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thyme essential oil
thyme essential oil
thyme essential oil
thyme essential oil

Thyme Essential Oil in Cosmetics

Thymus vulgaris L. is a lip-like (Laiatae) Thymus plant, commonly known as the ground pepper or ground prickly pepper, usually a light yellow volatile oil liquid that can be extracted by steam distillation, that is, thyme essential oil, which smells of sweet pine oil. Thyme essential oil has attracted much attention because of its health benefits. A large number of studies have proved that thyme essential oil has good application effects in relieving fatigue, moisturizing water, antioxidant and antibacterial, etc., and has the basic effect of being used as a cosmetic.

1. Extraction method of thyme essential oil

At present, the main extraction methods of thyme essential oil are steam distillation, supercritical fluid extraction and organic solvent extraction. The supercritical fluid extraction method uses solvents to dissolve the essential oil components of thyme under different critical conditions. By changing the critical temperature and pressure, different components are dissolved and separated successively. It has the characteristics of high efficiency, speed and high quality of essential oil, but the process cost is very expensive. The organic solvent extraction method obtained the mixture by continuous reflux or leaching of organic solvent, then distilled and recovered the solvent, and finally obtained crude plant essential oil. However, the quality of thyme essential oil was affected because the organic solvent and thyme essential oil were difficult to separate completely. Steam distillation method uses water diffusion into the plant, under the action of heating to form oil-water azeotrope, with the water vapor is taken out, and then the oil and water are separated to obtain plant essential oil, which is a relatively perfect plant essential oil extraction technology at present, the extraction process is low cost, and the quality of essential oil is pure. The three methods of extracting thyme essential oil were evaluated comprehensively, and it was found that steam distillation was the best method for extracting thyme essential oil, not only the production cost was lower, but also the quality of essential oil was higher. In addition, Kumar et al. reported a more suitable extraction technology for highly volatile plant essential oils, namely distillation extraction method (SDE method), which combines steam distillation and distillate extraction at the same time. This method is simple to operate, has a fast extraction rate, and avoids the adhesion problem of essential oils on the wall of the steam distillation method. Some studies have found that microwave assisted action can help plant cell wall cracking, increase the diffusion rate of plant essential oil compounds, and reduce the reaction temperature of the extraction process, which is more suitable for temperature-sensitive thyme essential oil.

2. Ingredients of thyme essential oil

Thyme essential oil contains a variety of compounds, including phenols, terpenes, alcohols, lipids and aldehydes, most of which are volatile oils. At present, the composition analysis of thyme essential oil mainly uses gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), but the conclusions of different researchers have some differences, which may be related to the variety, origin and collection time. The essential oil was extracted from thyme herb by steam distillation and 46 kinds of chemical components were confirmed by GC-MS, the main components were phenols. Phenolic compounds are the main volatile aroma components of thyme essential oil, the most important aromatic compounds are carvacrol and thymol, and through experiments, it has been proved that the antioxidant components of thyme essential oil are mainly volatile oils. Continuous studies have proved that a variety of bioactive ingredients rich in thyme essential oil not only have good antibacterial and antioxidant properties, but also have certain medicinal effects, so thyme essential oil has strong research potential in cosmetics.

3. The efficacy of thyme essential oil

Most of the main components of thyme essential oil, phenols, terpenes and alkenes, are easily volatile aromatic compounds, which constitute the unique aroma of thyme essential oil. In addition to the free aroma components in thyme essential oil, some of the aroma components are aromatic precursor compounds formed by glycoside linkage with sugars or carbohydrate derivatives under biosynthesis. Through heating, light and enzymatic hydrolysis, the aromatic substances can be decomposed and released, so the thyme essential oil has a strong fragrance. Plant essential oils are commonly used in aromatherapy to relieve anxiety symptoms. The aromatic substances are inhaled through the nose and cause olfactory cells to produce signals that reach the olfactory areas of the brain through the various layers of olfactory valves, resulting in a calming and relaxing effect. Compared to chemical drugs, essential oils have fewer side effects and can be used in a variety of ways, including inhalation
And take. There are also studies abroad that plant essential oils can regulate emotions and relieve insomnia, and the functional components are mainly alcohols and terpenes.

Skin whitening is an important effect of cosmetic use. Abnormal deposition of melanin is easy to lead to the formation of dark yellow skin, freckles and age spots. Tyrosinase is an important rate-limiting enzyme in the process of melanin formation. Studies have shown that plant essential oil can effectively inhibit the expression level of the regulatory factors tryptophan (TRP-1 and TRP-2) and the transmission of protein kinase signal, and has the effect of reducing tyrosinase activity. Satooka et al. found that thymol can effectively inhibit the REDOX reaction in the melanin synthesis pathway, and at the same time, the scavenging ability of thyme essential oil on free radicals consumes the free electrons required for melanin synthesis and inhibits the production of melanin.

