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Basis for and Clinical Importance of Stratum Corneum Acidification

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While long suspected to be an important regulator of cutaneous antimicrobial defense, the ‘acid mantle’ of the stratum corneum is also a critical regulator of three additional, critical functions – permeability barrier homeostasis, integrity/cohesion (desquamation), and restriction of pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling (i.e., dampening of inflammation) (1,2). The pH of normal human stratum corneum ranges from 4.5-5.5, with the lowest levels occurring in darkly-pigmented individuals (3).


The epidermis renewal time is about 28 days, during which a pH gradient is formed. For several decades, it was assumed that the low pH of the stratum corneum resulted from the deposition of sebaceous gland-derived free fatty acids (FFA) on the skin surface. But it is now evident that secreted sebaceous gland products are not required for stratum corneum acidification, and may have limited impact on pH, as it has been observed that sebaceous gland-impoverished skin sites are as acidic as adjacent, sebaceous gland-enriched sites (4). Instead, pH acidification is achieved by several endogenous pathways including by-products of keratinization (filaggrin processing accounting for 0.5 unit of the bulk pH of the stratum corneum) (5), synthesis of FFA from phospholipids by the secretory phospholipase A2 (contributing to »one unit of SC bulk pH) (6,7), and the sodium-proton exchanger NHE1. In addition, the contribution of melanosome transfer in reducing skin pH, further increases skin acidic mantle in dark pigmented skin compared to light pigmented skin (3).


Skin surface pH is an essential component for a functional skin barrier. It provides antimicrobial defense, and regulates stratum corneum desquamation (8). Indeed, the upper layers of the epidermis carry several enzymes which activity is pH-dependent such as lipid generating enzymes, working best at acidic pH, that supply the lipid envelope of the stratum corneum (ceramides and phospholipids), or extracellular serine proteases, which are responsible for corneocytes shedding, that work best at neutral to alkaline pH (9). In addition, these proteases also play a role in skin inflammation, as they can process and activate inflammatory precursors such as IL-1α and IL-1β (10,11).


The importance of skin pH has also been highlighted in pathologies like ichthyosis vulgaris or atopic dermatitis, which depict dramatic barrier function impairment. In both diseases, the stratum corneum pH is increased by approximately 0.5 unit compared to healthy skin.  This increase has been correlated with: 1. mutations in the Filaggrin protein, impairing its degradation in smaller components associated with pH reduction) and, 2. excessive serine protease activity, leading to excessive desquamation, cytokine cascade and inflammation) (5,11,12).


Age also seems to play a role in stratum corneum pH. Aged human stratum corneum (50-60 years old) displays a higher pH than in a younger skin, with proven adverse consequences for both barrier function and stratum corneum cohesion. This age difference has been linked to decreased expression/activity of the sodium-proton exchanger NHE1 and the secretory phospholipase A2 in aged individuals (13).


In all cases, providing exogenous acidification has shown clinical benefits. Several rat and mouse models mimicking atopic dermatitis, fragile neonatal skin or an aged phenotype have been employed to demonstrate that defects in the barrier function maturity and stratum corneum cohesion can be corrected through restoring a normal skin pH (13–15). Moreover, in the case of atopic dermatitis, exogenous stratum corneum acidification has also been reported as beneficial in further preventing the ‘atopic March’ associated with aeroallergen-induced asthma (16).


In conclusion, the importance and clinical benefits of maintaining a low skin surface pH are becoming increasingly evident, especially in inflammatory dermatoses such as atopic dermatitis as well as aged skin, where the use of reduced pH emollients and cleansers should be strongly recommended to maintain a skin barrier in good condition.



  1. Chuong CM, Nickoloff BJ, Elias PM, Goldsmith LA, Macher E, Maderson PA, et al. What is the « true » function of skin? Exp Dermatol. 11(2):159‑87, 2002
  2. Elias PM. Stratum corneum acidification: how and why? Exp Dermatol 24(3):179‑80, 2015
  3. Gunathilake R, Schurer NY, Shoo BA, Celli A, Hachem J-P, Crumrine D, et al. pH-regulated mechanisms account for pigment-type differences in epidermal barrier function. J Invest Dermatol 129(7):1719‑29, 2009
  4. Man MQ, Xin SJ, Song SP, Cho SY, Zhang XJ, Tu CX, et al. Variation of skin surface pH, sebum content and stratum corneum hydration with age and gender in a large Chinese population. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 22(4):190‑9, 2009
  5. Gruber R, Elias PM, Crumrine D, Lin T-K, Brandner JM, Hachem J-P, et al. Filaggrin genotype in ichthyosis vulgaris predicts abnormalities in epidermal structure and function. Am J Pathol 178(5):2252‑63, 2011
  6. Mao-Qiang M, Feingold KR, Jain M, Elias PM. Extracellular processing of phospholipids is required for permeability barrier homeostasis. J Lipid Res 36(9):1925‑35, 1995
  7. Ilic D, Bollinger JM, Gelb M, Mauro TM. sPLA2 and the epidermal barrier. Biochim Biophys Acta 1841(3):416‑21, 2014
  8. Elias PM. Structure and function of the stratum corneum extracellular matrix. J Invest Dermatol 132(9):2131‑3, 2012
  9. Hachem J-P, Roelandt T, Schürer N, Pu X, Fluhr J, Giddelo C, et al. Acute acidification of stratum corneum membrane domains using polyhydroxyl acids improves lipid processing and inhibits degradation of corneodesmosomes. J Invest Dermatol 130(2):500‑10, 2010
  10. Hansson L, Bäckman A, Ny A, Edlund M, Ekholm E, Ekstrand Hammarström B, et al. Epidermal overexpression of stratum corneum chymotryptic enzyme in mice: a model for chronic itchy dermatitis. J Invest Dermatol 118(3):444‑9, 2002
  11. Cork MJ, Robinson DA, Vasilopoulos Y, Ferguson A, Moustafa M, MacGowan A, et al. New perspectives on epidermal barrier dysfunction in atopic dermatitis: gene-environment interactions. J Allergy Clin Immunol 118(1):3‑21; quiz 22‑3, 2006
  12. Hatano Y, Man M-Q, Uchida Y, Crumrine D, Scharschmidt TC, Kim EG, et al. Maintenance of an acidic stratum corneum prevents emergence of murine atopic dermatitis. J Invest Dermatol 129(7):1824‑35, 2009
  13. Choi E-H, Man M-Q, Xu P, Xin S, Liu Z, Crumrine DA, et al. Stratum corneum acidification is impaired in moderately aged human and murine skin. J Invest Dermatol 127(12):2847‑56, 2007
  14. Fluhr JW, Man M-Q, Hachem J-P, Crumrine D, Mauro TM, Elias PM, et al. Topical peroxisome proliferator activated receptor activators accelerate postnatal stratum corneum acidification. J Invest Dermatol 129(2):365‑74, 2009
  15. Fluhr JW, Crumrine D, Mao-Qiang M, Moskowitz DG, Elias PM, Feingold KR. Topical liver x receptor activators accelerate postnatal acidification of stratum corneum and improve function in the neonate. J Invest Dermatol 125(6):1206‑14, 2005
  16. Lee H-J, Lee NR, Kim B-K, Jung M, Kim DH, Moniaga CS, et al. Acidification of stratum corneum prevents the progression from atopic dermatitis to respiratory allergy. Exp Dermatol 26(1):66‑72, 2017


