This year, again, the news is much focused on the In-Cosmetics show: a few remarkable, interesting items are derived from it, like the “Best Ingredient” of the year, which revives an approach whose relevance had been forgotten, and which consists in extracting useful substances from perfume plants for cosmetic applications other than fragrances.
Honouring the gods, treating, seducing… such are the historical functions of perfume. For centuries, perfumes were smeared or swallowed as drugs, and not just to perfume oneself. The smell was considered as an active against miasmas, for example. In the 20thcentury, men rediscovered these therapeutic virtues. One can often hear that cosmetics and perfumery are similar, and that the first more or less directly comes from the other. But that is approximate. And if it is true that perfumery prevailed over cosmetics for quite a while, as the latter was merely associated with miraculous recipes and ointments, it is nothing of the sort. This feeling was reinforced by the idea that major 20thcentury perfume brands, like Pivert, Bourjois, Violet, etc., were also cosmetics manufacturers. But then, things gradually got more definite, and both fields started to “stand” on their own ingredients. Eventually, a dividing line between perfumes and cosmetics was created and maintained, in particular as regards ingredients. And yet, although they are much different, these two specialties can actually find common – sometimes unexpected – ground. Several examples show the osmosis between them and the interpenetration are much more subtle than one might think.
We will not take the example of essential oils, because they are sort of a family apart, but in old galenics manuals, there are many product formulas or recipes that create rather strong a smell, whether they be balms or more definite specialties: we can mention the Queen of Hungary’s Water, Carmelite Water, the tiger balm, the Jerusalem balm, or the St Anthony’s balm, and many others of the sort. These recipes were often intended for both cosmetic and therapeutic use and prepared in the form of “Liparolés” or “essences”, depending on the terminology of the time. The prescription for these products was not always very clear, and as far as efficacy is concerned, it was rather based on tradition than actual studies.
|Orange blossom water||30|
|Distilled rose water||600|
|GERANIUM ESSENCE||10 drops|
|90 ° Alcohol||50|
|Sulfofuchsin solution||5 drops|
|Potassium eosinate solution||10 drops|
Formulas extracted from “Formulaire des principales spécialités de parfumerie et de pharmacie” by René Cerbelaud – 1906 – pp. 94 & 124
But things gradually got more definite, as the split got clearer between the two specialties. However, cosmetic substances derived from extraction techniques typical of perfumery were regularly developed – or even preparations with a double property: smell and biological activity, like camomile extracts. Camomile had been used since the Ancient times, in particular in Egypt. The Matricaria Chamomilla extract is obtained with the long maceration of the plant’s dry flowers in a mixture of plant-derived glycerine and water. Camomila oil is obtained following the general principle applied to essential oils. Generally speaking, they are known for their soothing, relieving, and softening properties due to the presence of molecules with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, like azulene or alpha-bisabolol, which offer the advantage of soothing irritations in sensitive and damaged skins. These two substances were to attract much interest. Let’s have a closer look at them.
Azulene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. It is an isomer monoterpene of naphthalene, only it exhibits rather different properties. It takes the form of dark blue crystals used in cosmetics. It is one of the components of essential oils, in particular of Matricaria Chamomilla blue oil, also known as azulene oil, which contains between 9% and 12% of it (in the form of chamazulene), of milfoil, which contains about 3% of chamazulene, and of blue cypress (callitris intratropica), which contains about 1% of guaiazulene.
The name “azulene” comes from the Spanish word “azul”, which means “blue”.
There used to be a multitude of cosmetic specialties containing this ingredient, in particular products for anti-irritant or soothing purposes, like serums, creams, masks, or skincare products used after hair removal, sun exposure, or any other factor likely to cause an irritation. The major issue with it is related to its colorimetric instability: products very quickly lose their colour, so its use in cosmetic formulas should take into account this characteristic.
Bisabolol, or alpha-bisabolol
Bisabolol is a monocyclic sesquiterpene alcohol found in several essential oils which has two isomers, αand β, which also have two levorotatory and dextrorotatory enantiomers, because every isomer has two stereogenic centres. The natural form is α–(–)-bisabolol, also called levomenol. Synthetic bisabolol is usually racemic. It is a colourless, oily liquid with a slight floral smell which is almost insoluble in water and glycerine, but soluble in ethanol. It offers an anti-inflammatory, soothing, softening action in cosmetics and has been used for long. It can be found in wild chamomile essential oil and, to a lesser extent, in bergamot oil, and in the bark of a few trees. In addition, it has antimicrobial virtues and it enhances healing. It also acts on the percutaneous absorption of certain molecules.
