Plant extract usage rates

Good day,

I'm wondering a little about plant extract usage rates. I'll use green tea as an example. The green tea extract I use in my formulations has a usage rate of 1-3%. However, I have seen formulas that list green tea extract as their first ingredient. An example of such a product is 'Isntree Green Tea Toner.' How is it that they are able to put this as their first ingredient? The highest usage rate for a green tea extract that I could find is 10 percent. Are you able to exceed usage rates on plant extracts? Or, are they potentially using a weaker form of green tea extract? 


  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    The answer to your first question is that they do not know the rules for listing ingredients and they have made a mistake. Perhaps out of ignorance or perhaps on purpose. 

    But to your other questions, the amount of plant extract you use in the vast majority of cases, does not matter. These things even if used at 100% of your formula are unlikely to have any noticeable effect. The most likely thing is to trigger some allergic reaction. You can use more or less of whatever plant extract that you can get. For this reason, most companies just use less.

    No, they are not using a weaker form of green tea extract. Green tea extract doesn't do anything (on skin) so you can't really make it weaker. 

    Incidentally, when you buy a green tea extract from a company it will typically be sold to you as a 1% solution in something like glycerin or propylene glycol. So even at 100% use level, you would only be getting 1% in your formula.
  • sarahingsarahing Member
    Thanks Perry for the detailed explanation. That really clears things up for me. I've seen a lot of products as of late with extracts as their first ingredient, and I always felt skeptical about it, but wondered if there was something I was missing. I know if I used a plant extract at that high of rate, it would be a dark, sticky product that I doubt would appeal to anyone. My guess is companies are trying to cater to consumers who think that 'natural' ingredients higher in the ingredient list are better.  Thanks again for your insights. 
  • emma1985emma1985 Member
    The Isntree Green Tea Toner does contain a lot of green tea as evidenced by the dark brown color of the product.

    But yes, the term "extract" is pretty meaningless. You could have a 1% extract in 99% water, use 90% of it in a product, and the ingredients list would list the extract in the first place, even though there's  lessthan 1% of the actual extract. 
  • ThotaThota Member
    Koreans companies have different marketing approach.
    • 100% Hyaluronic Acid (completely marketing thing)
    • 60% Green tea extract (again same)
    An extract can be either concentrated powder, diluted in glycerin , PG or 
    may be just water infusion.

    Recently I have seen something called steam distilled green tea water.

    What properties does steam distillation offer ? An infusion that is sterilised?

    So based on marketing approach company can use the extract at the level they want. 

    what about all those studies of green tea on skin? 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @Thota - Yes, companies can use extracts at any level they like. Since using less is less expensive, that is what companies do.  This is primarily because consumers can't tell a difference. 

    What studies have you found impressive?  They seem more hype to me. Here is a review paper of green tea topical treatments. In my reading, the main benefit (if there is any) seems to be protection from UV damage. We already have sunscreens that are superior in doing this. And it's not like you can use a green tea extract in a sunscreen formula and skip the standard sunblock ingredient.

    I look at it this way. If a consumer can't tell a difference whether you use 10% of an extract or 0.01%, then it makes no sense to use more.

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