About the Authors

Carine Mainzer, PhD – Scientific Support Manager, Silab

Before joining Silab in 2016, Dr Mainzer was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Dermatology at University of California San Francisco under the supervision of Dr. Peter Elias and Dr. Yoshikazu Uchida, where her work focused on the communication between inflammatory cells and cutaneous cells under bacterial challenges. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Lyon (France) in 2014 with work focused on the involvement of the Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 on epidermal differentiation and aging. Dr. Carine Mainzer has been within the cosmetic industry since several years now, working notably with Johnson & Johnson Consumer France, Natura and Silab. Her current position offers her the opportunity to continue applying her scientific expertise to the research problematics of the cosmetic industry in various domain around skin.


Peter M Elias, MD. – Dermatology Service, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Department of Dermatology, University of California

Dr. Elias, Staff Physician, San Francisco VA Medical Center and Professor Emeritus, University of California San Francisco, is in part responsible for the present wealth of knowledge on the structure and myriad functions of mammalian stratum corneum.  His pioneering research since the 1970’s has dispelled the myth of the stratum corneum as a “dead, keratinized, basket-weave” structure, to establish the iconic “brick and mortar” model.  The stratum corneum is now viewed as a metabolically active, two-compartment composite that functions as a biosensor. The resultant “outside-in” concept of the barrier as a prime mover in the pathogenesis of cutaneous disease has also been a highlight of his work, with the paramount role of skin barrier dysfunction in disease pathogenesis now widely recognized. Over the past 40 years, his lab has been the destination for over 100 young investigators from around the world, a trend that continues to enrich the field of academic dermatology with an armamentarium of techniques and disciplines on epidermal structure and function.  Dr. Elias mentors his vast network of associates and postdoctoral fellows, past and present, several of whom have achieved leadership roles in academia and industry the world over.  His oeuvre comprises over 650 scientific publications, including several books that he has either edited or co-edited.


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In a world becoming increasingly eco-conscious, the word naturality has become part of our regular if not daily vocabulary. But this word, that may sound trivial at first sight, harbors different meanings and applicability, depending on the individual employing it.


In the last few years, nature has been in the center of the conversations especially from an environmental perspective with climate change issues being a worldwide concern. In an effort to improve our impact on the planet but also on ourselves, consumers have started to shift their habits with an increasing demand for naturalness, locally sourced beauty products that are respectful of the environment and of human health.


This phenomenon is not just a trend, it has become a lifestyle, synonymous of healthiness, that has been observed in industrialized countries for some years now not only at the personal care level (1), but also in the food industry, textile, automotive, etc.….

Most of the established personal care companies now carry a sustainability program. To name a few: J&J with their citizenship and sustainability approach; L’Oréal with their Sharing beauty with all (SBWA) program; or Natura Brasil, founding member of the Union for Bioethical Trade (2-4). In the past years, new brands have appeared with a strong imprint in naturality, that is not only reflected in their actions and products but also in their name: Yarok, which means “green” or “pure” in Hebrew, develops organic and sustainable hair care products; Ajali, a brand from Nigeria, which name means “red earth” or “sand” in the local language, produces handmade natural cosmetics with local ingredients from West Africa and in tight partnerships with local farmers (Mintel 2018). China is also joining this movement with companies sourcing natural ingredients (Maysu) pushing for a change in consumer’s habits. According to a Mintel survey, 45% of Chinese women are planning to use in the next few years products with natural herbs or plants (1).


Similarly to the brands, cosmetic ingredients suppliers with a chemical, biotechnological or natural ingredients profile have joined the movement and communicate more and more about the implementation of naturality in their products. As explained recently by Monique Simmonds from the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens (5), plants have an aura that have fascinated individuals for years, especially because plants are very clever and have developed several ways to adapt and protect themselves from harmful situations, making them attractive materials for consumers.

In the quest of mastering nature and offering natural materials that would bear the strength of Mother Nature, but be safe and respectful of our planet, suppliers have to follow some specifications and be knowledgeable about local and global cosmetic regulations, which can sometimes alter the choice of the raw material. For instance, in some countries, certain plants are considered as medical drugs and thus cannot be used to develop a cosmetic ingredient. Additionally, sourcing natural resources is also subjected to local laws on biodiversity preservation (the Nagoya protocol) (6-7).

A great example for sourcing naturally-derived products is the Amazon forest that carries exotic plants with a variety of beneficial actions, but which supply needs close monitoring to avoid both plant toxicity and species disappearance. Interestingly, one approach followed more and more, and advertised by companies and raw material suppliers, is the collaboration with local populations to cultivate and/or supply local plants in a respectful way.

Lastly, another aspect associated with naturally-derived products is the variability they can present. Unlike chemically synthesized molecules, easily reproduced from one batch to another, products coming from nature evolve and change according to environmental challenges. This applies for any supplier elaborating naturally-derived raw materials and it is especially true for those developing natural active ingredients.

Mastering nature requires some tricks to guaranty the efficacy, the safety and the reproducibility of naturally-sourced ingredients. Thus, the right questions should be asked from the beginning: which plant has been selected? It is important to carefully identify the plant of interest, starting with its correct name (often Latin based). What is special about this plant? Does it bear specific features that could help with its identification and could perhaps relate to its functionality? Botanical and chemical-physical analyses can be helpful to assist answer these questions and avoid confusion or falsification. This is the case for Ophiopogon japonicus and Liriope spicata, two plants that look alike when non-flowering, but that bear a specific analytical profile. Another question to address is the origin of the plant. Where does the plant come from? How has it been sourced? Is the plant coming from a wild harvest or has it has been cultivated? And finally, is the plant available in large quantities enabling an industrial scale production? All considerations that have to be acknowledged when working with natural raw material sourcing.


Today, naturality is one essential criteria of a cosmetic product that is pushed by eco-conscious consumers and offered by most of the actors in our field. Mastering Nature requires rigor with a long list of requirements to be considered to deliver high-quality and effective products. As the number of naturally-derived products keeps on growing, one major challenge that remains will be to sustain constant innovation while developing naturally-based products.




