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PPARs reemerging as a skin wellness target in cosmetics

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

PPARs reemerging as a skin wellness target in cosmetics

Written by Marc Cornell, Mar-Key Consulting LLC

Cosmetics are continuing their marvelous evolution with new scientific findings and breakthrough innovations. Sometimes we need to look back to find the genesis of a current marketing or positioning trend. Take a step back with me to the late 20th century, where a young researcher (MC) was being educated in the biology of wound healing. During this time, I became aware of Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). PPAR-alpha expression plays a role in the inflammatory stage of wound healing. Later I learned wound healing shares many biologic pathways with anti-age biology.  Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors is a mouthful, right? Let’s dial it back bit and keep the PPAR focus on our body’s largest organ, the skin.

PPAR’s are ligand inducible transcription factors belonging to the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily. The key isoforms of PPARs are notated as (alpha), (beta/delta) and (gamma). These forms can up regulate or down regulate many cellular and metabolic processes (cellular differentiation, proliferation, lipid homeostasis and energy metabolism). These functions are critical to our body and its skin’s immune system, epidermal barrier function and development of pro-inflammatory signals. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are also involved in regulating glucose, lipid homeostasis and modulate mitochondrial function. (1)  It is obvious that regulation of PPAR signaling to various biological systems is an opportunity for medicine and cosmetic science

In some publications, regulation of PPAR signaling have been linked to disease pathogenesis. These ailments have complex causes involving genetic, environmental, and nutritional factors, PPARS are just a part of the pathway. (2) In cosmetic science we are careful to draw the line between drug and cosmetic claims. With that said, there are numerous scientific studies elucidating shared connections between drug and cosmetic active biologic modes of action.

Now we take a partial deep dive on the FAQ’s for PPARS.  From there we will highlight how targeting PPAR’s has been around for some time in cosmetics. More recently these chemistries are trending in a big way as clinical branded cosmetics remerge as part of the wellness positioning.

How can cosmetic science leverage PPARS to facilitate skin wellness? We start our PPAR discussion by looking at the skin barrier function. This area of skin biology is also part of a recent trend towards positioning and the minimization of environmental stressors on the exposome. The exposome is defined as the measure of all the exposures of an individual in a lifetime and how those exposures relate to health.  PPAR activation has been shown to have an important role in skin barrier function by regulating differentiation and lipid synthesis in keratinocytes. (3) This fact fits nicely into homeostasis wellness positioning.

PPAR activation takes place through heterodimerization.  Simply put, you need 2 ligands to come together on the DNA to initiate gene regulation.  PPAR activators are already being used in areas of cosmetic science application.  Botanical extracts have been shown to activate PPAR in the stimulation of collagen in skin (4). There is also evidence that PPARs may be used as an alternative to retinoids in skin care. (5) PPARs have an important effect in keratinocyte homeostasis, suggesting a role in diseases such as psoriasis. (6)   PPAR acts directly to negatively regulate gene expression of proinflammatory genes in a ligand-dependent manner by antagonizing the activities of transcription factors such as members of the NF-kB and AP-1 families. (7).  One very popular cosmetic application is the use of omega 3 fatty acids.  These are popular natural ligands for PPARα receptors and are key to preventing/reducing inflammation.

One critical factor in attempting to utilize pathways linked to PPARs is in the understanding of the up or down regulation of these biochemicals. Typical of any biologic system there is potential for biofeedback, so understanding the pathways and assay methodologies are important. Good news is gene expression and cell culture models now allow the high throughput analysis of materials which may take part in PPAR regulation. This fact and the numerous peer review publications give the cosmetic chemist a boost in the study of PPARs.

In closing I provide just a few key words for continued education on PPARs.

Links between PPAR and:

a) Endocannabinoid receptor system
b) Hyaluronic acid
c) Wound healing
d) Retinoid receptor system
e) UV modulated inflammation
f) Inflamaging
g) Mitochondrial function
h) and MORE!

  1. Ting-Wei Lee, Kuan-Jen Bai, Ting-I Lee, Tze-Fan Chao, Yu-Hsun Kao & Yi-Jen Chen : PPARs modulate cardiac metabolism and mitochondrial function in diabetes Journal of Biomedical Science volume 24, Article number: 5 (2017)
  2. Kersten S, Desvergne B, Wahli W. : Roles of PPARs in health and disease. Nature. 2000; 405: 421–4. NATURE
  3. Su-Hyoun Chon , Ruth Tannahill, Xiang Yao, Michael D Southall, Apostolos Pappas. Keratinocyte differentiation and upregulation of ceramide synthesis induced by an oat lipid extract via the activation of PPAR pathways , Exp Dermatol. 2015 Apr;24 (4):290-5
  4. George P. Majewski1 | Smrita Singh2 | Krzysztof Bojanowski :Olive leaf-derived PPAR agonist complex induces collagen IV synthesis in human skin models, Int J Cosmet Sci. 2021;43:662–676
  5. John Simon Craw, George Majewski: Coding Skin for Care: PPAR Ligands as Retinoid Alternatives and Adjuvants—Cosmetic and Toiletries, Jan 6th, 2022
  6. Emerson de Andrade Lima1 et al : Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor agonists (PPARs): a promising prospect in the treatment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis* An Bras Dermatol. 2013;88(6):1029-35.
  7. Yuval Ramot et al, The role of PPAR-mediated signaling in skin biology and pathology: new targets and opportunities for clinical dermatology : Experimental Dermatology, 2015, 24, 245–251


Written by Marc Cornell, Mar-Key Consulting LLC

Marc Cornell, BS. is a consultant at Mar-key Consulting LLC where he services the consumer product industry with innovative formulation concepts.  During his thirty-year career he has worked in an R&D role for large (Merck, L’Oreal, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Union Carbide) and medium sized companies (Neostrata, ChemAid Labs, KV Pharmaceutical). For the last ­20 years he has worked primarily on the research and formulation development of “Cosmeceuticals” for various brands (Skinceuticals, Neostrata, Dr. Perricone, Biomedic, Strivectin, and La Roche Posay). In this role he collaborated with researchers in skin biology and clinical testing to design, formulate and test novel cosmetic active delivery vehicles. Marc’s work has been patented and published in peer review journals and trade publications.


Natural Ingredients in Cosmetics

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Natural ingredients offer a myriad of possibilities for developing effective cosmetic products. Their popularity has greatly increased over the past two decades in part due to a major shift in public opinion about the environment, human health, and wellbeing. Plant ingredients have been shown to be effective treatments of the skin for a number of conditions including erythema, hyperpigmentation, photoaging, photocarcinogenesis, and photoimmunosuppression. Nowadays, botanical ingredients are found in almost every type of cosmetic product for the skin. In addition to plants, minerals are also natural ingredients. Some of the most common ones found in modern-day cosmetic products consist of iron oxides, zinc oxide, and titanium oxide, which are mostly used in sunscreen formulations.

Historical Perspective of Natural Ingredients in Cosmetics

Natural ingredients have been used in cosmetic products since antiquity. The early Egyptians were renowned for their makeup preparations and other cosmetic ingredients used to cleanse and scent the body. The most common cosmetic potions consisted of eye paints, facial paints, oils, and solid fats (ointments) [1]. As an example, kohl is a paste/powder that was commonly used as eye shadow and is reported to have been made with galena ore, which contains lead sulfide. A paste made from malachite, a green ore of copper, was also used to color the eyes of Egyptians. Some of these ingredients probably caused adverse reactions, or could have led to serious disease after prolonged use.

Hair and nail dyeing in ancient Egypt was achieved using henna, which was extracted from the plant Lawsonia inermis, also known as the Egyptian privet. Henna was also popular in ancient India and China as a hair dyeing agent. In India, henna was also used to paint designs on the hands and feet in the art known as mehndi [2]. The early Egyptians also used fats and oils to apply to skin and hair, protecting them from the powerful sun rays and arid climate. The Egyptians were also very astute on the use of fragrances. They used many different types of herbs and oils, such as aloe, chamomile, lavender, myrrh, olive oil, peppermint, sesame oil, and thyme [3].

Turmeric, a traditional Indian spice from the root of Curcuma longa, was commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine as a therapeutic agent. It contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. In recent years, turmeric has become an extremely popular cosmetic ingredient for skin care preparations. In traditional Chinese culture, skin was treated oils and herbs. Panax ginseng is one of the most popular ingredients in ancient herbal therapy, and is still widely used today. Rice powder was also popular and used to paint the face, serving as a form of makeup that provided a whitish appearance and had the benefit of removing excessive oils. The use of nail polish dates back to ancient China, using egg whites, flowers, and beeswax [4]. Unfortunately, not all members of society were permitted to paint their nails. It was reserved for royals, who painted their nails gold and silver, and other members of the upper echelon of society.

Natural ingredients were also used in cosmetics in other periods of history as well. In biblical times, the Hebrews used oils obtained from various plant and animal sources as emollients to protect the skin from the arid environment and intense solar radiation. In addition, red ochre (an iron oxide) was used for painting the lips, ash and beeswax for painting the nails, and herbal perfumes were applied to the skin and clothing [5]. During the early Roman Empire, Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), who was a prolific author, naturalist, and philosopher, wrote about the control of perspiration using a mixture of rue, rose oil, and aloe vera [6].

In the western tradition, the use of natural ingredients in cosmetics continued through the Middle Ages and Renaissance all the way to the 19th century, although the overall use of cosmetics fluctuated throughout history most likely due to sociological and economic factors. Curiously, at the dawn of the 20th century, color cosmetics were not very popular in western societies, and even frowned upon for women to wear in public. In the United States and many other western cultures, this attitude began to change significantly as movie stars began wearing makeup products in Hollywood films. During this period, there was a flurry of activity in the development of highly functional synthetic ingredients that enjoyed widespread use in cosmetic products. However, the most recent natural ingredient movement began to take place in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the population became more concerned with health, wellbeing, and global environmental conditions.

Botanical Ingredients

The increasing awareness of the health benefits of phytochemicals has led to a transformation in the cosmetic industry [7]. The recent explosion of the use of herbal ingredients in cosmetic products began with ingredients that offered improvement in the physiological condition of the skin by treatment with formulas containing plant ingredients [8]. This movement evolved to include a greater effort to replace conventional synthetic ingredients that carried other functions in the formula, such as rheology modifiers, emollients, cleansing agents, etc. [9]. Today, there are even some forms of cosmetic packaging that are based on natural or naturally derived ingredients.

There are numerous plant ingredients that are used in cosmetic products for their cosmeceutical properties. Some of the most common ingredients include Aloe vera, Camellia sinensis (tea polyphenols), Capparis spinosa flower buds, Culcitium reflexum H.B.K. leaf, Curcuma longa (curcumin), French maritime pine bark (pycnogenol) Gingko biloba, pomegranate fruit, red orange, Sanguisorba officinalis L. root, Sedum telephium L. leaf, and Silybum marianum (Silymarin). Extracts of natural products contain polyphenols and other phytonutrients that have beneficial effects for the skin. Plants evolved to produce these ingredients to protect themselves from environmental insults, including harmful UV radiation.

Many botanicals have been used for millennia in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Nowadays, there is a flurry of activity in the skin care market with similar types of ingredients, due to a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating their utility as skin therapeutic agents. Among other things, botanical ingredients have shown promise as anti-inflammatories for skin to treat rosacea, preventative agents against melanoma, bioactives for the treatment of skin aging, and protective agents against UV-induced immunosuppression and photocarcinogenesis [10].

