Algae Solutions

Science has invaded the beauty industry, forcing companies to focus on form and function, advancing R&D and marketing in a new way. In the past, cosmetics were marketed primarily on emotions and the consumer’s psyche—how the product would make the consumer feel. However, as consumers’ expectations of benefits increased, brands have needed to evolve. Creating and developing a green and sustainable raw material for the manufacture of ingredients represents a challenge that responds to new expectations among market participants and consumers.

Household goods maker Kao Corp. is looking at algae for innovative, green solutions. The company has identified an enzyme that could lead to a non-food source of raw materials for surfactants and an alternative to palm oil and coconut oil. Their findings potentially will accelerate the breeding development of algae dramatically for large-scale products of medium chain fatty acids.

“Algae is a hot topic, now more than ever,” said Fanny Coste, Costemetics Consulting. Not only is algae popular with consumers from a marketing standpoint as a natural ingredient, but sustainable sourcing objectives have prompted alternative growing techniques. “Combining cultivation and digital tech is interesting,” she continued. “A lot of progress has been made in the past year, and the viability of algae is being demonstrated in the industry.”

One biotech developer and manufacturer of algae-based chemicals and a supplier of related technologies for the food and beverage industries claims to have produced the world’s first commercial versions of high purity beta-1,3-glucan from algae.

Found only in select species of algae, as well as the cell wall of yeast and in some mushrooms, beta-1,3-glucan has had decades of research showing its ability to support a healthy immune system. Algal Scientific has developed a proprietary recipe that includes nutrients, minerals and vitamins.

From this recipe and a patent-pending process, Algal Scientific grows and harvests its own special algae, AlgaGlucan, the purified extract of beta-1,3-glucan produced by Euglena Gracilis. It is grown in sterile fermentation tanks similar to the way that beer is produced—as well many biological products such as antibiotics. AlgaGlucan is in the final stages of regulatory approval for use in human nutraceuticals and subsequently in functional foods. Research has shown that topical use of this form of beta glucan provides skin benefits, yielding potential future applications in cosmetics and toiletries.

Specialty chemical supplier SEPPIC also is making advances on its ALGRAAL project, launched last year to develop new algal-based source fatty alcohols and emulsifiers for the cosmetic industry, as part of its efforts to focus on green, plant-based chemistry.

The project brings together private and public sector partners and is being supported by SEPPIC customers such as Clarins and Yves Rocher, who are ready to use this new raw material in their product formulations. “SEPPIC is committed to innovation on a daily basis as part of its sustainable development policy, and has made it a priority in its R&D projects,” said Sandra Manceau, R&D, SEPPIC.

The company’s BiotechMarine subsidiary recently announced its breakthrough technology Celebrity, which cultivates macroalgal cells in the laboratory to derive active ingredients for cosmetics. Inspired by the rich biodiversity of the sea surrounding France’s Bréhat archipelago, the unique cell culture technology makes it possible to create a bank of macroalgal cells from many untapped species with benefits for the skin that have yet to be explored.

The first of its kind is Ephemer, a gametophyte extract taken from macroalgae cells grown in a laboratory and harvested at an ephemeral stage in the lifecycle of the brown seaweed Undaria Pinnatifida, or wakame. During this growth stage, the macroalgal cells accumulate antioxidant molecules. The in-vitro cultivation of macroalgae cells allows the supplier to stabilize the gametophytesm, which are found in very low quantities, and to multiply them in order to use their properties for cosmetic purposes.

Ephemer is purported to protect the skin, help reduce free radicals and preserve mitochondrial DNA for both long- and short-term benefits.

>>Read more about algae solutions in the June 2015 issue of GCI magazine.

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