(1) Mintel Global Tends 2018

(2) Johnson & Johnson (2017). Citizenship & Sustainability Reporting. Retrieved from https://www.jnj.com/caring/citizenship-sustainability

(3) L’Oreal (2015): Sharing Beauty with all, the L’Oreal Sustainability Commitment. Retrieved from https://www.loreal.com/sustainability/sbwa

(4) Williams, T. (2015). Natura Cosmetics gets a sustainability makeover. Retrieved from https://www.businessforhome.org/2015/02/natura-cosmetics-gets-a-sustainability-makeover/

(5) Hollis, L. (2018). Trends in natural beauty. Retrieved from https://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Article/2018/10/10/Advances-in-Botanical-Actives-naturals-opportunity-interview-part-I

(6) Dorato, S. (2018). Chapter 1 – General concepts: current legislation on cosmetics in various countries. Analysis of Cosmetic Products (Second edition), p3-37

(7) CBD. Retrieved from https://www.cbd.int/abs/about/default.shtml/


Dr. Carine Mainzer joined Silab in 2016 as a Scientific Support Manager. Before joining Silab, Dr. Carine Mainzer was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Dermatology at University of California San Francisco under the supervision of Dr. Peter Elias and Dr. Yoshikazu Uchida, where her work focused on the communication between inflammatory cells and cutaneous cells under bacterial challenges. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Lyon (France) in 2014 with work focused on the involvement of the Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 on epidermal differentiation and aging. Dr. Carine Mainzer has been within the cosmetic industry since several years now, working notably with Johnson & Johnson Consumer France, Natura and Silab. Her current position offers her the opportunity to continue applying her scientific expertise to the research problematics of the cosmetic industry in various domain around skin.

Natural Sun-filters

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Solar Ultraviolet Radiations UVA and UVB are complete carcinogens. They both cause DNA damage and, in the process of DNA repair, mutations are generated at non-negligible rates. Some mutations provoke the so-called transformation in which a cell acquires unlimited replication potential and loss of growth control.

UV radiation is also known to be the single most effective factor of skin aging. This occurs via the elicitation of a strong inflammatory reaction that provokes multiple oxidative cascades as well as the release of Matrix Metallo Proteinases, the consequent disorganization of the elastic fibers and a massive deposition of elastin.

Since the early twentieth century it is known that sunburn is provoked by UVB and the cosmetic industry developed UVB filters to protect against it. For two generations, between 1935 and 1985, UVB filters were used to protect the skin. In spite of the use of these filters it was observed that the skin of sun-worshippers became sagging and accumulated wrinkles, as if something else than UVB could accelerate skin aging. Experiments performed in the late 80s and early 90s by casting UV radiation of defined wavelengths on the skin of hairless rodents allowed scientists to realize that skin sagging is the consequence of UVA irradiation (1). UVA was also shown to induce DNA damage when in the presence of Oxygen and transition metals (2), as is the case in vivo. The cosmetic industry therefore developed UVA filters.

The preparations of formulas to protect against UV radiation is not straightforward, insofar as the protection afforded by the filters is not proportional to their concentration, that is that in order to double the SPF of a formula one might need to increase the concentration of the filter by a factor of three or four, and the filters at high concentration affect the esthetics of the formula and might affect the health of the skin as well. In addition, the UVA filters agreed to be in the positive list of the FDA are unstable. Remarkably, the FDA opposes the addition to the positive list, of new, stable UVA filters that transfer energy to molecular Oxygen and produce singlet Oxygen, the most reactive of the Reactive Oxygen Species. The FDA is probably right: with Quantum Yields of singlet Oxygen generation that reach up to 0.09, these UVA sun-filters could safely be called photosensitizers.

There is a need for new, safe, non-expensive UVA filters. They can be found in nature, for instance as components of edible algae (3). Plants and algae are particularly interesting insofar as they are accessible to investigation and constitute a sustainable material for extraction or production. Porphyra umbilicalis (also known as Nori) is an alga growing on Asian coastal lines. It is used to wrap sushi pieces in Japanese cuisine. It contains relevant amounts of Mycosporine–like amino acids (MAA) which absorb UV radiation with a sharp peak in the UV-A region, centered at 334 nm. Its molecular weight is around 350 and its molar extinction coefficient at 334 nm is 44,000. This is to say that its K-value is similar to the one of Parsol 1789. Nori extracts can be used to dramatically improve the broad-spectrum absorption of sunscreens. Materials absorbing at 330-340 nm are also demanded globally, for products aimed at evening skin tone, because they absorb in the UV-A region known to provoke the immediate pigment darkening.

Oftentimes the process of extraction of the material of interest only offers a limited yield, as it is the case when the material of interest is unstable in the conditions of the extraction, but this is not the case for the MAA from Nori. The biomass is suspended and incubated in diluted acetic acid (~0.5%) (1:50 w/v) to avoid the extraction of large cellular polymers such as DNA and RNA. Upon separating the biomass from the extraction fluid, a second round of extraction and possibly a third round of extraction can be performed, so as to extract as much of the molecule of interest as possible, when this is compatible of the cost of the extraction itself. The extraction fluid is then concentrated and reduced to a powder state by the process of Spray-drying.

At this stage the extract is appropriate for being used in cosmetic formulas. The cost of extraction is minimal and the abundance of the biomass is such that the cost of the bulk of algae is negligible. This makes the MAA from Porphyra umbilicalis an ingredient of choice for new sunscreens. As a matter of fact, this MAA does not absorb in the UVB and as such, technically, it is not considered to be a sun-filter by the FDA and can therefore be used to boost the protection of broad-spectrum sunscreens.



1- Bissett DL, Hannon DP, Orr TV (1989) Wavelength dependence of histological, physical and visisble changes in chronically UV-irradiated hairless mouse skin. Photochem Photobiol 50 : 763-769

2-Audic A, Giacomoni PU (1993) DNA nicking by UV radiation is enhanced in the presence of Iron and Oxygen. Photochem Photobiol 57 : 508-512

3-Sinha RP, Singh SP, Häder DP (2007) Database on mycosporine and mycosporine- like amino acids (MAAs) in fungi, cyanobacteria, macroalgae, phytoplankton and animals. J Photochem Photobiol B 89 : 29-35


Paolo Giacomoni acts as an independent consultant to the Skin Care industry.  He has served as CSO of Élan Rose International (2015-2-2018), as VP of Skin Care R&D with Herbalife (2011-2014) and was Executive Director of Research at Estée Lauder (1998-2011). Dr. Giacomoni was also in charge of research and communications for Clinique and has conducted research on cell and surface biochemistry for best-selling products.  During his tenure at L’Oréal, as Head of the Department of Biology, and then as scientific attaché to the Director of Applied Research, he built a record of achievement through research on DNA damage and metabolic impairment induced by UV radiation as well as on the positive effects of antioxidants.  Dr, Giacomoni was one of the founders of the European Society for Photobiology as well as of the European Network for the Study of the Biology of Aging. He has authored 100+ publications and patents. He received his Ph.D., in Biochemistry from Université Paris VI, a Laurea in Atomic Physics from Università di Milano, and had Post-Doctoral Training at Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg, at University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI and at University of California, San Diego, CA.