Incorporating plant ingredients into cosmetics can also present challenges to the formulator in terms of stability and delivery [11]. For this reason, there have been many efforts focused on developing carrier systems for botanical ingredients [10, 12]. Most of these carriers are emulsions, vesicular systems, or lipid particulate systems. Emulsions for this type of application usually are microemulsions, nanoemulsions, micro-nanoemulsions, multilayer emulsions, or Pickering emulsions. Common vesicular systems consist of liposomes, ethosomes, phytosomes, and transferosomes. The two most popular lipid particulate systems are solid-lipid nanoparticles and nanostructured lipid carriers.

Polysaccharide Ingredients

Polysaccharides from many natural sources are used in cosmetics. They are often added to formulas as rheology modifiers, but may also be used for a variety of other functions, such as providing moisture to the skin or enhancing the styling properties of hair. The most common polysaccharides found in cosmetic products are agar, alginate, carrageenan, derivatives of cellulose (e.g., hydroxyethylcellulose), chitin, chitosan, dextrin, guar gum derivatives, gum arabic, hyaluronic acid, pectins, starch derivatives, and xanthan gum. In addition to the applications already mentioned, polysaccharides are also found in masks and shampoos/body washes (coacervate agent). A number of different polysaccharides may also be included in personal care products for their antibacterial, antiviral, anticoagulant, anticancer, antioxidant, and immunomodulating activity [13]. Overall, they have a long and safe history of use in cosmetic products.

Essential Oils

Essential oils enjoy widespread utility in cosmetic products due to their pleasant odor and biological activity [14-16]. They are highly concentrated liquid mixtures of small molecules (mostly aromatic compounds, terpenes, and terpenoids) extracted from the bark, buds, flowers, fruits, leaves, rhizomes, roots, and seeds of plants [14]. Some of the most common essential oils found in cosmetic products are citronellol, citrus, eucalyptus, geraniol, lavender, limonene, linalool, and tea tree [16]. If formulated at low concentrations, essential oils are relatively safe. However, at higher concentrations their use may result in skin sensitivity reactions and even the development of allergies [15]. In addition to their aromatic characteristics, essential oils have analgesic, antibiotic, and antiviral properties. For this reason, there is a great deal of interest in aroma therapy and its positive health benefits.

Toxicological Considerations

There is some concern about the safety and toxicology of natural ingredients. This mostly stems from the presence of ingredients that are not listed on the labels of cosmetic products. For example, citral, farnesol, limonene, and limanol—fragrance compounds present in many natural ingredient products—can illicit allergic reactions [17]. Furthermore, there could be many molecules in the formula that are only listed as one ingredient. On the other hand, it has been argued that exposure to natural toxic substances in personal care products is probably not the principal route of exposure. Rather, direct exposure to vegetation and agricultural crops is considered the most dominant pathway [18]. Skin sensitization is another concern with the use of botanical ingredients [19]. As an example, the Feverfew plant (Tanacetum parthenium), known for its anti-inflammatory properties, contains parthenolide, which is a potent skin sensitization agent. Therefore, being able to produce parthenolide-free bioactives is a key challenge to provide a non-sensitizing product for skin care [20, 21].

Concluding Remarks

Natural ingredients have a long history in cosmetics products. Overall, there has been a great deal of renewed interest in their inclusion in contemporary personal care formulas. Combined with modern analytical and process technology, today’s cosmetic chemist has the opportunity to participate in the large-scale transformation of the personal care industry.



  1. Lucas, A., Cosmetics, perfumes, and incense in ancient Egypt. J Egypt Arch, 1930. 16(1/2): p. 41-53.
  2. Nayak, M. and V. Ligade, History of cosmetics in Egypt, India, and China. J Cosmet Sci, 2021. 72: p. 432-441.
  3. Chaudhri, S. and N. Jain, History of cosmetics. Asian J Pharm, 2009. 3(3): p. 164-167.
  4. Madnani, N. and K. Khan, Nail cosmetics. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol, 2012. 78: p. 309-317.
  5. Parish, L. and J. Crissey, Cosmetics: A historical review. Clin Dermatol, 1988. 6(3): p. 1-4.
  6. Bostock, J. and H. Riley, Rue: eighty-four remedies, in Remedies derived from the garden plants. 1855, Taylor and Francis: London, UK.
  7. Dini, I. and S. Laneri, The new challenge of green cosmetics: natural food ingredients for cosmetic formulations. Molecules, 2021. 26: p. 3921.
  8. González-Minero, F. and L. Bravo-Díaz, The use of plants in skin-care products, cosmetics, and fragrances: Past and present. Cosmetics, 2018. 5: p. 50.
  9. Bom, S., M. Fitas, A. Martins, P. Pinto, H. Ribeiro, and J. Marto, Replacing synthetic ingredients by sustainable natural alternatives: A case study using topical O/W emulsions. Molecules, 2020. 25: p. 4887.
  10. McMullen, R., Antioxidants and the Skin. 2nd ed. 2019, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  11. Hoang, H., J. Moon, and Y. Lee, Natural antioxidants from plant extracts in skincare cosmetics: recent applications, challenges, and perspectives. Cosmetics, 2021. 8: p. 106.
  12. Yang, S., L. Liu, J. Han, and Y. Tang, Encapsulating plant ingredients for dermocosmetic application: An updated review of delivery systems and characterization techniques. Int J Cosmet Sci, 2020. 42: p. 16-28.
  13. Ahsan, H., The significance of complex polysaccharides in personal care formulations. J Carbohydr Chem, 2019. 38: p. 213-233.
  14. Abate, L., A. Bachheti, R. Kumar Bachheti, A. Husen, G. M, and D. Pandey, Potential role of forest-based plants in essential oil production: An approach to cosmetic and personal health care applications, in Non-Timber Forest Products: Food, Healthcare and Industrial Applications, A. Husen, R. Kumar Bachheti, and A. Bachheti, Editors. 2021, Sprinter Nature: Cham, Switzerland. p. 1-18.
  15. Sarkic, A. and I. Stappen, Essential oils and their single compounds in cosmetics—A critical review. Cosmetics, 2018. 5: p. 11.
  16. Sharmeen, J., F. Mahomoodally, G. Zengin, and F. Maggi, Essential oils as natural sources of fragrance compounds for cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. Molecules, 2021. 26: p. 666.
  17. Klaschka, U., Natural personal care products—analysis of ingredient lists and legal situation. Environ Sci Eur, 2016. 28: p. 8.
  18. Bucheli, T., B. Strobel, and H. Hansen, Personal care products are only one of many exposure routes of natural toxic substances to humans and the environment Cosmetics, 2018. 5: p. 10.
  19. Puginier, M., A. Roso, H. Groux, C. Gerbeix, and F. Cottrez, Strategy to avoid skin sensitization: application to botanical cosmetic ingredients. Cosmetics, 2022. 9(2): p. 40.
  20. Koganov, M., Parthenolide free bioactive ingredients from Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and processes for their production and use. U.S. Patent No. 7,537,791. 2009.
  21. Sur, R., K. Martin, F. Liebel, P. Lyte, S. Shapiro, and M. Southall, Anti-inflammatory activity of parthenolide-depleted Feverfew (Tancetum parthenium). Inflammopharmacology, 2009. 17(1): p. 42-49.


The use of in-vitro modeling to predict clinical outcome

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

The use of in-vitro modeling to predict clinical outcome: A users guide to technology development

In-vitro models have been a staple of technology development as well as a tool for mapping mechanistic understanding of skin biology.  Their complexity has evolved over time to become quite predictive to clinical outcomes.  In-vitro modeling is a powerful solution for driving product development, innovation and claim substantiation, and it allows researchers to screen technologies as well as position them against new or novel mechanisms.  The NYCSCC is offering a mini-symposium at this year’s Supplier’s Day (May 3rd and 4th) to present various in-vitro models currently available to our industry using a cross section of speakers from both academia, industry suppliers and testing firms.  (See the end of the blog for a list of topics being presented.)  The following is a good primer for those interested in leveraging in-vitro data for technology development.

In-vitro models are the result of many of the inventions we learned about in science class at an early age.  Here is a brief history of how we got here: First was the invention of the microscope by A. Van Leeuwenhoek in 1676, then Schleiden and Schwann’s formulated cell theory in 1839,  Roux’s first method of cell culture in 1885,  aseptic techniques for cell culture in 1912, establishment of the first mouse fibroblast cell in 1943, the first immortal human cell line known as “HeLa” by George Gey in 1951, the finite life span of human cells defined by Hayflick in 1965, the first therapeutic protein manufactured in cell culture for human clinical trial in 1983, culture human embryonic stems cells isolated by Thomson & Gearhart in 1998 and finally 3D tissue and organ bioprinting techniques introduced in 2010.

At present, it is no longer possible to use animal testing for ingredients and cosmetic products in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states since 2009. This mandate has served as an “evolutionary pressure” on the industry to leverage in-vitro modeling as an alternative to animal use in in our industry, leading to the development and moderate acceptance of in-vitro tests that are used to determine the safety and efficacy of ingredients and topical products.

The advantages of in-vitro testing are:

1) Reducing the use of human subjects in the early stages of R&D projects; this not only has logistical and ethical benefit in terms of time and money but also removes the regulatory and safety aspects when discovery is the main strategic driver.

2) In-vitro modeling can be designed for high throughput screening of compounds/technologies. As a result, modeling this way saves time and money.

3) Reducing clinical variability as conditions are better controlled and repeatable.

4) Little to no testing regulations; however, sound experimental design including appropriate controls, benchmarks, time points and culture conditions are paramount to success.

The most saliant disadvantage of using in-vitro testing models is that results and findings need to be confirmed in/on more complex systems.  For example, if you screen for gene effects in monolayer cultures, one will need to confirm protein expression to confirm the gene expression profile.  Furthermore, more complex culture systems such as 3D culture models or ex-vivo biopsy modeling or human testing would be the logical next step to evaluate bioavailability, bioconversion, and efficacy.

The latter would require an intermediate step of safety assessment, ethics review (IRB) and cost analysis.  Furthermore, in-vitro modeling does require dedicated space and personnel.  This is certainly a capital expenditure; however, there are 3rd party laboratories and collaborations with academia available for almost every need if you look hard enough.

The ability to customize a culture system to fit one’s needs is very encouraging. In-vitro models range from simple monolayer systems to complex muti-tissue engineered models.  Advances in maintaining cells in culture are continuously improving, allowing for data generation that closely mimics clinical results.  The advent of bio chambers, flexible substrates and precisely defined medias have advanced the understanding of cell biology exponentially.  The technics for retrieving and cultivating keratinocytes, fibroblast, melanocytes and dendric cells from skin are commonplace in cell culture facilities around the globe resulting on less reliance on transformed cell lines (those that are immortal) which have a poor correlation to clinical outcome in many cases.  3D skin models with natural human features are best used to analyze ingredients and formulations for this reason. Skin irritation and toxicity tend to be represented by less stringent biomimicry, but this too is evolving to more relevant culture systems.

The vast number of possible applications and products in our industry can target different body areas including intact skin, thin skin (under eye), oily skin (face vs abdomen), sun exposed vs sun protected, healthy or impaired skin which come with many specific characteristics in composition, structure, and function as a primary focus.

