Author: Rita Mota
Petrochemical synthetic-based polymers are still everywhere in our daily lives, despite strict regulations and general awareness of their long-term risks to the environment and human health. This is especially true of the numerous cosmetics and personal care products that we apply to our skin every day, and which can cause skin problems, allergies, hormonal changes, and even lead to cancer with prolonged use!
Microalgae on their way into cosmetics
Microalgal polymers are naturally derived solutions that can address this problem due to their fascinating intrinsic characteristics for different biotechnological and biomedical applications, combined with the fact that these biopolymers are biodegradable and non-toxic.
A particularly interesting example is Cyanoflan, a polymer composed mainly of sugars that is naturally released in high amounts by a microalga of marine origin. Its production and isolation are very simple, as this microalga requires only air, sunlight and seawater with inorganic nutrients to survive, and only minimal extraction steps are required, resulting in a cost-effective product.
Cyanoflan – an algae-based biopolymer
Cyanoflan can be used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical formulations as a rheology modifier. This means that its addition will contribute to the viscosity and stability of the final product, resulting in the appropriate sensory qualities of, for example, a face cream or a body lotion. In addition, Cyanoflan will contribute to skin protection and regeneration due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, this technology has already been patented in USA and is pending in EU.
Therefore, the cultivation of this strain results in a constant supply of green materials: the biopolymer Cyanoflan and biomass. These microscopic green cells can also be used in various fields, in particular as food or feed supplements due to their high content of proteins, vitamins, and minerals, or to obtain a natural intense blue pigment (phycocyanin) that can be used as a food colorant or as nutraceutical due to its antioxidant properties. In this way, a zero-waste value chain can be achieved aiming at global awareness of the benefits of a circular bioeconomy.
The first steps towards the future commercialization of Cyanoflan have already been taken: two batches have been produced on a pilot scale, and the first performance, formulation and safety studies have been carried out by specialized companies.
Following the growing need for renewable resources and the promotion of a low-carbon economy, Dr. Rita Mota and acib are working hard to ensure that the environmentally friendly ingredient Cyanoflan can soon be included in your favorite skin care product.
Mota et al. 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbpol.2019.115525
Costa et al. 2021 https://doi.org/10.3390/md19030147
Matinha-Cardoso et al. 2023 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2022.102939
Picture credits: Unsplash