Researchers at Grenfell Campus are testing the use of natural antioxidants from local wild berries to improve the shelf life and sensory qualities of locally made natural soaps.
"There is currently a high demand for cosmetic products from natural sources," said Dr. Raymond Thomas, plant biochemist with the Boreal Ecosystem Research Facility. "Consumers demand products made from natural ingredients that are safe to use on their entire family and that retain their sensory qualities and shelf life."
This is a challenge given the nature of the production of soap products in general. Just like any other commercial soap on the market, a soap product made with natural ingredients must include some form of emulsifier, moisturiser, hardener, and preservative, as well as aesthetic qualities such as colour and fragrance. Finding natural alternatives for these ingredients that can compete with their synthetic counterparts can be a challenge, especially when trying to increase shelf life and stabilize sensory qualities of the soap.
Natura Soap Company, a small business based in Corner Brook, NL, specializes in making soap products and other cosmetics using only natural ingredients. One of the major challenges facing the company is finding appropriate botanical sources of natural antioxidants that will both enhance product quality and remain stable and available in the finished products following the harsh soap making process.
"There's no such thing as a true natural preservative," said Mikaela Wilson, owner and founder of Natura Soap Company. "Preservatives are synthetic chemicals, the use of which go against our company goals. In their stead, we use natural antioxidants that can slow the degradation of the oils and other natural ingredients in our products. But suitable sources of natural antioxidants in herbal are understudied and can be hard to find."
To help address this issue, Natura Soap Company was successful in obtaining funding through the Research and Development Corporation (RDC) to conduct a pilot study in collaboration with researchers at the Boreal Ecosystem Research Facility to test whether the incorporation of natural antioxidants from local wild berries into natural soaps could be used to enhance sensory qualities and shelf life of the finished products.
Collaborators on the project include Dr. Raymond Thomas, Dr. Peter Stewart, Dr. Dwayne Keough, and Crystal Rose.
Caption: Dr. Raymond Thomas works in the lab at Grenfell Campus.