In-vitro reconstructed human tissue models are recognized as being sensitive and reliable for areas outside of skin in a pre-clinical environment. Using 3D human reconstructed models such as gingival and vaginal systems can model mucosal tolerance, “immature” epidermal models can mimic infant/baby skin, and culture conditions can be designed to impair function (missing ceramide production) or condition (sensitive skin) to find solutions to the impairment such as in barrier function.

Topical applications represent a vast range of formulation options, accounting for multiple product types focusing on health, gender, age conditions, and body targets.  The constant quest for innovation, whether through the search for new molecules or the extended use of old ones, pushes our industry to take many factors into account in the early stages of development.  Multiple models of different variations can be applied in sequence to the same project scope representing multiple but independent evaluations and approaches simultaneously.

Manufacturers are also looking to in-vitro modeling to satisfy environmental impact effects of their ingredients and products.  Reef safe, biodegradability and species toxicology are becoming commonplace in raw material questionnaire surveys and in environmentally responsible platforms within many companies.

The list of in-vitro models is endless; however, there are a handful of go-to models that make up many R&D arsenals.  Reconstructed human epidermis (RHE) is a very common model that uses keratinocytes harvested from surgically excised tissue.  When these cells are cultured at the air/media interface of a culture well, they naturally form a representative viably functioning epidermis.  Full thickness skin models (FTSK) are composed of both a dermal compartment containing human skin fibroblasts embedded in a collagen matrix and human keratinocytes seeded on top to form the epidermis.  Ex-vivo skin explants use full thickness whole skin biopsies in culture, which allows the effect of individual ingredients and formulations, transdermal delivery, topical penetration, and percutaneous absorption to be tested in an environment more closely mimicking normal skin. Even though this model system is the closest to intact skin, it has its limitations.  Recent in-vitro modeling of neurodermatology has been achieved by generating a co-culture system of sensory neurons and skin cells, which can simulate in vivo human skin and provide innovative solutions to neuro sensory conditions such as itch, neuro inflammation and pain. Pigmented epidermis model composed of normal human keratinocytes cultivated in the presence of melanocytes of phototypes in the basal layer resulting in a gradient of melanin production when exposed to varying degrees of UV, IR and HEV light. Atopy skin models recreate conditions of this disease state via a co-culture of keratinocytes, fibroblasts, dendritic cells, and T-cells which can be applied to screen therapeutics and to gain a better understanding of the biological mechanisms involved.

The future state will focus on using pluripotent stem cells in a variety of culture conditions and matrixes to reconstitute tissues of interest, thus, more accurately modeling solutions for aged, damaged, or dysfunctional tissue.  The idea of in-situ (to examine the phenomenon exactly in place where it occurs) bioprinting is already being considered for as a research tool  for therapy and the results obtained in that area seem to be promising. It is possible that soon, use of skin bioprinters will be a useful tool in surgical reconstruction and a preferred form of therapy in wound and burns treatment.  Alternatively, the idea of bioprinting on a cellular level can further the customization of in-vitro modeling. The possibilities are endless.

Mini-Symposium: “In-Vitro Modeling to Predict Clinical Outcome”

Michael Anthonavage, Moderator

Presentation topics

  1. 3D Tissue Model applications: Genetically engineered 3D skin models for the development of cosmetic products and pharmaceutical drugs Research Focus: Human 3D tissue models
  2. Innate Immunity modeling: Testing the Skin’s Innate Immune Response via In-Vitro and Non-Invasive Clinical Testing Methods
  3. Sunscreen modeling: Bioequivalence Efficacy Test for Sunscreens: Alternative SPF Test Methods Validation
  4. Use of in-silico/vitro modeling for barrier and moisture: Skin Barrier and Hydration: Solutions from in silico & in vitro testing to clinical bioanalysis and imaging
  5. Sensorial modeling in-vitro: The interest of sensorial evaluation in cosmetics: integration of the sensory neuron compartment on unique in-vitro models.
  6. Bioavailability: In-vitro Studies of Skin Deposition & Permeation and Their Practicality
  7. Delivery modeling: Advanced Delivery Modeling Techniques – A Runway to Success
  8. Total exposure modeling: Scalable in silico simulation for human total body exposure prediction using in vitro transdermal and respiratory tract permeability assays
  9. Modeling of lipogenesis: In Vitro Model Challenges for Skin Lipid Measurements in the Clinic
  10. 3D bioprinting: Creation of the most sophisticated 3D Bioprinted full skin models, with immunization, pigmentation, vascularization, and oil function to advance cosmetics efficacy testing.
  11. Systemic Disease modeling for skin: Diabetic Skin: A new target for cosmetic products
  12. Tissue engineering: Latest advances in tissue engineering: from normal to compromised skin

Michael Anthonavage has 26 years of experience in personal care product development and a career spanning background in skin biology, education, and medical technology. Michael has extensive knowledge in product development in personal care product design and specializes in R&D to marketing translation as well as claims validation both in-vitro and in-vivo. He is also 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 VP of Operations & Technology at Eurofins CRL, Inc. as well as an educator in herbal studies, clinical lab interpretation, product development strategies, physiology, and skin biology.  Michael’s previous positions have focused on product development for multi-national corporations in Consumer Products and has held R&D leadership positions at several industry ingredient suppliers where he has championed innovative ingredient portfolios.  Michael is currently on the NYC SCC Scientific Advisory Board and has given several lectures for the SCC over the years.   He has a variety of publications and patents to his name and continues to be an influential speaker and educator in the personal care, bioinstrumentation, and skin testing arena.


SOFW.com – Interview with Giorgio Dell’Acqua, 2022 NYSCC Chair

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Interview with Giorgio Dell’Acqua, 2022 NYSCC Chair

Giorgio Dell’Acqua
2022 NYSCC Chair

Last November the Chapter successfully organized the first ‘back-in-person’ NYSCC Suppliers’ Day after the pandemic break. How was the turnout for attendees and exhibitors?

It was incredible and extremely rewarding to meet face-to face and be reunited with so many members and colleagues. This important event, November 10th and 11th in 2021, attracted 6,807 registrants and 392 exhibitors and they were all eager to find solutions and move forward in their businesses. Noteworthy were the international participants, from 30 countries, who were able to attend despite the travel restrictions.

At the conclusion of this Suppliers’ Day we also had a “Virtual Month of Beauty” that captured even more new registrants and fostered continued engagement.

A big shout to Susanna Fernandes, the 2021 NYSCC Chair, and the entire Suppliers’ Day team for navigating through such unfamiliar territory and being able to bring this edition of Suppliers’ Day to life!

What will the main focus of the 2022 NYSCC Suppliers’ Day on May 3-4, 2022?

The theme this year is “Your Destination for Science & Sustainable Sourcing Solutions.”  We are getting back to basics while viewing all chemistry and formulating through a sustainable lens. This will be evident on the exhibit floor and woven throughout the conference program. We will have subject matter experts in the field of digitalization, sustainability, clean beauty and advanced scientific testing, to name a few, presenting during the show and part of our comprehensive educational program.  All designed to inspire creativity, ingenuity, and innovation.

NYSCC also formed a Diversity & Inclusion Committee this year that will be involved in programming and activities at Suppliers’ Day to engage attendees in conversation about ideas that provide leadership in the cosmetics community around diversity and inclusion.

We cannot just be focused on the science of the ingredients and formulations without considering the impact of their sourcing both on the environment and society.

What can attendees expect this year?

As the only event in North America for ingredients, formulations, and delivery innovations, NYSCC Suppliers’ Day will have something for everyone.

It will be the best forum in North America for the latest trends, scientific findings, global ingredients, raw materials and solutions that will invigorate formulations and accelerate beauty and personal care product developments.

From end-to-end of the Javits Center, scientific and sustainable sourcing solutions that are impacting product development and brand creations will be discussed, experienced and on full display.

Suppliers’ Day this year will also feature 50+ individual conference sessions and curated educational programs, with 430+ exhibitors with more than 8,000 attendees expected to attend from all over the world.  Dynamic areas on the show floor, that once again is expanded into the D Hall at the Javits Center, will provide enhanced experiential learning including the classic Future Chemists Workshop, Presentation Theater, and the return of the INDIE 360 Pavilion. New this year will be a Poster Showcase, featuring the latest scientific findings and ingredients and formulation breakthroughs.

Suppliers’ Day for attendees will help catapult professional advancement and truly be non-stop learning, discovery, and business building.

What will be some highlights of the conference program?

NYSCC continues to grow and enhance the educational component of Suppliers’ Day.  This year we are excited to present our hallmark programs with updated content designed to help those involved in formulations, sourcing, and marketing beauty and personal care products achieve their business objectives including:

  • Discover Sustainability a series of quick but powerful presentations from leading companies that are successfully implementing clean beauty, green formulation, bio-based and cradle-to-cradle certifications, ethical sourcing, and more.
  • Digital Age of Beauty focusing on current strategies and innovations that influence product development, and speed to market. The latest digital tools and techniques that drive, measure and analyze consumer engagement and the demands they set forth will also be presented.
  • World of Chemistry delivering a global perspective and discussion on raw materials, solutions, formulation, and regulations.  Presenters encompass leading experts from countries and regions that are defining the beauty and personal care landscape.
  • Show Floor Presentation Theater complimentary to all attendees, provides insightful, leading-edge supplier presentations and interactive talks.

After last year’s success, INDIE 360 will return and we will be working with IBA (Independent Beauty Association) and other new partners on creating a program that focuses on every angle of the business.  A highlight will be brand founders sharing their candid stories and experiences as well as challenges, opportunities and pathways to success. There will also be a spotlight on how INDIE companies are utilizing unique ingredients or innovative ingredient combinations.

PCPC will also be back to present essential content on cosmetic regulation, safety assessment, and quality assurance.

The NYSCC Scientific Advisory Committee will present two conference sessions that take deep dives into topics that are relevant and timely to chemists and R&D teams and the pre-conference SCC CEP Courses will take place on May 2nd.

We also will continue our nurturing and support of the next generation of chemists with the expansion of our Mentor/Mentee Program and the Future Chemists Workshop with even more colleges and universities participating.  The co-sponsored SCC & NYSCC Career Development Day will also be part of the event

Of course we will also have our Industry Awards Night celebration after the first day of the show.  This year, the finalists of the CEW Beauty Creators Supplier’s Award will be revealed. Industry Awards Night is a great event for renewing partnerships and creating new ones and truly acknowledges the important drivers of innovation and exemplifies Suppliers’ Day core spirit.

Will the event be hybrid?

Yes we will offer a virtual day on May 9th. This will literally be an immersive experience with attendees feeling like they entered the Javits Convention Center in NYC and will give them a 360 degree view of the actual exhibits and expo floor from their desktops or mobile devices.

We also have a platform that makes it easy for exhibitors to provide the same assets and product information for both the live and virtual events and to even schedule appointments with the virtual attendees.

Some of the educational programs offered during the in-person Suppliers’ Day will also be available on May 9th.

Thank you very much for this interview and I hope to see many of your readers at Suppliers’ Day this year.  Please visit www.nyscc.org/suppliersday/ for more information and to register.

