Bisabolol: Spotlight on Active Botanicals in Skincare
by Heather Smith on Mar 24, 2022
Bisabolol is a natural skincare ingredient derived from plants. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making it ideal for skincare products. In addition, bisabolol can be used to soothe skin irritation and redness and treat acne and other skin conditions.
We love bisabolol because it is an oil-soluble, active ingredient! This will be our first in a series of articles about active botanicals, or what we like to call performance botanicals that work.
Chemical Structure and Extraction
Bisabolol, also called alpha-bisabolol, is a terpene that is part of a group of naturally occurring compounds derived from plants. Terpenes are aromatic chemicals that determine the smell of many plants and herbs.
Bisabolol is extracted from German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria recutita) plants or the bark of the Candeia (Vanillosmopsis erythropappa) tree of Brazil.
The extraction process is similar to those used when distilling essential oils. The bisabolol terpene is responsible for the floral aroma of the essential oil. Other volatile compounds are found in chamomile essential oil as well. Once the raw oil is extracted, it is refined to isolate the desired bisabolol and remove the other components.
Bisabolol can also be synthesized in the lab. This can be done by using molecular engineering. The process involves using organisms like yeast or bacteria with human enzymes to create the nature-identical molecule, usually through fermentation. This has exciting implications for sustainability because you don't need to cut down trees.
There is also a chemical method to manufacture bisabolol synthetically. However, the carbon source tends to be petroleum-based, and the resultant bisabolol is of lower purity levels.
What Makes Bisabolol an Active Botanical?
Sesquiterpenes make up a large class of terpenes known for their biological activity. The bisabolol molecule has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties. Much of the research was performed on animals, so can't be directly assumed as true for humans.
With that said, all the following effects have been shown, which makes alpha bisabolol in skin care an important ingredient.
- Improved healing
- Increasing prostaglandins (chemicals secreted by the body) that soothe pain
- Inhibiting bacterial growth
- Inhibiting oxidative stress and damage from free radicals
- Enhancing skin penetration of other molecules
- Interfering with melanin production
There has also been research done to show effects related to anti-anxiety and improved gastrointestinal effects, likely why drinking chamomile tea is so popular. It also might be the reason for the calming effects of CBD THC because different cannabis strains are very high in terpenes.
Bisabolol Benefits For Skin
With the impressive list of biological activities described above, you can expect to see alpha bisabolol in natural skin care products, particularly those for skin that is prone to irritation.
A chemical that is naturally occuring, skin soothing, anti microbial, and works to reduce inflammation, improve healing, and enhance penetration - what more could you ask for?
The types of skin benefits you could see are:
- Reduced redness from dryness or irritation
- Soothing and calming of skin affected by conditions like eczema and rosacea
- Improvement in visible acne, scar appearance, or the healing process
- Improvements in fine lines caused by oxidative stress/aging
- Improvement in the look of hyperpigmentation
- Moisturization and relief from dryness, itch, flaking
- Damaged skin barrier repair
Is Bisabolol Safe? Can You Use it During Pregnancy?
Bisabolol is a safe and natural skincare ingredient. It is an anti-irritant, meaning it is most likely to soothe and improve skin that is already irritated. In fact, it's often recommended for patients with conditions like eczema.
Bisabolol side effects and allergies are rare. However, discontinue use and consult with your doctor if you experience any adverse reactions. If you think you might be reacting to bisabolol, check the ingredient list. German chamomile essential oil can contain over 50% (up to 90%). However, as with all essential oils, it will include other phytochemicals, adding scent to your product.
There is no reason to worry about using bisabolol-containing products on your skin if pregnant or breastfeeding. This is true for almost all skincare ingredients.
Is Bisabolol Production Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly?
There are sustainability concerns with mass harvesting crops for steam distillation and large quantity production of essential oils in general. For example, one estimate published that the Brazilian Candeia tree bark produces about 7 kg of oil per tonne of 12-year-old wood. This is worrisome due to the alarming growth of consumerism today and the potential for deforestation.
From a skincare manufacturer standpoint, we can choose between bisabolol that is traditionally extracted and refined, bio-engineered/nature-identical, or chemically produced (but requires petroleum-based feedstock). At the moment, bareLUXE uses a natural product that is sustainably sourced from the bark of the Candeia tree. However, we are exploring the bio-engineered options to determine if they are better overall, while still being vegan suitable.
Bisabolol is an important active botanical to look for if you're shopping for a specialized skin barrier serum or face oil.
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