CHOLLEY Techniques: Phytocosmetics Part 2

Phytocosmetics are cosmetic products whose principal active ingredients are derived from plants as opposed to being produced synthetically.  Phytocosmetics owe a great debt to popular and empirical medicine that over thousands of years through the crude technique of trial and error has identified the beneficial properties of innumerable plants.  Today equipped with our knowledge of chemistry and biology we can understand the scientific foundation of these properties.  However, there are still many natural mysteries that are beyond our current state of knowledge.

Chemistry of Phytocosmetics

To understand and appreciate phytocosmetics a basic knowledge of chemistry is indispensable.  The following is the second part of our overview of the basic concepts for better comprehension of the active ingredients used in CHOLLEY products. In the previous post we explored carbohydrates, amino acids and proteins and lipids. In the following post we will talk about Essential oils, Steroids, Phospholipids and Waxes.

Essential oils

From ancient times man has isolated a large number of vegetal organic compounds either by heating or through the distillation process. These compounds that are generally referred to as essences or essential oils are used extensively in medicine and cosmetics ever since the earliest recorded history.

These oils are volatile and plants generally owe their characteristic odor to them. Effects of essential oils are quite varied. Some act on the central nervous system (essence of anice), others help secretions of digestive fluids (essence of licorice.) When placed on mucus membranes, wounds, or even healthy skin, they can stimulate blood flow and activation of white blood cells. This along with antibacterial property of some essential oils produces a disinfecting action. The blood flow stimulation is also used in treatment of reumatism. Some essential oils such as that of juniper stimulate production of urine. They are used to eliminate accumulation of water in body (dropsy.)

The most important constituent of essential oils are terpenes and terpenoids (which unlike terpenes contain oxygen.) Examples include: limonene (extracted from lemons and oranges), geraniol (rose oil), and pinene (turpentine oil.) A special group of terpenes are carotenes which through enzymic reactions in liver produce vitamin A.


Phospholipids are a large group of lipids that contain phosphorus. They have detergent properties due to their solubility in both water and oils.
One of the most important phospholipids is Phosphatidylcholine or so called Lecithin which is widely used in cosmetic and food industries. It is an emulsifying agent that prevents water and fat from separating into two layers. Lecithin is one of the principal components of cell membranes.


Waxes are esters of higher fatty acids and monohydroxyl alcohols. They are solid materials that make up part of the protective coating of the leaves of plants, fur of the animals, and feathers of birds.
Beeswax and spermaceti are two of the most important waxs for the cosmetic industry. They contain compounds such as Cetyl palmitate which is used in many products such as soaps and creams an emollient agent.


Another important group of lipids are steroids which play a major role in regulating biologic processes. They provoke an intense physiologic effect when they are administered to living organisms. Steroids are considered as hormones and among them the most important are:

  • Cholesterols
  • Estrogens (female sex hormone)
  • Androgens (male sex hormones)
  • Progestines (pregnancy hormones)
  • Vitamin D

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