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.
Investigation of Alguard’s composition reveals that the unique 3-D structure of the polysaccharide generates an organized mesh when smeared on a surface. This mesh provides a physical barrier, and, through its organization, gives a homogenous protection to the surface on which it is applied. However, the physical protection of ingredients such as this is not the entire story. In this example, there are negatively charged groups responsible for diverse biological activity against various environmental insults to the skin. Sulfated mono-sugars and groups of glucuonic acid, for instance, are interlaced in the polysaccharide molecule, resembling active groups that naturally exist in skin.
Actions such as these, as documented in studies, also provide photo-protection and microbial adhesion prevention benefits. The reduction of the adhesion of new bacteria by an average of 60% has been demonstrated.
Altogether, these results indicate that regular application of products that contain such ingredients can prevent damage the skin faces in daily life. Further, additional benefits include the prevention of irritation and skin redness (by preventing migration of inflammatory cells to the site of an inflammation) while offering oxidative protection to cells—activities desirable in anti-aging products.
In today’s market, multi-functionality of an ingredient is a key benefit in and of itself, and creates a cost-effect ease of formulation because less actives are needed to produce a wide range of noticeable benefits. Offerings with gentle ingredients that, however, offer an effective spectrum of uses—for both daily and treatment use—are the type of innovations that both benefit brands and resonate with consumers.
And an intriguing ingredient story that translates to an intriguing product/brand story—combined with ingredients that are both multi-functional and efficacious—are the foundations for offerings that resonate with consumers. Add additional elements such as a green production process to the story and a novel, premium and effective ingredient becomes the foundation for beauty products that consumers make their staples.
Anat Stern is a product manager, and Eden Somberg is a technical specialist for ingredient supplier Frutarom.