Skin Microbiome

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As a skin biologist and researcher of technology in the personal care field for over 20 years, there are few times in one’s career that you experience a trend that has the legs to become a new playing field in science.  The skin microbiome strides made in recent years have truly been remarkable.  Not only have the number of products available addressing the skin microbiome exploded but the number of research papers and articles on the topic has captivated the industry.  Furthermore, it highlights the direction and utilization of systems biology as a tool by applying the learnings of microbiology, skin biology, biochemistry, genetics and ecology all into one discipline.  The field is still in its infancy and in constant transition as the methods and models being employed are still being optimized to reduce bias and improve precision and accuracy.

The single primary driver of this new frontier are the remarkable advancements in high throughput gene sequencing and the computational analysis required to handle massive amounts of data and put it into a meaningful perspective.  Not only can we identify bacteria faster and more cost efficiently, but now we understand through genetic comparisons that strains of a species can differ significantly resulting in the difference between health and disease under a variety of conditions.  This was one of many topics permeating throughout a recent scientific microbiome congress held in Boston pulling together forces within the industry to form a multi-disciplinary approach to the opportunities and advancements within this growing field.   Other topics included consumer education, regulatory preambles, biological target identification, microbiome relevance, host-biome interactions and advances in technology used to study the human microbiome.

With all science comes controversy.  Areas of debate range from what defines a healthy microbiome to how diverse the microbiome should be and why our skin is losing its biodiversity.  Many claims and research point to our forefathers (hunter gatherer societies today) as having a much more diverse skin microbiome than modern man.  Thus, the prevalence of skin-related issues is markedly reduced in tribes living in the Amazon compared to that of our modern city dweller.  This loss of biodiversity has been linked to a significant increase in allergy-related disease.  Furthermore, the use of preservatives and complex ingredients in skin care products has been deemed suspect.  The relevance to other trendy areas within skin care can now be woven with a new perspective.  These include the role of pollution and the duration of solar radiation exposure.  Since the skin is the youngest organ in our body in terms of evolution, the sun and atmospheric environment plays a major role in its phenotype and function.  Research is now linking the evolution of our skin microbiome to the same influential environmental pressures.

The skin microbiome is the total sum of all microbes that live on or in the skin.  It is a highly dynamic entity that is analogous to a beehive in that it is responsive and adaptive to the many internal and external factors influencing its environment all simultaneously.  The exciting aspect of the skin microbiome is that it will force traditional science to think differently.  Application of environmental science theorems are now being placed into equations, hypotheses,  and experimental designs previously limited to a classical reductionist algorithm that one needs to understand the parts before understanding the whole.  This modality of scientific exploration has been dominated by the study of molecules explaining cells which, in turn, explains the function of tissues and helps us to understand how organs work and interact with in systems.

This is just part of the story.  Moving forward, we now must consider levels of organization that typically ended with an understanding of our own species.  With the skin microbiome, we need to consider the fundamentals of science from a more complex standpoint.  For instance, a full understanding of strain introduction within a species, population diversity with in specific organs, and communities of microbes between body sites are now combined with our classical understanding of skin biology to explain how this entire ecosystem influences our day to day function, health, and disease.  Truly, a new frontier awaits us.   I guess this is what the explorers Louis and Clark felt like starting their journey to the Pacific Ocean.

So where are we in this journey?  Researchers have characterized the human skin microbiome as both functional and site specific as it pertains to different regions on the body.  The two most distinct body environments are those with sebum and those without.  Compounding these areas are those under humidity, occlusion, and moisture and those that are not.  Of course, there are other microclimates on or in our skin including the follicular surface areas of hair, sweat and eccrine glands.  Understanding how each of these microclimates works at different stages of life, within ethnic groups, different geographical locations, and between the sexes is just the tip of the iceberg.

Areas of the skin that are rich in sebum have garnished much attention as these areas are most prone to acne as illustrated in work done by Prouty and Pappas.  It is within this area that we see some very interesting correlations with our skin actually regulating its own biodiversity.  Hair follicle-associated sebaceous glands secrete sebum, a highly complex lipid mixture that covers the skin surface and hair shafts. The functional versatility of lipids, combined with the wide array of sebaceous lipid classes, provide skin with a substrate that facilitates adaptation to diverse environmental situations, including interactions with microbes.  Analysis of sebum and its components have shown that a particular specific fatty acid called sapienic acid (16:1 n10), has been shown to be antimicrobial to Staphylococcus Aureus, the very species implicated in flare reactions in atopic dermatitis.  Furthermore, infection by Staphylococcus aureus is associated with a reduction in sapienic acid in the sebum of patients with atopic dermatitis, and topical application of sapienic acid is correlated with decreased bacterial load and reduction of symptoms. Taken together, this strongly suggests that sapienic acid functions as a “first-line” component of the innate immune system at the skin’s surface.

The beauty of this great journey is that it may explain and give way to an entirely new approach to skin care.  Host-biome interactions will be the focus of healthy immune development from birth to treating maladies such as atopic dermatitis, rosacea, acne, and dandruff, and body odor.  Learnings from the skin microbiome are migrating into oral and vaginal health arenas, changing the way we look at health and disease as well.

While research scientists unravel the complexities of the skin microbiome, the interest from within the industry is also buzzing with discovery and innovation.  There seems to be multiple avenues to enter this space and all have shown some level of promise in terms of delivering on claims.  We can certainly thank the yogurt industry for laying the ground work with the consumers.  From study data presented in Boston, consumers (especially Millennials) seem to get the concept of taking care of your skin the same way you take care of your gut microbiome.  Although, most consumers have a rudimentary understanding of microbiome, they are very willing to try products targeting it.  Reinforcing a healthier lifestyle, conforming to more natural-based hygiene practice or looking to change the way their skin behaves is all the motivation consumers need.

New technologies and innovation are taking form in a variety of ways.  Prebiotics seem to be gaining the most momentum in skin care as evidenced by the number of new prebiotic technology offerings seen at the last two In-Cosmetics shows. Prebiotics are those materials that feed, nourish, and/or manage the skin microbiome in some form or fashion.  Examples of prebiotics are polysaccharides, polyols, free fatty acids, fibers nitrogen sources, and lactic acid.  By focusing on prebiotics, many technology companies avoid the complexities of having to grow live cultures of bacteria to generate a second category called probiotics.  With this strategy, we see the use of live bacteria whether sourced from skin or other substrates like soil.  Some are using the very bugs found in yogurt while others are applying species said to be part of our microbiome during earlier times of human existence but were lost.

This category of products is the most complex and wrought with controversy.  Should live or dead microbes be used?  How do skin bacterial communities change with new species introduction?  How much biodiversity is too much?  All of these questions are being studied at every level of complexity.  Another branch of probiotics is now emerging by genetically engineering normal flora strains to secrete enzymes and factors needed to correct deficiencies in skin physiology.  A well-known condition called atopic dermatitis is characterized by inflammation, itch, a reduction in barrier function, and loss of moisturization.  Researchers are now programing Staphylococcus epidermidis, a commensal microbe (found to be reduced in atopic dermatitis) to secrete barrier-related proteins, enzymes to increase lipids, and antimicrobial peptides to reduce the Staph aureus load (which supersedes that of Staphylococcus epidermidis in atopic dermatitis).  Lastly, we have the category of postbiotics.  This group consists of fermentation products and supernatants from bacterial culture.  These materials are the next generation prebiotics.  Designed and targeted to shift to better microbiome health, an increase in biodiversity, and to provide a new way to achieve clean healthy beauty.