Naturally derived rheology modifiers and emulsion stabilizers

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Modern-day formulators relied on polymers to stabilize o/w emulsions much more than surfactants.  The introduction of polyacrylic acid-derived polymers many years ago enabled formulators to develop stable emulsions with minimal effort.  In realty, formulators used polymers as their primary stabilizers, and they selected the surfactant and esters to tailor the texture and sensorial properties of emulsions.  In fact, polyacrylic acid-based polymers enabled steric stabilization of emulsions due to their anionic charge and contributed to the entropic stabilization due to their ability to bind water very efficiently.  The art of formulation using the concepts of Hydrophilic Lipophilic Balance (HLB) was almost extinct and was replaced by the fast-paced polymeric stabilization.

In recent years, consumers have been driving the trend of naturality demanding manufacturers to formulate their products with naturally-derived ingredients rather than fossil-based ones.  This push towards naturality is forcing formulators to remove their fossil-derived polymers and replace them with naturally-derived counterparts.  At the same time, formulators are also replacing their efficient polyoxyethylene-based (POE) surfactants with polyglyceryl based ones, as POE is no longer in vogue with some consumer groups.  One can say that formulators who have been spoiled for many years with ease of formulation and guaranteed stability outcome are faced with one of their biggest challenge in recent memory.

The search for an identical, naturally-derived replacement of polyacrylic acid-based polymer has created a frenzy among finished-goods companies and raw material suppliers to try to fill the gap.  The first instinct was for formulators to go back and rely on the good old stand-by, xanthan gum.  Xanthan is produced by fermentation, so it is considered naturally-derived.  It is used in relatively low concentrations and has good yield value.  Although xanthan gum has many good attributes, it still has several draw backs.  First, its impact on viscosity is minimal and does not build it efficiently.  Second, it adds a negative slip and tack to formulations that is quite undesirable.  Third, its effect on stability is positive but not quite as good as polyacrylic-based polymers.  Formulators need to make several trials before achieving good stability with xanthan gum.

Another stand-by ingredient is starch.  Starches have been used to thicken and generate yield in emulsions for many years.  An example of a commonly used starch is hydroxypropyl starch phosphate.  Starches typically work through a wide pH range (3-9) and have good salt tolerance.  However, starches are not efficient thickeners as they have to be used between 1 and 4% w/w in the emulsion to impart stability.  When a high level of polymer is used in emulsions it not only reduces the available water for the surfactant to behave properly but it also imparts a certain texture to the formulation which might not be very desirable.

Recently, several companies introduced a variety of gums to stabilize emulsions.  Most recently Diutan gum was introduced.  Diutan is a high molecular weight polysaccharide (5 MM Dalton) with a relatively low charge density on the backbone.  The backbone is made up of four-sugars, namely glucose, glucoronate, glucose and rhamnose and a two-sugar side chain of rhamnose.  Diutan seems to be electrolyte tolerant and builds higher viscosities than xanthan gum when combined with a low level of electrolytes.  However, it does not build enough viscosity on its own based on literature.

Several manufacturers tried combining several natural gums to achieve good emulsion esthetics and stability.  One manufacturer combined xanthan gum, with sclerotium gum, and pullulan.  Other manufacturers are combining acacia and gellan gum, xanthan and guar gum, as well as acacia and xanthan gum.  Such combinations could be good options, but finished-goods formulators tend to lean more towards single ingredient substitutes as they do not crowd the ingredient label and offer greater flexibility in formulation.  In addition, many of these combinations have similar esthetics and do not offer a robust stability profile.

More recently, a new grade of cellulose gum was launched.  This type of cellulose can suspend and has a yield value which separates it from common cellulose gums.  This readily biodegradable polymer was used in stabilizing O/W emulsions made with organic sunscreens as well as inorganic sunscreens.  In one example, formulators were able to develop an O/W inorganic sunscreen formulation containing 20% w/w zinc oxide.  The polymer showed great synergies with currently available, naturally derived polymers like xanthan gum and hydrophobically modified hydroxyethylcellulose.  In addition, the polymer appeared to yield viscosities similar to the one achieved by polyacrylic acid when used alone or in combination with other naturally-derived thickeners.

As a formulator, I am still hopeful in finding an exact replica of a polyacrylic acid type polymer that is naturally derived, biodegradable, efficient, low cost and with good esthetics.  At one point reality will sink in, and will realize that such polymer will not exist.  The mere fact is that the chemical make-up of the backbone of the polymer will be different, and unlike polyacrylic-acid based polymers, the natural ones will not be crosslinked.  Instead, many of the naturally-derived ones are linear polymers with some branching.  In this fast-paced environment, formulators will have to adapt and sharpen their formulation skills.  They will use their creativity and I am sure will create amazing textures with the toolbox they currently have until new technology is introduced or new market trends appear.

Dr. 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 received his Ph. D.

Dr. 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 received his Ph. D.

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’Oréal 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.  Dr Fares chairs the NYSCC scientific committee and has won multiple awards in the areas of sun care and polymer chemistry.

Beauty Tech in Hair Care

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Technology touches every aspect of our lives, and the influence of technology in beauty and cosmetics has grown in recent times globally, becoming a quite interesting playground of opportunity for consumers, big multinational brands, and entrepreneurs.  There have been increasingly more examples of beauty tech advancements in skin care; however, offerings for beauty tech in hair care have been limited in comparison.  This blog provides an overview of beauty tech and examples of how technology has advanced the consumer beauty care experience, specifically within the hair care space.

Exploration of Beauty Tech

From a global perspective, beauty tech and innovation has been popular in Asia, with advancements making their way west as consumers become more advanced, engaged, and open to new things.  At the core, all consumer desire the same thing – efficacy.  I think of beauty tech as an opportunity to empower consumers to have a more meaningful, convenient & effective beauty care experience.  This can be achieved through multiple channels:  devices, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to name a few.


A beauty device is any electrically powered hardware that is used for a specific purpose within the beauty or grooming experience.  Consumers are most familiar with devices given their use of styling implements such as blow dryers, flat irons, hot rollers, etc.  The global beauty devices market is expected to grow from roughly $39 billion in 2018 to $107 billion by 2024 (1). A highlight of interesting devices for hair care follows.

Independent beauty tech company, THE MOST, offers two innovative devices that address convenience and care in the styling of textured hair.  The Mint is a tool that allows the user to insert prefilled cartridges, “Mint Minis,” of hair products, into The Mint, which then heats the product and dispenses it from the device’s bristles (2, 3).  The result is a quicker grooming experience due to simultaneous product application and detangling, a step that can generally take a while depending on the curl pattern, length, and density of the hair.  From an automated mechanical perspective, the company has developed the Knot Your Average Sonic Detangler Brush, a brush with comb-like bristles that oscillate to efficiently detangle curly and coily hair.

Devices that address hair concerns such as growth and scalp health are penetrating the market due to increased consumer focus in these areas. Cosmetics Design-Europe recently reported on one such example – the Verdure LED Hair Regrowth Scalp Activator, a device that uses light stimulation and ionic vibration to help stimulate hair growth (4).  Another example is the BeautyBio GloPro Scalp Attachment, a tool that reportedly supports the appearance of hair growth through the microneedling action of the device.  This scalp stimulation helps to reawaken the scalp, promote blood and nutrient circulation, and reduce buildup.  Additionally, there is considerable patent activity for upcoming hair growth devices (5).

As sustainability is a key driver for innovation, some companies have leveraged technology to impact areas such as water usage and waste (6).  L’Oréal has collaborated with Gjosa to devise a water-saving showerhead and dispensing system for salons and future home use.  The L’Oréal Water Saver works by a water micronization technology; micronized product is mixed into the high-pressure, small droplet water stream of the showerhead, thereby resulting in up to 80% reduction in water usage vs. a standard showerhead (7).  The Réduit One hair and skin care device addresses waste reduction by utilizing pods containing concentrated ingredients, and a dispensing mechanism that delivers the product in a mist of tiny droplets. The benefit is improved efficacy and 20 times less waste vs. standard products (6). The 5 mL Hairpods (and Skinpods), which are equivalent 200 mL or 50 mL of standard hair or skin care products, respectively, can be returned for recycling when they are empty.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automated data processing has enabled beauty tech to do remarkable new things.  AI works by mining data to offer personalized solutions.  A relatable example of this is Lancôme’s make-up mixing station which works as follows: a customer’s skin is evaluated by a colorimeter, the color data is processed using an algorithm that then outputs the best combination of pigments to produce the consumer’s perfectly matched shade of foundation.

For hair care, AI has been particularly useful for diagnostic tools and product recommendations.  Hair AI by John Paul Mitchell Systems consists of a scanner/zoom lens that can be attached to a smartphone camera and an app that then analyzes the image of the hair and scalp to provide insight such as condition and relevant products.  This diagnostic tool is specifically for use by hair care professionals. Myavana is a platform and app that provides personalized hair care product recommendations and guidance to subscribers with textured hair using a combination of AI, technical analyses of the subscribers’ hair and one-on-one stylist consultations.  Additionally, the latest offering from Myavana is an app that utilizes image recognition technology and AI to analyze an image of the consumer’s hair for the purpose of recommending suitable products (8).

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology in which a new experience is simulated based on the overlay of information and virtual objects on real-world scenes in real-time (9).  That new experience could be as simple as a new appearance (think applying a filter that adds features such as eyelashes to your favorite selfie) or as complex as interacting with products in a store.  A useful example of AR in hair care is virtual hair color apps such as Clairol MyShade and the Milton Reed “Try On” Tool.  These tools provide consumers with the valuable and convenient experience of “trying on” different hair colors before committing to a coloring treatment with potentially long-lasting effects.  Simply upload a picture or live stream from your smartphone!  The key opportunity for AR in the future will be in creating fully immersive shopping and wellness experiences (10).


Beauty tech centers on leveraging advanced technical capabilities to address a need and introduce convenience and personalization to the beauty care experience.  I hope this blog inspires readers to think of the untapped opportunities that exist in hair care, for which the use of technology such as devices, AI and AR can offer advancement.  The cosmetic industry has done a great job of delivering chemistries and formulations to address consumer needs, and the compliment of technology will propel us even further in our quest to deliver next level hair care benefits and experiences.  Beauty tech can offer viable solutions for improved care and efficacy, inclusivity / personalization, and sustainability in the beauty industry.


  1. Fulton, B. (2020, November 10). At-home beauty tech sees a lockdown boom. https://www.voguebusiness.com/technology/at-home-beauty-tech-sees-a-lockdown-boom
  2. Myers, D. (2019, March 20). U.S. Patent US20200093248A1. Enhanced hair product application with concurrent styling.
  3. Graham, M. (2018, December 18). Meet Dawn Myers, founder and CEO of The Most. https://www.lifewire.com/meet-dawn-myers-founder-and-ceo-of-the-most-5092881
  4. Lim, A. (2021, October 19). Verdure says underserved hair care market due for a tech upgrade. https://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Article/2021/10/19/Verdure-says-underserved-hair-care-market-due-for-a-tech-upgrade
  5. McDougall, A. (2021, May 31). The future of haircare, styling & colour: 2021 [Industry Report]. Mintel. https://www.mintel.com
  6. Di Gesu, R. (2021, April 31). A year of innovation in haircare, styling & colour, 2021 [Industry Report]. Mintel. https://www.mintel.com
  7. L’Oréal Articles. (2021, August 1). L’Oréal water saver: using water sustainably in salon and at-home. Available at https://www.loreal.com/en/articles/science-and-technology/loreal-water-saver-the-new-sustainable-haircare-system
  8. Pernell, A. (2020, June 22). Myavana launches new mobile app for hair product recommendations from a photo. Available at https://urbangeekz.com/2020/06/myavana-launches-new-mobile-app-for-hair-product-recommendations-from-a-photo
  9. Fjermedal, G. (2021, April 9). Beauty tech: the complete guide 2021. Available at https://www.perfectcorp.com/business/blog/general/the-complete-guide-to-beauty-tech?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI76ehvfrl8wIVAgaICR3xRgSMEAMYASAAEgIv4vD_BwE
  10. (2021, October 23). Alternative Realities [Industry Trend Report]. https://www.mintel.com



Dr. Amber Evans is a cosmetic industry professional with over a decade of experience in research and innovation. In her current position as Senior Manager of Product Development at Moroccanoil, she leverages her technical expertise to help drive the global launch of prestige hair & body care products.  Prior to Moroccanoil, she worked as a development scientist at ingredient supplier BASF Corporation, where her contributions spanned multiple market segments, including hair, body, and oral care. She also previously supported initiatives such as upstream research for hair colorants and clinical testing for skin/shave care applications at Procter & Gamble.

