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Growing Cosmeceutical Applications

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

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Antimicrobials in cosmetics serve to address skin, hair and nail infections as well as to improve the shelf life of cosmetic formulations. In personal care formulations that target skin conditions such as acne, there is an increasing need for economical active ingredients with negligible side effects and a long history of topical use. With the increased occurrence of antibiotic resistant microbial strains and our expanding knowledge of deleterious side effects associated with prolonged antibiotic use, natural ingredients such as essential oils, probiotics and botanical extracts present attractive alternatives for use as topical antimicrobials. Innovative long chain alcohols, natural phenolic compounds and other natural extractives that inhibit microbial growth or possess bactericidal/fungicidal properties are potential options to parabens, and other synthetic preservatives in cosmetic formulations. Natural antimicrobials such as rosemary extract, sage extract, olive leaf extract, certain mushroom extracts, spice essential oils and probiotics are effective deodorants as well.

Natural Moisturizers and Conditioners

Natural topical moisturizers that nourish and tone the skin represent another innovative application of natural extractives in personal care products. One example is Coriander seed oil, a rich source of petroselinic acid, linoleic acid and related fatty acids. These fatty acids are constituents of ceramides that are inherently present in the stratum corneum and prevent moisture loss from the skin surface. Coriander seed oil, therefore, has a healthful role in personal care. Polysaccharides (such as chitosan and derivatives), low molecular weight glycans (tamarind seed polysaccharides, for example), tissue components (such as hyaluronic acid and complexes) and other actives are popular as natural moisturizers. Fats such as shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil derivatives are other naturals that support skin texture and hydration.

Enhancing Uptake and Utilization of Actives

Although a number of healthful ingredients may be present in a topical composition, these actives may not permeate through the stratum corneum. A number of chemical “permeation enhancers” have been used to improve permeation of active compounds. These include compounds such as dimethyl sulfoxide and alcohols that may sometimes damage the skin surface. Sophisticated active delivery technologies (such as liposomes/nanosomes) and natural materials (such as essential oils) are also used to enhance the delivery of actives. A natural patented spice extractive tetrahydropiperine, derived from black pepper, effectively enhances the uptake of bioactive compounds when included in very small amounts in formulations containing other actives.

The ingredients listed in this summary are only a very small selection from the plethora of cosmeceutical options available for personal care product formulations. The sources of these ingredients have a history of culinary, medicinal or topical use spanning centuries. Innovative technology helps to extract the goodness from these ingredients, adapting them for effective use in contemporary personal care formulations.


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