The UK could be on the cusp of a cosmetics shortage as prices balloon for a vital chemical used in many eczema creams, fake tans and shampoos.
A chemical called ethoxydiglycol has been described as the "unsung hero" of cosmetics. It is part of the formula that improves the way cosmetics are applied to the skin. Without it, many cosmetic products as we know them would be unusable.
Ethoxydiglycol is widely used in cosmetic products because it is soluble in both oil and water-based products, such as propylene glycol, water, vegetable oil and ethanol.
The shortage, which is expected to hit UK and European cosmetics manufacturing in the next few weeks, has already seen a near ten-fold price hike.
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Ethoxydiglycol prices have increased from £12.10 ($16.50) to £103 per kg in recent weeks. Many suppliers are now completely out of stock.
Minimum order quantities set by many suppliers have also increased from 24kg to 1,000kg. This means that the minimum order to purchase Ethoxydigylcol is £103,000, which will halt production for many smaller businesses who cannot afford to purchase in those quantities.
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Online pharmacy Medicine Direct said the shortage is expected to have a huge impact on makeup, fake tan, hair dye, shampoos, fragrance, anti-aging and skincare manufacturers. It could also hit the makers of medical products used to treat eczema.
"We quietly manufacture some of the UK's largest fake tanning brands, as of yet, we are still desperately trying to source the ingredient from major UK and European suppliers, which is already impacting our production line," said Diane Higham, managing director of Sunjunkie.com, a fake tan supplier.
Higham says without the ingredient fake tan products will not have the same hold and quality that they normally possess.
"For fake tan to remain on the skin and be resistant to water, the product must be able to absorb into the skin effectively. Without a good solvent, this may not be the case."
Jon Higham, managing director of Medicine Direct, said the cause of the price hike was not yet apparent but that it is likely to be related to the other shortages currently being experienced in the UK.
A shortage of HGV drivers has caused many knock-on effects on what is currently available on UK shelves. Many have put the issue down to increased post-Brexit border checks.
Another factor at play could be the growth in the cosmetics industry throughout Asia Pacific, which could have swallowed up a large volume of the supply.
A recent market research report found that at the current state, reach of personal care products in India is comparatively lower when compared to developed or even other developing countries.
Nonetheless, improving economic environment and rising purchasing power of the Indian population is anticipated to give rise to the adoption of personal care products in the country.
Yahoo Finance UK contacted some leading manufacturers of the chemical but had not received a response at the time of publication.
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