Dr. Evans holds a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Cosmetic Science focus) from University of Cincinnati and a B.S. in Chemistry from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University.  She has authored hair care research publications, contributed content to NaturallyCurly.com, the leading resource for textured hair care, and featured on multiple platforms that support aspiring scientists and early career professionals.  As a mentor, active member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC), peer reviewer for the Journal of Cosmetic Science and editorial advisory board member for Global Cosmetic Industry (GCI) Magazine, Dr. Evans is dedicated to influencing the progression of the cosmetic field.


Disclaimer:  All views expressed are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now or will be affiliated.  The mentioning of technologies herein does not constitute an endorsement.

Impact of Environmental Stressors on Hair

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

Physiochemical properties of hair are impacted by many stressors ranging from physical, chemical, mechanical to environmental. A combination of several environmental factors such as sun exposure and air pollution can impact overall hair and scalp health. Damage induced by these aggressors impacts hair properties such as protein content, melanin oxidation, surface quality and structural components [1]. Hair and scalp care go hand in hand and prolonged exposure to pollution can cause scalp sensitivity. In this article, we will discuss the impact of environmental factors on hair and some of the treatment strategies that can help protect hair against these harmful effects.

Hair Structure

Hair is composed of heavily melanized keratin fibers. Hair keratins are classified as hard keratins, consisting of 65-96% proteins, 1-9% lipids, 3% melanin and other minor compounds. These proteins are the building blocks that contribute to the strength, flexibility, and overall health of hair. Hair is broadly structured in three layers: the cuticle, cortex, and the medulla. The cuticle forms the outermost coat of the hair shaft, acts as a protective wall shielding the inner layers and contributes to the feel and appearance of hair. The cuticle is subjected to many day-to-day insults such as washing, brushing, the use of thermal tools, UV radiation and pollution. Thus, the hair structure is gradually damaged. Next, we will review the impact of UV exposure and air pollution on hair properties.

Impact of UV radiation

Both UVA and UVB components of sunlight radiation are responsible for inducing damage to hair. It has been reported that morphological damage to the hair is caused by UVB and chemical changes in hair are caused by UVA [2].

UVB radiation (280-315 nm) affects hair approximately 5 µm beneath the surface [3] and localizes primarily in the cuticle area. It attacks the melanin pigment and protein fractions of hair [4]. UVB range is more harmful than UVA for hair damage: once the main chromophore of hair proteins absorbs UVB, UVA acts as a secondary cause of damage [1]. Effects of UVB radiation can be severe, resulting in the breakdown of di-sulfide bonds, which are fundamental to hair structural integrity. Such disruptions impact hair’s mechanical properties, resulting in the loss of tensile strength, increase in porosity and irregularities on the hair surface [5].

UVA radiation (315-400 nm) is less energetic but due to its longer wavelength, is capable of penetrating cuticle layers and cortex (causing partial loss of lipid, protein, and melanin) [6]. However, UVA is primarily responsible for color changes in hair. In pigmented hair, melanin granules provide photoprotection to hair proteins and lipid components from oxidation. Therefore, blonde, and grey hair, which are low in melanin, are susceptible to more damage [7]. Red and dark-brown hairs photo yellow when exposed to near ultraviolet plus visible radiation [4].

Overall, prolonged exposure to UV radiation can cause a decrease in 18-methyleicosanoic acid (18-MEA), a fatty acid found on the surface of hair cuticles and photochemical degradation of cystine, tryptophan and tyrosine. These changes contribute to signs of damage such as increased surface friction, poor manageability, brittle hair, and loss of shine, color, and tensile strength.

Impact of Pollution

Air pollutants consist of complex and varying mixtures of different size and composition particles suspended in the air. These can be polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), ozone or cigarette smoke [8].

Particulate matter (PM) is classified into PM2.5 and PM10. Some PM2.5 particles form because of complex reactions between sulfur & nitrogen oxides and other compounds, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries, and automobiles [9]. PM10 particulates like dust and pollen are much larger in size.

PM binds to the hair surface and infiltrates the hair follicle, something which could affect hair growth and texture. Severe air pollution can alter the hair surface making it rough and dull. The presence of sebum on the hair surface favors the deposit of larger PM. When it comes to your scalp, long term effects of pollution can contribute to scalp irritation, itching, excessive sebum secretion, dandruff, pain in the hair roots and hair loss. The combination of these symptoms is defined as sensitive scalp syndrome [10]. Excessive sebum production on scalp translates into oily / greasy roots, clogged pores, and blocked hair follicles. This can lead to an effective weakening of the hair at the root, making it to more prone to breakage [11].

PAHs are among the most widespread organic pollutants and in addition to being a human health risk factor they can also damage hair [12]. PAHs cling to the hair surface and the oxidizing pollutants penetrate inside the hair fiber, causing chemical damage to hair cuticle and protein. Furthermore, they can cause oxidative stress to hair when exposed to UV radiation; It is also shown that damage to cuticle and cortex is higher when PAH contamination increases and indeed fibers with increased PAH contamination show increased damaged after UV treatment [13].

Product Solutions to Combat Environmental Stressors

Consumers are always looking for products that help protect hair and scalp from these external aggressors. According to Mintel (GNPD, 2021) there has been a 61% increase in hair care product launches in North America with anti-pollution claims in the past three years. As consumers are shifting to healthier lifestyles and making cleaner choices, ingredients, their sources, and functionality are determining their purchase behaviors.

Film formers, UV filters and certain antioxidants have been used in hair care products to help protect hair from UV damage and prevent color fade. However, there is a growing need for multifunctional ingredients whose benefits go beyond sun protection alone, extending to helping protect hair and scalp against pollution as well.

The use of gentle cleansing ingredients to wash hair without disrupting scalp homeostasis has been a huge focus area for consumers. Botanical options such as Moringa and Chia seeds along with food-inspired ingredients like turmeric and bioinspired molecules (amino acids) have been spotlighted as ones that help purify, detox, and soothe the scalp. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients like apple cider vinegar and exfoliators such as pink salt are in demand and help to stimulate good blood circulation. They can also help to remove build-up and excess sebum on the scalp.

As the photo-pollution category continues to evolve, researchers are now conducting exposome studies that can reveal new hypotheses on how hair could be affected by daily life environment and routine using wearable devices [1]. The use of new data collecting devices and beauty apps continue to rise, as they help engage consumers and guide the cosmetic industry in developing new products and concepts.


Pollution and sun exposure are a global concern and the emphasis is beyond just skin. These stressors can cause hair damage and induce scalp sensitivity. Novel ingredients and new products that focus on providing full protection continue to advance. Key for hair and scalp health are protective hair and scalp care solutions that can help create an eco-barrier on the hair surface to prevent the adhesion and penetration of pollutants and radiation, restore hair from the inside-out and provide scalp bio balance.


  1. Rodrigo De Vecchi, Júlia da Silveira Carvalho Ripper, Daniel Roy, Lionel Breton, Alexandre Germano Marciano, Plínio Marcos Bernardo de Souza & Marcelo de Paula Corrêa, “ Using wearable devices for assessing the impacts of hair exposome in Brazil” , Scientific Reports ,volume 9, 13357 (2019)
  2. Kazuhisa Maeda, Jun Yamazaki, Nana Okita, Masami Shimotori, Kyouhei Igarashi and Taiga Sano, “Mechanism of Cuticle Hole Development in Human Hair Due to UV-Radiation Exposure”, Cosmetics, 24, 5(2) (2018)
  3. Lee, W. S.,” Hair photoaging “Aging hair, Springer, 123-133 (2010)
  4. Estibalitz Fernández, Blanca Martínez-Teipel, Ricard Armengol, Clara Barba, Luisa Coderch, “Efficacy of antioxidants in human hair”, Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology 117,146-156 (2012)
  5. Timothy Gao, Jung-Mei Tien, Abhijit Bidaye, Scott Cardinali and Jena Kinney, “A Diester to Protect Hair from Color Fade and Sun Damage”, Cosmetics & Toiletries (2013)
  6. Ernesta Malinauskyte; Samuel Gourion-Arsiquaud, “Dirty Air, Hair and Skin: Pollution Studies”, TRI talks
  7. Trefor A. Evans, “Combing Through Sun and Pollutant Effects on Hair”, Cosmetics & Toiletries (2016)
  8. Eleni Drakaki, Clio Dessinioti and Christina V. Antoniou, “Air pollution and the skin”, Frontiers in Environmental Science (2014)
  9. Seinfeld, J. H., & Pankow, J. F “Organic atmospheric particulate material”, Annual review of physical chemistry, 54(1), 121-140 (2003)
  10. Rajput R, “Understanding Hair Loss due to Air Pollution and the Approach to Management”, Hair Therapy and Transplantation (2015)
  11. Ashland: “How air pollution can turn into air pollution, and solutions to prevent it” Cosmetics design-europe.com (2019)
  12. Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, “Sun, Metals & Pollution Are Damaging Your Hair”, Happi (2020)
  13. Gregoire Naudin, Philippe Bastien, Sakina Mezzache, Erwann Trehu, Nasrine Bourokba, Brice Marc Rene Appenzeller, Jeremie Soeur and Thomas Bornschlogl, “Human Pollution exposure correlates with accelerated ultrastructural degradation of hair fibers”, PNAS, 116(37), 18410-18415(2019)



Mythili Nori has worked in the Personal Care industry for over a decade. Her expertise is in Product Claim Substantiation and Data Science. In her current role at BASF, she is responsible for Physical Claim Substantiation & Sensory testing for Hair & Skin Care. Prior to joining BASF, she spent 5 years at TRI/Princeton as a Senior Research Associate, supporting claim substantiation and fundamental research activities for textile and hair surfaces. She earned a Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering from India and received Master of Science in Chemical Engineering at North Carolina Agriculture & Technical State University focusing on purification of drinking water.

Advances in Antioxidant Technology for Skin Care

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

In the last two decades the role of antioxidants in skin care has radically changed. In the early 2000s, it was typical to find finished formulas on the shelf that contained butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) or butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), which were mostly added to enhance the shelf-life of the product. As time went on, formulas containing vitamin C and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) became more common since many studies carried out during that period demonstrated the invaluable benefits provided to the skin by these antioxidants.

