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Growing Cosmeceutical Applications

By: Lakshmi Prakash, PhD
Posted: September 29, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

Botanicals, "Bioprotection" and Formulation Challenges

Botanical extracts that support the health, texture and integrity of skin and hair are widely used in cosmetic formulations. Plant materials from which these extracts are prepared have a long history of traditional "cosmeceutical" use, although the term itself is of recent origin. In most cases, these cosmetic applications are adequately supported by efficacy data from scientific literature, as well as documented safety. Among the more popular functional natural ingredients, several antioxidants used in cosmetics are scientifically proven to offer additional benefits in supporting skin texture, appearance and tone.

However, while in traditional cultures plant materials were used in crushed or dried and powdered form, their incorporation into contemporary cosmetic formulations presents unique challenges. Highly colored or gritty plant extracts need to be blended seamlessly into "milky" or clear creams, lotions and gels. This is where a judicious blend of art and science comes in handy. The goodness of herbs and botanicals is extracted out and the actives are tailored for use in conventional formulations with their biological activity remaining intact.

One example is the curcuminoids-rich turmeric extract, well known for its antioxidant properties, antimicrobial effects and beneficial effects on inflammation. Turmeric has been traditionally used by South Asian women in skin care since ancient times. However, its yellow color may be unattractive to contemporary formulators. An innovative patented colorless (white to very light tan) derivative, tetrahydrocurcuminoids address this drawback, and offer effective protection against sun damage. Its antioxidant action is of a comprehensive “bioprotectant” nature, efficiently preventing the formation of free radicals while quenching pre-formed ones as well, thereby protecting the skin cells from damage by UV radiation and the resultant inflammation and injury. This, in turn, has far reaching beneficial effects on overall health and well being, rendering a healthy glow to the skin. Additionally, the composition efficiently lightens skin tone.

Skin Lightening

Skin tone lightening functionality is a significant claim made for many cosmetic products. Hydroquinone, the chemical agent often used to lighten skin, is now subject to regulatory restrictions in several markets due to its potential carcinogenicity. Cosmeceuticals such as kojic acid and derivatives, bearberry extract (arbutin), paper mulberry extract, ascorbic acid derivatives, azelaic acid, licorice extract and other cosmeceutical actives are, therefore, being increasingly used in cosmetic formulations that claim skin lightening. These actives are safer and effective alternatives to hydroquinone and related materials. However, several natural materials, including kojic acid, may not be as effective in skin lightening as hydroquinone. In this context, the efficacy of ultrapure tetrahydrocurcumin as skin tone lightener was found to be several fold greater than that of kojic acid .

Natural Antimicrobials and Preservatives