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Review Article

Blackwell Publishing

Novel approaches in herbal cosmetics

Deep Chanchal, M.Pharm1, & Saraf Swarnlata, M.Pharm, PhD2

Shri Rawatpura Sarkar Institute, Kumhari, Chattisgarh, India

Institute of Pharmacy, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, Chattisgarh, India


Nutracosmetics are an emerging class of health and beauty aid products that combine
the benefits of nutracosmetical ingredients with the elegance, skin feel, and delivery systems
of cosmetics. Herbs and spices have been used in maintaining and enhancing human beauty
because herbs have many beneficial properties, such as sunscreen, antiaging, moisturizing,
antioxidant, anticellulite, and antimicrobial effects. As compared with synthetic cosmetic
products, herbal products are mild, biodegradable, and have low toxicity profile. To enhance
these properties, research is being done in the development of newer approaches, which
could improve both the aesthetic appeal and performance of a cosmetic product. In this
respect, the approaches studied and discussed include liposomes, phytosomes, transferosomes,
nanoemulsions, nanoparticles, microemulsions, nanocrystals, and cubosomes.
Keywords: herbal cosmetics, liposomes, nanoemulsions, nanoparticles, phytosomes

The term cosmetics has multidisciplinary applications
and is defined by various legislations in different ways. On
cumulative study, we can say that traditionally, cosmetics
were the substances applied to the human body for cleansing,
beautifying, perfuming, or changing the appearance (except
soap) and must not cause damage to human health. But
the latest trend is to combine clinically proven ingredients
with patented delivery systems and the aesthetics of fine
cosmetics. Cosmeceutical products are those poised on the
gap between cosmetic products that simply cleanse and
beautify and pharmaceuticals that cure and heal.1
Cosmeceuticals are cosmetics formulated with pharmaceutical type of ingredients. The products referred to
as cosmeceuticals include (i) beauty supplements like
dietary supplements (capsules, tinctures); (ii) active cosmetics,
which contain active ingredients; (iii) bioactive cosmetics,
which contain bioactive ingredients; (iv) performance
Correspondence: Dr. Swarnlata Saraf, Institute of Pharmacy,
Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, Chattisgarh, India 492001.
E-mail: Swarnlatasaraf2007@rediffmail.com
Accepted for publication February 9, 2008

2008 Blackwell Publishing Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 7, 89 95

cosmetics; (v) phytocosmetics, which are made with natural

ingredients from plants; (vi) functional cosmetics, which
perform a function beyond the cosmetic; (vii) dermaceuticals;
(viii) skinceuticals; (ix) cosmetic drugs; and (x) therapeutic
Herbs have been used to maintain and enhance
human beauty because they have a lot of functional
properties. Herbal products are well researched and
tested for mildness, efficacy, biodegradability, low toxicity,
cleansing ability, emulsification, moisturization, skin
appearance, feel, fragrance, and lubrication.

Applications of herbs in cosmetic products

Botanical extracts are multifunctional in nature because
they possess various properties like photoprotection,
antiaging, moisturizing, antioxidant, astringent, antiirritant, and antimicrobial activity, which are correlated
with each other. Exposure of skin to sunlight and other
atmospheric conditions causes production of reactive
oxygen species, which can react with DNA, proteins, and
fatty acids, causing oxidative damage and impairment of
antioxidant system. Such injuries damage regulation
pathways of skin and lead to photoaging and skin cancer


Novel approaches in herbal cosmetics D Chanchal & S Swarnlata

Table 1 Applications of herbal extracts with actions.


