Natural extracts: a source of Brazilian resources with room for growth*

Over the last few decades and especially after the 1990s, the world cosmetics industry has begun to focus its attention on a trend that’s becoming the new way of making cosmetics: getting back to nature, whether this trend springs from a better performance, better compatibility with the skin or the appeal of differentiated marketing.

On the crest of this new trend, the demand for natural origin raw materials has shot up. This incessant demand fueled the growth of the Natural Extracts market. Produced basically from plants, this type of raw material has opened up new markets not only for new uses of already well-known ingredients (such as Aloe Vera) but also a truly ‘new world’ for many ‘recently discovered’ active ingredients, plants endemic in one part of the planet and whose properties were only known to the local population.

Natural extracts are of particular interest for external or internal use due to their exceptional compatibility with the human body, the skin in particular, compared to synthetic ingredients with a similar function. This advantage drove the development of a great variety of ingredients with better compatibility with the skin, or a significantly lower allergenic risk, better product performance, and very often interesting side effects, attributed to active ingredients other than the main one being present in the extract. Apart from the marketing appeal, these natural ingredients usually have a wider range of action and a better efficacy than similar synthetic products.

Brazil’s variety of biomes (5 large biomes) and climatic zones make the country unique in the variety and possibilities inherent in its almost infinite bio-diversity. Many products native to Brazil have conquered the world: cupuaçu, Brazil nut and copaiba. There is an enormous variety of plants which have been discovered in Brazil with a wide variety of uses. Commercially, over 3000 plants with cosmetic and herbal uses known to local populations have been cataloged. Some of these are already being studied and used, such as tucumã pulp, which is rich in carotenoids and has anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Another example is ucuuba, with properties similar to those of dragon’s blood (anti-inflammatory and anti-aging). Several studies are underway in Brazil to discover new ingredients of native plants and new uses. It’s estimated that only 15% of plants with therapeutic and cosmetics uses used by the population have been the subject of any research into their composition and properties.

Jabuticaba (Plinia trunciflora ) is a good example of this research. A large tree of the Brazilian Atlantic forest, its fruit is well-known as a moisturizing and skin food agent, but its other properties were recently discovered and are the subject of research. These include anti-aging, skin rejuvenation and anti-cancer. These discoveries open up a whole range of new possibilities and applications and of course new research, including its internal use as an aid in the treatment of cancer. This research was undertaken based on ‘traditional’ knowledge.

Many Brazilian plants and their uses are still within the realm of ‘traditional’ knowledge, handed down from generation to generation. We can imagine the natural world of natural extracts is here to stay and will become a reality much beyond that of marketing appeal. The benefits are tangible and can be proven. We are all a part of Nature and as such the best thing is to use products she provides.

(*): In collaboration with Pablo Feliu, SEIVA BRAZILIS

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