The journey to understanding the skin microbiome is well underway.  Nobody knows for sure where we will be in the next 5 to 10 years. The models and methods used to study the skin will advance and become more sophisticated as well, as the products and claims associated with these new discoveries develops.  It is exciting to see so many disciplines coming together to unravel the mysteries of our microbial populations and communities living and working with us in so many ways.  New levels of understanding will be achieved in exploring commensal and symbiotic relationships with our tiny friends.  The skin microbiome field will inevitably fall into sub-specialties where you have the folks looking to keep skin clean and free of microbes while others will look to preserve and propagate the populations of beneficial microbes to sustain and promote healthy skin. When it comes to research into the skin microbiome, we truly are the sum of all of our parts and then some.

Michael Anthonavage has 20+ years of experience in personal care product development and a career spanning background in skin biology. Michael has extensive knowledge in product development in the area of personal care product design and specializes in R&D to marketing translation. He is an engaging public speaker and product technology advocate with an ability to marry complex ideas and concepts to various consumer needs. Michael is currently the Director of Advanced Clinical Services at CRL. Michael’s previous positions involved R&D leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Presperse and Vantage Specialty Chemicals.  Michael is currently on the NYCSCC Scientific Advisory Board and has a number publications and patents to his name.

Halal certification for personal care raw materials and products

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Muslims around the world used the word Halal for many years to describe a certain dietary regimen. The roots of the word originate from the Quran and Shariah and it typically defines how animals are slaughtered and restricts the consumption of certain animals, and alcohol.  In general, everything created by God is allowed as food with some exceptions.  These exceptions include pork, blood, animal meat that was not properly slaughtered, alcohol, intoxicants, and inappropriately used drugs.  With regard to fish, all fish with scales are allowed but animals that live both in water and on land like frogs are not allowed.  In addition to previously described restrictions, Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) and body parts/fluids are not allowed.  For example, gelatin is not considered Halal if it comes from pigs or from animals that were not slaughtered properly.  Keratin and stem cells from human origin are not allowed as well.

In the last decade, the word Halal was used to describe not only foods but also personal care products as well as cosmetics and a variety of other marketed products. The demand for Halal products has continuously grown over the past few years and is expected to grow even further.  For cosmetics, raw materials as well as finished products are subject to certification.  As a general rule, during the Halal certification process the products should first meet all local guidelines in terms of safety purity and quality.  For example, if the product is under the FDA jurisdiction, it must meet first such guidelines and then be considered for Halal certification.  The certification process typically starts with an application, followed by submission of the documents related to sourcing of all raw materials and is typically finalized with an onsite inspection.  The onsite inspection considers factors like manufacturing, storage, packaging and transportation of such products.

In North America there are several agencies that certify raw materials and cosmetics products. The Halal Advisory group www.halaladvisory.com is one of such agencies and is located in New York city. Another agency of interest is the Islamic Society of the Washington Area known as ISWA www.ushalalcertification.com. This agency is located in Washington DC and like other agencies has an online application.  The Islamic Food and Natural Council of America (IFANCA) is located in Park Ridge, IL and has a web presence at www.IFANCA.org the agency grants Halal certificates as well. For European companies, The Muslim Food Board (TMFB) located in the United Kingdom issues Halal certificates under its division; Halal Certification Europe.  Applications can be submitted online at www.tmfb.com.

I hope this short synopsis will give the reader an overview of the Halal guidelines, and means to obtain certification for raw materials and finished goods. If additional information is needed to understand the Halal standards, one good resource is The Malaysian Standard MS 2200 Pat1: 2008 which describes the practical guidelines for handling Halal cosmetics.

Dr. Hani Fares started his career in personal care studying the effect of solvents on sunscreen chemicals. His interest in skin drug delivery especially from polymeric matrices grew during his graduate work at Rutgers, where he completed his Ph. D. in Pharmaceutics. Dr. Fares worked at Block Drug and GlaxoSmithKline where he held positions in research and development in the areas of skincare and oral care.  After that, he joined L’Oreal where he held several positions of increasing responsibility leading to AVP of skincare.  He is currently the Senior Director of skincare and oral care at Ashland Specialty Ingredients.  Dr. Fares is the author of many publications, and patents and made many presentations in national and international meetings in the areas of suncare, skincare, and oral care.

Naturals, Synthetics, and Safety – The Rise of Trends and the Fall of a Dialectic

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In 2018 the modern fragrance industry will focus on technology, the regulatory environment, and the creative challenges. One of the hottest topics and trends outside of these specific focuses in not just fragrance but all of cosmetics, industrially or independently created, is natural products and formulation, and one that has triggered a wide variety of dialogues and raises many questions for both consumers and producers.

Before recently, one would have to build a time machine to find a bottle of Kyphi, an Ancient Egyptian incense or wearable perfume thought to be a blend of cassia, cinnamon, mastic, mint, henna, and mimosa in a medium made from honey, wine, and raisins (though the precise formulation is subject to scholarly debate and varies). Now, you just have to contact a ‘natural perfumer’, many of whom operate on web-based commerce platforms and have built their businesses online through social media – a common gathering place for those who share similar opinions on the natural trend.

Many of these natural perfumers will advertise that their perfumes are composed using essential oils and absolutes as sources of fragrant compounds that have been ‘naturally’ obtained through steam distillation, tincturing, effleurage, hexane-free extractions, and so on. This would be in contrast to ‘synthetic’ compounds that are synthesized in a laboratory from other chemicals, some of which are not found in nature and so can only be produced by these methods.

But why is ‘natural’ so popular, and marketing based around ‘natural’ products so effective lately? It is because consumers are far more invested in their health and wellness as well as the health and wellness of the environment, which is a fair concern as both could potentially be impacted by the fragrance industry, as exemplified by studies on how some older synthetic musks could harm the defense systems of marine life1 and an increase in sensitivities to fragrances noted by the American Academy of Dermatology.2

However, I am not here to espouse the idea that ‘natural’ ingredients and products are a way of the future, even though naturalism has been an effective tool of marketing in order to capture an emerging niche in the cosmetics and fragrance market, nor am I here to indict any synthetic materials as potentially harmful. Instead, I wish to raise questions as to the validity of natural-synthetic dialectic, on which discussions around safety seem to be based amongst consumers of fragrances whether natural or synthetic or anywhere in between, when the line between ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ is becoming more and more blurred.

