The quest for green actives boosts cosmetic innovations

[Global] The growing array of green actives is spurring innovation in the cosmetics industry, found Organic Monitor. However, novel green ingredients are also bringing fresh technical challenges, says the market research firm. Eager to find sustainable alternatives to oil-based synthetic ingredients, suppliers have diversified extraction and production processes.

While plant materials were the traditional source of green actives, novel substances are now finding their way from food ingredients or marine sources. “These novel actives are creating new mechanisms for anti-ageing, anti-inflammation, sebum control, skin moisturisation and related applications. Hair care uses of green actives include hair growth promotion, hair loss prevention and anti-dandruff,” Organic Monitor highlights.

New ingredient sources

New sustainable extraction and processing methods are providing fertile ground for new green actives. For instance, plant stem cell technology is enabling IRB Tech (Croda) and Mibelle Biochemistry to develop novel actives from rare and endangered plant species. Since the actives are produced from plant cells in a laboratory, they have a significantly lower environmental footprint than traditionally harvested actives. Adoption rates are expected to rise as ingredient firms benefit from scale production.

Marine actives are also gaining popularity as formulators look to the oceans and seas for inspiration. Sources include fish oils and fluids, coastal plants, seaweed, sea minerals and algae. According to Organic Monitor, “ingredient companies like Heliae are focusing on algae because of its high rate of regeneration. Unlike fish and agricultural sources, algae feedstock is also less prone to supply fluctuations giving price stability. The French firm BiotechMarine has developed a range of 80 active ingredients, extracts and stem cells from marine sources.”

Actives from food ingredients continue to find new cosmetic applications. Many product developers are using superfoods – such as açaí berries, goji berries, pomegranates and green tea – because of their high level of antioxidants. The trend is leading some brands to develop entire ranges based on food ingredients; examples include Skin Food and Yes to Inc.

Technical challenges

However, Organic Monitor also found that the use of these novel green actives is bringing fresh formulation challenges. “Product stability and preservation are major issues, especially if brands want to develop natural or organic personal care products. Differences between standards on accepted and prohibited ingredient sources, synthesis methods, and formulations are also creating technical hurdles.”

The growing use of green actives in cosmetic formulations will be featured in upcoming Organic Monitor events. Sustainable Cosmetics Summit North America (15-16th May, New York) and Natural Cosmetics Masterclass (25 June, Paris) will have dedicated workshops on green actives. Practical guidance will be given to formulators and product developers looking at using novel green actives in cosmetic formulations.


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