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Healthy cosmetics on the rise

6th April 2010

Many European cosmetics researchers and companies around the world are making a push for healthier cosmetics.

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Seaweed and Sichuan pepper are among the ingredients that show promise as healthy, environmentally friendly alternatives to toxic compounds such as petroleum-derived ingredients, parabens, and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).

Throughout history, various cultures have also used heavy metals such as mercury, bromine, and lead to create cosmetics, all of which are toxic to human tissue.

Gerard Redziniak, head of the French Society of Cosmetology, said that it was not enough for companies to develop products that were only safe for people to use.

He said that cosmetic companies should also focus on not wasting energy or water.

Christian Artaria, a researcher with the Indena research lab in Italy, said that Sichuan pepper could be a useful skin treatment, because it blocks electrical signals in the skin.

He said that his company was working on a formula that reduced wrinkles, and that the ingredient could reduce skin irritation due to mosquito bites and hair dyes.

Sichuan pepper is mainly used in southern Chinese cooking, where it is known as hua jiao. The pepper is a prickly-ash fruit unrelated to black pepper or chillies.

Redziniak said that, as long as people dreamed of finding the proverbial fountain of youth, they would want to look young.

While using ingredients derived from plants has the double advantage of being environmentally friendly and less toxic to human bodies, the products themselves may actually work better than their synthetic counterparts.

Vassilios Roussis, a Greek researcher who is working on an anti-ageing formula that uses seaweed, said that the plant had spent millions of years evolving defences against harmful ultraviolet rays.

He said that there were at least 25,000 species of algae, and that marine algae worked much better against the sun than synthetic sun screens did.

Guerlain, a beauty firm in France that has been around for nearly 200 years, is working on a skin cream formula that would use orchid-derived ingredients.

The orchid family, which may number as many as 30,000 species, has some of the most extreme defences against environmental stress in the world of plants.

Orchids are found in the most extreme desert conditions, as well as in the arctic circle.

Chantal Larpent, a French chemist, said that he agreed with the push to make the cosmetics industry less toxic to humans and to nature, and that he believed companies should also explore the use of water as a solvent.

Much of the new research on skin products is not done on animals, but on reconstructed human skin grown in laboratories, a technique pioneered by the firm L'Oreal.

Tissue engineer Annie Black of L'Oreal cosmetics said that she believed reconstructed human skin worked far better in tests than animal skin, which was very distinct from human skin.


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