Bisabolol is a natural ingredient that is used in cosmetics and personal care products as a fragrance that also has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-aging, and skin-lightening properties.
Bisabolol, also referred to as alpha-bisabolol, is a natural monocyclic sesquiterpene alcohol. It is a colorless, viscous oil that is a major component of the essential oil derived from German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Myoporum crassifolium. Bisabolol may also be synthetically produced, however, synthetic bisabolol possesses only about 50% activity compared to the natural form of bisabolol.
Bisabolol has a sweet floral aroma with hints of citrus and spice, which is why it is used in many fragrances and personal care products. Bisabolol also has skin soothing and healing properties. In fact, bisabolol has been used for hundreds of years in cosmetics because of its skin healing properties.
One way that bisabolol helps to heal the skin is through its anti-inflammatory properties. A 2014 study found that topically applied bisabolol inhibits proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α and IL-6) in mice. By inhibiting these cytokines, skin inflammation and irritation is reduced. Therefore, bisabolol is an excellent ingredient for healing creams and ointments, as well as skin care products for sensitive skin. It can help heal skin that is red, irritated, and flaky.
Bisabolol also possesses anti-microbial properties, which can help to prevent and treat skin infections. Several studies have determined that bisabolol has potent fungicidal and bactericidal properties against certain strains of fungi and bacteria.
Bisabolol is also a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. On a molecular level, free radicals damage important cellular components, such as the cell membrane, DNA, and important cellular proteins like collagen. Damaged collagen is a major factor in the appearance of aging skin. Therefore, by using topical antioxidants like bisabolol, the skin will be better protected from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Research has also determined that bisabolol can inhibit melanin synthesis. Melanin is a pigment that gives our skin color. Certain skin conditions as well as excessive exposure to UV radiation can lead to the overproduction of melanin, which is called hyperpigmentation. By inhibiting melanin synthesis, bisabolol can help to reduce the appearance of undesirable dark spots on the skin, leading to a brighter complexion and more even skin tone. This effect was proven in a 2010 study on 28 human subjects. After 8 weeks of treatment of the bisabolol-containing cream, the pigmented skin was significantly lightened for the majority of the subjects who tested the cream.
The final function of bisabolol in cosmetics and personal care products is to enhance the absorption of other ingredients through the skin. This is why bisabolol is often combined with active ingredients that are unable to penetrate the skin effectively on their own.
The safety of bisabolol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. Although bisabolol was well-absorbed following dermal exposure, no effects were observed in a 28-day dermal toxicity study at doses higher than expected from use of this ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. However, the Panel noted that since bisabolol enhances the skin penetration of other ingredients, cosmetic manufacturers should exercise caution when combining bisabolol with ingredients that could be toxic if absorbed by the skin. Overall, the Panel concluded that bisabolol was safe as used in cosmetics and personal care products.
References: Wikipedia, “Bisabolol”, Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2014;15(2):173-81, Int J Cosmet Sci. 2010 Aug;32(4):299-303, Cosmetics Info, “Bisabolol”.