Moisturizing plays an important role in alleviating skin roughness and improving skin elasticity, and is the basic function of skin care cosmetics. The moisturizing properties of thyme essential oil are mainly manifested in three aspects: first, thyme essential oil has an affinity for human skin, which can quickly penetrate the bottom of the skin and enhance the ability of the epidermis to combine water; Secondly, because thyme essential oil has the characteristics of liposome, applying on the surface can effectively prevent the evaporation of water, thus slowing down the water loss of the stratum corneum; Third, thyme essential oil has the effect of scavenging free radicals and anti-oxidation, inhibiting the matrix degradation enzymes of the epidermis, delaying the shedding of the stratum corneum, and keeping the skin with sufficient water supply. Liu Xing used thyme essential oil mixed with skin care lotion. After a comparative test on human body, it was found that the skin with thyme essential oil mixed with skin care lotion had a higher moisture content and could effectively maintain for 6h, which proved that thyme essential oil had good continuous moisturizing function 


Acne occurs frequently in adolescence, commonly known as acne, and its pathogenesis is complex. There are four factors that play an important role in acne pathology: abnormal sebum secretion, bacterial proliferation of acne cuticle, abnormal keratosis of hair follicle sebaceous duct and inflammation. The anti-acne and anti-inflammatory effects of thyme essential oil are mainly manifested in two aspects: first, it is anti-inflammatory. Linalool, the effective component of thyme essential oil, can inhibit tumor necrosis and limit the bite of pro-inflammatory factor interleukin, while inhibiting hypersensitivity reaction induced by acetone to reduce pain and achieve anti-inflammatory and pain relief. The second is bacteriostasis. Due to the hydrophobicity of thyme essential oil, the phospholipid bilayer and mitochondria in the cell membrane are isolated, which changes the permeability of the cell membrane, and leads to the reduction of cytoplasmic pH, the reduction of adenosine triphosphate synthesis, and the change of membrane potential, thus showing bacteriostasis.


Skin tissue is composed of elastic fiber, collagen fiber, protein and polysaccharide matrix. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation can easily cause skin damage and skin diseases. Sunscreen is one of the effective means to prevent and treat ultraviolet radiation. The mechanism of sun protection and anti-aging of thyme essential oil is mainly to use its antioxidant properties to produce stable compounds by combining with free groups, inhibit the oxidation of free groups on oil tissues, and protect skin from light damage. Studies have shown that a large number of active groups in essential oils have the performance of protecting deoxynucleotides in cells, which can improve the ability of cells to resist ultraviolet radiation. The protective effects of plant essential oil blends (thyme, clove leaf, cinnamon leaf, rose, coriander) on skin lipids and squalene were studied under ultraviolet irradiation. It was found that thymol and eugenol in thyme essential oil had strong antioxidant properties. Thyme essential oil is more antioxidant than the commonly used antioxidants butyl hydroxytoluene and vitamin E.


Hair is susceptible to chlorinated swimming pool water bleaching, perm, straightening or coloring, etc., will also affect hair color and cuticle, reducing the wet and dry combing force of hair. Ultraviolet radiation will oxidize natural melanin in hair and lead to photodegradation of tryptophan, tyrosine, cystine and other proteins. The main component of thyme essential oil in hair care is fatty acid glycerol, which has a strong lipophile property and shows strong permeability in capillary fibers. At the same time, it has a strong adsorption capacity for polar keratin in hair fibers. It binds the cortex to the trichoderma, thereby maintaining the integrity of the hair, while it removes free radicals and improves the toughness of the hair. It was found that plant essential oil can induce the production of cyclophosphamide in the skin, which proves that plant essential oil can promote the normal growth of hair and the proliferation of hair follicles.


4. Conclusion

The rich chemical composition of thyme essential oil produces a variety of biological activities, with fragrance, moisturizing, whitening, acne anti-inflammation and other outstanding effects in the field of cosmetics. At the same time, thyme essential oil is a natural plant extract, which is more in line with the current consumer’s concept of using cosmetics, and is easier to be accepted and purchased by people. However, the application of thyme essential oil in the field of cosmetics should still pay attention to its stability and slow-release effect, and it is necessary to overcome the problems of high volatility, low water solubility and sensitivity to light, heat and temperature of essential oil, and can use microcapsules, nanocapsules, microemulsions, nano emulsion and other technologies. In addition, the composition of thyme essential oil is diverse and complex, and it is difficult to unify the mechanism study of the application effect in cosmetics, so it is also one of the development directions to separate and purify monomer substances and study its effect.


                                                                                                                                                                      Journal of Hainan Normal University(Natural Science)

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