One of the most frustrating things about wanting to scent skincare products naturally with essential oils is that you can’t get overly sweet or fruity scents from essential oils, outside of your gourmand scents like vanilla or tonka bean, and your citrus scents like grapefruit or sweet orange. Essential oils are also limited because certain flowers, like lilacs, are too delicate to withstand steam distillation. So what’s a formulator to do? Choose a “natural fragrance blend?” Ideally not, since most natural fragrance blends contain many synthetic fragrance constituents–many of which are common allergens. CO2 extracts offer a solution.
CO2 extracts are gaining popularity in skincare formulations due to their unique benefits and therapeutic properties. They are produced through a process called supercritical CO2 extraction, which uses carbon dioxide under high pressure to extract a broader range of beneficial compounds from plant material compared to traditional essential oils. There are quite a few benefits associated with using CO2 extracts in skincare, but aromatically, CO2 extracts produce an aroma that is extremely close to the actual raw plant itself, and can be used with more types of plants, such as delicate flowers and fruits! Lilac CO2 extract smells exactly like lilac flowers smell. Apple smells exactly like a freshly sliced apple smells.
Different Types of CO2 Extracts:
CO2 extracts are a type of concentrated extract that is created by extracting the oil via Supercritical Co2 extraction. This process creates a much more potent, broad-spectrum oil than traditional methods such as cold-pressing or steam distillation. There are several different types of CO2 extracts used in skincare, each with its own unique characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks.
Subcritical CO2 extraction is the most gentle extraction method and produces the purest extract form. It uses low temperatures and low pressure to extract only the most volatile components of the plant material. The resulting extract is highly aromatic and contains a high concentration of beneficial compounds such as antioxidants and other anti-aging properties. However, this method is also more expensive than other extraction forms due to its slow process and lower yields. Subcritical CO2 extracts need to be used with the same level of diligence and dilution as steam distilled essential oils, due to their high concentration of volatile compounds.
Supercritical Select CO2 extraction is similar to subcritical but uses slightly higher temperatures and pressures to produce an even more concentrated extract with higher levels of active compounds. This method has higher yields than subcritical but still retains many beneficial compounds from the plant material. Most supercritical CO2 extracts must be diluted with a carrier oil or total CO2 extract for safe use, since they contain high concentrations of volatile compounds.
Total CO2 extraction uses both subcritical and supercritical processes to create a full spectrum extract with all components from the plant material present in their natural ratios. Total extracts contain small amounts of small molecule aromatic/volatile compounds (usually not enough to produce a potent aroma), larger molecule lipids and fatty acids, and just about everything in between. These function more like a carrier oil or cold-pressed butter, and since they contain such low concentrations of volatile compounds, many can be safely used undiluted.
Oleoresin CO2 extraction combines both mechanical pressing and solvent extraction techniques to create a highly concentrated extract with all components from the plant material present in their natural ratios. This type of extract has higher levels of active compounds than either mechanical pressing or solvent extraction alone, making it ideal for use in skincare formulations that require maximum potency without any solvent residues or impurities. Oleoresins are often aromatic, and rich with antioxidants.
Benefits of formulating skincare with CO2 Extracts (instead of essential oils or cold-pressed carrier oils)
- Higher concentration of active compounds: CO2 extracts contain a more comprehensive range of volatile and non-volatile compounds, providing a more potent and complex therapeutic effect.
- Increased stability and shelf life: CO2 extracts are less prone to oxidation than essential oils and cold-pressed carrier oils, resulting in increased stability and longer shelf life.
- Purity and safety: The supercritical CO2 extraction process does not require the use of solvents, resulting in a purer and safer extract for skincare formulations.
- Enhanced efficacy: Due to their higher concentration of active compounds, and a broader spectrum of nutrients extracted from the plant, CO2 extracts can offer enhanced efficacy in skincare formulations, potentially improving the product’s overall performance.
- Unique textures and consistencies: CO2 extracts can provide unique textures and consistencies to skincare products, allowing for more innovative and diverse formulations.
- Sustainability: CO2 extraction is considered an environmentally friendly process since it uses carbon dioxide as a solvent, which can be recycled and reused.
Safety and formulation guidelines
- Dilution: Like essential oils, subcritical liquid, and supercritical select CO2 extracts should be diluted before incorporating them into skincare formulations. The appropriate dilution rate depends on the specific extract and the product’s intended use. Always consult the supplier’s guidelines or work with a skincare formulator or aromatherapist who has been trained specifically on CO2 extracts (I can help you with that, by the way!) to determine the correct dilution for your formulation.
- Patch test: As with any new ingredient, it’s essential to perform a patch test on a small area of skin to check for potential allergic reactions or sensitivities before using a CO2 extract in your formulation.
- Choose high-quality extracts: Ensure you source your CO2 extracts from reputable suppliers to guarantee their purity and quality. Check to see if the supplier provides certificates of analyses and/or GC/MS reports for each batch listed.
Different types of CO2 extracts and benefits
- Rosehip CO2 Extract: Rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, rosehip CO2 extract helps promote skin regeneration, reduce the appearance of scars and wrinkles, and improve overall skin tone and texture.
- Chamomile CO2 Extract: Known for its soothing and calming properties, chamomile CO2 extract is excellent for sensitive and irritated skin, helping to reduce redness, inflammation, and discomfort.
- Seabuckthorn CO2 Extract: Packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, seabuckthorn CO2 extract promotes skin healing, hydration, and rejuvenation while protecting against environmental damage.
- Calendula CO2 Extract: With its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and wound-healing properties, calendula CO2 extract is ideal for addressing skin irritations, burns, and minor wounds.
- Pomegranate Seed CO2 Extract: Offering powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, pomegranate seed CO2 extract can help protect and repair the skin, promoting a more youthful and radiant complexion.
Ultimately, skincare formulations often improve with the addition of CO2 extracts.
Not only do they offer various therapeutic benefits, but their aromatic profile is truly unique. With CO2 extracts, you can capture the tiny nuances and beautiful fragrances of delicate flowers, juicy fruits, and other plants that regular essential oils cannot capture. So if you want to add some “oomph” to your natural skincare line without sacrificing safety and using high-quality ingredients, why not try CO2 extracts? With this blog post as a starting point, you’ll be well on your way to discovering some exciting uses for CO2 extracts in skincare formulations! Don’t just take my word for it—try it out for yourself!
You can learn how to incorporate these special ingredients into your own facial creams, lotions, and serums with my Create Your Skincare Pro Essentials Course. So don’t delay—enroll today and bring some “realness” to your product line!