The ultimate catalyst for that blurring is the biochemists and bioengineers who have worked to develop cutting edge biosynthetic methods of producing fragrant compounds. This involves introducing novel, artificially designed genes into the genome of bacteria, which when provided the right starting materials will synthesize and produce fragrant chemical compounds, or utilizing enzymes which are able to perform a specific transformation.

Akigalawood, a captive ingredient of Givaudan’s, was produced utilizing the latter method. Their Biosciences Team found that the enzyme laccase, with processing using just water and salts, was able to transform a natural material into a new fragrant compound, never before available to perfumers and having profile similar to patchouli with hints of spicy pepper and agarwood. The former approach has seen much use as well, an example being Ginkgo Bioworks of Boston, MA having worked with Firmenich to engineer yeast capable of producing a complex mixture containing the compounds found in rose essential oil.

These developments make mince-meat of once common semantics and raise many questions that should be answered in the coming future. Is Akigalawood a ‘natural’ material if it was produced by an organism and not by chemical synthesis? Is linalool isolated from lavender oil by distillation ‘synthetic’, as it was produced using laboratory equipment? The discussion of what can be categorized as natural or synthetic by the consumer becomes quite complex once these considerations are made.

Further complicating the consumer discussion of safety and environmental friendliness is the fact that that ‘natural’ is not always better for the industry, consumer, and environment, counter to the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ which is the reason the trend for ‘natural’ cosmetics has seen the expansion it has. For example, sassafras oil is carcinogenic, the high levels of ketones present in sage oil are toxic, and furocoumarins in bergamot oil and atranol and chloroatranol in oakmoss absolute can cause skin reactions if not removed through laboratory processing.

Additionally, a consumer who fancies strongly rose-tinted glasses may also believe that natural materials are better for the environment, which is not necessarily true. Over-sourcing of sandalwood rosewood and agarwood has led to them becoming endangered and near extinction, and tragically the musk deer was hunted to near extinction for its musk pods to use as a natural perfumery material in the past.

In the eyes of IFRA, the regulatory body overseeing the safety standards and proper usage and amount recommendations for fragrance materials in cosmetics, it does not matter whether the material is natural or synthetic, as there are plenty of materials that are available only through chemical synthesis on their restrictions – it only matters to them whether it is safe, which is I believe the proper semantic framework to discuss ingredients and formulation for both the industry and especially the consumer, not the natural-synthetic dialectic brought about by consumer trends.

If anything, these misperceptions and trends founded on a now shaky dialectic and not overall safety signify that there is much work to be done on the relationship between company, consumer, and the environment. I believe firmly the focus of that relationship should be safety, transparency, and most importantly sustainability, rather than on the semantic category of the materials used in a formulation. Moving forward into the future of fragrance science, it should not matter whether a material falls into a certain category, but rather that it is safe for humans, animals, and the environment, and thankfully it appears we are moving in that direction. Finally, if there is an overwhelmingly positive aspect to the naturals trend, it is that it has sparked this discussion, and for that there should be gratitude.


  1. Schwartz, M. 2004. Household fragrances may be harming aquatic wildlife, study finds. Stanford Report. Retrieved from https://news.stanford.edu/news/2004/november3/Perfume-1103.html
  2. Bouchez, C. Fragrance Allergies: A Sensory Assault. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/fragrance-allergies-a-sensory-assault#1


Matthew Brooks, Boston University, B.A. Chemistry 2019. A third-year student of chemistry at Boston University and fragrance consultant at Sephora, Matthew plans to enter the cosmetic industry upon graduation, where he hopes to work in product development and formulation. His recent areas of interest and study include natural products and organic chemistry, polymers and raw materials, ‘green’ chemistry, sustainability, and environmental protection.

Making Green by Going Green: Advancements in Eco-Friendly Packaging and Implications for the Cosmetics Industry and Consumer Market

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Looking back at the elegant and artistic cosmetics containers produced since the time of Ancient Egypt and throughout the ages, it is easy to see that the design of the vessels and the aesthetic of the materials with which they were made, to both the producers and consumers of cosmetics, were just as valued as the formulations held within. This had held true to today, although the technology and materials used to package and protect cosmetics has advanced far beyond ivory jars and gemstones vials, and the consumers positive perception of a products relies not just its package design, but the functioning of the package in protecting the internal environment, and now also the external environment.

Over the last century, new materials have been invented that have improved that former function of packaging, which primarily is preventing biological, chemical, and thermal degradation, as well as damage by radiation (such as sunlight), pressure, and human interaction. Much of this is achieved through barrier protection, which is the establishment of a controlled atmosphere within the container to protect the product from oxygen, water vapor, microbes, dust, and other elements in order to ensure it stays clean, fresh, and most importantly safe.1

As stated, however, now the function of packaging has expanded even beyond just its effectiveness at barrier protection and the beauty of its design, and the positive impact on environmental health and sustainability by the material out of which they are made and the processes of production are equally as important. This was heralded by a radical change in the consumer, notably the rise of the millennial, who now have an extreme conscientiousness to the environmental friendliness of the packaging.2

The cosmetic industry has started producing packaging that is recyclable, using materials that have already been recycled and repurposed for packaging, and even materials that are biodegradable. Recyclables have long been a trend within cosmetics packaging – Burt’s Bees offers a lipstick that can be returned for recycling, and Clean Reserve’s glass perfume bottles are 100% recyclable, while Method’s hand soap bottles are produced with plastic recovered from the ocean.2

However the most recent development in this regard is biodegradable packaging, which decomposes in the environment and are made from naturally-derived materials. Research groups are now actively developing materials such as a film made from cassava starch, glycerol, and green tea extracts that was presented in Carbohydrate Polymers,3 and patents are being issued for items like Eco Vision’s ‘Eco Jar’, made from waste paper and which features compostable barrier films and coatings that maintain package integrity.4

However, raw materials used in such recycled and biodegradable packaging were still produced in environmentally detrimental ways – especially plastics – but ironically, a solution has been found in bacteria. Until today bacteria have been the mortal enemy of cosmetics producers, with them waging a war against microbes to keep them out of their products. But now, an alliance has been struck, as genetically engineered bacteria are being used to produce polymers for packaging in an eco-friendly way that is appealing to conscious consumers. Normally, one would use packaging to prevent the growth of bacteria, but in a poetic twist of fate bacteria are being used to ‘grow’ packaging!

Researchers working for Genomatica, Inc. in San Diego have genetically engineered E. Coli to secrete 1,4-butanediol (BDO), a precursor compound in plastic production, using only sugars and water, a far more sustainable process than the usual methods using petrochemicals.5 Even better, bioengineering not only can prevent damage to the environment, but can also address pollution that has already occurred. At the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, microorganisms are being used in similar fashion to produce the polymer polyhydroxybutyric acid (PHB), but using CO2 as a raw material, reducing the concentration of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.6

In tandem with these developments, equally tiny though synthetic nanoparticles are also being engineered and incorporated into polymeric materials to improve the functioning of cosmetic packaging, improving the gas barrier as well as mechanical and thermal protections, while leading to a decrease in raw materials necessary for packages, and thus reducing the environmental impact of producing multiple package layers as opposed to the monolayer afforded by this advanced nanotechnology.7

Until recently, though, the funding required to develop these novel, advanced technologies as well as the overall cost of their production and incorporation into packaging used by most cosmetic brands was a significant barrier to its mainstream adoption in the industry.

