‘Microbiome balancing’: Unilever files patent on topical prebiotic formula

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever's formula can be used in body lotions, face washes, deodorants and toothpastes, among other products (Getty Images)
Unilever's formula can be used in body lotions, face washes, deodorants and toothpastes, among other products (Getty Images)

Related tags: microbiome, skin microbiome, prebiotic, Unilever, Patent

Personal care major Unilever has developed a microbiome balancing formula using a prebiotic binder for lotions, body washes, deodorants and toothpastes, among other products.

Writing in its international patent ​published last week, Unilever said it had developed a non-therapeutic topical composition comprising saccharide isomerate for use as a prebiotic when applied on a surface of the human body. The composition, it said, could be used on the skin, scalp, axilla or oral cavity as a powder, flake, lotion, gel or mousse in products like deodorant; hand sanitiser; body lotion, body spray; toothpaste; shampoo; or face wash, among others.

Prebiotic function for microbiome balancing

Saccharide isomerate – a water-binding agent and emollient – closely mimicked the form of carbohydrate complexes and was already widely used in a range of cosmetic formulations.

Unilever said its findings showed saccharide isomerate could be used to balance the skin microbiome because it functioned as a prebiotic in topical compositions.

“It has now been found that a topical composition comprising saccharide isomerate when applied on a surface of the human body, provides microbiome balancing. It has also been found that the microbiome balancing so obtained is by way of saccharide isomerate functioning as a prebiotic, i.e. it preferentially promotes growth of good bugs over bad bugs,” ​Unilever wrote in the patent.

Skin microbiome: Good versus bad bacteria management

Microbiome balancing could be achieved through “various mechanisms”​, Unilever said, and so this finding was important and something that had, according to its knowledge, “not been known heretofore”.

Whilst microbiome balancing could be achieved by reducing harmful or ‘bad’ bacteria on the surface of the skin through antimicrobial topical compositions, many of these formulations failed to work in a selective manner, Unilever said – eliminating good bacteria simultaneously, which was “not desired”.

Use of prebiotics, therefore, was an alternative that promoted the growth of good bacteria, it said. “Good bugs are said to provide benefit to their host through, for example, competing with bad bugs for availability of nutrients and through secretion of metabolites.”

“…Without wishing to be bound by theory, these metabolites are believed to contribute to the natural-defense system of the human body,”​ Unilever said – another important aspect in its patent.

Wash-off and leave-on microbiome balancing

Unilever said the topical composition preferably contained 0.1 – 3 wt% of saccharide isomerate, blended with an additional prebiotic from polyols, monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, polysaccharides or mixtures thereof at an ideal ratio of 1:1 to saccharide isomerate.

It could be formulated as either a wash-off or leave-on composition, ideally the latter, and could also incorporate other ingredients like skin lightening agents, antioxidants, colourants, fragrance and skin soothing agents, among others.

WIPO International Patent No. WO/2020/052916
Published on: March 19, 2020. Filed on: August 19, 2019.
Title: “A topical composition comprising saccharide isomerate for microbiome balancing”
Inventor: Unilever – S. Appavoo et al.

Related topics: Formulation & Science, Skin Care

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