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Oats in Cosmeceutical Formulations


by Cark Maunsell

The Egyptians in 2000 B.C. were the first to recognize the value of oats in treating skin disorders, and it has been in use for this purpose ever since. For many years, the appetite for synthetics has caused oats and other natural ingredients to be somewhat overlooked; but as today’s cosmetic market moves toward natural and organic molecules, oats have never been more important.

More recently, natural and organic molecules have been experiencing double-digit growth, tallying global sales of US$8.4 billion in 2010. Driven not only by issues such as safety, sustainability and traceability, natural and organic molecules are expanding due to growing evidence supporting the efficacy of these actives; or, more likely, an amalgam of a variants of the molecule that offer enhanced efficacy to the target cosmetic delivery system.

Oats offer the cosmetic formulator far superior benefits to other cereals. Oat protein is an excellent film former, benefiting the skin as a protector and moisturizer. Oat beta-glucan offers an alternative to hyaluronic acid (HA) as an effective long-term moisturizer, and the specific antioxidants—avenanthramides—demonstrate very high anti-irritant activity and a redness-reduction capability.

Arguably one of the best-known oat materials, colloidal oatmeal, is formally specified and defined by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention. It provides anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, antioxidant and protective properties that make the oatmeal a versatile cleanser, moisturizer and skin buffer that is used to soothe and protect damaged skin. In 2003, colloidal oatmeal was recognized as a skin protectant by FDA under the title “Skin protectant drug products for over-the-counter human use."

Its unique activity is due to the whole oat containing a complex composition of beta-glucans (moisturizers and immunostimulants), avenanthramides (anti-irritants), phenolics (UV absorbers) and saponins (cleansing agents). Colloidal oatmeal also demonstrates excellent skin-buffering properties due to the high-protein/-starch complexes.

When formulating with oats, a number of challenges need to be overcome: It’s necessary to improve the colloidal properties, enhance the overall efficacy and activity of the ingredient, allow it to be certified as natural, and reduce the microbiological load to acceptable limits.

Companies such as Oat Cosmetics—via careful manipulation of the extrusion and milling parameters—have been able improve the overall viscosity against shear rate when compared to traditional colloidal oatmeal, mainly due to the enhanced activity of the beta-glucan. They improved the colloidal nature, reporting Brix values—the approximate concentration of dissolved solids—of 1.2 percent against 0.4 percent, as well as oil absorption improvements from 60 percent to 78 percent.

Oil absorption is extremely important because the ingredient has both enhanced capacity for water uptake and the ability to absorb larger quantities of oil, making it an excellent base for creams and lotions, giving a silky feel. In powder products, the oil-binding capability of colloidal oatmeal can be advantageous in conjunction with its addition skin care benefits.

In conclusion, applications using colloidal oatmeal are endless in many areas of cosmetic and cosmeceutical formulations, and are only bounded by the imagination of the formulator.

Cark Maunsell is managing director of Oat Services Ltd., a U.K.-based oat supplier for the food industry, including its natural cosmetic ingredient brand, Oat Cosmetics. Oat Cosmetics both manufactures and markets ingredients from the Canadian biotech company, Ceapro Inc., and its Finnish technology partner, Polar Glucan Oy, focusing on R&D of new natural ingredients, particularly, but not exclusively from oats. In 2000, Maunsell was a focus leader of the Objective 5b project (OATEC), investigating the feasibility of the construction of an advanced cereal fractionation plant to be sited in the United Kingdom. He has also collaborated in the U.K. DEFRA Link project, Antioxidant-Based Products from Oats (ABIPO).

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