Herbal ingredients


Antioxidant and

Vitamin C and E, tea

polyphenols, curcumin,
silymarin, resveratrol, ginkgo,
genistein, pomegranate fruit
Pycnogenol, centella, boswelia,
oleanolic extract,

Counteracts the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species and

other free radicals
Reduces erythema, sunburn cells, and immunosuppression
caused by sunlight and DNA adduct formation


Stimulates normal skin growth and cellular growth and repair

Repairs the loss in tone and elasticity of the skin
Reverses the chemical changes that occur in collagen with aging
and normalizes the immune system
Causes excretion of cytokinins, which induces edema,
vasodilation, and frank inflammation
Makes stratum corneum softer
Fills spaces between the layers and reduces fine lines
Cools, refreshes, and tightens the pores of skin
Controls oily skin and lowers the pH of the face after cleansing
Inhibits the release of histamine and relieves irritation




Retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids,

fruit acids, soy extract, black
kohosh, aloe vera, calendula


Arnica, cucumber

Anti-irritant and

Corriander seed oil, bisabolol




Table 2 Chemical classification of phytoconstituents.13

Category of phytoconstituents

Examples of phytoconstituents


Volatile oils

Campsterol, stigmasterol, betasitosterol, soyasterols

Jojoba oil, rose oil, citronella oil, thyme oil, lavender oil
Gums, sugar esters
Glycyrrhizin, aloe vera (anthraquinone glycosides)
Castor oil
Alpha tocopherol
Ascorbic acid


development. The effects of aging include wrinkles,

roughness, appearance of fine lines, lack of elasticity, and
de- or hyperpigmentation marks. Herbal extracts act on
these areas and produce healing, softening, rejuvenating,
and sunscreen effects. Details of actions and examples
of herbal constituents are presented in Table 1, and
phytoconstituents are classified chemically according to
their nature in Table 2.

Novel approaches
Commonly used cosmetics have low affinity to the skin
and have little percutaneous absorption. The conventional


cosmetics show little efficiency as cosmeceuticals. Novel

technology has shown great potential for improving the
effectiveness and efficiency of delivery of nutraceuticals
and bioactive compounds. Recent advances in
nanotechnology show their promise as potential
cosmetics for poorly soluble, poorly absorbed, and labile
herbal extracts and phytochemicals. An innovative
approach can improve both the aesthetics and
performance of a cosmetic product. The application of
novel approaches can also improve its efficacy regarding
continuous action of herbs on the human body.
Nowadays, so many products are available in the market
with its improved efficacy. In this respect, the newer

2008 Blackwell Publishing Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 7, 89 95

Novel approaches in herbal cosmetics D Chanchal & S Swarnlata

Table 3 Comparison of different novel approaches of cosmetics.

Emulsions, microemulsions,
and multiple emulsions
1. Microemulsions are
thermodynamically stable and hence
shelf life is no problem.15
2. But microemulsions may cause
skin irritation by disrupting the
liquid crystalline structure of
stratum corneum.15
3. Skin irritation is eliminated by
using liposomes.15
4. They are waterproof, nonsticky
and easily spreadable.16
5. The highest protection of vitamin
C was when it was dissolved in the
inner aqueous phase of
water-in-oil-in-water emulsion.17

Liposomes and transferosomes


1. Liposomes can encapsulate water and

lipid soluble active components.18
2. Liposomes help to fix active ingredients
to the outermost skin layers as desired
for cosmetic products.18
3. Washing out may be delayed which
provides water-resistant character.19
4. Liposomes are unable to pass through
the narrow (less than 30 nm) intercellular
passages in the outer skin layers.19
5. Transferosomes can transport through
very narrower pathways between most
cells in the skin.20,21
6. Transferosomes can transport small and
big hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules
across the skin layers.19

1. They provide improved stability of chemically unstable

active ingredients, controlled release of active ingredients,
pigment effect and improved skin hydration and
protection through film formation on the skin.22
2. As compared with liposomes, the payload of
lipophilic substances by nanoparticles is much higher.22
3. Amount of molecular sunscreen could be decreased
by 50% while maintaining the protection level as
compared to a conventional emulsion.22
4. Due to their good physical stability and compatibility
with other ingredients nanoparticles can be added to
existing cosmetic formulations without any problem.22
5. Compared to liposomes, cubosomes have much
higher bilayer area-to-particle volume ratios. They
have ability to incorporate lipophilic, amphiphilic, and
water-soluble cosmetic molecules.23

approaches developed are discussed here (Fig. 1). The

formulation and selection of approach to be used for
herbal cosmetics will depend upon the purpose of
preparation (i.e., for topical or systemic effect; inherent
properties of drug or herb extract such as hydrophilic
or hydrophobic; surface characteristics of a system like
permeability and charges; degree of biodegradability,
biocompatibility, toxicity; release profile, size of the
product required; and antigenicity of the final product).14
Table 3 will be helpful for the selection of approach for
herbal cosmetics.