However, in an interview with Cosmetics Design just last year, Scott Cassel, founder and CEO of the Product Stewardship Institute, spoke to how there will now be a competitive advantage in marketing for brands that start to value and make use of sustainable and eco-friendly packaging and the processes used to produce it, as they will be in the favor of the increasingly dominant millennial consumer segment.8 Making use of more efficient waste-reducing technologies for packaging production not only reduces cost for governments and taxpayers, but is also beneficial to cosmetics business, as wasted materials and energy in inefficient production otherwise translates to a loss of money.8 The process of producing BDO using bacteria requires at least 30% less energy than traditional methods, while the price of production with oil or gas related processes has increased alongside the cost of dwindling fossil fuel-based materials.5

In sum, utilizing the sustainable processes and new, eco-friendly technology that were previewed above should not only now save companies money in the long run, but afford taxpayers more money to contribute to the cosmetics industry and market, which they will be more and more willing to do as brands align with their values of sustainable and eco-friendly packaging.



  1. Cosper, A. (2016, September 16). Purposes of Cosmetic Packaging. Retrieved January 9th, 2018, from https://www.desjardin.fr/en/blog/purposes-of-cosmetic-packaging
  2. Matusow, J. (2016, April 28). Simply ‘Green’ Packaging. Retrieved January 10th, 2018, from https://www.beautypackaging.com/issues/2016-04-01/view_features/simply-green-packaging/
  3. Medina-Jaramillo, C., et. al. (2017, November 15). Active and smart biodegradable packaging based on starch and natural extracts. Carbohydrate Polymers 176, 187-194. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbpol.2017.08.079
  4. Payne, Craig. (2011, June 27). Eco Vision Biodegradable Cosmetics Jar Awarded U.S. Patent. Retrieved January 10th, 2018 from http://www.naturalcosmeticnews.com/green-packaging/eco-vision-biodegradable-cosmetics-jar-awarded-u-s-patent/
  5. Biello, D. (2008, September 16). Turning Bacteria Into Plastic Factories. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/turning-bacteria-into-plastic-factories-replacing-fossil-fuels/
  6. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. (2016, November 21). Microbes produce organic plastics from flue gas, electricity. Retrieved January 14th, 2018 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161121094118.htm
  7. Aimplas Plastics Technology Centre. (2016, January 11). Plastic nanotechnology for safer, more eco-friendly and competitive cosmetic packages. Retrieved January 13th, 2018, from http://www.aimplas.net/blog/plastic-nanotechnology-safer-more-eco-friendly-and-competitive-cosmetic-packages
  8. Utroske, D. (2017, April 18). Can sustainable beauty come to terms with cosmetics and personal care packaging waste? Retrieved January 12th, 2018, from https://www.cosmeticsdesign.com/Article/2017/04/19/Can-sustainable-beauty-come-to-terms-with-cosmetics-and-personal-care-packaging-waste


Matthew Brooks, Boston University, B.A. Chemistry 2019. A third-year student of chemistry at Boston University and fragrance consultant at Sephora, Matthew plans to enter the cosmetic industry upon graduation, where he hopes to work in product development and formulation. His recent areas of interest and study include natural products and organic chemistry, polymers and raw materials, ‘green’ chemistry, sustainability, and environmental protection.

Judging a formulation by its cover

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Cosmetic purchases are as much emotional as they are rational. The initial impression left by the packaging can determine which formulation customers are drawn to in a store. Before ever encountering a formulation, a customer interacts with the packaging. From iconic packaging which remains unchanged for years, like the pink and green of Maybelline Great Lash, or cutting edge like AmorePacific’s squeezable tube mascara (now also seen with Dior). Packaging introduces a customer to a product and dictates how the customer can interact with a formulation.

The choice of packaging also expresses a brand identity and ethos. While Chapstick is iconic in it’s simple utilitarian packaging and use to prevent chapped lips, luxury lipsticks are designed to evoke desire and often sexuality. When Christian Louboutin launched his beauty line, he based the design of the nail polish bottle on a stiletto he had designed for the English National Ballet. The unwearable shoe was perhaps the ultimate demonstration of his infamous quote from British Vogue “I don’t want to create painful shoes, but it is not my job to create something comfortable. I try to make high heels as comfortable as they can be, but my priority is design, beauty and sexiness.” This sentiment carried over to his lipstick packaging in which the pointed heavy metal case is by no means practical to carry in a purse but is undeniably striking. The company goes so far as to sell it with a ribbon attached so it could be displayed as a necklace.

Innovation has led to an expansion of choice in packaging and can change the way that consumers interact with their products. Eyeliner is available in countless formulations and packaging options from pots with angle brushes to rollerwheel pens. The choice of applicator can be as important to a consumer as the formulation so that they can achieve the look they want consistently with their make up.

Demand for innovation in packaging can also be driven by trends in formulation. As the free from preservative trend has gained traction, packaging which limits a formulations’ exposure to bacteria and air have become essential. Airless pumps also protect medical grade cosmetics from degrading over time. This behind the scenes use of packaging is invaluable to a formulator but often go unnoticed by consumers.

Packaging effects many aspects of a consumer’s interaction with a product. Formulations are often the stated focus of a customer’s choice when buying a product, but without the right packaging can make a product can suffer. Packaging makes formulations shine and it can draw in consumers before they experience a product.

Dr. Elizabeth Kaufman works at BYK as a senior research chemist in charge of surface and defoamer additives. She defended her PhD in polymer chemistry from NYU in 2017. Her work in the Weck group focused on the synthesis and biological applications of dendrimers. In 2014 she was awarded the Kramer Fellowship.



Trees of Life – Sustainable Development and Biodiversity Protection

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When today our industry is sourcing a natural ingredient it has to consider doing it within a sustainable development framework. Sustainable development considers the economy, social equity and the environment as its main pillars. Also called “triple bottom line”, those pillars reminds us that business, society and the environment are connected, they influence each other, and should have the same value (1). The effect of a business on a community (society) and its natural environment is particularly evident in the development world where many of our “exotic” natural ingredients are coming from. The risk to source ingredients careless of a possible negative impact on the communities and their environment is present. The United Nations (UNCTAD) with its Biotrade Facilitation Program and more recently spin off organizations such as the Union of Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) have advocated and implemented programs to protect the environment and its biodiversity (2). These organizations have helped initially to build supply chains with local producers working in a sustainable environment and eventually to connect with ingredient suppliers and finished product companies (both in the food and the cosmetic industry) committed to source ingredients sustainably. In Africa, organizations, producers and traders work with communities to sustain ingredient sourcing by preserving the biodiversity of the natural environment where the ingredient is coming from. Like the example of African trees (often call the trees of life) that are at risk of extinction due to increasing deforestation implemented by corporations in search of land to grow monocultures to feed an expanding worldwide population. Entire forests have been cut down with this objective. Some examples of trees that are at risk and that are currently saved by businesses integrating sustainable development follow.

