A large part of the global population is realising the valuable contribution of phytoconstituents in cosmetic formulations. There is greater awareness about the harmful effects of UA-A and UV-B radiations on the individualís skin. Continuous exposure to sunlight leads to the production of free radicals which play havoc with the skin. Loss of elasticity, roughness, wrinkling, development of fine lines and in some acute cases even skin cancer are the resulting effects.
Herbal cosmetic formulations are an excellent medium to soften this blow to the skin and help it to rejuvenate from the harsh effects of the sun. Supplementing the protection offered by these botanicals with sunscreens can prove quite effective.
What exactly are the steps involved before the development of herbal cosmetic formulations? A brief insight can be given as follows:
Selection of herbal extracts
The herbal extracts have to be selected with care and after knowing fully well the properties exhibited by each of them. The properties of herbal extracts known and passed on since ancient times and as reported in traditional books should form the basis of knowledge. There can be a first- time- use for any herbal extract provided sufficient data is existing or has been obtained on that extract and its newer use. Sufficient care should be taken while deciding the form in which the herbal extract has to be used in the cosmetic formulation.
Quantity and Proportion of Herbs to be used
It is essential to base the proportion or quantities of herbal extracts to be used in cosmetic formulations on adequate data. This data should come from known information, published matter, traditional books, or should be data based on scientific and clinical methods such as in-vitro and or in-vivo methods.
Nature of the Phytoconstituents
Solubility of phytoconstituents is a significant factor that determines the development of new formulations. Study has to be made on the solubility of the relevant phytoconstituents in differing solvents as well as their chemical profile. The selection of the formulation will depend on whether the phytoconstituent islipophilic or hydrophilic and accordingly the most suited one has to be chosen.
Purpose of preparation
The approach to be selected for the herbal cosmetics will largely depend on the reasons for preparation and also the inherent properties of the herbal extract. The degree of biocompatibility, biodegradability and toxicity, product size required, whether the herbal extract is hydrophobic or hydrophilic are some of the factors to be considered.
Stability of Herbal Extract
Appropriate study protocols on the shelf-life which guarantee product integrity should be carried out. In order to prove the stability of the product, visible changes of deterioration such as rancidity, fermentation, color changes and other parameters have to be considered.
Once the stability of herbal ingredient is proved in a specific cosmetic formulation base, then this data can be extrapolated to cosmetics having similar base formulations with modifications within the normal ranges from the proved product.
Product samples have to be tested for withstanding the pre-decided challenges of storage conditions. Techniques like finger printing should be used for making the shelf-life data available.