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Ethical, Responsible, Sustainable: Top Strategies for Sourcing Cosmetic and Personal Care Ingredients

Published January 29, 2023
Published January 29, 2023

Being novel and effective isn’t enough in today’s beauty ingredient marketplace. Formulators and consumers are searching for solutions that not only deliver excellent benefits but also match their values. And smart product innovators are opting to partner with suppliers who have built environmental preservation into their company culture and business model.

With the circular beauty economy still very much a work in progress, today’s ethical, responsible, sustainable ingredient sourcing takes many forms: biotechnology, green chemistry, upcycling, local sourcing, efficient production, clean fractionation tech, and more.

Sourcing Cosmetics and Personal Ingredients, Starting with Plants

Working with a renewable resource, such as cultivated plants, doesn’t always ensure that the resulting ingredients are environmentally sustainable. To meet that objective, such crops ought to be abundant, high yield, and resilient in the same geographical region where processing and production takes place. Additionally, harvesting, processing, and production must be done with great intention to limit any harmful environmental impact.

Let’s take sunflowers as an example. Two-thirds of the world’s sunflower crop is grown in Europe. Sunflowers have a deep root system and, as a result, tolerate drought well. And thanks to the most advanced agronomic techniques, sunflowers cultivated in Europe produce a good yield per acre, which translates into a good yield of helianthus annuus seed oil—providing producers based in Europe the opportunity to develop sustainable beauty ingredients from the abundant, resilient sunflower.

For the BeauSens line of functional ingredients, Italy-based ingredient maker Roelmi HPC starts with non-GMO, high-oleic sunflower seed oil and uses low-energy, mechanical extraction processes to obtain essential fatty acids from the oil. Pelargonic acid derived from the sunflower seed oil is then used to produce esters, surfactants, and emulsifiers that fit perfectly into the clean, green, and conscious products that cosmetics and personal care brands are manufacturing today.

Additionally, ingredient purity can be a concern when working from sustainable plant sources, especially by-products. And the by-products of olive oil production are popular inputs for cosmetics and personal care ingredients.

Roelmi HPC uses olive oil production by-products to design esters and emulsifiers. And the company has solved the challenge of ingredient purity by establishing a transparent, traceable Mediterranean supply chain and implementing production processes that result in high-performance, natural ingredients.

Rather than using edible olive oil for cosmetics, Roelmi HPC recovers essential molecules of olive oil by-products, designing and rebuilding olive-oil–like ingredients from purified fractions of olive (Olea europaea).

“The main bricks of Olifeel Line are basic molecules (glycerin and fatty acids) that could be obtained from all olive oil by-products. The fundamental detail is Roelmi HPC knowledge of their assembly to obtain specific ingredients. Impurities coming from by-products are really reduced in the final ingredients of our Olifeel Line, thanks to production steps, which take advantage only of selected molecules, isolating them from the rest,” explains Lamberto Anzalone, US, Canada, LATAM Area Manager at Roelmi HPC.

Of course, olive oil has been used for skin and body care since ancient times, but it’s not the only specialty food to make the leap from the kitchen to the world of personal care.

From Food Production Waste to Biomolecules to Beauty Ingredients

Upcycling is an increasingly popular way to source sustainable cosmetics and personal care ingredients. By using what would otherwise be waste (or used for low-value chains) to create functional ingredients, suppliers are helping the industry move closer to a fully circular beauty economy.

The upcycled ingredient movement is also creating an even stronger link between beauty and the food and beverages industry. In fact, according to the nonprofit organic and natural cosmetics standards organization NATRUE, the bulk of upcycled beauty ingredients come from the waste streams of food and beverage production.

Roelmi Holdings was established in the early 2000s and, over the years, has built a strong partnership with a Southern Italy–based producer of organic fruit concentrates and juices. “This gives us local access to high-quality organic fruit from the South of Italy, a microclimate with warm, sunny days and rainfalls suitable to agriculture,” says Anzalone.

Production of the juices and concentrates involves only physical processing methods. After squeezing the fruit, the liquid is then concentrated under vacuum with moderate heating, thus producing delicious rich food-grade juices.

The waters that evaporate during the juice concentration process are condensed through a water-cooling system, which conserves the beneficial volatile aromatic components that would, otherwise, be wasted. Then they are micro-, ultra-filtrated and treated by osmosis to obtain pure aromatic water for cosmetics.

