What is caramel?
Probably not what you think. Caramel is a natural coloring agent used in skin care and cosmetics to enhance the appearance of the product by giving it a caramel brown hue.
Caramel colors refer to a family of different red to dark brown liquids or powders that are used as color ingredients.
Much like what you’d be used to if you had ever made caramel candies, caramel is made through a process called caramelization. Caramelization includes the slow heating of sugars to around 170 ° C in the presence of small amounts of acids, alkalis or salts.
This process removes the water from the sugar. As the sugar melts, the molecules break down and re-form compounds with a characteristic dark brown color. Notably, the term “caramel” is often used to describe confectionery and flavors made from caramelized sugar, while the term “caramel color” only describes the color component.
The most common source of sugar used to make caramel colors is High dextrose corn syrup. However, invert sugar and cane sugar are also used. High dextrose corn syrup is the preferred carbohydrate because the resulting caramel color is more stable and less thick over time. This makes it easier to use in cosmetic formulations.
Caramel color has been used for years to enhance the color of cosmetics and skin care products. It’s commonly found in products like hair shampoos, tanning products, makeup, and many other skin and hair care products.
the good: Caramel coloring ingredients are used to enhance the appearance of products by adding a rich light brown color to the product.
not so good: Caramel color does not provide any benefit to the skin, it is only used to enhance the color of the product.
For whom is that? All skin types except those identified as having an allergy.
Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients
Keep an eye on: You can also find caramel-colored ingredients in foods and even beverages.
Why is caramel used?
Caramel acts as a natural coloring agent in cosmetics and skin care products. The caramel color is for visual purposes only. The rich light brown color makes the product look delicious and inviting, but does little else for the product. Caramel color is used exclusively for aesthetics and does not have a positive effect on the skin.
However, not all caramel colors are created equal. They are divided into four classes which differ slightly in terms of load and manufacture. This can affect its use in skin care products.
Class I, or simple caramel colors, are the least processed of the four classes. The carbohydrate raw material is simply heated and no ammonium or sulfite compounds are allowed in Class I manufacture. The resulting caramel color has a neutral to slightly negative ionic charge.
Class II or caustic sulfite caramel colors involve heating the carbohydrate raw material in the presence of sulfite compounds. The resulting caramel color carries a negative ionic charge.
Class III or ammonia caramel colors involve heating the carbohydrate raw material in the presence of ammonia compounds. The resulting low-caramel caramel color carries a positive ionic charge.
Class IV or sulfite ammonia caramel colors involve heating the carbohydrate raw material in the presence of both sulfite and ammonium compounds. The resulting caramel color carries a negative ionic charge. These are the most widely used caramel colors.
What are the other uses of caramel color?
For use in cosmetics, caramel color has been used in food and beverages for over 150 years. The first commercially available caramel colors were made in the United States 1863.
Caramel coloring is used to add color to numerous foods and beverages including cola, soy sauce, condiments, bread, pet foods, cereals, etc. In fact, caramel coloring is the most common food coloring used in the world.
Is caramel vegan?
Caramel is made from sources of sugar and acids, bases or salts. The main source of the sugar that is used to color caramel is corn. It is widely believed that caramel color is a vegan product for both skin care applications and foods and beverages.
If you are looking for a vegan product, check to see if it is a product cruelty free and the rest of the ingredients are vegan too.
Is Caramel Safe?
The United States Food and Drug Administration adds caramel colors to the list of substances considered Generally recognized as safe or GRASS.
Caramel is safe for coloring cosmetics and personal care products, including products that are applied to the lips and eye area. The expert panel for the review of cosmetic ingredients, a group responsible for evaluating the safety of skin care ingredients, has postponed the evaluation of this ingredient because the safety has been assessed by the FDA.
What about 4-mel and caramel?
Some people might be concerned 4-MeI (4-methylimidazole), This is a compound that forms in the process of making Class III and IV caramel colors.
In the late 1960s, 4-Mel was found to cause neurotoxicity in animals at high doses. However, more recent data has shown that there is no evidence that 4-Mel causes cancer or poses any other health risk to humans.
4-Mel forms naturally when heating, frying or cooking many foods. In addition, 4-Mel concerns were more likely to apply to foods and beverages containing caramel than to cosmetics.
Sengar G, Sharma HK. Grocery caramels: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2014; 51 (9): 1686- 1696.