Make face creams from coffee beans while cosmetics go greener

Researchers are investigating the commercial production of innovative cosmetic ingredients from plants. Photo credits:, Shutterstock

Cosmetics often use unsustainable ingredients, but new research answers the growing demand for eco-friendly products.

“Plant ingredients have always been used in cosmetics,” said Heiko Rischer, head of plant biotechnology at VTT, a Finnish research center. “But in recent years there has been a renewed interest in plant-based compounds. Consumers are interested in greener and more sustainable ingredients.”

Today, most of the key ingredients used in Europe’s €80 billion cosmetics industry are synthetic, animal or wild-sourced. The production of these ingredients sometimes involves solvents or processes that are not sustainable and are becoming less popular with consumers. Harvesting wild plants also puts natural ecosystems under pressure.

Rischer and other European scientists are investigating how to incorporate more natural and sustainable plant-based ingredients into cosmetic products.

ecosystem pressure

The InnCoCells project, which VTT coordinates, creates alternative options for ingredients by growing plants or plant cells for use in cosmetics in a sustainable way.

“We grow plant cells and organs in bioreactors,” said Rischer. “But other partners grow the whole plants in aeroponics and greenhouses or outdoors.”

InnCoCells researches the commercial production of innovative cosmetic ingredients from plants such as basil or aromatic ginger.

“Our work is currently in a bio-prospecting phase,” said Rischer. “We evaluate different plant species for connections. We anticipate a wide range of potential crops and reduce them over time.”

The team intends to develop up to 10 ingredients to launch within the next three years – although it’s still early days for a project that began in May 2021.

“It’s a challenge to find your way through this jungle of plant options,” said Rischer.

The focus is on the bioactive compounds in cosmetics, i.e. the ingredients that produce a desired effect such as anti-aging of the skin, and not on ingredients such as stabilizers or fragrances. An essential part of InnCoCells’ work is that the cosmetics deliver what they promise in a transparent manner.

“Cosmetics have to open up the evidence so that products actually deliver what they promise,” said Rischer. “This would really help the consumer make choices. When we buy groceries, there is a lot of information on the packaging to help the consumer. We need to do the same for cosmetics.”

coffee creams

In a separate, just-completed initiative to green the cosmetics industry, the Prolific project turned plant residues into ingredients for beauty products. The team extracted polyphenols from coffee silver skins, a type of compound useful in cosmetics for its anti-aging effects on skin. The polyphenol extract was standardized and used in a face cream prototype.

Normally, polyphenols are already obtained from plants. But the compound is extracted through a chemical process, resulting in waste that must be carefully disposed of. The project used an environmentally friendly method called subcritical water extraction, which uses only water under very high pressure to extract the polyphenols from the coffee silver skins.

All in all, Prolific research used a number of new methods to derive beneficial compounds from agricultural waste from various plant sources such as coffee beans, mushrooms and legumes.

“We use a cascading approach,” said Annalisa Tassoni, the project’s scientific coordinator and associate professor at the University of Bologna in Italy. “We do an initial extraction, after that we look at what’s left and try to extract another compound.”

Ultimately, the residual fibers were used in various stages of production. Three prototype cosmetics were made by Greek partner company COSMETIC, including a face cream, toothpaste and even a plant fiber container jar.

“We recycle all parts of the residues,” said Georgios Tsatsos, General Manager of COSMETIC. “That extends down to the fibers that are left after the extraction process.”

Plant based compounds

Before these green compounds can reach the cosmetics market, several steps need to be taken. The coffee-processing techniques used by Prolific are about to be introduced into cosmetics production, but the methods need to be scaled up to allow herbal compounds to compete with synthetic ones.

“There’s a lot to be said for this coffee process,” says Tassoni, “we opened up perspectives and confirmed that certain techniques really work.”

While it will be difficult to outperform all synthesis techniques used in the cosmetics industry, Rischer is optimistic about the prospects for greener approaches.

“The cosmetics market is very large and diverse,” he said. “Consumers are demanding more sustainable and eco-friendly cosmetics, and we can make a difference in our own niche.”

Provided by Horizon: The EU Research & Innovation Magazine

Citation: Making face creams from coffee beans as cosmetics get greener (2022, November 30), retrieved November 30, 2022 from html

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