Gleams & Notions

More than Marketing? A Look at Ingredients

By Harvey M. Fishman, Consultant | June 16, 2011

In recent decades, various ingredients from natural sources have been highly promoted in the cosmetic industry for their unique properties.A discussion follows describing some past and present so-called “marketing ingredients.”

Royal jelly was popular as a skin product. This material is secreted from the heads of worker bees and fed to all bee larvae, but large amounts are fed only to larvae destined to be queens. The royal jelly is collected from individual queen cell honeycombs when the larvae are about four days old.This is not mass production as, during a season of five to six months, only approximately 500 grams can be collected. Royal jelly is composed of more than 65% water, 12.5% crude protein (including small amounts of different amino acids), 11% simple sugars (monosaccharides) and about 5% fatty acids. It also contains trace minerals, some enzymes, anti- bacterial and antibiotic components, and trace amounts of vitamin C. Despite all of these goodies, royal jelly is rarely used in cosmetics these days.
Perhaps, it did not live up to its marketing claims, or it was too difficult to handle because it is perishable and must be refrigerated.

Another natural animal product is lanolin. This wax has good skin protection properties and it can be used in systems by ethoxylation to make it water soluble, and has many skin and hair applications. It is still in use, but its inclusion in products is not being promoted. Possibly because it is an animal product, manufacturers are not stressing it, even though the sheep is not hurt when its wool is sheared—the source of the lanolin.

Henna is a very old natural plant product made from Lawsone, which grows in Iran, India and North Africa. Henna has been used intermittently as a hair coloring agent since early Egyptian civilization where it was used for coloring finger nails, the palms and soles of dancing girls, and even the manes and tails of horses. Neutral henna, which does not color hair, but conditions it, comes from a different plant. It is applied to and left on hair for 30 minutes to an hour. When shampooed out, it provides luster and a smooth feel. Both hennas were very popular in the early 1980s, but are rarely used now, possibly due to the superiority of synthetic hair dyes, and the emergence and popularity of other ingredients. Also, because both hennas must be diluted before use, they may be an inconvenience for consumers.

Jojoba is a hardy desert plant that grows wild in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, southern California, Baja California and Sonora, Mexico.

It has no natural enemies, no parasites and can survive long stretches of 120°F heat without water. Some of the important characteristics of jojoba liquid wax (or oil) include high temperature and pressure stability, good resistance to oxidation, absence of hardening upon exposure to air and good rancidity resistance. When applied directly to the skin, it gives a non-greasy, smooth, emollient feel.It is still being used in formulas, but not as often as aloe vera, which is described below.

Aloe vera grows in warm climates throughout the world. In the U.S., it is commercially grown in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas as well as in Florida. The thorny edge of its leaves gives the plant a cactus-like appearance, but it is really a member of the lily family. Inside the leaves is a thick gel that is responsible for topical applications in which anti-inflammatory, healing, moisturizing, and skin and hair substantivity properties are claimed. The gel has been used as a treatment for radiation burns, sunburn, skin ulcers and other skin irritations. Apparently, the gel is useful as a treatment for these conditions. However, when a diluted version of the gel is used in a cosmetic product in token (0.1%) levels, it obviously does not function. Yet, aloe vera has a good reputation with the public since it is incorporated and advertised in so many products. This is one marketing materialwith staying power!


Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm located at 34 Chicasaw Drive, Oakland, NJ 07436,, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.