Mint and menthol: how freshness ingredients work!

mentoloMenthol is one of the major components of mint essential oil: it has been used in therapy of respiratory disease to give relief to airways and provide a pleasant freshness sensation. For these reasons it is included in several over–the–counter medications. Only peppermint oil (Mentha  piperita L.) is described in the 8th European Pharmacopoeia despite the fact that different species of Mint are used in traditional medicine. Several benefits of Mint biocomponents are exploited in cosmetics, nutraceuticals and medicinal products. The majority of mint-based products are oral-care products (tooth paste, mouthwash) thanks to the antiseptic properties of mint actives and especially to the freshness sensation given to mouth and breath.

Which are the freshness ingredients in different mint species?

Different mint species and the corresponding essential oil varieties with their major compounds are shown in the following table. Each one is related to various olfactory notes and boasts different biological properties.

Table. Major compounds of mint essential oils from different Mint species[1].

Essential oil Mint species Main compounds
Peppermint oil Peppermint M.  piperita menthone, menthol
Spearmint oil,

Native type Scotch Spearmint oil

Spearmint M. spicata,

M.  viloso-nervata,

M.  gentilis nm. cardiaca

carvone, dihydrocarvone
Cornmint oil Cornmint M. arvensis var. piperascens menthol
Pennyroyal oil Pennyroyal M. pulegium pulegone
M. citrate oil Citrata M. citrata linaool, linalyl acetate

Menthol. How does it works?

Mentha piperita generally represents the most used species in health care products due to the high amount of menthol (30%) and menthone (20%). In particular, menthol gives a freshness sensation not only on the skin but also on mucosae because it interacts with thermo-receptors such as the cold and menthol receptor  (i.e.: TRPM8, transient receptor potential ion channels) that represents the molecular transducer of cold sensation when menthol  is inhalated or applied on skin. The activation of cold receptor originates several benefits:

  1. it increases the  patency of  airways (nasal flow)
  2. it reduces the sensation of dyspnoea
  3. at low concentration,  it acts against cough

These important properties are very useful when seasonal illnesses appear with symptoms like cold, nasal congestion and cough.  Some studies on menthol include also Eucalyptus essential oil and its major compound 1,8-cineol: along with menthol, it has important properties against cough.[2]  Menthol helps to clear respiratory tract acting as expectorant: it gives temporary relief to upper airways and alleviates symptoms such as nasal congestion, sinusitis, cold and cough. Several expectorant balms contain a moderate percentage of mint essential oils or menthol since they revert congestion upon applying directly on chest.

DSC_0275_lowOur balm named Balsamo BeC, is very rich of typical terpenic balsamic components such as menthol and camphor along with the essential oils of Eucalyptus, Wintergreen and Peppermint. It provides beneficial effects and alleviate nasal congestion when applied by delicate massage on chest. The special blend of essential oils named Sinergia SA by BeC, used in hot steam aerosol represents a real decongestant help thanks to the high content of mint essential oil along with pure menthol for a synergic action in calming cough. Moreover, the balsamic blend of Mint, Chamomile, Lavender essential oils contribute to dilate bronchi. Among the precious blend of essential oils, Idrobagno I.U. is one of the most interesting product for the balsamic and vasotonic effect. Furthermore, the dermo-purifyng and anti-inflammatory action of Clove, Cypress and Lemon essential oils provide a pleasant freshness sensation when applied on head scalp and help to remove dandruff. Its antiseptic and regenerative properties is exploited also in hair care lotions by reinforcing scalp and providing a vivid and bright look to your hair.

We love scouting natural ingredient from Nature and skilfully blending them in special synergies that will became partner of your wellness.

[1] Mimica-Dukic and Bozin. Mentha L. Species (Lamiaceae) as Promising Sources of Bioactive Secondary Metabolites. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2008, 14, 3141-3150
[2] Kenia, P.; Houghton, T.; Beardsmore, C. Does inhaling menthol affect nasal patency or cough? Pediatr. Pulmonol. 2008, 43, 532-7.

Stressed out after holidays? Follow Nature’s quiet suggestions…

Does the alarm clock sound early in the morning take our good mood? Do we feel unfit to face those daily work duties we would like to forget for a while? When we go back to normal activities, we usually experience anxiety, peevishness, rapid mood changes and general nervousness! Don’t be dejected… let’s try to help our body and nervous system to recover the “normal routine” and keep on treasuring the summer benefits!

You should not abandon yourself to negative thoughts! Let’s follow the right lifestyle to recover our biological rhythm, and let’s pay attention to our diet and choose only those foods that help our nervous system to relax and re-equilibrate.

