This project aimed to help Cornish businesses and growers to research and evidence the properties of seaweeds and native coastal plants which could be used in skin-care treatments.
Demand among international brands for natural, organic cosmetics and personal care is high, but a lack of research means Cornwall’s rich potential is largely untapped. The county’s advantages – high-value crops and plants, early cropping – have been eroded by advances in growing technology. If native coastal plants can be successfully incorporated into new skincare treatments and agri-pharmaceuticals, Cornish growers could see increases in the value of their crops and in their incomes.
Key to this project was developing ground-breaking technology to design a ‘human skin equivalent platform.’ This replicates skin with huge degrees of reality, yielding insights into tissue and cellular ‘events,’ and into the ageing process, which allows the effectiveness of different materials to be tested.
This expertise was not available in the UK, so we collaborated with a US company to develop the skin printer and stretching device. We used this to test products from a number of Cornish SMEs to develop and screen their products for anti-ageing properties that could be used for UV protection and curing conditions such as dermatitis.
Our research partners at the University of Plymouth (UoP) also worked with the Cornish Seaweed Company to analyse their products’ biological functions on human skin cells and found some are extremely efficient in UV protection. The effects of seaweed extracts on wound healing were also evaluated. Research concluded that some specific Cornish seaweeds do contain compounds as commercially sensitive as they are profitable. UoP also collaborated with B Skincare to test the effect of beeswax on human skin and its effects on UV exposure, wound healing and inflammation.
We intend to help a number of SMEs to capitalise on demand for natural, extracts-based organic cosmetics and personal care. Currently, there is still work to do to establish exactly how these ingredients work, and an urgent need to understand more about – and prove – the biological function of natural, extracts-based products on human skin. Such proof will be essential if Cornish SMEs and growers are to take on the international giants.
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