USDA researcher Walter Schmidt first tried to turn chicken feathers into something useful back in 1993. Now, Missouri-based ‘Featherfiber Corp' is commercializing Schmidt's 1998 patent to separate feather fiber from the quill.
Close to opening a production plant, Schmidt says they will soon produce cosmetics and car parts.
"The feather fiber grinds to a powdery talc making the keratin useful in beauty products," says the ambitious entrepreneur.
The role of Keratin in cosmetics
Hydrolysed keratin has become a common cosmetic ingredient. Studies have shown topical application of hydrolysed keratin gives significant increases in skin elasticity and hydration.
Due to it's moisturising properties, it has also been incorporated into shampoo and conditioner.
Larger keratin structures such as those formed by Cornification cannot penetrate the skin so cannot be used as moisturisers. However there are other uses, from hair loss concealing products using fine hair fibres to hair thickening accessories like hair extensions.
Beauty industry has a history of using unusual ingredients..
Blushes derived from crushed beetle wings, a face-wash comprised of sulphur and lead based eyeliner are just some of the unusual concoctions present in cosmetic and beauty regimes centuries ago.
Other products of yesteryear were said to have contained high concentrations of arsenic, mercury and lead, yet women continued to use them through vanity, ignorance or indifference.
Thankfully, with the advancement of technology and health and safety guidelines, today’s cosmetic products are less likely to kill you at the dressing table.
However, unusual but safer ingredients are still being chosen for cosmetics formulations even in 2014.
They include egg yolk, bee or snake venom, and even shark squalane.