As the personal care industry entered the end of the first decade in the new millennium, naturally derived ingredients started to become more and more common. Of course, most of these ingredients were based on botanical ingredients, which are chock-full of polyphenols and other ingredients with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have also become key components of sunscreen formulas, as research demonstrated unique benefits from the addition of antioxidants in addition to any UV absorption properties. Further, a great deal of research has gone into delivery systems for antioxidants, which provide targeted delivery and stability for antioxidants. Nowadays, one can find antioxidants in just about every type of skin care product in the marketplace. In this article, we will review some of the latest advances in antioxidant technology in the skin care arena.


Skin Protection by Antioxidants from Natural Sources

Topical and oral administration of antioxidants for the skin is still a very active field of research [1]. In the personal care industry and academia, a great deal of understanding has been accomplished in the area of topical antioxidant treatments. There are a host of different molecules that have proven to be efficacious for the protection of skin. Some of the most commonly studied antioxidants for topical skin treatment consist of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), and catechins from green tea. Some other popular ingredients include lycopene, carotene, genistein, rutin, and caffeine [2].

In recent years, most of the focus on new antioxidant product development has been in the botanical arena [1, 3, 4]. Phytochemicals are molecules that are produced by plants. Much effort has gone into understanding their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic potential for skin care. There are several recent examples in the literature where the biological activity (antioxidant properties) of botanical ingredients applied to the skin or in cell culture is demonstrated (see Table 1).

Table 1. Examples of studies utilizing botanical ingredients for the treatment of skin.

Source Key Components Efficacy Measurements Reference
Moringa oleifera seed oil Alpha-tocopherol; plant sterols; fatty acids DPPH free radical scavenging assay; skin hydration, erythema melanin values, and elasticity [5]
Brown algae Laminarin (polysaccharide) Collagen fiber density, superoxide production, and expression of antioxidant enzymes in UVB-exposed murine skin [6]
Hibiscus syriacus L. (Malvaceae) Anthocyanin-enriched polyphenols UVB-induced apoptosis, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and mitochondrial reactive oxygen species in HaCaT keratinocytes [7]
Fermented Yak-Kong (a small black soybean) Phenolic acids, isoflavones, and proanthocyanidins Effect of UV exposure on: in vivo wrinkle formation; MMP-1, AP-1, ERK1/2, and JNK1/2 activity in HaCaT keratinocytes; and degradation of collagen in a 3D skin model [8]

In some cases, natural ingredients have a limited shelf life or are not stable in different formulation chassis. As such, synthetic ingredients are often inspired by nature. A recent example in the personal care industry is acetyl zingerone, which is structurally similar to zingerone found in the root of the ginger plant, Zingiber officinale [9]. Aguirre-Cruz et al. recently demonstrated the antioxidant potential of peptides, specifically hydrolyzed collagen, to protect the skin from environmental stress [10]. The precise mechanism in which peptides act as antioxidants is not known; however, proton (or electron) donation is suspected to play a role.

In the last decade a tremendous amount of research has been conducted to determine the benefits of molecules from cannabis—a genus of plants from the cannabaceae family. There are a number of phytocannabinoids that have been identified from the hemp plant; however, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most studied molecules. Baswan et al. provide a comprehensive review of work conducted in relation to the topical treatment of skin with CDB [11]. It was proposed that CDB has potential to treat eczema, psoriasis, pruritis, and inflammatory conditions.

In addition to topical application, antioxidants and other essential nutrients obtained through the diet (oral consumption) play an integral role in the health state of the skin. This is especially true in regard to moisturization, care of aging skin, and protection against the effects of UV radiation. Many of these key dietary components consist of: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; vitamins A, C, and E; carotenoids; polyphenols; and selenium, zinc, and copper [12].


Antioxidant Delivery Systems

Some of the challenges with the conventional delivery of antioxidants stems from their poor solubility, limited shelf-life stability, compromised photostability, and low degree of skin permeability. Delivery systems enhance the ability of antioxidants to carry out their biological function. Various types of emulsion, vesicular, lipid particle, nanoparticle, and nanocarrier systems have been studied and developed in recent years to aid in the stabilization and delivery of antioxidants to the skin.

Emulsions are dispersions of oil and water and can refer to microemulsions, nanoemulsions, and Pickering emulsions. Vesicular systems consist of liposomes, phytosomes, transferomes, ethosomes, and niosomes. Liposomes are the most popular vesicular system used in personal care applications and are composed of concentric layers of phospholipid bilayers spherically shaped with a hollow center for the active ingredient. Barba and coworkers developed nanoliposomes containing vitamin D3, vitamin K2, vitamin E, and curcumin for topical delivery [13]. On their own, these ingredients are unstable and do not penetrate into the skin very well.

Lipid particle systems consist of lipid microparticles and lipid nanoparticles. A recent study showed the utility of caffeic acid lipid nanoparticulate systems for applications in skin [14]. Nanoparticles and nanocarriers continue to be at the forefront of skin care research for their potential at stabilizing and delivering antioxidants to the skin. For example, gold nanoparticles are known for their anti-inflammatory, antiaging, and wound healing properties in skin care [15, 16]. Nanoencapsulation is another area that shows promise for the delivery of lipid soluble antioxidants to the skin [17].


Sunscreen Technologies Based on Antioxidants

Exposure of skin to UV radiation can cause direct damage to cellular DNA by crosslinking (UVB) or indirect DNA damage caused by photosensitization reactions (UVA). Photosensitization can occur due to the presence of endogenous (e.g., chromophores in proteins) or exogenous (e.g., UVA sunscreens) species in/on the skin. Almost twenty years ago, Hanson and Clegg demonstrated that sunscreen photoprotection could be enhanced if antioxidants were included in the formula [18]. This has become such an important area of research that the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology has recently announced that it will dedicate a special issue to the topic of endogenous photosensitizers and their roles in skin photodamage and photoprotection.

The majority of commercial sunscreen formulas contain antioxidants [1]. In part, this is due to the popularity of including botanical ingredients in skin care products. However, the presence of antioxidant species can ameliorate damage caused during and after sun exposure by reactive oxygen species. A recent review by Giacomoni presents this case in relation to the activity of molecules capable of impeding the damaging effects of superoxide anion and singlet oxygen [19].

Concluding Remarks

In the last several years, there has been significant progress in the scientific understanding of antioxidant treatment of the skin. Everly increasing numbers of studies of new ingredients continue to appear in the literature. Hopefully, in the years to come there will be some type of method harmonization across institutes and industry to more uniformly characterize antioxidant behavior from the vast array of botanical ingredients. Many antioxidants are unstable or not easily bioavailable after treatment. To circumvent these challenges, antioxidant delivery systems have been developed and show much promise in the future. Finally, antioxidants play an integral role in sun protection. They are incorporated into sunscreen formulas for their ability to ameliorate damage induced by reactive oxygen species resulting from exposure to UV radiation.



  1. McMullen, R., Antioxidants and the Skin. 2nd ed. 2019, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  2. Azevedo Martins, T.E., C.A. Sales de Oliveira Pinto, A. Costa de Oliveira, M.V. Robles Velasco, A.R. Gorriti Guitiérrez, M.F. Cosquillo Rafael, J.P.H. Tarazona, and M.G. Retuerto-Figueroa, Contribution of topical antioxidants to maintain healthy skin—A review. Scientia Pharmaceutica, 2020. 88(2): p. 27.
  3. Herranz-López, M. and E. Barrajón-Catalán, Antioxidants and skin protection. Antioxidants, 2020. 9: p. 704.
  4. Petruk, G., R. Del Giudice, M.M. Rigano, and D.M. Monti, Antioxidants from plants protect against skin photoaging. Oxid. Med. Cell. Longev., 2018. 2018: p. 1454936.
  5. Athikomkulchai, S., P. Tunit, S. Tadtong, P. Jantrawut, S. Sommano, and C. Chittasupho, Moringa oleifera seed oil formulation physical stability and chemical constituents for enhancing skin hydration and antioxidant activity. Antioxidants, 2021. 8(1): p. 2.
  6. Ahn, J., D. Kim, C. Park, B. Kim, H. Sim, H. Kim, T.-K. Lee, J.-C. Lee, G. Yang, Y. Her, J. Park, T. Sim, H. Lee, and M.-H. Won, Laminarin attenuates ultraviolet-induced skin damage by reducing superoxide anion levels and increasing endogenous antioxidants in the dorsal skin of mice. Mar. Drugs, 2020. 18: p. 345.
  7. Karunarathne, W., I. Molagoda, K. Lee, Y. Choi, S.-M. Yu, C.-H. Kang, and G.-Y. Kim, Protective effect of anthocyanin-enriched polyphenols from Hibiscus syriacus L. (Malvaceae) against ultraviolet B-induced damage. Antioxidants, 2021. 10: p. 584.
  8. H, P., S. JW, L. TK, K. JH, K. JE, L. TG, P. JHY, H. CS, Y. H, and L. KW, Ethanol extract of yak-kong fermented by lactic acid bacteria from a Korean infant markedly reduces matrix metallopreteinase-1 expression induced by solar ultraviolet irradiation in human keratinocytes and a 3D skin model. Antioxidants, 2021. 10(2): p. 291.
  9. Chaudhuri, R., T. Meyer, S. Premi, and D. Brash, Omni antioxidant: Acetyl zingerone scavenges/quenches reactive species, selectively chelates iron. Int. J. Cosmet. Sci., 2020. 42: p. 36-45.
  10. Aguirre-Cruz, G., A. León-López, V. Cruz-Gómez, R. Jiménez-Alvarado, and G. Aguirre-Álvarez, Collagen hydrolysates for skin protection: Oral administration and topical formulation. Antioxidants, 2020. 9(2): p. 181.
  11. Baswan, S., A. Klosner, K. Glynn, A. Rajgopal, K. Malik, S. Yim, and N. Stern, Therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) for skin health and disorders. Clin. Cosmet. Investig. Dermatol., 2020. 13: p. 927-942.
  12. Michalak, M., M. Pierzak, B. Kręcisz, and E. Suliga, Bioactive compounds for skin health: A review. Nutrients, 2021. 13: p. 203.
  13. Bochicchio, S., A. Dalmoro, V. De Simone, P. Bertoncin, G. Lamberti, and A.A. Barba, Simil-microfluidic nanotechnology in manufacturing of liposomes as hydrophobic antioxidants skin release systems. Cosmetics, 2020. 7(2): p. 22.
  14. Hallan, S., M. Sguizzato, M. Drechsler, P. Mariani, L. Montesi, R. Cortesi, S. Björklund, T. Ruzgas, and E. Esposito, The potential of caffeic acid lipid nanoparticulate systems for skin application: In vitro assays to assess delivery and antioxidant effect. Nanomaterials, 2021. 11(1): p. 171.
  15. Ben Haddada, M., E. Gerometta, R. Chawech, J. Sorres, A. Bialecki, S. Pesnel, J. Spadavecchia, and A.-L. Morel, Assessment of antioxidant and dermoprotective activities of gold nanoparticles as safe cosmetic ingredient. Colloid. Surface. B, 2020. 189: p. 110855.
  16. Gubitosa, J., V. Rizzi, P. Fini, R. Del Sole, A. Lopedota, V. Laquintana, N. Denora, A. Agostiano, and P. Cosma, Multifunctional green synthetized gold nanoparticles/chitosan/ellagic acid self-assembly: Antioxidant, sun filter and tyrosinase-inhibitor properties. Mater. Sci. Eng. C, 2020. 106: p. 110170.
  17. Davies, S., R.V. Contri, S.S. Guterres, A.R. Pohlmann, and I.C.K. Guerreiro, Simultaneous nanoencapsulation of lipoic acid and resveratrol with improved antioxidant properties for the skin. Colloid. Surface. B, 2020. 192: p. 111023.
  18. Hanson, K. and R. Clegg, Bioconvertible vitamin antioxidants improve sunscreen photoprotection against UV-induced reactive oxygen species. J. Cosmet. Sci., 2003. 54(6): p. 589-598.
  19. Giacomoni, P., Appropriate technologies to accompany sunscreens in the battle against ultraviolet, superoxide, and singlet oxygen. Antioxidants, 2020. 9: p. 1091.

