How starfish collagen could soon be a go-to ingredient for anti-aging cosmetics

·3-min read
Starfish could soon be our top beauty allies when it comes to fighting wrinkles and fine lines.

Starfish could become our top beauty allies when it comes to tackling wrinkles and fine lines. Researchers have been seriously studying the subject, and have discovered that the collagen from one particular species could prove an effective -- and ecological -- alternative to the collagen peptides extracted from pigs, which are more susceptible to biosafety issues.

Used in cosmetics for several decades, collagen is a protein of natural origin which can help fight premature skin aging, improve skin elasticity, and help skin regenerate and heal. More concretely, it can contribute to erasing -- or at least limiting -- the fine lines and wrinkles that multiply over the years. It's a go-to ingredient in the beauty industry, which, like many sectors, is trying to rethink its practices in a bid to boost sustainability.

To this end, researchers from Korea University -- in collaboration with the startup Starstech Co., Ltd. -- have been studying a specific species of starfish called Asterina pectinifera . This species is notably found in Korea, Eastern Russia, Japan and China and is considered to be a critical marine hazard because it destroys marine aquacultures. Particularly rich in collagen, this starfish has the potential to offer an ecological alternative to collagen originating from pork. Still, scientists will need to find the right formulation in order to make starfish collagen a must-have ingredient in anti-aging cosmetics.

Superior anti-aging efficacy

In their study, published in the Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry , the researchers set out to develop a method that could significantly enhance the absorption rate of collagen peptides originating from starfish. This was achieved using elastic nanoliposomes, in which the collagen peptides were encapsulated.

"Our results indicate that low-molecular weight collagen peptides extracted from Asterias pectinifera have higher encapsulation efficiency than the collagen peptides extracted from pork and fish, which have traditionally been considered as a conventional source of collagen. Moreover, we demonstrate that the elastic nanoliposome containing the collagen peptide of Asterias pectinifera can reduce MMP-1 expression caused by ultraviolet radiation-induced photoaging," explain the researchers, who consider that the combination of Asterias pectinifera -derived low-molecular-weight collagen peptides and elastic nanoliposomes may offer a "promising formulation" for making future anti-aging cosmetics.

According to the study authors, this discovery could also have environmental benefits, even if the collagen in question comes from a marine source. "Because collagen peptides commercially utilized in various industries have been mainly extracted from terrestrial animals such as cattle and pigs, they are susceptible to biosafety issues induced by animal diseases such as swine flu .... Although starfish provide ecological benefits as a primary scavenger of the carcasses of various animals on the seabed and other organisms, they can cause significant economic losses to the marine industry by destroying aquacultures," the scientists explain.

"As predators of marine ecosystems in particular, they aggressively expand their population and invade the surrounding marine ecosystem. Therefore, our elastic nanoliposomes loaded with starfish collagen peptides may not only be a new type of anti-aging cosmetic agent, but could also convert an invasive marine species into an eco-friendly biomaterial," the researchers conclude.