What is the Best Extraction Method for Botanical Actives in Cosmetics?

Botanicals are becoming increasingly popular in skincare and haircare products. Think soothing aloe vera, moisturizing shea butter, topical green tea, and dozens of others.

Meanwhile, formulators must meet the demand for botanical-based products while preserving the natural health and therapeutic benefits that consumers seek in them. That’s easier said than done, as even the most widely used methods often fall short of proper extraction.

Stepping Back from Solvent Extraction

Historically, solvents have been used for extraction of botanicals. Also referred to as liquid-liquid extraction (LLE), solvent extraction separates compounds based on their solubilities. Solvents are essentially chemicals—overlooked by consumers for decades but now frowned upon in the environmental movement. Solvent extraction also produces a large amount of waste, raising additional questions around sustainability. As a result, many brands have backed away from solvent extraction in order to promote all-natural products and processes.

Needing More from Eco-Friendly Extraction

The search for a chemical-free extraction method brought formulators to eco-friendly extraction replacing solvents with water or ethanol. While these methods are indeed “clean,” they are much more time-consuming, and the resulting extract is not as potent. Green extraction is a blossoming science and burgeoning R&D initiative, not yet a tried-and-true method.

Losing the Benefits of Botanicals in CO2 Extraction

Another popular extraction method focuses on carbon dioxide for solvency. Subcritical CO2 extraction is natural, sustainable, and reliable. It works wonderfully with light botanical oils and non-polar biomasses, but is not ideal for cosmetics because it does not achieve the desired polar and semi-polar phytochemicals. Extracting with CO2 also requires many treatment and sterilization steps between each yield, along with special equipment and materials.

Finding the Balance with PhytoClean™ Extraction

Given the drawbacks in each of the above methods, Sensient has developed a solvent-free, water-based extraction technology for the plant-based ingredients found in top-selling cosmetics. The result is the PhytoClean™ process, which allows the bioactives in plants to be gently removed with pressurized, temperature-controlled water.

PhytoClean™ ensures a pure, repeatable extraction of the targeted biomass, giving formulators the ability to deliver new and exciting products using natural ingredients from all ends of the earth. For example, our NatPure® Xtra Longevity green tea active turns ethically sourced green tea leaves from the lush valleys of Kenya into a botanical extract that is proven (based on reduction in sunburn cells) to be as effective of an antioxidant as Vitamin E.

For a full list of highly concentrated botanical actives from Sensient, contact us.

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