Fatty acids – Biological and cosmetic raw materials


1. SurfaTech Corporation, Lawrenceville, Ga, USA
2. AAK USA, Inc., Richmond, CA


Fatty acids and triglycerides make up a wide class of compounds that are vitally important in biological systems, they also find applications in personal care formulations. There is a particular interest in fatty acid esters and triglycerides that are liquid at ambient temperatures. The proper selection of fatty acids to make triglycerides and esters will allow for the cushion and play time in a personal care formulation that consumers require. The most common class of fatty acids is saturated fatty acids, which are solid at room temperature, excluding short chain fatty acids, C8 and below.
An approach to get liquid esters and triglycerides is to choose fatty acids that are either unsaturated, branched, or short chain fatty acids, such as C10 or C8 in Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides This article will look at the various classes of fatty acids comparing the various types to each other. Additionally, a series of fatty acids produced by bacteria having a unique structure will be introduced.

In biological systems fatty acids have important roles in:

  1. signal-transduction pathways;
  2. cellular fuel sources.
  3. the composition of hormones and lipids;
  4. the modification of proteins; and
  5. energy storage within adipose tissue (specialized fat cells) in the form of triacylglycerols (1).


Triglyceride, triacylglycerols and glyceryl esters are all names used for this class of materials. A triglyceride with a saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acid is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. A Typical Triglyceride Structure (2).

1) Signal transduction pathway involves the binding of extracellular signaling molecules and ligands to receptors located on the cell surface or inside the cell that trigger events inside the cell, to invoke a response. The response can then alter the cell’s metabolism, shape, and g ...