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Source of Innovation: The Story of Ingredients

By: Sara Mason
Posted: July 31, 2014, from the August 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Buriti fruit

Buriti fruit

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Specifically, Kilham notes that he is constantly on the lookout for bioactive ingredients or plants that have oils with physical properties that are at least consistent with those required by beauty companies for their development. “There is a constant and seemingly unceasing appetite in the cosmetic industry for oils,” he says. “[It is] even better that, if in addition to having the basic physical qualities, [the oil] also demonstrates some sort of activity above and beyond what is required for a good cream or lotion base.”

In his travels, Kilham observed many fruit trees, with the ungurahui being one of them, and he was once given a drink made from the fruit. It was very rich, really creamy, he says, due to the presence of oils. “The aroma was pleasant, and the question occurred to me, ‘Why are these oils not in the market?’” So, he brought some back to Naturex, which conducted research to find out potential uses. The company discovered ungurahui oil is useful from a functional standpoint in terms of basic physical properties, and ungurahui oil from the fruit pulp also has a nice composition of omega oils and lipid content, as well as anti-inflammatory activity, making it beneficial for sensitive skin.

“It basically came about from my knocking around in the Peruvian Amazon,” Kilham shares, and Naturex allows him to go all over the world and investigate what he wants, because looking around is part of the job. “Sometimes we don’t actually act on it for years,” Kilham says. “But for us, it is essential for now and for the future.”

A companion oil with biologically active functional properties, buriti, is from the same region. Kilham was first exposed to buriti fruit in 1997 when he lived in the Amazon for about a month. “In the markets of Peru and Brazil, you see buriti everywhere; it is very common—but at the time, nobody was doing anything with it,” he says. Now, it’s part of the company’s Nat Oleis botanical range.

Being in the field, Kilham can evaluate certain parameters of sourcing, from the environment to the native people, to ensure the exchange is benefitting both. In terms of informed consent, the indigenous populace want to sell the fruit, because they are plants of commerce anyway, according to Kilham and, by selling the fruit to a supplier, they also get a better price than if they were just selling them at an open market. In addition, women participate greatly in the activities around the harvesting of these plants. “This is good news because there are cultures where women are cut out of the income stream, and that puts them at a tremendous economic and cultural social disadvantage,” Kilham says. There also is no damage to the environment because the fruit is abundant and, if they aren’t picked, they would just fall to the ground and rot.