The resulting ingredients comprise the CytoFruit Waters line from Roelmi HPC, made of a variety of Mediterranean fruits: clementine, grapefruit, red orange, sweet orange, kiwi, bergamot, green mandarin, lemon, and more. Each specific water has its own unique composition which delivers particular skincare benefits.

As more and more brands and chemists are formulating products without water, with less water, and with water alternatives, it’s important to highlight that CytoFruit Waters not only replace the water used in formulations with a sustainably sourced alternative but can also contribute to the overall efficacy of a cosmetic product, delivering skin benefits and enhancing label claims. Their INCI name is in fact an “extract.”

“We are committed to the development of compounds that respect the microbiome and the environment to achieve the well-being of the entire ecosystem, from the skin to the planet's harmony.”
By Lamberto Anzalone, US, Canada, LATAM Area Manager, Roelmi HPC

Cosmetics and Personal Care Ingredients Made with Green Chemistry

Green chemistry is a beauty industry buzzword. But mindful suppliers have been working with the principles of green chemistry and white biotechnology for years. And this safer, cleaner science translates into more specialized and more sustainable ingredient sourcing options for beauty makers.

With white biotechnology, which uses living cells (yeasts, molds, bacteria, plants) as well as enzymes, suppliers can synthesize high-purity, degradable ingredients, using less energy and creating less waste in the production process.

Roelmi HPC has considerable knowledge in the field of biotechnology, which allows the team to bring cutting-edge cosmetic and nutraceutical solutions to the market.

Using bacterial fermentation, Roelmi HPC is focused on postbiotics and probiotic-derived ingredients for microbiome skincare applications. For instance, bacterial fermentation has led the company to develop AECTive, a molecule capable of keeping the skin microbiota in balance and preserving the skin ecosystem.

Thanks to a one-of-a-kind production process, Roelmi HPC is able to obtain hyaluronic acid fractions capable of mimicking the function of physiologically produced hyaluronic acid. Hence, the PrincipHYAL 2.0 line, with full-spectrum technology, demonstrates greater effectiveness in reducing wrinkles and improving skin elasticity, compared to the standard hyaluronic acid on the market.

The company’s latest development is a postbiotic ingredient obtained from the proprietary strain L. rhamnosus LRH020. EquiBiotics LRh strengthens the skin barrier by preventing pathogen colonization and thereby restoring the natural harmony between the skin and its microbiota.

Sustainable Beauty Ingredients Require Integrity and Accountability

At Roelmi HPC, environmental sustainability is a company cornerstone. An in-house program called Nature is People (NIP) guides the everyday activity and the overall purpose of business at Roelmi HPC. It’s a program that is as much about eco-processes, renewable materials, and biodiversity conservation as it is about ethical and responsible business.

NIP guidelines comprise the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, ISO Certification standards, the Responsible Care Program overseeing sustainable development in the chemicals industry, as well as EcoVadis criteria for social corporate responsibility (Roelmi HPC earned a Platinum EcoVadis ranking in 2021 and again in 2022). You can learn more about NIP here on the Roelmi site. The company has also been awarded Best Managed Company 2022 by Deloitte Private. This annual award handpicks companies based on seven success factors: strategy, skills and innovation, commitment and corporate culture, governance and performance measurement, sustainability, supply chain, and internationalization.

Roelmi HPC focuses on the research, design, and production of high-tech ingredients with top-performing results in finished cosmetics and personal care product formulas. The company aims to improve quality of life by bringing together innovation and sustainability through science. As a pioneer of sustainability-driven innovations, Roelmi HPC strictly adopts an approach directed to environmental preservation, safeguarding biodiversity, and the use of renewable sources.

In this context, Roelmi HPC is pleased to announce a brand-new approach to cosmetic and personal care ingredients development called The Empowerment of the Ecosystem. This approach to beauty and skincare ingredient development is a celebration of ecosystems—a symphonic partnership between people and planet. Our global ecosystem is made up of numerous communities, which work in unison to support the environment and human life.

The Empowerment of the Ecosystem celebrates the euphony behind the Roelmi HPC processes as well as the resources used in company operations. “We are committed to the development of compounds that respect the microbiome and the environment to achieve the well-being of the entire ecosystem, from the skin to the planet's harmony,” affirms Anzalone.