Microemulsions have the ability to encapsulate nonpolar

molecules such as lipids, flavorants, antimicrobials,
antioxidants, and vitamins.24 An oil-in-water microemulsion formulated using lecithin and an alkyl glucoside as mild, nonirritant surfactants was proposed as a
cosmetic vehicle for arbutin and kojic acid, naturally
occurring whitening agents. The stability of these
compounds are higher in microemulsions than in aqueous
solutions.25 Microemulsion of lipids with surfactant
blends and a polar phase for octylmethoxycinnamate
as sunscreen agents and soya lecithin produce waterproof
effect.16 In one study, several oil-in-water microemulsions, oil-in-water and water-in-oil emulsions, and a
multiple cosmetic emulsion had been prepared using
nonionic, nonethoxylated, skin-compatible emulsifiers.
In such system, the property of cosmetic material can be
maintained (e.g., ascorbic acid, an antioxidant material).17

2008 Blackwell Publishing Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 7, 89 95

Multiple emulsions

Multiple emulsions are complex polydispersed systems

where both oil-in-water and water-in-oil emulsions exist
simultaneously, which are stabilized by lipophilic and
hydrophilic surfactants, respectively. Among waterin-oil-in-water and oil-in-water-in-oil types of multiple
emulsions, the former have wider areas of application
and, hence, are studied in great detail.26 Multiple
emulsions have been formulated as cosmetics, such as
skin moisturizer. Prolonged release of chemicals has been
obtained by means of multiple structures.27 These
systems have some advantages, such as the protection of
the entrapped substances and the incorporation of several
actives in the different compartments.28 These features
could be successfully adopted for cosmetic formulations
taking different types of herbal extracts.

Liposomes encapsulate water and lipid-soluble

pharmacologically and cosmetically active components.18
Amphiphilic and lipophilic substances (e.g., oil-soluble
UV filters) can be incorporated into the lipid bilayer.
Empty liposomes are also used in the cosmetics as they
increase the skin humidity. They can be uni- or
multilamellar and vary in size between 20 nm and a few
hundred micrometers. Because of the charge of the polar
lipids used in the preparation of liposomes, charged but
water-soluble ionic species can be trapped inside the
liposomes. Phospholipids and liposomes help the skin to


Novel approaches in herbal cosmetics D Chanchal & S Swarnlata

Figure 1 Schematic views of newer cosmetic formulations: (a) microemulsion, (b) liposome, (c) nanoemulsion, and (d) biopolymeric
nanoparticle (with shell core structure).26

retain moisture, restore the barrier functions of the

skin, and deliver active ingredients to the skin with a
continuous release over a prolonged time, thus
maintaining skin appearance.18 In vivo comparison of
liposome formulations made up of egg phospholipids and
soya phospholipids was done for cosmetic applications. It
was observed that liposomes with egg phospholipids
showed a 1.5-fold increase in skin water content
(P < 0.05).29 Liposomes favor the disposition of
encapsulated active ingredients in the epidermis and
dermis, while the permeation rate is decreased. This
helps to fix active ingredients to the outermost skin
layers as desired for cosmetic products. Simultaneously,
the washing out may be delayed so that, for example,
sun care products containing liposome-encapsulated UV
filters are water resistant.19

extracts like Ginkgo biloba, grape seed, hawthorn, milk

thistle, green tea, and ginseng as they have better effects
than liposomes. Ginkgo biloba terpenes phytosome was
shown to be effective in soothing individual contact reactions
to other substances contained in topical formulations.32
The soothing activity of silymarin has been shown to be
increased by more than six times in silymarin phytosome
in experimental models. The improvement in the activity
of the phytosome form, compared with the free active
principles, is due to a higher affinity of the complex for
skin phospholipids.33 Phosphatidylcholine is used in the
phytosome process; besides acting as a carrier, it also
nourishes the skin, because it is an essential part of cell
membrane.34 It shows better stability profile because
chemical bonds are formed between phosphatidylcholine
molecules and phytoconstituent.35