Tranquilla Mente3_1462981620For these reason we’d like to suggest TranquillaMente diet supplement: it represents a good support against stress when anxiety and negative thoughts keep us awake at night. The sedative and relaxing properties of Valeriana, Eschscholzia and Tilia can help us to have a more resting sleeping along with Passion flower, Hawthorn and Vitamins (B1, B6 and B12), that contribute to “mental wellness”.

Griffonia simplicifolia extract enriches our diet with 5-hydroxytryptophan, the precursor of serotonin, the neurotransmitter of central nervous system which acts as mood regulator, works in  learning and memory processes and it is known as “the good mood hormone”. Recent scientific evidences  confirm such activities of Griffonia[1], strenghtened by Hypericum, known in traditional medicine as “fugademon” (literally: shoo devils) and nowadays represents a valuable support in mood regulation. Hops improves sleeping conditions and modulate digestion whereas Lemon Balm and Eschscholzia soothe gastric somatisation of nervousness and are useful when women experience irregular sleeping during menopausa[2].

collageGroup B vitamins represent a good contribution in maintaining general equilibrium  alongside oligo-elements. Natural Iodine brought by Fucus extract contributes to the learning function and the energetic metabolism. The formula is completed by Ginkgo biloba, the plant known for its antioxidant properties useful in micro-circulation, also at cerebral level: it improves memory processes and maintains clarity of mind in making daily duties[3].

TranquillaMente diet supplement will help face the most challenging moments of your day with a right attitude and it will allow to experience more resting and better sleeping. Tranquillamente, with its sedative and anti-stress properties, helps to keep “the signs of holidays” on your face longer and longer.

[1] Muszyńska B et al. Natural products of relevance in the prevention and supportive treatment of  depression. Psychiatr. Pol. 2015; 49(3): 435–453
[2] Abdi F et al. Hops for Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms: Mechanisms of Action J Menopausal Med 2016; 22: 62-64
[3] Yang G, et al. Ginkgo Biloba for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Curr Top Med Chem. 2016; 16(5): 520-8

Ingredients’ purity: efficacy and safety

I have been frequently come across in cosmetic company websites which excessively boast the importance of purity of vegetal extracts for the efficacy of cosmetic products. I end up with catchy phrases such as “…our cream is the most effective product on the market, because our Ginseng dry extract e is assayed 10% in  ginsenosides differently to the majority of competitors who use 3% assayed Ginseng…”

glass-containers-1205652_1920Well, let’s clarify the topic in two points:

  1. Efficacy is associated both to the extract purity and to the used amount in formulation
  2. If certain extract is assayed in 60% of something, what is the remaining 40%?

The first point is related to the fact that an extract 100% pure could be ideally used. For instance,  using one tenth of a certain ingredient in the formulation means that a less effective product (or with lesser amount of ingredient) it will obtained in comparison to the use of the same amount of the less pure extract. The real amount of the active extract in the final formulation relies on the efficacy of the product.

The second most important point is linked to safety of the cosmetic product: a botanical low-percentage pure extract will contain higher amount of impurities (extraction solvents / not declared components) in comparison to purer extract.

Modern cosmetic science crosses over pharmaceutical field so that we usually talk about cosmeceutics that support the topic that the functional and technical ingredients (commonly known as excipients) play a major role in activity along with the proper active ingredient. For instance, we demonstrated the ability of certain essential oils or fatty acids (from vegetable origin) to behave as enhancers for cutaneous absorption for some hydro- or liposoluble vitamins. The results were published in some relevant scientific journals.[1-4]

Definitely, ingredients’ purity relies on high percentage of the active ingredient: the purer is the extract, the lesser is the room for unknown ingredient and dangerous components (additives, plasticiser, solvents, dyes, etc.) in the formula.

I’d like to highlight the importance of quality and purity of the extracts and active ingredients to be used in cosmetic formulation in order to assure efficacy and safety. At last, don’t be fooled by advertising slogan which reveal meaningless at the end.

[1] S. Gabbanini, E. Lucchi, M. Carli, E. Berlini, A. Minghetti, L. Valgimigli, In vitro evaluation of the permeation through reconstructed human epidermis of essentials oils from cosmetic formulations, J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal. 50 (2009) 370–376.
[2] S. Gabbanini, R. Matera,  C. Beltramini, A. Minghetti, L. Valgimigli. Analysis of in vitro release through reconstructed human epidermis and synthetic membranes of multi-vitamins from cosmetic formulations J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal. 52 (2010) 461– 467.
[3] L. Valgimigli, S. Gabbanini, G. Arniani, E. Lucchi. Influence of the lipid-phase composition on the trans-epidermal transfer of vitamin B6 from O/W emulsions. HPC Today, 2013, 8, 24-27.
[4] L. Valgimigli, S. Gabbanini, E. Berlini, E. Lucchi, C. Beltramini and Y.L. Bertarelli. Lemon (Citrus limon, Burm.f.) essential oil enhances the trans-epidermal release of lipid- (A, E) and water- (B6, C) soluble vitamins from topical emulsions in reconstructed human epidermis, International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 34 (2012) 347–356.

Skin damage caused by “wrong” sunscreens: the photosensitization phenomenon

 creme solari becAs we have seen in the previous post, many sunscreens get damaged by sun radiation as they absorb it. The modest photo-stability of such sunscreens has important consequences on the safety and efficacy of sun-care products based on them. In the previous discussion we have seen that photo-instability of sunscreens causes a reduction of sun protection factor (SPF) with time. There are, however, additional interactions of sunscreens with sunlight that have even worse consequences on their safety. We will discuss them in this article.
Solar radiation contains sufficient energy to damage some molecules (M), including some molecules found in our skin, as exemplified in the equation:

M + light→ fragment-A + fragment-B

Fragments indicated as A and B, in the example above, are often free radicals that can attack other molecules, damaging or modifying them. For instance, if such a reaction occurred in our skin, damage could occur to structural proteins like collagen and elastin, contributing to the formation of wrinkles and the onsetting of photo-aging. Furthermore, it could start chain-reactions leading to erythema, other inflammatory states and even genetic mutations (skin cancer). Products containing sunscreens are meant to protect skin from all such damages, and normally they do, by decreasing the amount of UV radiation that hits our skin, i.e. acting as “filters”. But CAUTION !!! Not all the sunscreens are friends of our skin, and actually some might cause bigger damage than that they are expected to prevent. How?
Let’s go back to our previous example. In order for M to react with light, it is necessary that molecule M is at least able to absorb the light at quantum level, i.e. it is necessary the energy carried by light photons hitting M corresponds exactly to the energy gap between quantum levels in the molecule. Often this is not the case and molecule M would be perfectly “safe” if it was not for the presence of other molecules called photosensitizers.

benzofenone

Benzophenone and main benzophenone derivatives used as sunscreen in sun-care cosmetic products as well as in the protection of manufacts. The common base structure is drawn in blue

F + light F*  

then…

F* + M F + fragment-A + fragment-B

This process is well known in photochemistry and benzophenone is among the photosensitizers of broader use in industrial processes to induce photochemical reactions. Benzophenone is also the lead structure for many and, unfortunately, very popular sunscreens, widely used in sun-care cosmetics to give sun protection factor. Most common examples are depicted in the figure above. Sunscreens like benzophenone-3 and benzophenone-4 are structurally related to benzophenone and are potent photosensitizers. In case M is a biomolecule in our skin, such as collagen, elastin, an enzyme or DNA, this can be damages by exposure to sunlight in the presence of photosensitizers (like benzophenone derivatives) much more it would happen in their absence. In other words, certain sunscreens can amplify the damage to our skin caused by sunlight.

Many benzophenone derivatives are available today and 12 of them are of common use.  Those more commonly used in the manufacture of sun-care cosmetics and other goods, are listed in the following:

Benzophenone-1: 2,4-Dihydroxybenzophenone
Benzoophenone-2: 2,2′,4,4′-Tetrahydroxybenzophenone
Benzophenone-3 (or oxybenzone): 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone
Benzophenone-4 (or sulisbenzone): 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxy-benzophenone-5-sulphonic acid
Benzophenone-5 (the sodium salt of sulisbenzone): Benzenesulfonic acid, 5-benzoyl-4-hydroxy-2-methoxy-, monosodium salt
Benzophenone-8 (or dioxybenzone): 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)-(2-hydroxyphenyl)methanone
Benzophenone-10 (or mexenone): 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy-4′-methyl-benzophenone
Benzophenone-11: it is a mixture of benzophenone 2 e 6.

For these reasons BeC does not use benzophenone derivatives in sun-care products !!! BeC uses only physical filters in low protection products and, in high protection products, we use a combination of physical filters and new generation chemical filters, which are highly photostable. Here you can find more info on BeC sun-care products.

Therefore, when we chose a sun-care product, it is very important we pay attention to the label and read the composition: don’t look at the SPF value only!

We often hear that we should not expose to sunlight after having used perfumes or other products, as they can give photosensitization problems. The typical recommendation is to use only sunscreen products, but caution should be paid when we choose the sunscreen product, as even sunscreens can cause the same problems. Therefore, even if you have no particular problem of sensitivity to sunlight and think that any product will do the job, think again and don’t overlook the importance of choosing high quality sunscreens, so to make sure that the problems you don’t have will not be caused by the wrong product.