There are plenty of cosmetic specialties based on this ingredient. You will find an interesting update on its different uses if you click on this link.
The production history of this ingredient can be divided into several periods. Until recently, it was obtained from the extraction of several species, like the bark of a Brazilian tree, Candeia Tree, or from wild camomile essential oil. In both cases, the production is very poor and questionable in terms of purity. According to the references, chemical synthesis, another way of production, would lead to a form less rich in active isomer. This view is disputed by some sources according to which the different isomers would be equivalent. Givaudan recently developed a biofermentation process to produce this first-class, highly qualitative molecule with a very good yield.
This specialty is called Bisabolife. It exhibits the same activity profile as the natural molecule, but with a much easier assay.
Robertet, a leader in the perfume industry, has been developing a range of perfuming compositions with skin physiological properties for several years, based on the principle that the wide range of natural ingredients represents a formidable exploratory wealth for cosmetics. The Actiscent® range is introduced as a new approach called “Aromacosmetics”.
It results from both the Robertet expertise in natural raw materials and a scientific programme intended for demonstrating that a fragrance formulated with perfume components can provide, beyond its smell, properties that can be of interest in cosmetics: anti-aging, moisturizing, soothing, slimming actions… In fact, various aromatic extracts have shown interesting physiological properties for the skin. Several specialties with different claims were showcased in that sense. A perfuming specialty with skincare claims was marketed a few years ago by Filorga.
Recent developments helped set up an original approach. Based on the well-known effect of botulinum toxin, used to fight against the hyperhydrosis phenomenon, a mixture of natural ingredients both harmless for the skin and with proven efficacy on perspiration reduction was developed. Excessive perspiration is targeted by combining the inhibitory property of spilanthol* and β-sanshool on sub-cutaneous muscle contraction, also called the “botox-like” effect. These two N-alkylamides are major components of Jambu (Acmella oleracea) and Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum piperitum) extracts.
This new active launched in 2018 by Givaudan also combines the worlds of perfumery and cosmetics. This substance was developed using a water-soluble extract from Haitian vetiver exhausted roots, a by-product of the extraction process that produces vetiver oil for perfumes.
On the skin, Vetivyne™ has an impact on three of the main skin lipid sources: it enhances the production of sebum, keratinization, as well as the ability of adipocytes to store fats. Clinical studies show that Vetivyne™ improves skin hydration and reduces signs of skin fatigue and the appearance of wrinkles. Vetivyne™ also builds a pleasant bridge between the worlds of cosmetics and perfumes, by enhancing the durability of the perfumes applied by the user – an excellent example of application of the CSR principle of waste recovery.
The treatment of baldness might also depend on odoriferous components. A while ago, a study concluded that an application of synthetic sandalwood stimulates the growth of keratinocytes, the cells that form our epidermis, and which can also be found at the source of our hair and hairs. But how? Thanks to an olfactory receptor called OR2AT4, which is particularly sensitive to this essence. When they come in contact with the substance, keratinocytes produce growth factors, and pilosebaceous follicles live longer! Interestingly, the natural variety of sandalwood does not seem to be endowed with this property… which is fortunate, since it is a protected botanical species. Well, natural ingredients do not just have qualities! It is said there are ongoing clinical trials to validate this hypothesis.
In a recent publication, a cosmetics expert offered to develop “perfume-skincare” products. This idea is based on a recent observation which recently proved that keratinocytes, the cells in our epidermis, also possess olfactory detectors, in addition to those that regulate its activity. As a result, one can definitely imagine perfumed molecules that could act on keratinocytes. As can be seen with other substances, one may think that these stimuli could control physiological actions on the skin. To be continued…
In a very different field, but which may be related to the skin, recent research showed that the belief that smelling lavender could have a physiological effect – soothing action and ability to fight against anxiety – is true. In fact, the effect allegedly comes from linalool, one of the components of lavender essence. This work confirms previous research. But to illustrate the Yin and the Yang of these substances, it should be reminded that linalool is on the list of skin allergens!
These are only a few examples of the possible synergy between cosmetics and perfumery. Let’s hope others will be highlighted and complete the long list of substances of interest in cosmetics. If somebody would add other example, do not hesitate to send it back to us in order to complete this work. Thanks in advance.
Made by Jean Claude LE JOLIFF