Agriculture Byproducts as Sustainable Makeup Ingredients

Kathrin Schilling

Published: 28 September 2019

Industry responds to consumer demand for sustainable and healthy ingredients

The cosmetics marketplace moves incredibly fast. One of the biggest challenges that make up formulators face is keeping up with current trends in cosmetic additives while complying with regulatory and advertising standards by substantiating their claims with robust tests.

With the rise in beauty products featuring natural and plant-based ingredients, fascination with bio-ingredients is sweeping across multiple consumer segments. Natural "waste" from agricultural products, such as avocado stones are now being incorporated by beauty brands.

The amount of residue from agricultural processes has risen substantially over the years. In this trend report, we look at some of the most innovative applications of up-cycled agricultural by-products in cosmetics. Food by-products remain rich in sugars, minerals, organic acids, dietary fibre and bioactive compounds even after extraction from the main edible part.

Fruit stones and nut shells which used to be classified as waste are a valid alternative to the regular plant-derived extracts which R&D experts use more often in cosmetic formulations. This, alongside the ever-increasing interest in finding natural ingredients as an alternative to synthetic substances, means that food by-products are an economically attractive source for the production of high-value compounds for cosmetic applications.

exfoliator ingrednets

The olive and olive oil industry is a perfect example of this, as it produces a range of disposable by-products which scientific research has shown to be rich in valuable compounds with various potential applications that would reduce the environmental impact and the related treatment costs.

Sustainability also plays a huge role in making them an ideal choice. If the waste products originate in organic farming, they are an even more valuable source of safe extracts for cosmetics since they lack any residual pesticide or potentially toxic chemicals.

Exfoliators were just the start

Fruit stone powders have been historically linked with wash-off scrubs and exfoliants with aqueous or bases. Olive stone granules, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular natural ingredients included in products like face scrubs, soaps and gels for skin cleaning. This is because fruit stone granules are natural abrasives.

Olive stones, like other olive by-products, are a potential source of bioactive compounds such as oleuropein, fatty-acids and minerals. Olive stones obtained from olive oil production are crushed and retrieved as small particles to be ground further into powders.

Material scientists in cosmetic R&D have adopted these finely-ground olive stones a key ingredient in a variety of wash-off cosmetics such as scrubs, soaps, body lotions, creams and shampoos — particularly due to their high monounsaturated fatty acid and phenolic compound content.

Apart from the use in wash-off skincare products, independent studies have validated the benefits of fine olive pit (olive stone) powders in decorative cosmetics. When milled or ground with specialised machines into small micron sizes, the powder has a creamy texture that integrates well into formulations for leave-on cosmetic products. In other words, it acts as an innovative texturizer in face powders, foundations and eyeshadows (highlighters). This makes olive stone flour an effective and bio-sustainable natural ingredient for brands seeking to be at the forefront of current megatrends.

Sustainable beauty products

Fruit stone powders are a very effective alternative for synthetic functional materials such as xanthan gum and polymethyl-methacrylate (PMMA). They are gentle even on sensitive skin and contain - in some instances - antioxidants. Besides texturizing agents, fruit stone powders can be used as sensory modifiers, binders, fillers and natural colourants in decorative cosmetic formulations. Benefits of using olive stone powder in make-up formulations.

The growing consumer market for cosmetics with natural ingredients can help brand owners differentiate their product with marketing that focuses on the health-conscious side of the beauty segment. In combination with greatly reduced environmental impacts, as such ingredients are sourced from agricultural byproducts, distinct concepts are made easy. Branding is also facilitated for those seeking to create product lines with a trendy Mediterranean identity.

Olive stone powders are also powerful ingredients for anti-aging cosmetics due to their active principles to combat the different symptoms of ageing. Even though a growing amount of scientific literature deals with clinical anti-ageing studies, there is still a need for further investigation to demonstrate the efficacy of these ingredients in topical formulations.

Case study: makeup products developed with olive stone powder as a major ingredient

While working with wash-off products that have become a proven market, we pursued the aim of validating olive stone powder as the main ingredient for leave-on cosmetics. To develop further on this concept, we conducted an impartial study with a leading French laboratory to illustrate the feasibility and to identify the major benefits in non-scrub applications.

The outcome of the test series was very positive. After researching basic parameters, the formulators developed 5 products: 2 face powders with up to 60% olive stone powder 2 eyeshadows (highlighters) with 20% and 25% olive stone powder 1 makeup foundation containing 15% olive stone powder. In the course of this development, the following product properties were tested and validated:

  • Matting capabilities
  • Pigment binding properties, i.e. aptitude for colour cosmetics
  • Texturizing/sensory modifying effects
  • Dispersing behaviour
  • Stabilizing / thickening behaviour

Adding fruit stone powders to your cosmetic products does not have to be limited to wash-off scrubs and gels. As scientific tests have demonstrated, solid leave-on cosmetics are an equally relevant field of applications. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your project idea.


  • Barbulova et al, “New Trends in Cosmetics: By-Products of Plant Origin and Their Potential Use as Cosmetic Active Ingredients,” 2015
  • Cicerale, et al, R.S. Chemistry and health of olive oil phenolics.
  • Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 2009, 49, 218–236. Rodrigues, et al, "Olive by-products challenge application in the cosmetic industry."