Gleams & Notions

Another Natural Preservative And Much More in the News

By Harvey M. Fishman, Consultant | November 10, 2011

It is time for my semi-annual review of various newspaper articles relating to the cosmetic industry. The first item is about a possible new preservative to prevent bacterial contamination—oil from coriander seeds. This spice, widely used in Asian, Latin American and Mediterranean cooking, is called cilantro when fresh leaves of the plant are used.

For years, researchers have suggested that the oil can act as an antibacterial agent, but it was a recent study, published in The Journal of Medical Microbiology, that describes how it works. It was found that coriander oil damages the membrane of bacterial cells. This blocks the cell from essential processes like respiration, and ultimately leads to the organism’s death. The researchers tested the effect of coriander oil on 12 different bacterial strains, including E. coli, salmonella and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Most of the bacteria were killed by solutions containing less than 1.6% of the oil. With further testing, this oil might one day be widely used as a food or cosmetic preservative.

Not So Smart
Two companies from Texas claimed that their smart phones could cure acne. They advised their customers to hold the display screen next to the area of the skin to be treated for a few minutes while the app was activated. Called “AcneApp” and “Acne Pwner,” these apps claimed to be able to cure your acne by using blue and red light therapy.

AcnePwner, which was on sale for $0.99 on the Android Market was downloaded approximately 3,300 times. AcneApp was on sale at the Apple App Store for $1.99 and had approximately 11,600 downloads. The Federal Trade Commission disagreed with the wild claims and the two companies agreed to stop making claims and agreed to pay fines—AcnePwner’s developer paid $1,700 and AcneApp’s developer paid $14,294. The cases are the first that the FTC has filed targeting health claims in the mobile app marketplace. The makers of Clearasil probably breathed a sigh of relief.

In another skin care revolution, an Associated Press article highlighted a natural product that is being used as a skin scrub or exfoliant—it’s called salt. Ahava, a beauty company from Israel, gets its salt from the Dead Sea, which also contains minerals such as magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium, which are believed to be soothing and relaxing. A finer grade of salt will polish, not scratch the skin. Allure published a home recipe for a salt scrub as follows:
1 cup almond, sesame, olive or vegetable oil
1 cup kosher, table, or Epsom salt. Heat oil in microwave oven for 45 seconds. Add salt until a paste is formed.

The Guys Have It
The New York Times described a man who was 38 when he first noticed a round, hairless spot in his beard. Within six weeks, every inch of his body that once had hair, including his eyebrows, eyelashes, arms and head, was completely bald. This autoimmune disease, called alopecia areata, causes the body to attack its own hair follicles. It affects nearly 2% of the global population and has no universally effective treatment. Sometimes the hair regrows, sometimes it does not, and sometimes the regrowth falls out years later. Researchers at Columbia University found eight genes that are involved in the mechanisms of this strange disease. One of them acts like a beacon for the body’s killer immune cells. In people with alopecia areta, this gene is over abundant in hair follicles, leading to rapid hair loss. On a related note, skin product sales to men now top $200 million a year, according to Time.

Of course, not every man—particularly a fighting man—is into makeup. That’s why Michele Probst, founder of Menaji Cosmetics, ships her products to soldiers in packages that are disguised to look more like cigar boxes than compact cases. It’s all part of her strategy to appeal directly to men and that means never referring to products as makeup.

“The M word is cancer to us,” Probst told Time. “We are skin care that looks good.”

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.