Phytosomes are standardized extracts or purified

fractions complexed with phospholipids for a better
bioavailability and enhanced activities. They are
lipophilic in nature and improve topical absorption of
complex molecules, which show improved specific
activity in the skin functions such as hydration, collagen
structure, enzyme balance, etc. Topical absorption of
biologically active phytoconstituents provides local
application at the site of requirement. The phytosome
process intensifies herbal compounds by improving
absorption, increasing bioavailability and enhancing
delivery to the tissues.30 By combining the emulsifying
action of the phospholipid, with the standardized
botanical extracts, the phytosome form provides
dramatically enhanced bioavailability and delivers faster
and improved absorption through the skin.31 So many
phytosomes have been prepared for many popular herbal

Transfersomes are applied in a nonoccluded method to

the skin, which permeate through the stratum corneum
lipid lamellar regions as a result of the hydration or
osmotic force in the skin. It can be applied as drug
carriers for a range of small molecules, peptides, proteins,
and nutraceuticals.36 Transfersomes can penetrate the
stratum corneum and supply the nutrients locally to
maintain its functions, resulting in maintenance of
skin.20 Both small and large hydrophobic and hydrophilic
molecules are delivered across the stratum after
conjugation with transferosomes.19


Nanodelivery systems

Nanoparticles are very stable and have a high affinity to
the stratum corneum, hence producing high bioavailability

2008 Blackwell Publishing Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 7, 89 95

Novel approaches in herbal cosmetics D Chanchal & S Swarnlata

of the encapsulated material to the skin. The application

of a gel containing nanoparticles loaded with vitamin A
and E derivatives enhances the skin humidity compared
with the controls. The increase of skin humidity is due to
the high water-binding capacity of the phospholipids,
which form the nanoparticles. It is evident that the
nanoparticles penetrate into the top layers of the stratum
corneum. There, they fuse with skin lipids and the active
agents are released. Ultrafine particles form an adhesive
film leading to an occlusive effect on the skin, which
promotes penetration of active constituents. Active
ingredients like vitamins,21 sunscreens, fragrances,
and essential oils have been widely used as nanoparticles.
They provide improved stability of chemically unstable
active ingredients, controlled release of active ingredients, pigment effect, and improved skin hydration and
protection through film formation on the skin. The preparations have low viscosity, are nongreasy, and have
high bioavailability. As compared with liposomes, the
payload of lipophilic substances by nanoparticles is much
higher.37 Effects on skin hydration and viscoelasticity
are important criteria during the development of novel
cosmetic formulations. Solid lipid nanoparticles
represent a promising compound for hydrating new
cosmetic formulations.22 Due to their good physical
stability and compatibility with other ingredients,
nanoparticles can be added to existing cosmetic
formulations without any problem.
Alpha lipoic acid, a novel antiaging substance, is
chemically labile and degradation produces unpleasant
odor. Therefore, the active was encapsulated in solid lipid
nanoparticle to overcome this problem.38 Similarly, it
was observed that the amount of molecular sunscreen
could be decreased by 50% while maintaining the protection level, compared with a conventional emulsion.39
Nanoemulsions are emulsions having small droplet
size (20 300 nm). They could be used for lipophilic
as well as hydrophilic substances with enhanced
bioavailability. Nanoemulsions containing droplets above
100 nm look white, whereas dispersions around 70
to 100 nm appear opaque and below that become
transparent. Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone,
is a unique cosmetic substance that protects the skin from
early aging, wrinkle formation, and loss of cell activity; it
is highly lipophilic, and its topical bioavailability is
very low. Encapsulation of ubiquinone in nanoemulsion
enhances its concentration in the dermis as
compared with conventional formulations.40 Similarly,
bioavailability of herbal cosmetic extracts could also be

