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Not the Same Old Story

By: Anat Stern and Eden Somberg
Posted: January 20, 2011, from the January 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

The question “What’s new under the sun?” continues to challenge ingredient suppliers as they undertake the search for ingredient innovations at a time when consumers are demanding greater functionality, effectiveness and safety of the products they purchase. This has led to the identification of ingredients that offer greater versatility. While safety of ingredients has always been paramount, now—more than ever—questions about production, quality, testing and evaluation come up, and, additionally, consumers are more sophisticated and informed, often considering production methods and environmental impact as part of an ingredient story.

Taking Cues From Nature

Red microalgae, which flourish in some of the most difficult terrain on earth, may offer an answer in the search for versatile, novel ingredients. Skin is aged and damaged by, among other things, the impact of UV radiation, irritants and pH changes, Porphyridium sp. red microalgae, on the other hand, grow and flourish in the harsh marine tidal zone, which, in the course of a day, may experience extreme changes in temperature, salinity, solar radiation, moisture and/or dryness. The cells of this life form are protected by a thick polysaccharide shield that buffers them from the extreme environmental challenges. These challenges are not dissimilar to the challenges faced on a daily basis by human skin.

This natural shield is emitted from the algae cell, and parts of it dissolve in the water, creating a one-of-a-kind defense mechanism—the properties of which have been confirmed by a wealth of studies.

Taking cues from how nature protects Porphiridium sp., nature-based ingredients have been developed to mimic the effects for the benefit of human skin. Frutarom’s Alguard, for example, is a purified polysaccharide derived from red microalgae, utilizing patented culture technology and an environmentally sound process—resulting in a truly green product.

In this case, Porphyridium sp. microalgae are grown in artificial sea water under controlled conditions and exposed to the intense sunlight of Israel’s Negev Desert to encourage natural polysaccharide production. The growth system—which utilizes only sun, water and nutrients to grow the algae—is not damaging to any natural resources, and heavy metal and iodine contamination by sea water are not a factor due to a specially developed production system. At the end of a growth cycle, the water surrounding the algae is physically purified to produce a clear hydrogel consisting of pure protective polysaccharides—without the use of solvents, chemicals or other additives.

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