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Hemp Seed Oil – Trendy, sustainable, with proven efficacy for skin

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Hemp has been a growing trend over the last few years. Despite the challenging regulatory landscape, Symrise identified Hemp Oil as an innovative cosmetic ingredient with high potential.

Sustainable sourcing of Hemp Oil (Organic) with a 360° approach

To ensure regulatory conformity, traceability, sustainability and also direct access to the fields and farmers, Cannabis Sativa​ Seed Oil used in our Hemp Oil (Organic) is organically grown in Europe and mainly in Germany.

In many ways hemp plant cultivation presents sustainable benefits. Hemp cultivation requires low amounts of water, thanks to the structure of its deep roots, the plant is able to access deep water and to thrive in drought-damaged soils. 

Moreover, industrial hemp is a resilient plant that grows well and quickly. Therefore it is unnecessary to use pesticide or herbicide and organic farming can be easily applied. Organic cultivation combines best environmental practices, a high level of biodiversity and the preservation of natural resources. 

The long roots of the hemp plants help loosen the soil for the next crops and are beneficial for crop rotation. It constitutes a perfect solution to restore the soil and to protect against soil erosion caused by monocultures. In addition, hemp supports and protects the local biodiversity. It offers a source of pollen for insects, as hemp is flowering during summer; this makes pollen available for bees later in the year.

Hemp is a versatile plant allowing a 360° approach since the whole hemp plant can be valued and upcycled. The seeds are used for the oil for food and cosmetic industries and seed press cakes for the protein for food and pet food industries. The leaves and stems are mainly used for their long and strong fibers in agriculture for insulating soils or as mulch, for the textile, car or construction industries.

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Regulatory challenge

The Cannabis​ plant is commonly known as a drug and for its psychoactive properties, therefore the cultivation and the use of this type of plant are regulated and controlled all over the world. Despite the fact that Cannabis sativa​ species is known for having a low level of THC compared to other species, this parameter is closely controlled, due to its psychoactive effect. To bring Hemp Oil (Organic) on the cosmetic market, we had to first comply with the regulations of the country of cultivation, which is Germany for our oil. Next we monitor the laws all over the world to be able to export and market the oil for cosmetics.

Each year the list of Cannabis Sativa​ varieties allowed for sowing is reviewed. The farmers have to buy their sowing for the coming crop only from approved varieties listed in the OECD List of Varieties eligible for seed certification. Farmers are not allowed to use their own seeds coming from the previous crop. They have to renew each year their sowing with certified seed varieties. The aim is to grow hemp plants that will not develop a high THC content.

In addition, the farmers have to register their field with the government each year. During the cultivation period, authorities come and control the field. Especially before harvesting the field and the hemp seeds, the farmer needs to get approval of the local authorities.

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Skin efficacy

Hemp and especially hemp seed oil is a trendy and innovative cosmetic ingredient. After ensuring the right sourcing and the compliance in terms of regulation, the objective was to study the benefits of our ingredient Hemp Oil (Organic) for the skin in order to bring this product to the cosmetic market.

The buzz around hemp may have generated confusion around this misunderstood ingredient. However as explained above, hemp seed oil used in personal care products has no psychoactive effect and brands are marketing with emotional claims like mood-enhancing and well-being benefits.

Like all vegetal oils, it has a unique fatty acid composition and therefore a good affinity to the skin. This composition helps reinforce the skin barrier and to limit water loss. In addition, this oil is used in cosmetics to calm and soothe the skin, or balance oily skin.

We studied especially the soothing properties of hemp seed oil. Inflammation within the skin can be induced by various factors, for example shaving or environmental aggressors like wind or sun. These factors trigger the release of mediators within the skin and this can lead to skin redness.

We looked at two of those mediators: IL-8 and TNF-alpha. By applying Hemp Oil (Organic) on the test models, we observed a dose-dependent inhibition of the gene expression for both mediators. In addition, inhibition of IL-8 secretion could be observed in the models after treatment with hemp seed oil. Based on these data, we concluded there is evidence for an anti-inflammatory effect of Hemp Oil (Organic).

Also the skin feeling of hemp seed oil was tested and assessed by a 20-person panel, and experts in formulation. The panel declared when applying Hemp Oil (Organic) that this oil shows a “pleasant texture” and “quick absorption”, and stated also that the “skin is smoother”.

This was confirmed by expert formulators at the lab. They described Hemp Oil (Organic) as a light oil, spreading well on the skin and quickly absorbed without leaving a greasy feeling.

This interesting skin feeling is an additional asset for this oil to be used in cosmetics since Hemp Oil (Organic) can be incorporated in formulations at a high concentration without a negative impact on the formulation sensoriality.

Thanks to the 360° approach we show here that Hemp Oil (Organic) is a versatile cosmetics ingredient. First trendy and making the buzz, hemp seed oil is now becoming a must-have among vegetable oils. Sourced locally and with care, the hemp plant has a lot to offer as cosmetic ingredient.

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