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Marine ingredients in cosmetics: sustainability implications

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

The cosmetics industry is increasingly turning to the sea and oceans in the search for new ingredients. Although many novel raw materials are emerging, the development is raising many questions about sustainability. Can the cosmetics industry learn from the food industry and prevent damage to marine eco-systems when sourcing? (Picture: Great Barrier Reef, Australia)

Cosmetic and ingredient firms are developing new materials from coastal plants, seaweeds, algae, and sea minerals. These materials are especially favoured by natural cosmetic companies seeking new sources of innovation. The Greek company Apivita is using sea fennel in sun care products, whilst Italy-based Lacote has a comprehensive range of anti-cellulite skin care products formulated using Guam seaweed. Sea algae, rich in vitamins and minerals, are becoming a common source of anti-ageing actives. Other brands are using sea minerals in their formulations, looking to emulate the success of Dead Sea mineral-based products.

High demand for marine ingredients is increasing the number of raw material suppliers specialising in such products. The Norwegian firm Aqua Bio Technology has developed a novel range of ingredients derived from salmon hatcheries, whilst USA-based Heliae is using new strains of algae for cosmetic applications. Other companies like Lipotec and BiotechMarine are using biotechnology to harvest actives from marine sources.

The popularity of marine ingredients is leading to concerns that large-scale sourcing, or non-sustainable production methods, could disrupt marine eco-systems already under strain. Non-sustainable sourcing of seafood has led to an estimated loss of 90 % of predatory fish from the world’s oceans. Apart from taking certain species to near extinction, overfishing has disrupted many ecosystems. Climate change has led to the acidification of oceans, sea levels and temperatures have risen, whilst the number of invasive species is growing because of human activity and environmental pollution. Apart from taking its raw materials, the cosmetics industry is impacting marine ecosystems by waste. The dumping of cosmetic packaging as waste into the sea has adversely affected fish, mammals, birds, as well as plant species. A recent study by Wageningen University showed that such packaging was linked to marine life damage in the North Sea.

With the cosmetics industry having an insatiable appetite for novel ingredients, Organic Monitor expects marine sourcing to increase in the coming years. The challenge is to combine innovation with sustainability. In this respect, natural cosmetic firms could lead the way since many have sustainable sourcing embedded in their corporate DNA. As will be shown at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, there are signs this development is already occurring. The German company OceanBasis has set up a sustainable aquaculture farm in the Baltic Sea to produce algae for its natural cosmetics. The certified farm is providing a sustainable source of active ingredients for its Oceanwell range (picture). OceanBasis has shown how natural cosmetic companies can embrace innovation whilst turning a darker shade of green.

Sustainable sourcing of marine ingredients will be featured in the European edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit. It will highlight the sustainability implications of marine sourcing and highlight best-practices. OceanBasis, Apivita, Helia, and Lipotec will be participating, as well as other organisations involved in the sourcing and use of marine ingredients.

The aim of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit is to encourage sustainability in the beauty industry by bringing together key stake-holders and debate major sustainability issues in a high-level forum. The European edition will take place at the Crowne Plaza Paris-République hotel, Paris, on 21 - 23 November 2012. More information is available from



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