Vegetable oils have come a long way from its primary purpose in the kitchen. Oils such as sunflower and olive are derived from plants, making them a sustainable ingredient in the formulation. They have great importance in treating infantile skin diseases as they have emollient properties that help moisturise and replenish the skin barrier, but can also be used in cosmetics, for example in makeup or bath care products . They also have great anti-microbial properties against some strains of bacteria .
With the cosmetics industry shifting to use more natural and sustainable products, using vegetable oils as a primary ingredient has been of increased interest. However, due to their structure, they have decreased stability in certain conditions, making them difficult to work with .
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Vegetable oils are known as triglyceride oils, as their structure is made up of three fatty acids linked to three glycerol’s via an ester linkage (Figure 1). Each vegetable oil is similar in structure, varying in the number of carbons in the chain and number of double bonds, known as unsaturation. The presence of these double bonds increases the risk of oxidation to the molecule, which can decrease its stability. This is why oils are best kept at room temperature and away from sunlight.
Figure 1: A schematic structure of a triglyceride with three oleic acids.
Vegetable oils may also have traces of allergens, which occurs through its refinement process. This could cause an adverse reaction in sensitive people . For these reasons, scientists are trying to find new alternatives to oils that overcome these problems. One of these alternatives is known as bio-based algae oil.
Bio-based algae oil is a clear yellow triglyceride oil that has a low poly-unsaturation content . It is produced via the fermenting microalgae, which converts sugars into the oil. Using this process is environmentally friendly, as it limits to land and water consumption and has the ability to replace fossil fuels as a renewable resource [2, 5]. Scientists studying this oil tested it under various conditions, comparing it to two household oils (sunflower and vegetable) and synthetic oil. It was found that bio-based algae oil had the best oxidation and thermal stability, due to its chemical structure. Compared to the other oils, it had the least unsaturation content, making it less prone to oxidise thus increasing its shelf-life . It also had the best emollient properties, making it an excellent skin moisturiser and the best at keeping skin hydration levels high . Through these tests, bio-based algae oil proved to be very successful in overcoming the challenges of regular household oils. Due to these benefits, brands such as Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) have already invested in extracting microalgal properties, which have been found in anti-ageing creams and sun care cosmetics .
I believe that this bio-based oil has proven itself to be a top contender in the oils category. Not only has it proven itself in its chemical nature, but the whole production process is very sustainable. I believe that through the integration of this oil in personal care products, this industry has taken the next step in achieving a sustainable goal.
1 Sarkar, R., Podder, I., Gokhale, N., Jagadeesan, S. and Garg, V. K. (2017) Use of vegetable oils in dermatology: an overview. Int J Dermatol. 56, 1080-1086
2 Birjandi Nejad, H., Blasco, L., Moran, B., Cebrian, J., Woodger, J., Gonzalez, E., Pritts, C. and Milligan, J. (2020) Bio-based Algae Oil: an oxidation and structural analysis. Int J Cosmet Sci. 42, 237-247
3 Sorge, R. (2016) Clear glass cruet bottle photo. ed.)^eds.), Unsplash
4 Crevel, R. W., Kerkhoff, M. A. and Koning, M. M. (2000) Allergenicity of refined vegetable oils. Food Chem Toxicol. 38, 385-393
5 Organization, B. I. Algae: The Potential for Biobased Products ed.)^eds.)
6 FAO Aquatic Biofuels Working Group, U. N. (2010) Cosmetics In Algae-based biofuels: applications and co-products
To find out more information on the use of algae as sustainable energy, look at these resources: