Monday, July 28, 2014

One ingredient, five products: Cucumber extract - introduction

I was amazed to see that the most popular post on the blog this month was the post on cucumber extract. In light of that, it makes sense that we should take a closer look at this ingredient and formulate with it for a bit!

Cucumber extract (INCI: Cucumis sativa (cucumber) extract) can be found as a powdered extract or a liquid extract, but both are water soluble. The liquid extract may be found in water, glycerin, alcohol, or a combination of two or three of those. The general suggested usage of the powder is 0.5% to 1%, and the general suggested usage of the liquid can vary, so check with your supplier.

As a note, you can find cucumber seed oil at some suppliers, but it is incredibly expensive at around $10 or more per ounce (30 ml or 2 tbsp), so I haven't tried it. 

Cucumber is considered emollient, soothing, astringent, and hydrating. It's generally suggested for normal to oily skin because of the astringency. It's also considered an anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant. We also find astringent and analgesic properties in cucumber. So let's take a look at cucumber to see if it can live up to all these expectations!

Cucumber extract contains tons of polysaccharides, polyphenols, glycosides, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals, all of which offer awesome qualities to our products.

We find polysaccharides in aloe vera, too. They offer hydration, emolliency, and anti-inflammatory properties by creating a light gel barrier on the skin. In cucumber extract, they will behave the same way, offering an increase in hydration on the skin and moisturizing.

We find tons of polyphenols in cucumber in the form of gallic acid, coumaric acid, caffeic acid, and trans-cinnamic acid, amongst others. As we know, all of these are fabulous anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. Gallic acid also offers speedier wound and burn healing. Coumaric acid offers anti-bacterial and anti-fungal features, as well as possible UV protection. Caffeic acid offers fungicidal and post-sun exposure properties. Cinnamic acid good post-sun exposure and possible AHA-like properties. We also find p-hydroxybenzoic acid, which is very closely related to salicylic acid, and behaves like a very effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic.

Cucumber extract contains triterpene glucosides called cucurbitacins. These are found in squashes like pumpkins and melons. These glucosides are amongst the most bitter substances found in the world, but they have been bred out of a lot of these fruits. Cucurbitacins are highly oxygenated triterpenoid compounds that might cause some sensitivity to some people. The one found most commonly in cucumbers is cucurbitacin C. It behaves as a very effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic.

Is cucumber extract a good addition to our products? Does it live up to the claims? Yep, it does! Cucumber extract contains some awesome anti-inflammatory and analgesic ingredients, all of which will reduce redness and inflammation, so it can be considered soothing. It contains astringent ingredients, which will make our skin feel tightened after use. And it contains polysaccharides to create a light gel like layer on our skin that keeps water in and offers a lovely feeling of emolliency.

You'll want to use powdered cucumber extract at 0.5% to 1% in the cool down phase of your creations. Add a little warm water to a small container with your extract, let it dissolve, then add at 45˚C or lower (when you add your preservative or fragrance oil). If you are using the liquid extract, follow the suggested usage rate and add to the cool down phase of your product.

Please note, cucumber extract is water soluble, so you can't use it in oil soluble things like whipped butters, lotion bars, or balms. If you wish to get all the awesome power of cucumber in an anhydrous or non-water containing product, you should consider using cucumber seed oil. (Do a Google search to find a supplier near you.)

Are you worried if cucumber extract is safe for you? This recent review by the Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel notes that it is generally recognized as safe.* They also note that 5% extract in a product didn't result in sensitization or phototoxicity, which is higher than is found in commercial products and higher than what you'd find in our products, so it sounds like you'd have to use an awful lot before you'd get irritated!

*The term generally recognized as safe means "the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excluded from the definition of a food additive." Eager to learn more? Check out the FDA FAQ on GRAS. 

Before you ask, yes, you can use fresh cucumbers for body care...but stick to using the slices on your eyes after a long night on the town! Including the pulp, seeds, or fresh, unpreserved juice in your creations can result in serious contamination, especially if you fail to use preservatives. If you are using fresh cucumber, consider the shelf life to be the same day. 

Why are you interested in this extract? What appeals to you? Let me know and that can shape the recipes we make with cucumber extract! Comment below!

And why am I only making five products with cucumber extract? Because...that's what I managed to make with this extract before the series started!

Join me tomorrow as we have fun formulating with cucumber extract!


Lisa Kerley said...

Can not WAIT to see what you make with this!

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Susan, I would love to see a couple recipes with cucumber extract, if you're taking requests. An eye serum would be nice as well as a body gel or light body cream. I know I can easily substitute cucumber extract for any of the extracts in the body lotions, but I was hoping to see a more transparent product more suitable for the summer . Thank you.

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Susan, I have some hyaluronic acid (the kind that does not gel) from Lotioncrafter. Perhaps incorporate cucumber extract with Hyaluronic Acid-SLMW for the eye serum?

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for another great post!

I have a couple of suggestions for products to make in this series.

- an eye moisturizer (maybe an over night treatment)

-a gel face mask

I'm really enjoying your one ingredient ten ways series.


Anonymous said...

Susan,can I ask you something?Im using cucumber seed as a raw material of my investigatory subject.Can cucumber seed oil be used as a preservative?I ned to know please response thank you

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Anonymous. Please put your name on your comments or they will be deleted.

No, cucumber seeds are not a preservative.

luna said...

Susan, this is great!! I want to make some eye cream with cucumber extract. I also have borage oil, can you suggest something? thank you

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Luna! Have you looked at the other posts in this series? Click here and scroll down to see the other products I've made with cucumber extract. Does that include anything that interests you?

Leilani said...

Hi, I just found your site and I LOVE it. Thank you for sharing your wealth of ideas. I found your site after researching making my own aloe vera cucumber lotion. I used to use the Vaseline aloe vera cucumber brand and they have changed their formula so I want to take a crack at making my own. Do you have any tips for making a light aloe vera cucumber lotion? I suffer from keratosis pilaris and eczema and I have found that I like a lighter lotion than some of the heavier ones I have tried. Anyway, any tips would be great. Thanks!