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Ingredients & formulation

‘Back to the roots’ global trend leads to high demand for Brazilian ingredients in beauty products

Without any prior authorization required for research on species of the local flora, the production chain has more space to innovate and invest in the sustainable supply of raw materials.

Cosmetics and personal care products developed using traditional knowledge, skills and practices that are passed on from generation to generation are gaining strength worldwide with the combination of technological innovation and ancient wisdom.

In China, local and international brands are returning to the origins and using raw materials known to Chinese medicine in the manufacturing of beauty products. Amway played a major role in setting this trend, with the opening of a botanical research center in Wuxi, China, in 2015 to integrate scientific knowledge with the historic use of traditional Asian plants. In the US there is also a growing appreciation for natural ingredients and beauty rituals that resemble the simplicity of the past.

Keyvan Macedo, Natura's Sustainability Manager

Keyvan Macedo, Natura’s Sustainability Manager

In Brazil, traditional knowledge is directly related to the nation’s multicultural and multiracial heritage. Ingredients extracted from the rich Brazilian flora and traditionally used by the indigenous and riverside populations are a source of inspiration and research for the development of cosmetics and fragrances.

Until 2015, research and technological development based on genetic heritage was regulated by a provisional measure and required prior permission from Brazil’s Genetic Heritage Management Council (CGEN). With the enactment of law 13.123, known as the Biodiversity Law, there is no longer need to obtain prior authorization for research. The only requirement is for the company to register information on the type of research involved in the use of local species. However, according to the Ministry of the Environment’s Biodiversity Department, “If the research involves traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity, then the use of this knowledge must be previously negotiated with its holder. Their prior consent comes to enable the user to carry out the required research activities.

Such obligations refer to the access and benefit-sharing law, which states that the commercial exploitation of traditional knowledge remains subject to existing legislation. The Biodiversity Department claims that the Biodiversity Law aims to reduce bureaucracy and cut costs that precede the release of the product so as to strengthen the innovation chain. “Species threatened with extinction, however, require special monitoring to ensure their conservation,” according to the government body.

It is crucial to recognize that sectors that use biodiversity in research, including the beauty industry, can be an important source of income generation for local populations. In many cases, income from predatory activities such as illegal logging is replaced with earnings from the sustainable supply of raw materials,” said a note released by the Ministry of the Environment. “When these communities are integrated into production chains that foster the responsible use of natural resources including fruits, barks and other elements that economically justify the maintenance of these species, the local populations are empowered to help protect and conserve the forests and the national biodiversity.

Created in 2000, Natura’s Ekos line was a game changer in using Brazilian flora in the development of cosmetics. Some of the bio-active ingredients used by the brand include Brazil nut, passion fruit, pitanga, açaí, ucuuba, murumuru, andiroba, cumaru and buriti.

According to Natura’s Sustainability Manager, Keyvan Macedo, the company understands that the sustainable use of biodiversity is closely linked to the riverside communities. “Regardless of whether the traditional knowledge is incorporated into research or not, the local populations are deeply involved in the conservation of the flora and this leads to a win-win situation,” says Macedo.

He uses the Amazonian ucuuba seed as an example, of which Natura extracts a highly emollient butter with powerful moisturizing properties. “The community that supplies this raw material does so through an association of cooperatives and receives their share of the benefits for collective use.

Macedo says the use of traditional knowledge is not only viable, but also encourages sustainability. “It promotes the nation’s biodiversity and also the cultural identity of a group of people who, having lived within the forest for generations, have learned the value of nature.

Amanda Veloso

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