Roger L. McMullen, Ph.D.

Dr. Roger McMullen has over 20 years of experience in the personal care industry with specialties in optics, imaging, and spectroscopy of hair and skin. Currently, he is a Principal Scientist at Ashland Specialty Ingredients G.P. and leads the Material Science team in the Measurement Science department. Roger has over 30 publications in peer-reviewed journals and textbooks. He is also the author of Antioxidants and the Skin, 2nd edition and founded the online news magazine The Cosmetic Chemist. Roger received a B.S. in Chemistry from Saint Vincent College and completed his Ph.D. in Biophysical Chemistry at Seton Hall University.

Roger actively engages and participates in educational activities in the personal care industry. He frequently teaches continuing education courses for the SCC and TRI-Princeton. In addition, Roger is an Adjunct Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and teaches Biochemistry to students pursuing M.S. degrees in Cosmetic Science and Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Prior to pursuing a career in science, Roger served in the U.S. Navy for four years on board the USS YORKTOWN (CG 48). He is fluent in Spanish and Catalan and currently is learning to play the classical guitar.

Exposome and Skin Care

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

What is the Exposome?  According to the CDC/NIOSH[1] website, the exposome can be defined as: “the measure of all the exposures of an individual in a lifetime and how those exposures relate to health.  An individual’s exposure begins before birth and includes insults from environmental and occupational sources.  Understanding how exposures from our environment, diet, lifestyle, etc. interact with our own unique characteristics such as genetics, physiology, and epigenetics impact our health is how the exposome will be articulated.” [2]  In other words, the exposome is the analysis of risk factors encompassing environmental exposures (chemicals, diet, stress, and physical factors), behaviors and genetic variations with overall corresponding biological responses.  This relatively new concept and approach in epidemiological and biomedical research has stirred up some excitement among scientists, with many calling for more efforts to map the human exposome,[3] in order to safeguard future generations from the increasing number of chemical pollutants in our environment.  In this blog, we discuss the main factors comprising the skin aging exposome and how they impact our personal care and skin health.

The Skin Aging Exposome

Skin aging is caused by a combination of two cumulative processes: (1) intrinsic aging and (2) extrinsic aging.  The former is the normal genetic process that occurs over time, including body’s internal oxidation due to metabolic activities and oxygen consumption;[4] while the latter, or accelerated aging, is resulted from exposure to skin exposome factors (Figure 1).  Extrinsic environmental factors, such as sunlight, pollution, and climate, can trigger biological processes that participate and accelerate skin aging.  Self-induced factors, such as smoking, and lifestyle choices also play a role in potentiating skin aging.

Specifically, Krutmann et al.[5] have proposed the following environmental factors as part of the skin aging exposome: (1) solar radiation: ultraviolet radiation, visible light and infrared radiation, (2) air pollution (ozone and diesel exhaust), (3) tobacco smoke, (4) nutrition, (5) other miscellaneous factors, including lifestyle choices and use of cosmetic products.  In fact, it is estimated as high as 80% of skin aging signs are caused by the exposome.[6], [7]  It is important to note that skin exposome factors often act synergistically to accelerate the aging process.  For instance, “photo-pollution”[8] is the exposome resulted from the synergistic combination of sunlight and pollution.  In the following, we will briefly describe each skin aging exposome factor.

  1. Solar Radiation

Since ancient times, humans have tried various methods to shield the harmful solar radiation and protect skin against the adverse effects of the sun.  In modern times, more sophisticated photoprotection products, i.e., sunscreen and/or daily skin care products, have been developed for the prevention of acute (e.g., sunburn) and chronic (e.g., skin cancer and photoaging) skin damage that may result from exposure to ultraviolet rays (UVB and UVA).

However, with recent advances in skin care research, we have learned that wavelengths beyond the ultraviolet spectrum (UVB, 290–320 nm, and UVA, 320–400 nm), visible light (400–770 nm) and infrared (IR) radiation (770 nm–1 mm), contribute to skin damage in general and photoaging including pigmentary problems of human skin (Figure 2).[9]  Consequently, attempts have been made to develop sunscreen and skin care products that not only protect against UVB or UVA radiation but also provide photoprotection against visible light and infrared radiations.[10]

1.1 Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

The role of UV radiation in skin aging is well established and the term “photoaging” is coined to emphasize this cause-and-effect relationship.  This is the most studied exposome factor in skin aging for the past several decades.  Herein we will summarize a few key points from review articles on the role of UV radiations in skin aging:[11],[12],[13],[14]

    • Exposure to UV radiation is the primary factor of extrinsic skin aging. It affects all three layers of the skin, e., the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis.  This is the primary cause of early, premature wrinkles, sagging skin and pigmentation.
    • All UV wavelengths (UVB, UVA2 and UVA1) rays contribute to photoaging of human skin.
    • Susceptibility is strongly influenced by endogenous protection systems in human skin, such as skin pigmentation, DNA repair, antioxidant defense, etc.
    • Acute stress responses and chronic damage responses drive the skin aging process.
    • Photoaging mainly results from daily exposure to non-extreme, low doses radiation. UVA rays, in particularly long wavelength UVA1 is a major contributor.
    • Lastly and most importantly, it is highly probable that the regular use of sunscreens can help delay the photoaging process of human skin.

1.2 Visible Light (VL)

Of even lesser energy, visible light (400–700 nm) accounts for approximately 50% of the total solar spectrum.  It penetrates deeply into biological tissues and about 20% reaches the hypodermis.  Evidence suggests that VL plays a fundamental role in hyperpigmentation, particularly in individuals with deeper skin phototypes (Fitzpatrick skin type III-VI) where persistent pigment darkening has been observed following VL exposure.[15], [16]  It is demonstrated that the lower wavelength, higher energy portion of visible light (blue-violet light from 400 to 500 nm) is responsible for the highest pigmentation induced by VL.  Even the green part of VL accounts for more than 30% of skin pigmentation.[17]  Studies have shown that physiological doses comparable to 90 – 150 min of midday summer sun exposure can induce lasting pigmentation.16 Recently, a unique mechanism involving activation of melanogenesis via the opsin 3 photoreceptor has been described.[18]

1.3 Infrared (IR) Radiation

IR rays accounts for approximately 45% of the total solar energy received.  Only the shortest wavelengths, IR-A (770-1400 nm) have sufficient energy for skin penetration to cause significant damage.  IR radiation is known to upregulate the production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), enzymes that facilitate the degradation of extracellular matrix proteins.[19]  The earliest biological event that occurs after IR-A radiation in human fibroblasts is an increase in the intra-mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).  There is a shift in the glutathione equilibrium to its oxidized state.  The discovery of this mitochondrial signaling response caused by IR-A has a direct clinical impact as it indicates that the use of antioxidants may be an effective strategy to help protect the skin against effects from IR-A.

  1. Air Pollution and Tobacco Smoking

Exposures to pollutants, exhaust, smog-derived ozone and cigarette smoke have been associated with accelerated skin ageing (pigmentation, loss of elasticity and wrinkles) and increased cancer risks.[20]  Airborne particles (particulate matters, PM), rich in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), can exert detrimental effects on human skin and contribute to facial lentigines formation.[21]  In general, topical exposure to pollutants harms the skin by increasing oxidative stress that modifies lipid DNA and protein function.[22], [23], [24]  Soeur and coworkers at L’Oréal demonstrated the effect of “photo-pollution”, where with exposure to UVA1 irradiation (i.e., long UVA, 350-400 nm), which accounts for 80% of daily UV and can easily reach dermal-epidermal junction in skin, air pollutants (in particular, PAHs) were phototoxic even at very low concentrations (nanomolar range) on cultured cells or in reconstructed epidermis.  Thus, the impact of PAHs reacting to long UVA synergistically increases the oxidative stress, which may impair cutaneous homeostasis and aggravate sunlight-induced skin damage.

Exposure to pollution also decreases skin quality and exacerbates existing skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (AD) and acne.[25]  Various scientific studies show an undeniable link between air pollution (including cigarette smoke) and pigmentation, loss of elasticity and wrinkles.  These factors share a common mechanism involving the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR).[26]  Based on available studies, many of the adverse effects caused by air pollution may be mediated via AhR signaling in human skin.  In addition to topical exposure, humans are exposed to PAHs via systemic accumulation in the body.  This is evident by measuring the pollutants in the hair fibers.[27]  Naudin et al. have confirmed that speed of naturally occurring hair-cortex degradation and cuticle delamination is increased in fibers with increased PAH concentrations.  Further, hair fiber with exposure to UV irradiation leads to more pronounced cuticle damage, especially around samples with higher PAH concentrations.  This detrimental effect of PAHs together with UV irradiation, i.e., photo-pollution, is likely to be seen with other human tissues.

  1. Diet / Nutrient

Dietary factors and nutritional supplements may influence skin health.  Eating unhealthy food has been associated with numerous skin problems, ranging from acne to signs of skin aging.  On the other hand, a healthy diet rich in antioxidants may delay chronological aging effects.  In a study of facial aging in twins, twins who avoid excessive alcohol intake have a younger perceived age.[28]  Consuming too much sugar is suggested to contribute to wrinkles, due to a natural process, known as glycation,[29] where sugar in the blood stream binds to proteins to form harmful molecules called “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs), aka. the Maillard reaction.  Another risk factor associated with food consumption is unintentional ingestion of PAHs.  In addition to inhalation and skin contact of PAHs as a result of air pollution, people can be exposed to PAHs by consuming charbroiled foods (smoke meat, or grilled over charcoal, diesel exhausts, etc.).[30]  Such consumption may contribute to skin damages following systemic exposures.

  1. Stress and Sleep Deprivation

It is known that stress creates elevated levels of cortisol hormones which cause inflammation in the body.  Inflammation leads to increased collagen breakdown and exacerbation of skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema and wound healing.  Though it may seem intuitive to link physiological stress and skin aging, the underlying mechanisms are not well defined.  However, one plausible mechanism was demonstrated by studies of the correlation between psychological stress and permeability barrier homeostasis in human cutaneous functions, thus explaining how psychological stress can lead to a decline in epidermal permeability and deterioration in barrier disruption and recovery, followed by the induction, exacerbation, and propagation of inflammatory skin disorders. [31], [32]

Further to acute psychosocial stress, sleep deprivation is associated with increased signs of intrinsic skin aging (fine lines, uneven pigmentation, reduced elasticity), most likely due to its disruption of skin barrier function homeostasis, and that this disruption may lead to much slower recovery rates after skin barrier disruption and lower satisfaction with appearance.[33]

Exposome and Acne

Acne is caused by inflammation of the pilosebaceous follicle, occurring commonly in adolescents and some adults.  Clinically, inflammatory acne causes skin damages and formation of skin lesions, including micro-comedones, papules, and pustules.  In some people, scarring from acne can be persistent.[34]

Several exposome factors, including diet, pollution, medication, microbiota, and cosmetics, have been implicated in development and exacerbation of acne (Figure 3).23 This argument is confirmed in a recent international survey with 11,000 participants, aged between 15 and 39 years, with clinically confirmed acne or without acne.  Consumption of dairy products, sweets, alcohol or whey proteins, as well as exposure to pollution, stress, certain mechanical factors and humid or hot weather or sun exposure, were significantly (all P ≤ 0.05) more frequently reported for the acne group than for the control group.[35]  Some topical skincare and makeup products containing essential oils, powders, and alkaline skin cleansers and soaps have been associated with acne.23  Use of mild cleansers on a regular basis to keep the skin surface free of oil, dirt and debris can help prevent acne.


