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Cotton thistle shows promise as skin repair cosmeceutical.

IT IS NO LONGER enough for skin care products to make claims about their role in preventing the signs of aging--they are now under pressure to prove it. For ingredient suppliers, active skin ingredients with proven efficacy are already among the stars of the personal care ingredients market.

According to Euromonitor International, sales of active skin ingredients rose 5% a year from 2004 to 2009 and are projected to grow 3% annually from 2009-2014. That's nearly double the growth rate forecast for all personal care ingredients, so it is no surprise to sec ingredient suppliers dedicating hefty R&D budgets to exploring new active ingredients and their delivery.

Take, for example, cotton thistle, which has the unexpected property of epidermal repair and skin hydration. (1)

Who could possibly have thought that something as spiky and prickly as a thistle could repair burned skin damaged by overexposure to the sun? A new active ingredient for skin care extracted from Onopordum acanthium, better known as cotton thistle, has provided exactly this benefit. This botanical name comes from ancient Greek words meaning"donkey food ." Cotton thistle is a wild plant growing in central France. It is well known in folklore and within the medical world for its stimulating and cardio-toning effects and has been used to treat gastric ulcers. (2) Furthermore, additional research has now demonstrated its repairing efficacy on the skin's barrier function.


Barrier Function: This term relates to health and function of the stratum corneum. A healthy barrier function prevents water loss and protects against irritants, insults and bacterial infections. Promoting barrier repair refers to the repair of both surface and follicular stratum corneum, which tends to be different in acne and rosacea skin conditions. Factors that promote healthy barrier include intercellular lipids, natural moisturizing factor (NMF), and number of layers of stratum corneum. Promoting barrier repair improves dryness, roughness, redness, irritation, acne, rosacea, facial flushing, fine lines and uneven skin tone.

Sun-Damaged Skin: The natural aging process and excessive sun exposure have a negative effect on the skin's barrier function. Cotton thistle extract was topically applied to both artificially damaged and normal human skin ex-plant. Results showed for both cases an increase of keratinocyte differentiation through increased expression of loricrine, involucrine and LEKT1. In addition, LEKT1 expression promoted cellular cohesion, improving the barrier protection properties of the skin.

Treated Skin: When skin has undergone certain cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser, it is vital that a new epidermis is rapidly regenerated. Topical application of cotton thistle was shown to stimulate cutaneous repair. A decrease in transepidermal water loss was demonstrated in-vivo using stripped skin. This observation clearly indicates its role in epidermal restoration.


Everyone wants to repair sun and environmental damage. However, this can be difficult for women with acne, skin allergies and rosacea, because they have different surface and follicular stratum corneum. Because many products use plant extracts as performance ingredients, based on their anecdotal benefits, their efficacy is questionable. On the other hand, as a new botanical active, cotton thistle may deliver efficacy for barrier-compromised skin care products since this active has successfully promoted keratinocyte differentiation, cellular cohesion, epidermal repair and skin hydration.


(1.) Repair of sun-damaged skin by Cotton Thistle Active, Dr. Paula Lennon, Gattefosse SAS 36 Chemin De Genas, BP 603, F-69804 Saint Priest Cedex France.

(2.) Cysarz D. et al (2002). Effects of an Anthroposophical Remedy on Cardiorespiratory Regulation. Alter. Ther. Health Med, 8(6), 78-83.


Navin M. Geria



Navin M. Geria is vice president of research and development for SpaDermaceuticals, Martinsville, NJ. He has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Pfizer, Warner-Lambert, Schick, Bristol-Myers and, most recently, LeDerma Consumer Products Laboratories. He has earned over 15 U.S. patents, has been published in cosmetic trade magazines and has been both a speaker and moderator at cosmetic industry events.

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Title Annotation:Anti-Aging & Cosmeceutical Corner
Author:Geria, Navin M.
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Feb 1, 2011
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