which have been sold to larger parent companies or legacy brands that can sustain them through the difficult times. 

Another subset of indie brands, however, are still operating as small, stand-alone companies. Skincare products enjoyed growth during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of market size and consumer price points, allowing these brands to reap the benefits of this growth. 

Smaller brands are now reaching a point where they may struggle to reach the price points they used to be able to offer. For many consumers, discretionary income has dropped, and they are now looking to more budget cosmetics, such as pharmacy, grocery store, and legacy brands. These independent brands have grown quickly and may never have experienced a period of severe economic hardship until now. 

Fortunately, many in our industry are highly adaptable. Those that can adjust and adapt to the changing circumstances will be the companies that will thrive despite these difficulties. 

AI in the Cosmetics Industry

Once the purview of science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) is now a reality, and numerous industries, including ours, are exploring its many potential applications. As a result, use cases for AI within the cosmetics industry were a major theme of this year’s show. 

The show included several presentations on the practical uses of AI for our industry. For example, here at Applechem, we currently use AI to look at regulatory documents, and we have plans to expand our use of this technology in the future. 

Some of the exciting potential use cases for AI include assessing consumers’ emotional responses to different formulations and ingredients, company data management, analysis of data and trends, and screening potential ingredients to find the best one to use. 

There is a lot of excitement around AI, and opinion is divided on how useful and accurate these technologies are at present, but we expect to see much more of them in the future, as companies expand their use cases and the technology becomes more sophisticated. 

Final Takeaways

One of our major takeaways from this show was that our industry will likely shrink in the coming years, with larger companies on both the raw materials and manufacturing sides continuing to buy up smaller companies. The end result of this will be fewer options for consumers over the next few years. Pricing competition will also be impacted. 

It is clear to us that our industry, like much of the world, has not yet completely emerged from the shadow cast by COVID-19. As a result, trade-show and other event attendance has declined. However, we expect this to increase again in the coming months and years. At these events, we expect to see an increased reliance on technology and on new and unique trends in order to set companies’ booths apart and draw attention.

Contact Applechem

If you would like to know where to find us in the future or learn about any of the other events we have attended, keep an eye on our blog, where we post regular updates. If you would like to know more about SCC76, any of the takeaways we have covered in this post, or anything else about our work, you are welcome to contact us anytime.

We hope to meet you at another show soon.

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