Green Chemistry 101
By Guest Author: Isabel Ramos, co-founder of AYUNA and Cosmetic Formulator + Green Chemistry expert
By the end of the 20th century, chemists, in response to the awareness of the impact of toxic compounds and the consumer concerns, started to form a new way of understanding science and technology; the result was the principles now known as green chemistry. These principles have been developed to consider and continually advance the prevention of waste and pollution, offering safer and more ecological alternatives to hazardous chemicals, the use of renewable raw materials and optimizing efficiency. To me, the green chemistry revolution is a vast opportunity for innovation and the advancement of cosmetic chemistry.
In short, the advancements in green technology are making it possible to obtain cleaner, safer and more sustainable cosmetics.
As we know, beauty products, applied daily and cumulatively, can be a possible source of harmful impurities and environmental threats. A green chemistry approach to cosmetic formulation requires a strict verification of all the processes involved – from formulation to production – to avoid formation of any unwanted molecules and the release of contaminants such as solvents, reagents or toxic byproducts; as well as verifying formulas are non-GMO and no-irradiated; use feed stocks of natural origin; and an ethical, responsible and sustainable use of resources. This overarching approach is the foundation of green chemistry defined as: the imitation of the wisdom of nature with the knowledge of cosmetic science.
The skincare line I developed with my business partner Begoña Sanjuan, AYUNA, was born using green chemistry principles to establish the strict formulation criteria with the aim of providing eco-sensorial products with the highest efficiency. It not only involves organic and natural oils but also the cutting-edge of green science, one example of which is the use of Botanical Cell Cultures. These cultures are cultivated as vertical crops grown in a laboratory under controlled conditions, with absolutely no pesticides or pollutants. As compared to a traditional extract or oil, this technology saves more than 99% of valuable natural resources such as water (consumption of ml vs tones), soil (258 ft2 lead to 1,1 million bottles of 50 ml), does not consume natural biomass, and preserves and protects botanical species at risk of extinction. These ‘botanical bio-factories’ require years of research to establish the exact conditions of growth and the means to direct the natural machinery of production of the plant towards the suitable combination of natural compounds for the skin. Some examples of how the scientific garden of AYUNA has specialized in new generations are:
- Plasma rich in cell factors, by submitting pomegranate, Arabian cotton and green carrot to specific types of stressors that stimulate the natural defenses of these super ingredients.
- Active phyto-peptides, from turmeric and centella, used for the first time ever in cosmetics because they are present in very small amounts in the plant and require amplification techniques to be used.
These processes involve an important step of cultivation of the plant cells in which there are two main practices that test and create the ideal environmental conditions for the cells. This involves creating an environment of stress (for plasmas) or favorable conditions for growth (phytopeptides). For the plasmas, the cultures are submitted to conditions in which the plant is “stressed” such as the presence/absence of light, more levels of salts, less nutrients etc. that have been previously tested over years of research. Such conditions place the cells in a situation of defending itself to survive in an aggressive environment and prompting them to react by producing cocktails of botanical chemicals specific to overcome these situations. Plants are extremely smart, as their survival in the real world depends on their innate defense abilities. Plants aren’t able to relocate at will, so through a process of evolution, they develop incredible strategies to adapt to different difficult conditions, such as extreme weather, lack of nutrients, and predators. I consider plants to be the most wise green chemists in the world; they can adapt their production depending on conditions and they are able to readily produce a great variety of different molecules that would take years to be synthesized in the lab. And they do it efficiently, cleanly and sustainably.
For AYUNA, the result we experience by employing advanced green chemistry practices in our products is an exceptional natural efficacy. We have observed that the appearance of wrinkles and dark spots is reduced, elasticity and radiance is enhanced, and that texture and even skin tone are improved.