Cellulose is a natural polysaccharide found in the cell wall of green plants. In fact, cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. The cellulose content of cotton fiber is 90% and that of wood is 40 to 50%. Cellulose is used across many industries to make numerous products, such as paper, cellophane, rayon, etc. Modified cellulose polymers, such as hydroxyethylcellulose and microcrystalline cellulose, are widely used in cosmetics, cleaning solutions, and other household products.
In cosmetics and personal care products, cellulose functions as an emulsifier, thickener, slip agent, anti-caking agent, and humectant moisturizer. A humectant is a hygroscopic substance that has a molecular structure with several hydrophilic (water loving) groups. This structure allows humectants to attract and retain the moisture in the air nearby via absorption, drawing the water vapor into or beneath the surface. Humectants improve moisture retention and may also help other topical skin care ingredients to perform better. For this reason, cellulose is often found in creams, lotions, facial moisturizers, and anti-aging skin care products.