Lecithin is part of the complex lipids (i.e. fat) found in biological tissues. More precisely, they are part of the phospholipid family (i.e. lipids containing phosphorus).

Lecithin is a naturally occuring mixture of the diglycerides of stearic, palmitic and oleic acids, linked to the choline ester of phosphoric acid whose form varies from a waxy mass to a thick, pourable liquid. Hydrogenated Lecithin is the product of controlled hydrogenation (addition of hydrogen) of Lecithin. Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin are used in the formulation of a large number of cosmetics and personal care products.

Lecithin and Hydrogenated Lecithin enhance the appearance of dry or damaged skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness. These ingredients also help to form emulsions by reducing the surface tension of the substances to be emulsified.

Phospholipids can be used in cosmetic products in several ways.
As a technical ingredient, phospholipids can be used as an emulsifier, a liposome former, a solubilizer and a wetting agent. On top of that, phospholipids are cosmetic actives.
As cosmetic actives, natural phospholipids isolated from soy beans provide the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and linolenic acid. These phospholipids are renowned for their ability to maintain the skin in healthy condition and to ameliorate skin disorders like acne vulgaris and neurodermitis, or slow down skin aging. Furthermore they play a role to liquefy the stratum corneum and as penetration enhancer (soybean phosphatidylcholine) or act as compounds which strengthen the skin barrier function (hydrogenated soybean phosphatidylcholine).The availability of multifunctional natural phospholipids in various grades and modifications with controlled quality provide the formulator a valuable tool box for designing optimal cosmetic products.

By A.B.

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