Silica microparticles from sugarcane by-products as an encapsulation system for retinoids aimed at topical sustained release

Joana R. Costa*, Ana Helena Costa, João Azevedo-Silva, Diana Tavares-Valente, Sérgio C. Sousa, Tânia Neto, Manuela E. Pintado, Ana Raquel Madureira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



The encapsulation of retinol within silica microparticles has emerged as a promising opportunity in the realm of cosmetic and pharmaceutical formulations, driven by the need to reinforce the photoprotection and oxidation stability of retinol. This work examines the process of encapsulating retinol into silica microparticles. The association efficiency, microparticle size, molecular structure, morphology, oxidation, and release profile, as well as biocompatibility and skin sensitization, were evaluated. Results showed that 0.03% of retinol and 9% of emulsifier leads to an association efficiency higher than 99% and a particle size with an average of 5.2 µm. FTIR results indicate that there is an association of retinol with the silica microparticles, and some may be on the surface. Microscopy indicates that when association happens, there is less aggregation of the particles. Oxidation occurs in two different phases, the first related to the retinol on the surface and the second to the associated retinol. In addition, a burst release of up to 3 h (30% free retinol, 17% associated retinol) was observed, as well as a sustained release of 44% of retinol up to 24 h. Encapsulation allowed an increase in the minimal skin cytotoxic concentrations of retinol from 0.04 μg/mL to 1.25 mg/mL without skin sensitization. Overall, retinol is protected when associated with silica microparticles, being safe to use in cosmetics and dermatology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3215
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Control release
  • Response surface methodology
  • Retinol
  • Silica microparticles
  • Topical delivery


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