Extracts - how do we know the purity?

I recently purchased a Korean Beauty product called Purito Green Level Buffet serum, which is formulated with 49% Centella Asiatica extract; https://www.skincarisma.com/products/purito/centella-green-level-buffet-serum/ingredient_list#info-section
I am currently developing a skincare range and wanted to include Cica (centella Asiatica) at a high level.  We are using Heterosides from Seppic which is 70% pure Centella Asiatica.  The maximum concentration recommended by the manufacturer is 0.5%.
My formulating chemist advices that she has previously made a 10% extract of Centella Asiatica and it is very brown.  
Whilst I recognise that the extract used in Purito is probably not pure, as it is totally clear, the information is very confusing to the consumer.  
I am interested to find out

(i) any information on the different ways of producing extracts
(ii) if it is possible to determine the purity of extracts used in specific products like Purito.
(iii) if there is different regulation for the way that extracts are made in Korea relative to Europe/UK?


Comments

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    The easy answer is to how do you know the purity of extracts is "you can't"

    In fact, unless you run an IR spec getting an average mapping of the absorption profile, you probably couldn't tell the difference between an extract and colored brown water/solvent.

  • GuntherGunther Member
    (i) some extracts are as simple as soaking the powdered ground plants in a solvent and let it sit for a while. Others need expensive vacuum distillation to prevent heat from damagin the active compounds.

    (ii) You can't know the exact concentration
    not even if extracted it yourself
    time, temperature, solvent and process choice all them can vary extract concentration (and even composition)
    and so do unscrupulous sellers who water down their extracts.

    You'd need chromatography equipment to find out.
    Some paper chromatography kits are very cheap in Ebay and can help you get a rough estimate.

    (iii) I don't even know if extracts are actually regulated anywhere in the world, other than false advertising policies.
  • Bev_MayBev_May Member
    Thank thank you both. So probably the answer is not to read too much into the ingredients list but to pay attention to claims testing and if any has been done on the formulation? As someone starting out in the industry I find it quite alarming that, in creating a high performance product, I am paying around £1500 per kg for a top quality extract with sheds of data behind it, as well as using an API; the potency being so high that above 1% would prove impossible for formulating  due to impact on colour/consistency and in some cases not advisable because of potency, whereas another brand can boast an extract at a very high percentage - the consumer is completely misled and confused. From a marketing background, as well as science degree, I want transparency for my brand. More comments please!!! I want to blog about this and raise consumer awareness. 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    It's understandable when you first get into the industry that you would find this troubling. But the cosmetic industry is in a bit of a bind (at least here in the US).

    Most impressive claims are illegal: First, cosmetics are only legally allowed to change the appearance of skin and hair. It is literally illegal for a cosmetic to impact the biochemistry of skin and hair. Getting rid of wrinkles, age spots, acne, cellulite, etc. are all illegal claims. So the really interesting things like epigenetics or biotechnology are illegal. "High performance" extracts that might boost collagen production, lighten skin, stimulate cell growth are all illegal. Cosmeceuticals are illegal unless they are just cosmetics which change the appearance without interfering with the biochemistry. So use of these extracts is illegal or at least you can't make claims and have to remain ignorant about their effects.  See this from the FDA

    Consumers can't tell:  Another issue is that consumers are not good judges of whether something works or not. It's hard to notice subtle changes & that's what most "active" ingredients will give you. Consumer perception is also highly swayed by things irrelevant to function such as fragrance, packaging, and the price paid for the product. You could make the greatest product in the world but if a consumer doesn't like the odor, it won't be successful (unless it literally has some undeniably amazing effect). If you used $1000 worth of an extract or $1 worth of an extract the vast majority of consumers wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Using the more expensive ingredient makes no practical sense.

    The effects you get aren't impressive: Even if you could make claims legally top quality extracts have not been proven to have significant effects. I spent years searching for the most impressive effects I could find for skin and hair treatments. I didn't care about price. Companies were happy to provide me samples since I worked at a big company. And the reality is that even using ingredients at the highest levels, I never saw any truly impressive results. Now, I only sent ingredients through screening tests in prototypes and may have missed long term effects, but if an ingredient doesn't have a near immediate, obvious effect, no consumer will hope to be able to notice it. The data supporting "top quality extracts" is not impressive at all. Most of it is sponsored by raw material companies, not published in peer reviewed journals and not replicated. Sheds of crap data is still crap data.

    Until products formulated with extracts can provide benefits that are obviously superior to ones formulated with colored brown water, companies will continue to use colored brown water prominently featuring the extract in their marketing materials. 

    On some level consumers want the story more than they want products with superior performance. This is why "natural" marketing positions are compelling even while these formulas provide inferior results to synthetic+natural formulations.
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