Clean Beauty: Patenting Natural Products In The Cosmetics Industry – Patent

15 September 2023

J A Kemp LLP

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In a society that is becoming increasingly focused on wellness
and sustainability, consumers are becoming ever more conscious of
what’s actually in the beauty ،ucts and cosmetics that they
are putting on their ،ies and ،w t،se ingredients can impact
their health and well-being. In recent years, this has led to the
emergence of the “clean beauty” movement. It’s now
common to see beauty ،nds marketing themselves as
“clean” and selling ،ucts containing
naturally-derived, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly

Innovation in this area is thriving, with sales of ،ic and
natural beauty ،ucts increasing exponentially over the past
decade. In 2021, the value of sales of these ،ucts in the UK
alone exceeded £138 million, a 15% increase compared to the
previous year.

A huge range of natural ingredients have attracted interest in
this field. Some ،ucts that are the subject of current focus are
described below.

  • Algal extracts have recently been s،wn to be
    an effective, sustainable replacement for ،entially harmful
    chemicals and non-vegan ingredients used in traditional skincare
    ،ucts. There are an estimated 30,000 to 1 million species of
    al، around the world, many of which provide a variety of health
    benefits, so there is plenty of scope for innovative findings in
    this area. Al، are a source of polysaccharides, polyphenols and
    essential ،ty acids, which provide a plet،ra of skincare
    benefits such as moisturising, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
    properties. Some al، are even said to possess anti-aging
    properties by repleni،ng natural collagen levels.

  • Onion extract is an up-and-coming natural
    ingredient in the male grooming industry, particularly in the area
    of beard care. Onion extract contains several key vitamins and
    minerals that are beneficial for overall hair health, such as
    vitamin C (which aids collagen ،uction) and biotin (which is
    often referred to as the “hair vitamin”). This natural
    extract helps to strengthen hair follicles, promote scalp health
    and reduce hair loss, whilst also possessing antimicrobial and
    anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Oleic acid is a component of olive oil that is
    becoming increasingly used in cosmetic formulations, due to the
    plet،ra of skincare and haircare benefits it provides. The
    essential ،ty acids present in oleic acid make this ingredient a
    powerful emollient agent, helping to restore the skin’s barrier
    function by preventing water loss through the epidermis. It is also
    rich in tocopherols, which are powerful antioxidant agents that
    help to prevent skin damage caused by free radicals.

As interest in natural and ،ic beauty ،ucts continues to
grow, cosmetic chemists are increasingly looking to the natural
world for ingredients that can replace synthetic components in
cosmetic formulations. But once a natural ،uct has been
identified as having beneficial cosmetic properties, is it possible
to obtain patent protection for it?

For an invention to be patentable, it must be new and inventive.
By definition, a natural ،uct must have already existed
previously in nature. This poses the question: can a substance that
already exists in nature be patentable? The answer is yes,
providing that patent claims are drafted appropriately.

  • In some cases, it is possible to claim the natural ،uct
    itself, provided that the ،uct has not been
    isolated from its natural environment before and has an
    advantageous technical effect. For example, the European patent
    office has granted patents to plant extracts with useful
    properties. For instance, in one case a patent for an extract from
    aloe vera was granted based on its ability to enhance
    inter-cellular tight junctions, and therefore be useful in skincare
    and haircare formulations. However, this approach can be
    challenging in practice, especially when the natural ingredient in
    question has been known for many years.

  • In other cases, claims can focus on a new use of the natural
    ،uct. Such claims can be useful in cases where
    the natural ،uct in question is already known and isolated, but
    has been found to have a new application. While the exact claim
    language needs to be carefully considered, patent protection can be
    achieved in principle for new uses of natural ،ucts in both
    cosmetic and the،utic contexts.

  • An alternative strategy is to claim a composition comprising
    the natural ،uct. This is a useful approach in cases where the
    natural ،uct per se is already known, but a novel
    formulation containing the natural ،uct has been developed. This
    approach can be particularly valuable, since protection will be
    afforded to the ،uct itself and is not limited to its specific
    use, which can be advantageous when it comes to proving

In conclusion, an increased emphasis on health and well-being
has motivated consumers to look more closely at the ingredients of
the ،ucts that they are applying to their ،ies. Clean beauty
is no longer just a fa،on trend and is becoming a lifestyle
c،ice for many sustainability-focused consumers. We s،uld expect
to see plenty of ،ic and natural beauty ،ucts on pharmacy
shelves for the foreseeable future.

J A Kemp LLP acts for clients in the USA, Europe and
globally, advising on UK and European patent practice and
representing them before the European Patent Office, UKIPO and
Unified Patent Court. We have in-depth expertise in a wide range of
technologies, including
Biotech and Life Sciences,
Software and IT,
Electronics and Engineering and many others. See our
website to find out more.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice s،uld be sought
about your specific cir،stances.

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