An Active Agent Straight from the Lab - Wacker Chemie AG

An Active Agent Straight from the Lab

The nature-identical hydroxytyrosol contains no undesirable byproducts and is sold as an odorless, water-soluble powder.

Talented Free-Radical Scavenger

Its unusually powerful antioxidant properties are what make hydroxytyrosol such an interesting plant secondary metabolite for use in foods and cosmetics. The compound is exceptionally good at capturing free radicals, which can damage our cells. At 45,000 micromol Trolox equivalents per gram, the oxygen radical absorbance capacity of hydroxytyrosol is nearly ten times that of green tea and over twice as high as that of coenzyme Q10. As Schuck notes, “That means that hydroxytyrosol protects human cells and blood lipids from oxidative stress – a key factor influencing the development of cardiovascular diseases.”


Polyphenols are aromatic compounds present as bioactive substances in plants and act, for example, as colorants, flavorings or antioxidants. They also serve as defense against pests, predators and disease. Over 6,000 different polyphenols are known today. Hydroxytyrosol – naturally occurring in olives and olive oil – is among the most effective of these substances, as is catechin, which is found in green tea. Their considerable antioxidant effect makes many polyphenols interesting for the food and cosmetics industries: as free-radical scavengers, antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, which is associated with cancer and cardiovascular diseases as well as signs of aging. Unlike vitamins, polyphenols are heat-stable, so they are also present in cooked food.

Also attributed to this active substance is the ability to strengthen immune system response, lower blood pressure, inhibit inflammatory processes, and exert a positive effect on the bones and joints - interesting properties that could be put to use in nutritional supplements or applications in sports nutrition, such as power bars or functional beverages.

Lighter and More Uniform

The cosmetics industry has also discovered hydroxytyrosol as a useful additive in products such as anti-aging formulations. “Hydroxytyrosol affects melanin production in human cells, suppressing dark pigmentation and making the skin lighter and more even complected,” explains Schuck. “Antioxidants are also used for protecting the skin, where they counteract the aging process.”


Trolox is a water-soluble vitamin E derivative with a pronounced antioxidant effect, prompting its use as a reference substance for determining the antioxidant capacity of a sample.

Light skin is particularly desirable for many people in Asia, which is why there are so many skin-lightening products on the market there. Pharmacies already carry a number of creams and lotions utilizing the active substance in olives in order to lighten the skin. Industry experts expect the market for these skin-lightening products to grow to some $20 billion by 2018. “Our HTEssence® is the perfect product for this market, since it doesn’t contain any undesirable byproducts or impurities at all,” Schuck observes. The substance will be sold as an odorless, water-soluble powder, although it will also be available in liquid form.

WACKER anticipates approval for HTEssence® by the end of the year. The company has already sent out samples of the product to a few customers for research and development purposes – and Schuck and his team are delighted with the very positive initial feedback on nature-identical hydroxytyrosol.