Dr Fred Zülli is Head of the Biochemistry business unit, an independently operating business unit, specialised in R&D into active ingredients for cosmetic applications. It is part of the Mibelle Group, a Swiss full-service customer brand manufacturer which is the third largest European company in proprietary brands and has three business units: Personal Care, Home Care and Nutrition
What have you been working on lately?
We hunt for new sources of cosmetic actives and have found a very interesting source in venoms. Venoms are, of course, dangerous and contain very potent ingredients. We have a collaboration with a UK company called Venomtech, which develops drugs from venoms. They have a collection of spiders, snakes and scorpions to check out what kind of components these venoms have. Some of them have hundreds of components which, in isolated forms, are no longer toxic have beneficial effects. This is already known in the drugs market, where blood-thinning drugs are based on venoms from rattlesnakes. This concept has been applied to a new product called SensAmone P5, which is based on the venom of the sea anemone. In this venom, a protein was discovered some years ago that can block the TRPV1 nerve cell receptor in the skin. TRPV1 gives a sensation of heat, pressure and irritation and is overexpressed in people with hypersensitive skin. Now we have designed a biomimetic peptide incorporating it, which has an even better effect than the protein. This can be applied to hypersensitive skin to reduce that irritation.
Are peptides a particular focus for Mibelle?
No, we don’t really focus on them so much as the result. Our other big launch here is InfraGuard. It is quite a recent finding that infra-red A (IRA) light can penetrate quite deep into the skin and form radicals in the mitochondria of skin cells, just like ultra-violet light. This causes both ageing and a degradation of the skin matrix. We developed InfraGuard based on a radical scavenger that was isolated from tannins in the fruit of the Tara tree, which grows in Latin America. This was combined with sunflower shoot extract – which we had worked with before – and it has an energising effect on the mitochondria. This combination shows very positive effects on volunteers who used it in a sunscreen on holiday and found no loss of firmness or skin density compared to others who used a normal sunscreen, even though it had an SPF of 30
Are these in commercial products yet?
These are both now available in the commercial market and we have seen a lot of interest from potential customers. IR protection is a hot topic in sunscreens in the US. InfraGuard could also be used as a general antioxidant from the ‘blue light’ coming from TV screens, iPads, mobile phones and so on. This is a bit niche right now, but it could be the next big health concern.
And what else is new?
We have a slimming and firming product called Shape Perfection. We have two types of adipocyte fat cells in the skin: brown cells, which can convert fat into heat, and white cells, which can no longer do that and store fat. To slim, you have to convert white fat cells into brown ones, which does not happen naturally. We have seen that a mustard sprout extract can do that. Combined with capsaicin from red chilli, this will induce or activate micro-blood circulation in the skin, cause a heating sensation and activate the metabolism. Shape Perfection can also fight cellulite, which is another hot topic.