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Researchers develop a vegan lipstick made from jambo fruit

Product formula was developed by a group from Federal University of Western Pará. It includes seeds of bacuri and murumuru, also tapioca starch.

Ândria Almeida


Beauty market is one of the most profitable industries in the world, offering endless types and models of products. Besides quality, price is always a strongly considered feature when one decides to buy an item. In Santarém, west of Pará, a group of researchers from the Federal University of Western Pará (Ufopa) is developing a vegan lipstick (without any trace of animal origin substance), made out from jambo fruit (Rose-apple/Syzygium jambos) and from seeds and other nature raw materials. The aim is to offer an ecologically correct product for a low cost for customers. 

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For the lipstick base, in addition to jambo and murumuru seeds, bacurí stones are used, which are usually discarded by the food industry. The idea emerged eight years ago, when a group of researchers noticed great quantity of this fruit available in the city, as well as high rate of wasting. 

The pharmacotechnics and cosmetology professor of the Pharmacy program at Ufopa, Kariane Nunes, remembers when she arrived in the city. She noticed the abundance of jambo fruit in seasonal times, colorfully decorating the streets. “Flowers and fruits were wasted in the city; they were not used to their fullest capacity”. Then, she had the idea of “making a natural pigment, creating a bioproduct to take advantage of the raw material that would be wasted, generating local income and a clean product”, she says.

Besides her, Leopoldo Clemente Barratto was another professor who participated in the project since the beginning (currently, he works at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro -UFRJ), in addition to the former students from UFOPA, Bruna Carvalho Cantal de Souza and Walberson da Silva Reatgui. Now, she is a pharmacist and he is a biotechnologist. 

Bacuri – Professor Kariane Nunes explains that, usually, the main raw material used in the industry for the production of lipsticks is carnauba wax, which guarantees rigidity, and   beeswax, which gives the product emollience. However, the researcher states that, for the local scenario, these materials would have a high cost, consequently, the formula was adapted for using bacuri butter instead.

“This butter is largely produced in the municipality and it has high amount of palmitoleic fatty acid. It is 5% higher in comparison to other oils, which have 1.5% at the maximum, qualifying bacuri butter as a fantastic emollient. It can also be used as humectant”, explains the professor. “In addition to adding commercial value to the product, as they use raw materials extracted from nature, as well as being more accessible and cheaper, bacuri butter also provides more moisturizing properties than lipsticks produced with beeswax", she adds.

Researchers look for companies interested in investing in the product

Eight years after the beginning of the project at Ufopa, the researchers obtained the invention patent document, entitled "Cosmetic product for coloring lips based on pigment extracted from the husks of the jambeiro-vermelho fruit (Syzygium malaccense)”, issued by the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI).

After that, the researchers have focused on finding companies interested in investing and selling the product. “Our purpose is to have this product available on the market, to move the bioeconomy in our region. I think it is very important, both as a result for the Federal University of Western Pará, as well as for our own growth and, of course, for our portfolio as researchers in the Amazon region, producing bioproducts made from our biodiversity,” said Professor Kariane Nunes. 

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Health, source of income and low cost

The project team highlights that the industrialization of the lipstick produced in Santarém would be another way of generating income for local communities that work, for example, in bacuri and jambo crops. “If they start extracting bacuri butter or if they are hired to collect and peel jambo, can you imagine how many people could benefit?”, asks Bruna Cantal, a student participating in the project.

Tapioca starch - Bruna also highlights that one of the advantages of using a natural, healthier pigment in the formulation of a lipstick is the replacement of synthetic pigments, which often contain heavy metals and can contribute to health damage. "These substances can cause mouth cancer, skin cancer, in the long term. So, our lipstick comes to solve these problems, also it adds value to a product that would be wasted", she detailed, stating that natural cosmetics tend to have a more affordable cost, in addition to the better use of fruits, as well as the generation of job positions. Another innovation of the research was the replacement of titanium dioxide, present in the formula, by tapioca starch.  Despite acting as a kind of sunscreen, the dioxide is toxic, points out Bruna Cantal. “So, we replaced it by a natural product, developed in our region, which has the same color and texture”, she emphasizes.

Challenges - Finding the current formula for the jambo lipstick required a lot of dedication from the work group and it still means overcoming challenges, such as lack of color stability, because the pigment changes color over time, caused by oxidation of the molecule, and loses its original color. This instability is already in the process of correction analysis in partnership with the University of Brasília (UNB), which intends to microencapsulate the pigment. “Thus, it would be protected inside the capsule and would remain on the mouth longer”, concludes Professor Kariane Nunes.

About the fruits


Jambo is an Asian fruit originally, however, it was spread to many places in Brazil. Between the months of August and February, the jambo trees turn to a pink-reddish color. This is the announcement of the arrival of another jambo season in Santarém region.

In addition to being juicy, jambo is rich in vitamins and minerals. The fruit and leaves of the jambo trees are used in traditional medicine for stomach pain relief and diarrhea, appetite stimulants, diuretics and to prevent anemia.

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Bacuri is a widely used fruit in regional cuisine, especially in ice cream, candies, juices, jellies, jams and cakes, but it is also eaten mashed and in natura. The fruit has properties that are good for health: phosphorus, iron and vitamin C, in addition to beta-carotene. It is also antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, preventing diseases, and contributes to skin health.

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Murumuru is a fruit from a thorny palm. It is very common in the Amazon region. Its oil is widely used in the cosmetic industry, as it has proven benefits to skin and hair. Its properties are considered antioxidants and intense moisturizing.


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