Review: Plants have 'not been fully harnessed’ in targeting inflammation-led skin ageing

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Phytocosmetics offer plenty of promise due to the antioxidant content within many plants, but extraction and delivery systems need more focus [Getty Images]
Phytocosmetics offer plenty of promise due to the antioxidant content within many plants, but extraction and delivery systems need more focus [Getty Images]

Related tags plants plant-based Natural cosmetics natural beauty Ageing Inflammation Oxidative stress antioxidants active beauty edible beauty

The potential of naturally derived plant-based cosmetics and nutricosmetics has not yet been fully harnessed when targeting oxidative stress and inflammation-related skin ageing, say researchers.

Writing in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences​, researchers from Malaysia investigated the trends and challenges in phytotherapy and phytocosmetics [plant-based cosmetics] for skin ageing, looking at the potential role natural products could play in targeting inflammation-related skin ageing via topical applications and ingestibles.

Consumer demand in an ageing world

“Natural products functionalised as cosmetics, cosmeceuticals, and nutricosmetics have great potential in the management and prevention of inflammation-related skin ageing diseases,”​ the researchers wrote.

And review findings suggested this was largely because of rising consumer concerns and demands for “efficacious, safe, natural, sustainable, and religiously permitted alternatives to synthetic products”, ​but also an ageing global population.

People were now living longer worldwide, the researchers said, with the number of global citizens aged 60+ set to soar to nearly 2.1 billion by 2050 and overtake the number of children aged under 10.

“The unintended consequences of these transformations include significant shifts in the population’s attitudes towards beauty, ageing, and health. In other words, it has put a tremendous impact not only on the economies but also on the social aspirations, health as well as wellbeing, with chronic and degenerative diseases emerging as the top causes of global morbidity and mortality.”

Plant bioactives against inflammation-led skin ageing

The researchers said when considering skin care it was important to look at the role of antioxidants and free radicals in inflammation because antioxidants were required for the body’s defence mechanism against various free radical-associated pathologies. And the health benefits of antioxidants, particularly concerning free radicals, they said, had already been “well reported”.

“According to the literature, free radicals, oxidative stress, and other genotoxic stressors are the main culprits for most chronic and neurodegenerative diseases, particularly ageing,” ​they wrote.

“…Oxidative stress and inflammation mostly contribute to ageing and age-related conditions including skin ageing. The potential of natural products in the form of naturally-derived cosmetics, cosmeceuticals, and nutricosmetics have, however, not been fully harnessed.”

Looking at plants, therefore, this spotlighted opportunities in phenolic compounds, carotenoids, flavonoids, benzoic acid derivatives, proanthocyanidins, stilbenes, coumarins, lignins, and lignans, the researchers said.

But whilst the “richness of the plant kingdom” ​and its bioactives known to protect and maintain human skin beauty had been known “since ancient times”,​ the researchers said safety and efficacy had to be closely evaluated before working with these ingredients. And this was largely due to potential oxidation and degradation during processing and storage.

Better extraction and delivery techniques required

Moving forward, the researchers said there were important shifts necessary across industry to expand promise in phytocosmetics.

Switching to alternative green solvents, for example, would “enhance and maximise”​ extraction promise of suitable bioactive compounds. The likes of natural deep eutectic solvents and electrochemically reduced water were already both trending, they said.

Similarly, the researchers said improving delivery systems would be key in enhancing bioavailability, stability, solubility, and controlled release of these bioactives, they said. And a range of different promising systems had already fast-evolved, including nanoemulsions, microencapsulation and microgels, they said.

“The adoption of green extraction and delivery systems would support the growing interest and demand for safe and natural alternative skin care regimens in the increasingly growing multibillion cosmetic industry.”

Global regulations and certifications need ‘harmonisation’

Another important challenge industry would have to overcome, the researchers said, related to product claims when developing natural plant-based cosmetics. Aligning certifications and overturning consumer concerns, they said, would be especially important moving forward.

“The harmonisation of various global regulations and certifications, including the halal assurance system, would require concerted global efforts to allay the concerns and apprehensions of the growing Muslim as well as non-Muslim consumers of processed natural products,”​ the review said.

Certifications not only ensured traceability and safety management along the supply chain, they said, but could also be used to encourage uptake amongst halal consumers.


Source: Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2022.103363
Title: “Trends and challenges in phytotherapy and phytocosmetics for skin ageing”
Authors: IA. Ahmed et al.

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