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.