Currently, the reduction or revalorization of industrial by-products is becoming a relevant social challenge. Kraft lignin is generated as an undervalued by-product from the pulp and paper industry and represents the largest source of lignin, producing around 100 million tons of kraft lignin worldwide. This aromatic polymer has revealed enormous potential as a renewable alternative to produce a wide range of chemicals and biomaterials in the last two decades, and its valorization into advanced products in an efficient way is the key to establish biorefineries in the near future. BIO4CARE project aims to develop an innovative and safe bio-sourced ingredient from kraft lignin that can replace chemicals in skin and suncare products, thus increasing the sustainability of skincare formulations in the cosmetic industry.
The enormous variability and chemical heterogeneity of lignin polymer provide challenges to the understanding of fundamental science about this complex polymer and its related mechanisms, which are is still unknown. In addition, the prediction of structure-properties-performance relationships for specific applications is a real bottleneck in lignin engineering and its valorization. BIO4CARE project will employ powerful analytical tools to optimize, understand and control the nanostructure-properties relationships of lignin.
The intrinsic functionalities of lignin polymer make it especially attractive to be exploited as a natural alternative for skin and sun care applications. The originality of the BIO4CARE project lies in the development of an efficient lignin-based multi-functional ingredient able to work as a surfactant, UV filter, antioxidant and preservative to address the excessive use of synthetic ingredients in skincare products.
As a result of the regular use of cosmetics and personal care products, many chemical compounds are continuously released into the environment, posing a serious threat to ecosystems and human health. The widespread presence of surfactants, preservatives, and chemical UV filters in aquatic ecosystems (i.e., seawater, rivers, lakes, groundwater and drinking water) derives from recreational activities and the inefficiency of wastewater treatment plants to eliminate them. These chemicals tend to bioaccumulate in marine sediments and bioconcentrate in living organisms (i.e., fish, seafood), becoming part of our food chain.
Additionally, humans are exposed daily to these emerging contaminants through oral intake and percutaneous absorption. Their bioaccumulation in human fluids, such as urine, semen, breast milk and the bloodstream, has been recently reported. Although the real magnitude and potential effects of the input of these molecules and their metabolites into the human organism are still uncertain and a subject of research. Latest results demonstrated that many of these chemicals exhibit hormonal activity, negatively influencing the reproduction systems of organisms and causing adverse health effects. Consequently, the current social awareness and demand for cosmetic products based on natural ingredients are forcing the industry and scientific community into searching for safe and sustainable solutions.
PROJECT TITLE: Green synthesis of sustainable BIO-sourced multi-functional ingredient for skin CARE applications (BIO4CARE)
PROJECT LEADER: Oihana Gordobil, PhD
PROJECT SUPERVISOR: Anna Sandak, PhD
PERIOD: 01.05.2021 – 01.05.2023
FINANCING: EU, Horizon 2020–H2020-MSCA-IF-2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (Standard European Fellowships)
PROJECT COORDINATOR: InnoRenew CoE (Slovenia)