Application of Plant Cell Technology in the Cosmetic Industry
20 Apr 2021

Application of Plant Cell Technology in the Cosmetic Industry

Anjali Singh, MS

As a content and community manager, I leverage my expertise in plant biotechnology, passion for tissue culture, and writing skills to create compelling articles, simplifying intricate scientific concepts, and address your inquiries. As a dedicated science communicator, I strive to spark curiosity and foster a love for science in my audience.

Anjali Singh, MS
Table of Contents

Cosmetic plants in the market

The market demands for herbal beauty or plant-based beauty products have been exponentially increased by the consumers. Consumers want innovative, safe, effective, natural, and sustainable products. Over the past 10 years, the sky-high demands of consumers led to the introduction of many (approximately more than 100) innovative beauty products in the market.

Plant cell technology has been an effective tool to fulfill these requirements of people. Current plant technology is capable of producing or synthesizing a huge amount of phytochemicals that applies to the food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries. It’s an effective tool for the sustainable supply of plant-based ingredients with reduced energy, carbon, and water footprints. Plant cell technology is an excellent tool for the mass production of endangered species and to extract useful compounds from these plants.

This article introduces you to the steps of manufacturing Phyto ingredients, the best bioreactors for mass production of active compounds, and examples of plant-based beauty products in the market.


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What are the steps to produce active ingredients for cosmetic products?

Plant tissue culture is the technology used to cultivate plant cells, tissue, and organs in the aseptic environment to produce secondary compounds or biologically active ingredients required to manufacture beauty products. The secondary compounds are produced in less amount in the cells but can either be engineered to produce more such compounds, or plants can be grown in mass to extract these compounds on an industrial scale.

How do compounds are added to the cosmetic formulation?

The bioactive compounds are extracted from the plant cells and added to the cosmetic formulations. The procedure involves different extraction procedures and solvents. Cell suspension cultures have been a major source to obtain or derive plant cell extracts from dedifferentiated cells.

The various steps in the extraction process involve:

      • Selection of suitable plant material and its sterilization

    Callus induction can be performed using any plant cells. However, to obtain a large amount of specific bioactive compounds, it is essential to select a specific organ having better quality and quantity compared to other organs. The other factors that impact the quality of bioactive compounds are the plant species, explant stage, and location.

    • Callus induction and subcultivation on commercially available Murashige and Skoog plant tissue culture medium

      The concentration and the amount of growth factor influence the callus growth, morphology, and secondary metabolite synthesis. Growth factors, like the combination of auxin and cytokinin, should be considered to establish a stable callus culture that grows and produces well.
        • The initiation, homogenization, maintenance, and mass propagation of suspension culture in shake flasks, and bioreactors.

          After callus is obtained, the suspension culture is generated. Calli is transferred from the petri dish to culture flasks containing a liquid culture medium. The continuous shaking flask creates a homogenous mixture of cells. Keep notice of modifying the culture medium for proper growth and maintenance of cells.
            • Cell banking of suspension product lines.

              In this step, the suspension cells are cryopreserved which reduces the risk of somaclonal variation. For regrowth, cells should be property thawed after freezing.

              Figure: Step by Step procedure of producing bioactive compounds using suspension culture.


              Examples of plants and their active compounds being used in cosmetic industries

              • A liposome-encapsulated extract of cultured apple stem cells is used as a perfect ingredient in anti-aging products because of its potential to reduce wrinkles in the crow’s feet area of the face.
              • Tomato cultured stem cells have shown significant potential in protecting skin from heavy metal toxicity.
              • Bioactive compounds extracted from Catharanthus roseus are currently used for the production of both regular consumer or professional care cosmetics.

              Given below is a list of bioactive compounds, their source, and their application in cosmetic industries.

     Plant Name and extract Application
              1. Rubus idaeus hydrosoluble extract Anti-inflammatory activity in skin cells
              2. Nicotiana sylvestris cell wall preparation Collagen synthesis and protection in skin cells
              3. Coffea bengalensis hydrosoluble extract Epidermal hydration and collagen synthesis in skin cells
              4. Dolichos biflorus hydrosoluble extract Anti-inflammatory activity and UV damage protection
              5. Malus domesticus whole lysate Reversion of aging signs

              Commonly used bioreactors for the process

              A suitable bioreactor volume is essential for the large-scale growth and maintenance of cells, ensuring a continuous supply. Various bioreactors are designed to grow differentiated and undifferentiated cell types. For cosmetic products, cells should be grown in a small volume liquid agitated medium. The most commonly used bioreactors include stirred bioreactors, bubble column bioreactors, airlift bioreactors, and wave-mixed bioreactors with one-dimensional (1-D) motion. The bubble column and airlift bioreactors are used to mass propagate shear-sensitive plant cell cultures like hairy roots and somatic embryo cultures. For small-scale culturing, bioreactors like temporary immersion bioreactors, mist bioreactors, rotating drum bioreactors, and bioreactors with orbitally shaken bags are suitable to serve the purpose.


              Research on the use of plant stem cells as skincare is still in the beginning stage. Also, how plant-produced bioactive compounds work and control the regeneration process remains to be understood. Research in biotechnology and physiologic effects on the skin could open new doors in cosmetics. The only limitation is the cost of producing the compounds due to the research and processes involved to generate and maintain them. To solve this issue, cost-effective bioreactors should be designed that serve the same purpose without affecting the quality and quantity of bioactive compounds.


              1. Eibl, R., Meier, P., Stutz, I., Schildberger, D., Hühn, T., & Eibl, D. (2018). Plant cell culture technology in the cosmetics and food industries: current state and future trends. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. doi:10.1007/s00253-018-9279-8
              2. Barbulova, Ani & Apone, Fabio & Colucci, M Gabriella. (2014). Plant Cell Cultures as Source of Cosmetic Active Ingredients. Cosmetics. 1. 94-104. 10.3390/cosmetics1020094.
              3. Krasteva, G, Georgiev, V, Pavlov, A. Recent applications of plant cell culture technology in cosmetics and foods. Eng Life Sci. 2021; 21: 68– 76.
              4. Trehan, S., Michniak-Kohn, B., & Beri, K. (2017). Plant stem cells in cosmetics: current trends and future directions. Future Science OA, 3(4), FSO226. doi:10.4155/fsoa-2017-0026

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