For decades in some Asian countries, people regularly wear face masks to reduce the inhalation of pollution-related particles.  It has nowadays taken another facet, i.e., to limit the spread of harmful viruses such as COVID-19.  However, the negative impact of repetitive and prolonged mask wearing may cause “maskne” or mask-related acne and other skin issues, including breakouts, clogged pores, redness, itchiness and imperfections.  Maskne is essentially a subset of acne mechanica, due to friction/rubbing from the mask, causing local pressure on the sweat glands and irritation of the skin barrier.[36], [37]  Further exacerbation is induced by increased temperature and trapped moisture in the mask area due to the continuous use of face masks.  No studies to date have evaluated “maskne”, however, current data suggests maskne is likely a result of local temperature changes and skin microflora dysbiosis.[38]  General advise for dealing with maskne includes: (1) avoid wearing makeup under the mask area, (2) use mild facial cleanser containing salicylic acid, (3) topical moisturizer to hydrate and maintain skin barrier functions, and (4) change masks regularly.

Taking on the Exposome

In a 2016 review article, Dr. Sainani summarized progress in exposome research, including Environment-Wide Association Studies and novel data collection techniques, as well as significant remaining challenges in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting exposome data.  The article concludes with a call to adopt a “big science” approach akin to the Human Genome Project, with investments in improving measurement techniques, establishing public databases with agreed upon standards, and strong community leadership.[39]

In a recent JEADV paper, Appenzeller et al. studied hair samples from 204 women from two Chinese cities with different levels of pollution.  The hair analysis, together with “omics” data (metabolomics, proteomics, genomics and microbiome), provided access to information for assessing chronic exposure to pollution (particularly, PAHs) and shed light on the molecular mechanisms of the combined effects of exposome factors, including solar radiation and other environmental exposure.[40]

Further to the study on hair samples, De Vecchi et al. have evaluated the impact of several environmental aggressors on human surfaces, using portable and wearable devices for monitoring exposome.[41]  The work was carried out by two bicyclists wearing multiple sensors to capture the meteorological conditions by biking through urban areas in summer and in winter in Brazil.  Correlated with GPS and monitoring data, all these results provide insights on how environmental stressors affect the quality of different hair types and body surface according to exposure routine.  Additional study was designed to quantify environmental exposures during routine daily activities to provide quantitative metrics that inspire future studies on exposome and human health.[42]

Summary and Conclusions

Based on several reviewed articles, it is undeniable that most skin aging processes are affected by numerous different exposome factors.  In order to mitigate the negative impacts of such factors, further development of the nascent holistic approach will be important for the cosmetic field.  In particular, a comprehensive approach is essential to understanding how the sum of all factors are affecting skin health and skin aging on the individual level and how to further define the appropriate recommendations, such as lifestyle changes, nutritional adjustments, adequate cosmetic formulations, and personalized beauty routine, to alleviate the negative impacts of such factors.  While exposome factors cannot be completely avoided, a conscious awareness, limited exposure and healthy lifestyle can help reduce their negative effects on skin health.


The authors are most grateful to Luc Aguilar for his review and suggestions for the manuscript.  In addition, we would like to thank the kind review and comments from Giorgio Dell’Acqua, Ronni Weinkauf, Jean-Baptiste Galey, Gustavo Luengo, and the L’Oréal Reading Committee.


Figure 1.  The skin aging exposome.  These factors have been identified to have detrimental effects on skin health.  Exposure to sunlight, pollution and tobacco smoking are shown to trigger molecular processes that damage the skin structure, leading to premature skin aging.  Other factors, recently recognized and thus less studied, have also shown to be potentiators for skin aging.  These factors can act independently or interact synergistically with each other to accelerate the skin aging process.  [J. Krutmann, et al., The Skin Aging Exposome, J Dermatol Sci (2017)].


Figure 2.  The solar spectrum with various wavelengths, which penetrate skin at different levels.  The longer the wavelengths the deeper the rays penetrate the skin.  Each wavelength has both different and overlapping effects.  UV = Ultraviolet radiation, ROS = Reactive Oxygen Species, RNS = Reactive Nitrogen Species.  [Modified from J. Krutmann, et al., The Skin Aging Exposome, J Dermatol Sci (2017) with updated data from H. Lim publications].

Figure 3.  The exposome factors impacting acne.  [B. Dreno, et al., J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, (2018)]



[1] CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH = National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

[2]https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/exposome/default.html#:~:text=The%20exposome%20can%20be%20defined,from%20environmental%20and%20occupational%20sources (Accessed on April 1, 2021)

[3]  http://alliance.nautil.us/article/242/mapping-the-human-exposome (Accessed on April 4, 2021)

[4]  Van Beek, J.H.G.M., Kirkwood, T.B.L., Bassingthwaighte, J.B. ‘Understanding the physiology of the ageing individual: computational modelling of changes in metabolism and endurance’, Interface Focus.06 April 2016.  http://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2015.0079

[5]  Krutmann, J., Bouloc, A., Sore, G., Bernard, B.A., Passeron, T. ‘The skin aging exposome’, J Dermatol Sci. 2017 Mar; 85(3):152-161. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2016.09.015.

[6]  https://www.vichyusa.com/vichy-exposome (Accessed on April 6, 2021)

[7]  Friedman, O., ‘Changes associated with the aging face’, Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2005 Aug; 13(3):371-80.

[8]  Soeur, J., Belaïdi, J.P., Chollet, C., Denat, L., Dimitrov, A., Jones, C., Perez, P., Zanini, M., Zobiri, O., Mezzache, S., Erdmann, D., Lereaux, G., Eilstein, J., Marrot, L. ‘Photo-pollution stress in skin: Traces of pollutants (PAH and particulate matter) impair redox homeostasis in keratinocytes exposed to UVA1’. J Dermatol Sci. 2017 May;86(2):162-169. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2017.01.007. Epub 2017 Jan 16. PMID: 28153538.

[9]  Note that IR rays do not trigger pigmentation.  See Geisler, A.N., Austin, E., Nguyen, J., Hamzavi, I., Jagdeo, J., Lim, H.W. ‘Visible light. Part II: Photoprotection against visible and ultraviolet light’, J American Academy of Dermatol, Volume 84, issue 5 (May 2021).

[10]  Dupont, E., Gomez, J., Bilodeau, D. ‘Beyond UV radiation: a skin under challenge’, Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Jun;35(3):224-32. doi: 10.1111/ics.12036. Epub 2013 Feb 14. PMID: 23406155.

[11] Marionnet, C., Tricaud, C., Bernerd, F. ‘Exposure to non-extreme solar UV daylight: spectral characterization, effects on skin and photoprotection’, Int J Mol Sci, 2014, 16: 68-90

[12] Battie, C., Jitsukawa, S., Bernerd, F., Del Bino, S., Marionnet, C., Verschoore, M. ‘New insights in photoaging, UVA induced damage and skin types’, Exp Dermatol, 2014, 23 Suppl 1: 7-12.

[13] Kligman, L. H., Kligman, A.M., ‘The nature of photoaging: its prevention and repair’, Photodermatol, 1986, 3: 215-27.

[14] Flament, F., Bazin, R., Laquieze, S., Rubert, V., Simonpietri, E., Piot, B., ‘Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin’, Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol, 2013, 6: 221-32

[15]  Mahmoud, B.H., Ruvolo, E., Hexsel, C.L., Liu, Y., Owen, M.R., Kollias, N., Lim, H.W., Hamzavi, I.H. ‘Impact of Long-Wavelength UVA and Visible Light on Melanocompetent Skin’, J Invest Dermatol. 2010, 130: 2092-97.

[16]  Duteil, L., Cardot-Leccia, N., Queille-Roussel, C., Maubert, Y., Harmelin, Y., Boukari, F., Ambrosetti, D., Lacour, J.P., Passeron, T. ‘Differences in visible light-induced pigmentation according to wavelengths: a clinical and histological study in comparison with UVB exposure’, Pigment Cell Melanoma Res2014, Sep.; 27(5):822-6.

[17] Personal communication with L. Aguilar.

[18] Regazzetti, C., Sormani, L., Debayle, D., Bernerd, F., Tulic, M.K., De Donatis, G.M., et al. ‘Melanocytes sense blue light and regulate pigmentation through the Opsin-3’, J Invest Dermatol. 2018, 138:171–8

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Catherine CHIOU,a Gabrielle SORE,b Stephen LYNCHa

a L’Oréal Research and Innovation, Clark, NJ, USA

b L’Oréal Research and Innovation, Chevilly Larue, France


Catherine Chiou, PhD.

Dr. Catherine Chiou holds a BS degree in Chemistry from National Taiwan University and a Ph.D. in Bioinorganic Chemistry from the University of Minnesota.  Catherine’s NIH Postdoctoral fellowship training in Synthetic Chemistry took place at Harvard University.  Her first industrial position was with Unilever Research US in the laundry bleach research program and machine dishwashing detergent research, including I&I applications.

Catherine began her career in cosmetic field at L’Oréal USA in 2001 in the DIMP (International Raw Materials Department).  She worked on all aspects of “innovative raw material” functions, including scouting new supplier innovations, and managing supplier relationships.  In addition, Catherine served a stint within the PCPC INCI Committee.

Catherine is currently an Associate Principal Scientist at L’Oréal USA in the Cosmetic Application Domain, focusing on developing skin cleansing and makeup removing technologies.  Prior to the current position, she has worked in the skin care research and innovation lab as a senior formulator, contributing towards development of platform technologies and several global launches of skin care treatment products.  She is an inventor for more than 20 US and international patents.  She is a current member of scientific committee of NYSCC.

Gabrielle Sore, PhD.

Dr. Gabrielle Sore is a pharmacist with a Ph.D. in dermal pharmacology. She has been working for more than 30 years in the cosmetic industry. Dr. Sore spent the last 29 years in L’Oréal where she worked in France, in Japan, and in the United States. During Gabrielle’s career, she worked mostly in the scientific communication of skin care, make-up and specific eye products; and she was more specifically in charge of scientific communication of dermatological brands like Vichy, La Roche Posay, SkinCeuticals for which her role is to coordinate the information within the Research, Marketing and Development teams.

Stephen Lynch, PhD.

Dr. Stephen Lynch holds a PhD in organic chemistry and spent 10 years in the pharmaceutical industry conducting drug discovery research.   For the past 7 years he has worked for L’Oréal USA Research & Innovation where he currently serves as Director of Skincare Scientific Affairs.  In this capacity he helps to identify cosmetic ingredients, coordinate innovative testing, and translate scientific concepts in support of skincare product development.