Lecithin

What Is It?

Lecithin is a naturally occuring mixture of the diglycerides of stearic, palmitic and oleic acids, linked to the choline ester of phosphoric acid whose form varies from a waxy mass to a thick, pourable liquid. Hydrogenated Lecithin is the product of controlled hydrogenation (addition of hydrogen) of Lecithin. Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin are used in the formulation of a large number of cosmetics and personal care products.

Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?

Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin enhance the appearance of dry or damaged skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness. These ingredients also help to form emulsions by reducing the surface tension of the substances to be emulsified.

Scientific Facts:

Lecithin can be found in all living organisms and is a predominant component of nervous tissue. It can be obtained from soybean, corn, and egg yolks. Although Lecithin includes diglycerides of stearic, palmitic and oleic acids, the exact fatty acid composition of Lecithin varies depending on the source from which it was obtained.

Safety Information:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes Lecithin on its list of substances affirmed as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for direct addition to food. The safety of Lecithin, and Hydrogenated Lecithin, has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin are safe as used in rinse-off products. The CIR Expert Panel limited the use of Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin in in leave-on products to concentrations equal to or less than 15%.

More safety Information:

CIR Safety Review: The CIR Expert Panel found that Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin were safe as used in rinse-off products and, based on the results of sensitization and photosensitization studies, and safe for use at concentrations equal to or less than 15% in leave-on products. Because adverse reactions to Lecithin have been reported when it was used in a drug product intended to be inhaled, the CIR Expert Panel requested additional inhalation toxicity data. The CIR Expert Panel noted that Lecithin-containing liposomes may enhance the penetration of other ingredients through the skin and that care should be taken in formulating products that contain ingredients that the CIR Expert Panel determined safe for use based on their lack of dermal absorption, or when dermal absorption is a concern. The CIR Expert Panel also acknowledged that cosmetics and personal care products containing Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin may give rise to nitrosoamines in the presence of nitrate or other nitrosating agents.

This link provides more information about nitrosamines.

FDA: Code of Federal Regulations for Lecithin

Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.

EU Cosmetic Regulation: 

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has not limited the daily intake of Lecithin. http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v05je42.htm

More Scientific Information:

Lecithin is mixture of the diglycerides of stearic, palmitic and oleic acids, linked to choline ester of phosphoric acid. Lecithin functions as a skin conditioning agent – miscellaneous and as a surfactant – emulsifying agent in cosmetics and personal care products. It can also act as a dispersing agent for pigments and as an antioxidant.

Resources:

Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration