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…”
Well, let’s clarify the topic in two points:
- Efficacy is associated both to the extract purity and to the used amount in formulation
- 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
Flavors, essential oils and perfumes play a key role in appealing cosmetic consumers as commonly known by marketing experts. “Olfactory memory” is an unconscious mechanism that influences learning process and is able to stimulate other senses. Until Second Industrial Revolution (1870) perfumes were only obtained from essential oils or natural extracts (from animal or vegetal origin), but the organic chemistry opened the way to new cheaper and more accessible synthetic molecules rather than natural perfumes. Nowadays, perfume companies utilize synthetic molecules and nature‑identical fragrances (endowed with a defined flavor) that make them easy to blend with essential oils to design more sophisticated fragrances.
Perfume factories usually holds expensive patents for their own blends so that they are allowed to indicate them in the list of ingredient (INCI) with the term “Fragrance / Parfum” without any legal obligation to specify chemical composition. While this position protects intellectual properties of perfume factories, it definitely allows to omit in ingredients list some regulated or banned substances (i.e. some preservatives, dyes and sunscreens) in spite of consumer safety. In order to primarily protect consumers, the European Parliament Directive 2003/15/CE identifies 26 fragrance allergens (found mainly in perfumes) that have to be indicated in mandatory way on label when they are beyond of a certain concentration. Moreover, the adoption of the European Regulation (CE) n.1223/2009 implicate – for cosmetic products and perfumes – the mandatory drafting of the Product Information File (PIF) with punctual information on toxicological data of each ingredient, substituting the outdated technical dossier.
The importance to operate serious qualitative control on fragrances stimulated many fragrance producers to test their products – for quality assurance and certification – in order to get all information for PIF drafting. Our analysts in BeC laboratories can perform a variety of tests to fulfill technical data:
- Qualitative and quantitative analyses of essential oils and other volatile mixtures by gaschromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS)
- Qualitative and quantitative GC-MS analyses of allergens (Directive 2003/15/CE)
- UV-VIS spectrophotometric analysis of color
- Refractive index determination
- Stability study to PAO (period after opening) evaluation
- Accelerated aging with GC-MS qualitative and quantitative analysis
With this service, BeC makes available a more than thirty-year expertise in essential oil with the final aim to guarantee consumer safety and contribute to protect global health.
At BeC, we have been using essential oils in cosmetics and diet supplements for more than 30 years. Our natural cosmetics boast a unique touch not only for special flavours but also for important beneficial activities provided by such a “Nature’s distillates”. Today we recommend a relevant publication where typical features and innovative properties of essential oils were described, ranging from multiple uses in traditional Eastern medicine to Western culture and much more. We suggest the book “Essential Oils as Natural Food Additives” published some years ago by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. (New York, 2012) because we have proudly contributed to scientific and reliable information in accordance to BeC’s choice to invest successfully in Research & Development.
Plant essential oils have been used for centuries in the preparation of cosmetic fragrances and food flavors, as well as in traditional medicines as therapeutic remedies. In recent years they have been attracting the renewed interest of both the scientific community and the general public. Their use in different aspects of human life is generally regarded as being part of a healthier, natural-oriented life style. On the other hand, a wealth of scientific studies has been documenting their biological properties, particularly associated with their antimicrobial and antioxidant activities, although additional medicinal properties have also been brought to light. This book offers an up-to-date examination of scientific literature on the antimicrobial and antioxidant activity of main dietary essential oils from all over the world, together with a general introduction to their chemistry, classification, bio-synthetic origin, preparation and analysis.
Further information on Publisher’s website