The Baobab tree standing alone in the middle of a savanna is a powerful and a beautiful image, but it also reminds us that that savanna was a forest of baobab trees and the tree we see is what is left. A recent commercial interest by the cosmetic industry in the Baobab fruit and oil has motivated suppliers to work with NGOs, traders, and local communities to make sure the baobab fruit is sustainable developed and so the tree is protected. Baobab oil is becoming popular as a treatment for dry hair, but it is also present in soothing and healing products due to its high content in phytosterols. Moreover, the fruit pulp is particularly rich in Vitamin C. In order to guarantee sustainability, the Baobab tree itself need to be protected and more baobab tree need to be planted. There is an incentive for a community to not cut the tree if the tree products can generate a business. Producers in Malawi agreed with local communities to protect the trees in order to sustain the fruit business.

The Marula tree is indigenous to the sub-Saharan region and it is in danger of deforestation. Marula oil is extracted from the kernel. Its composition is very similar to olive oil (high amount of oleic acid) and it is very stable (high in VIt E). For this reason the oil is enjoying a commercial success. To protect the tree, organizations such as The Seed Initiative have worked with local communities and local traders to incentivize the planting of new trees in order to sustain the Marula oil growing demand (3).

The Moringa tree grows in many regions of Africa. The oil high amount of oleic acid and sterols sustains regenerative and soothing properties, while the presence of polyphenols contributes antioxidant characteristics. The presence of behenic acid, unique for this oil, add to the skin feeling. Also, in this case the commercial success of the oil has been an incentive for programs toward tree plantation. Local traders in Rwanda are working with communities to replant Moringa trees.

Final Remarks 
Our industry needs to work with local producers that sustain communities and their environment. It is our duty as citizen of this planet to preserve for us and the generations to come the planet biodiversity and its fruits. We need to source ingredients in a sustainable way and help protect the trees of life.


  1. J. Elkington. Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business, New Society Publishers: Gabriola Island, BC, Canada (1998).
  2. http://ethicalbiotrade.org/
  3. https://www.seed.uno/The author wishes to thank Elisabeth Goyvaerts at Everpix for the cover picture (Marula forest, South Africa)

Guest Author: Giorgio Dell’Acqua, PhD

Giorgio Dell’Acqua, PhD, has been an investigator in applied biomedical research for 15 years and he has spent the last 16 years as an executive and cosmetic scientist in the personal care industry. He is specialized in skin and hair care ingredients, finished product development and technical marketing. He has covered multiple roles as a manager and director in different companies specialized in active ingredients and product development. He has helped bring more than 100 successful active ingredients and finished products to market and has authored more than 50 publications in medicine and cosmetic science. In the last 10 years he has been writing and lecturing on sustainability and cosmetic ingredients and helped sourcing, developing and bringing to market many sustainable ingredients. He is a recent award winning speaker on sustainability and natural ingredients and a regular columnist on sustainable cosmetic science.

Seaweeds – Cosmetic Applications

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The ocean bioflora is rich in plants producing molecules essential for their survival that can be useful to protect our skin.

Seaweeds are an amazing source of natural molecules for both nutrition and topical use. They are rich sources of minerals (including the essential micronutrient iodine), bioactive polysaccharides, carotenoids and even proteins, along with a small content of healthy lipids. They have been described as ‘an ideal food’.

Seaweeds are rich in phenols derivatives and polysaccharides with protecting activity (Ref 1, 2) For example, marine polyphloroglucinols, found in brown seaweed, are phenols derivatives with powerful antioxidant properties and significant activity against the damaging free radicals (Ref 3). Brown seaweeds also contain a slippery compound called fucoidan that assists with protection from marine pathogens. Fucoidan is a fucose-rich polysaccharide with anti -viral, immune modulating and matrix metalloprotease inhibiting properties (Ref 4).

Sea-harvested brown algae are known to have skin benefits and previously have been associated with an increase in skin elasticity (Ref 5). However, it is still difficult to formulate seaweed extracts due to color, scent, incompatibility. Research has moved into isolating the main components from seaweeds, allowing the formulator to use smaller concentrations of the extract. These lower levels reduce the risk of incompatibilities and material setting, color issues and scent, improving overall stability (Ref 6).

Seaweed components such as polysaccharides and phenols derivatives have proven to bring skin soothing and anti-aging properties when tested topically in clinical trials (Ref 7) and are promising ingredients to develop effective skin care products.

  1. Fernando IP, Kim M, Son KT, Jeong Y, Jeon YJ. Antioxidant Activity of Marine Algal Polyphenolic Compounds: A Mechanistic Approach. J Med Food 19(7):615-28, 2016
  2. de Jesus Raposo MF, de Morais AM, de Morais RM. Marine polysaccharides from algae with potential biomedical applications. Mar Drugs 13(5):2967-3028, 2015
  3. Singh IP, Bharate SB. Phloroglucinol compounds of natural origin. Nat Prod Rep 2006, 23, 558–591
  4. Fitton JH, Stringer DN, Karpiniec SS.Therapies from Fucoidan: An Update. Mar Drugs. 2015 Sep 16;13(9):5920-46.
  5. Fujimura, K Tsukahara, S Moriwaki, T Kitahara, T Sano and Y Takema, Treatment of human skin with an extract of Fucus vesiculosus changes its thickness and mechanical properties, J Cosmet Sci 53 1–9 (2002)
  6. Dell’Acqua G. Sustainable Ingredient Science: Brown Algae. Cosmet Toil 128(4): 226-229, 2013
  7. Fitton JH, Dell’Acqua G, Gardiner VA, Karpiniec SK, Stringer DN, Davis E. Topical Benefits of Two Fucoidan-Rich Extracts from Marine Macroalgae. Cosmetics 2(2): 66-81, 2015

The author wishes to thank Dr Helen Fitton, marine scientist, for contributing to this blog. The cover is courtesy of Ian Wallace.

Guest Author: Giorgio Dell’Acqua, PhD

Giorgio Dell’Acqua, PhD, has been an investigator in applied biomedical research for 15 years and he has spent the last 16 years as an executive and cosmetic scientist in the personal care industry. He is specialized in skin and hair care ingredients, finished product development and technical marketing. He has covered multiple roles as a manager and director in different companies specialized in active ingredients and product development. He has helped bring more than 100 successful active ingredients and finished products to market and has authored more than 50 publications in medicine and cosmetic science. In the last 10 years he has been writing and lecturing on sustainability and cosmetic ingredients and helped sourcing, developing and bringing to market many sustainable ingredients. He is a recent award winning speaker on sustainability and natural ingredients and a regular columnist on sustainable cosmetic science.