2008 Blackwell Publishing Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 7, 89 95

Multiple nanoemulsions
They are in the nano range and allow the application of
several incompatible substances at the same time.
Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 form a dark complex when
mixed together; its double nanoemulsion can be
successfully prepared for the cosmetic purpose.41
Nanocrystal technology is an attrition process wherein
large micron size crystals are media milled in a water-based
stabilizer solution. The process generates physically
stable dispersions consisting of nanometer-sized drug
crystals.23 Such systems can be utilized for development
of cosmetic formulation of flavonoids, sunscreens,
nutrient materials, bioactives, etc.

Cubosomes are bicontinuous cubic phases, consisting

of two separate, continuous, but nonintersecting hydrophilic
regions divided by a lipid layer that is contorted into a
periodic minimal surface with zero average curvature.
The continuous and periodic structure results in a very
high viscosity of the bulk cubic phase. However, cubosomes
prepared in dispersion maintain a nanometer structure
identical to that of the bulk cubic phase but yield a much
lower, water-like viscosity. Compared with liposomes,
cubosomes have much higher bilayer area-to-particle
volume ratios. The cubic phase is strongly bioadhesive;
thus, it may find applications in flavor release. They have
ability to incorporate lipophilic, amphiphilic, and watersoluble cosmetic molecules. This system may be used as a
challenging system for cosmetic formulations.42
Transdermal delivery system

Cosmetics can be administered through many routes by a

variety of approaches. However, maintaining constant
in vivo concentrations for an extended period of time may
be problematic. Peaks and troughs are often observed
when the cosmetic actives are administered through
the skin. Furthermore, high concentrations may cause
irritation, whereas low active concentration may be
subameliorative. To alleviate this kind of problem,
manufacturers have developed cosmetic patches, an idea
that was adopted from the pharmaceutical industry.43

Microsponges are unique for the controlled release of

topical agents and consist of macroporous beads, typically
10 to 25 microns in diameter, loaded with active agent.


Novel approaches in herbal cosmetics D Chanchal & S Swarnlata

Table 4 Marketed products (www.lipochemicals.com).

Product name


Active ingredients

Pearlescent beads

Antiaging, anti-irritant

2% Citrus extracts
Silybin extracts
Sunflower, vitamin E and A, agar white
Vitamin E
Mineral oil, aloe vera, gelatin, red
Ginseng, alpha bisabolol vitamin A and E

When applied to the skin, they release active ingredient on a

time mode and also in response to other stimuli (rubbing,
temperature, pH, etc.). They are used currently in cosmetics,
over-the-counter skin care, sunscreens, and prescription
products. By delivering the active gradually to the skin, peroxide
formulations, for example, have excellent efficacy with minimal
irritation. Macrosponges can provide increased efficacy for
topically active agents with enhanced safety, extended product
stability, and improved aesthetic properties in an efficient
and novel form (www.lipochemicals.com).

Marketed products
Some of the approaches discussed have been marketed,
and are listed in Table 4 (www.lipochemicals.com).

After a detailed review of various approaches used for
cosmetics, it can be said that numerous studies have been
done by using synthetic chemicals as cosmetic product.
For that, various approaches have also been successfully
researched, which could have better skin hydration, skin
elasticity, and skin entrapment. But very few studies have
been done with herbal extracts, which have been proven
for their cosmetic value. Thus, further research should be
done for the development of novel delivery systems for
herbal extracts that have cosmetic value.

One of the authors wishes to thank All India Council for
Technical Education (AICTE) (Research Promotion Scheme)
and University Grants Commission (UGC) (Major project),
New Delhi for financial support for this work.

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