Zeolites show potential as an anti-heavy metal cosmetics ingredient

By Ravyn Cullor

- Last updated on GMT

Heavy metals can be found in water, air and soil pollutions, in some jewelry and cosmetics, or in naturally occurring deposits. © Getty Images -  Abstract Aerial Art
Heavy metals can be found in water, air and soil pollutions, in some jewelry and cosmetics, or in naturally occurring deposits. © Getty Images - Abstract Aerial Art

Related tags protective beauty Pollution Skin care heavy metals Skin health

Zeolites, a nanoporous material being tested in various other fields at this time, may absorb heavy metals in a creamy cosmetic and offer potential to formulators seeking to remove such environmental compounds, suggests preliminary data from Italy and Switzerland.

Writing in Cosmetics​, Pesando et al. said zeolites are already being tested as a means to absorb toxins and improve outcomes of various medical treatments, and their research was to show the viability of zeolites as a cosmetic ingredient to prevent heavy metal penetration through the skin.

“Toxic metals are defined by many as ‘silent killers’ because they replace the minerals necessary for life in the body, altering biological functions and structures,”​ Pesando et al said. “Zeolites are currently arousing a lot of interest for their absorption properties, able to trap toxins in the crystalline channels.”

What are zeolites

According to Pesando et al, zeolites are a nanoporous material with a crystalline aluminosilicates structure that can be derived either naturally or synthetically. In less scientific terms, zeolites can act as “molecular sieves,”  moderating what molecules could get to the surface of the skin.

This unusual shape has led zeolites to appear in research in pharmaceuticals, the biomedical field, agriculture, zootechnical fields and in the treatment of skin ailments or lesions like skin ulcers, surgical incisions and psoriasis.  

“Zeolite has excellent properties of absorption, radiation protection, decontamination, detoxification in the human body, but also has the advantage of introducing, by ion exchange, minerals essential for life,”​ Pesando et al said. 

Dangers of heavy metal exposure

Heavy metals can be encountered in a number of types of pollution, including air, water and soil pollution, and sometimes appear in jewelry and cosmetics, Pesando et al said. 

According to an article in Frontiers of Pharmacology,​ exposure to heavy metals mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium and arsenic can affect many organs and systems, possibly causing gastrointestinal and kidney dysfunction, nervous system disorders, skin lesions, vascular damage, immune system dysfunction, birth defects and cancer.

Pesando et al said skin is the main area of the body in which heavy metals accumulate.

Promising results, more research needed

Pesando et al’s research showed a creamy skin care formulation containing 3% zeolite powder had “significant performance” in absorbing both nickel and cadmium, although they said they are not yet certain what chemical mechanisms are in play in increasing absorption.

Additionally, Pesando et al said it may be possible to tailor zeolites for targeted application, possibly giving them broader and more specific use in protective skin care.

“In fact, zeolite appears to be promising for wound healing, blood coagulating, antibacterial properties and skin regeneration,”​ Pesando et al said. “Furthermore, possibilities for designing zeolitic structures by the computational simulation methods could enhance and amplify the zeolitic performance and applications.”

The research team said further research needs to be done into the potential benefits of zeolites to human health and the mixture of zeolites to improve heavy metal absorption, allowing for clinical tailoring of the ingredient. 

Source: Cosmetics
2022, 9​(1), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics9010026
"Exploring the Adsorption Properties of Zeolite in a New Skin Care Formulation"

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