Italian Green Beauty, the last frontier: enzymatic bioliquefaction is the last frontier of Made in Italy cosmetics, but few know about this new innovative technique: here is enzyme bioliquefaction what it is and what it is used for.
Concerns about the safety of the use of synthetic molecules and the desire to research cheaper, eco-sustainable and biocompatible molecules have shifted interest, especially in the field of natural cosmetics, towards natural molecules deriving from plant, animal, marine and biotechnological sources.
Furthermore, nowadays the active ingredients of vegetable origin (polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, vitamins, ferulic acids, etc.) play a primary role in the production of cosmetics, nutraceuticals, phytotherapy and despite this the use of plant extracts has still some limitations, due for example to the extraction method used in terms of efficacy, environmental impact and safety for the consumer.
The attempt to solve these problems has led to the discovery of an innovative Made in Italy method that is already revolutionizing the green cosmetics sector. Let’s see together what it is and what it originated from.
Green beauty: Solvent extraction of plant active ingredients and limits
Traditional processes are based on the use of organic chemical solvents and chromatographic separation techniques based on the different affinity of the various target molecules with the selected mobile phase. However:
- thousands of chemically different compounds (phytocomplex) are present in plants at the same time, making traditional technology not equally effective for all target molecules;
- solvent extraction is effective only on physically trapped or retained molecules with weak interactions in the polysaccharide network of the plant cell wall. In plants, however, the thousands of potentially interesting molecules are covalently linked to the solid part of the plant matrix and cannot be extracted with traditional technologies.
Eco-friendly and biocompatible natural molecules: where to find them
The environmentally friendly and biocompatible natural molecules can be obtained from biomass, the biodegradable fraction of products of biological origin from agriculture, forestry and related industries. Carbohydrates and lignin represent the highest percentage of biomass, are made up of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, and are found mainly in the walls of plant cells; include monosaccharides such as glucose and fructose and polysaccharides such as cellulose, hemicellulose, starch and pectins.
Not all biodegradable (organic) fractions are used for green cosmetics: they must in fact have at least one desired property such as, for example, a high content of polyphenols, a high antioxidant power, the ability to improve the sensory properties and act on the smoothness of the skin. Finally, like a common cosmetic, it must meet the requirements imposed by current European legislation in terms of physical, chemical and microbiological safety.
By biorefinery we mean “the set of sustainable processes of transformation of biomass into basic molecules with high added value (chemicals)”. The transformation of biomass includes two possible approaches: chemical hydrolysis and enzymatic hydrolysis. Through the process by hydrolysis the polymer chains are split into their constituents, the monomers, from which it is possible to produce “chemicals” through chemical or fermentative processes.
Italian green beauty: what is Enzymatic bioliquefaction ?
The direct processing of fresh waste to produce multiple products simultaneously, based on an integrated biorefinery process that uses a combination of different technologies, has proved to be a promising approach. All this has been tested at the University of Bologna, using fresh pomegranate peel: it has been ground, subjected to a heat treatment using water as a solvent, and then centrifuged. Centrifugation separated the solid residue from the aqueous extract.
At this point the process of “enzymatic bioliquefaction” begins: the intent is to attack first the polysaccharide structures that make up the external part of the plant cell wall, mostly pectins, and then the internal ones, mainly formed by cellulose and hemicellulose. Here, therefore, that the solid residue is subjected to treatment with cellulase (enzymes of the hydrolase family, responsible for the digestion of cellulose: they are biocatalysts) obtaining sugars which, through fermentation, have given ethanol; the aqueous extract with ethanol precipitates the pectins and with the centrifugation on one side the pectins are isolated and on the other the aqueous ethanol extract is obtained, which with the distillation gives the polyphenols.
Enzymatic bioliquefaction is the dilution process by which a series of enzymes transform the molecular substance into liquid, allowing to recover a greater quantity of matter without altering or ruining it; is a patented biotechnological method with low environmental impact, which uses enzymatic hydrolysis to produce active ingredients of plant origin for the cosmetic sector, privileging the by-products of the agro-food industry by-products (such as polyphenols, carotenoids, alpha hydroxy acids) and many others), contained in particular in the skins of some plants. The use of this technique in cosmetics is based on the idea that man can use, as a source of protection and nourishment for his skin, the same active ingredients that the plants that live in the same territory summarize as a defense against environmental adversities.
Enzymatic bioliquefaction consists of a combination of enzymatic treatments inspired by the human digestive system: the polysaccharide and protein macrostructures that make up the plant cell wall are selectively broken down into monomers and low molecular weight molecules through cuts targeted molecules. A “green” technology can be defined: no organic solvents are used, nor harmful waste generated and the recovery of elements that should be discarded, together with the use of active ingredients developed with respect for the environment, guarantee ecological and dermo-affine formulations.
Bio-liquefied: what they are
Enzymatic bioliquefaction, especially from the skins of some plants, produces enzyme bioliquefied, innovative active ingredients rich in active molecules and completely water-based, free of alcohols, glycols, glycerin or other solvents: they have therefore been obtained without the use of aggressive chemical solvents, but only through natural enzymes.
Bio-liquefied are low molecular weight active ingredients, more bioavailable and quickly effective, allowing to obtain high quality and proven effective formulations.
Enzymatic bioliquefaction: the role of biocatalysts
An enzyme is composed of an active site that interacts with a specific substrate, first forming an enzyme-substrate complex and finally a product. The ability to catalyze a chemical reaction is closely related to the molecular structure of the enzyme and is influenced by pH, temperature, substrate concentration and the presence of molecules capable of inhibiting this activity.
The use of biocatalysts offers the following advantages: mild operating conditions (pH, temperature, pressure), high efficiency in aqueous environment, high regio and stereoselectivity with the possibility of obtaining enantiomerically pure compounds and process sustainability. Furthermore, biocatalysts work by reducing the energy barrier of activation of a reaction, increasing its speed, without taking part in the reaction itself and being altered by it. This is why research has judged them better than solvents.
Currently the most used biocatalysts belong to the wide range of hydrolases including carbohydrases (pectinases, cellulases, amylases), hemicellulases and proteases. They are produced by the fermentation of different types of microorganisms such as fungi, molds, yeasts and bacteria depending on the type of substrate to be broken down (pectin, cellulose, hemicellulose) and, therefore, on the type of desired activity (pectinase, cellulase, xylanase. , amylase). Microorganisms, in fact, produce enzymes that attack, in a highly specific way, the various types of plant substrates and convert them into new products useful for the nourishment and growth of the microorganisms themselves.
The use of specific enzymes makes it possible to recover phytocompounds and other therapeutically inactive substances (pectins, cellulose, hemicellulose). Phytocompounds are non-nutritive bioactive substances, resulting from the combination of multiple active ingredients, with therapeutic properties that can positively influence health and contribute to disease prevention. After enzymatic treatment these active ingredients are highly bioavailable and usable as ingredients for the cosmetic, nutraceutical and pharmacological industry.
Italian Green beauty: a “must have” Made in Italy examples
Some Italian companies that primarily chose to produce cosmetic products by enzymatic bioliquefaction are Purophi and the liquid products of Phitofilos, of which Erboristeriacomo.it is the official dealer.
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