Photo-degradation of sunscreens and skin damaging

soleWe have previously discussed the mechanism of action of sunscreens, underlining that chemical sunscreens absorb the energy of sunlight and subsequently re-emit it in the form of heat, possibly without any alteration in the structure of the sunscreen itself. Possibly… does it always go this way? Unfortunately it doesn’t. For this reason we wish to discuss here a bit more on the photostability of sunscreens. Although this aspect is often overlooked (guess why?), it has major consequences on our health.
After having absorbed sunlight energy, chemical sunscreens are in a higher quantum energy state, from which they can undergo one of three processes:

  1.    they can go back to the lower energy state by loosing energy in the form of heat (which is often not perceived by our senses), thereby making ready to start over again and absorb more solar energy;
  2.     they can release the excess energy by breaking their structure into fragments, i.e. they degrade and form free radicals or use the energy to react with other molecules (photochemical reactions);
  3.     they can transfer the excess energy to another molecule by “hitting it”, i.e. they behave as photo-sensitizers.

Ideally, sunscreens should use only the first route; however, not all the sunscreens are identical and some of them, which are less stable than others, after several absorption-emission cycles, may take the second route (we will discuss in a following post of those sunscreens that take the third route and act as photosensitizers).
If the sunscreen degrades, it most commonly produces free radicals and other dangerous species. If the sunscreen has been absorbed deeply into our skin, those free radicals can attack and damage proteins and DNA, accelerating the photo-aging processes of the skin. In high quality formulations such damages can be prevented by the abundant presence of antioxidants (e.g. vitamin E) in the formula, so to block free radicals before they can cause any damage. Therefore, it is very important to always choose high quality products after careful reading of their label.
There is, however, another point to take into account: as the sunscreen degrades the solar protection factor (SPF) of the product progressively decreases. And antioxidants cannot help in this reguard.

photo-degradation_EN

Variation of the UV-Vis absorption spectra of two examples of sunscreen formulation, after exposure of the formulation to the same “dose” of sunlight (UV irradiation). The upper graph refers to a formulation with NON photostable sunscreens, which evidently shows a reduction of the spectrum after UV exposure, meaning a marked decrease in the SPF. The lower graph, instead, shows the behavior of a (BeC) formulation with photostable sunscreens: only negligible variation of the spectrum is displayed after irradiation implying no loss of SPF and more durable performance.

The fact that a sunscreen formula looses its SPF on exposing to sunlight depends on the phostability of the sunscreens: with highly photostable sunscreens the phenomenon has negligible relevance; however, with little photostable sunscreen molecules, which are unfortunately the most common in commercial formulas, the phenomenon is very relevant, as illustrated in the graphs on the left, displaying the comparison between two real formulations: a famous commercial products (don’t ask which one) and BeC sunscreen SPF15 cream.
Many of us think that “waterproof” sunscreen formulas – which can resist for several minutes of swimming in seawater – would provide a safer protection for the entire day, since the product would not be washed away. A look at the graphs clearly tells that this is not the case: a waterproof sunscreen formula does not guarantee safer daylong protection. First of all, we should consider whether the sunscreen contained in the formula is photostable!!! Secondly, we should consider that, even if the sunscreen is photostable, during a typical day at the seaside, we dry ourselves with a towel; we roll up in the sand, which we clean up by rubbing or washing our skin; we sweat in the heat or during physical activity (e.g. beach sports). All such actions end up removing the sunscreen form our skin anyway. Therefore, a high quality sunscreen formula, based on photostable components, is the ideal choice for a safer protection, but we should not forget that it is wise to re-apply the product several times during the day, particularly in the case of children.

Welcome to the BeC Official blog

Hi everybody,

We would like to give our warmest welcome for reaching the BeC official blog.

BeC Srl is an Italian, family run company committed to research and development of botanical extract and essential oils for more than 30 years. BeC designs and creates functional products for family wellness.

logo_ondaThis official blog would be a useful tool for information for our special line of unique cosmetics and diet supplements in order to provide you with a full quality service, that spans from technical, scientific and medical guidance to information and training tips about BeC products’ utilization.

And much more!

Our staff includes chemists, pharmacists, physicians and wellness consultants. They will be available to give you information and have the chance to write about health, beauty and wellness in more depth. According to everyone’s proper competency, they will promptly reply to your comments in order to satisfy your request.

Moreover, we are glad to accept blog articles, information, detailed studies related to natural cosmetics, health and wellness that you wish to consider for publication.

This blog represents a discussion and meeting point, along with a daily guidance for   improving your own wellness in harmony with Nature.