When it comes to product development, timing just may be everything. Especially for natural personal care and the beauty-from-within concept, a category has been simmering on the sidelines since the mid '90s. But now raw-materials suppliers are betting that the time is right for this segment to go mainstream. Armed with a slew of scientific substantiation, companies are introducing new ingredients, putting a fresh face on traditional botanical extracts and nutrients, and aggressively touting their benefits for beauty.
This decidedly global trend is being fueled by an ageing consumer base from within a youth-obsessed culture. It is driving development and demand for ingredients in a variety of applications — from functional foods and beverages to functional and non-toxic therapeutic supplements and traditional body care. Ageing baby boomers are the primary target demographic for these new ingredients, but they are by no means the only potential customer. Ingredients for stress relief, anti-ageing, UV protection, overall wellness, skin hydration, and hormonal balance are among those that may appeal to a wide range of consumers.
The variety of emerging products makes the category difficult to define, but recent statistics from Datamonitor show modest growth potential, projecting the 2009 US cosmeceuticals market value at $3.6 billion, with a CAGR of 6.3 percent since 2004. Datamonitor estimates the European market, which is slightly more mature than the US market, to be $4.4 billion in 2009 with annual growth of 4.8 percent per year.
Though consumers have always wanted to look younger, for several reasons industry experts believe now is the right time for functional personal care. One theory is that consumers are finally making the connection between what they put inside their bodies and how that affects their appearance, just as they did in the '90s for supplements and foods. "There is growing general awareness that diet has an effect upon things other than weight and health," says Jocelyn Mathern, technical health manager for Frutarom USA. "If a person is eating junk food and is overweight, their skin won't be as healthy as it should be either."
"I think it is about the science," says Laurent Leduc, Frutarom USA's vice president of the health division and marketing. "There is more research in this area now, and suppliers are able to bring ingredients with proven science. That's helping the category."
Along with more science and growing consumer awareness, cosmetics companies are beginning to see the light as well, says Lisa Petty, a holistic nutritionist and beauty expert who works with Nordic Naturals. Nordic is now touting many of its supplement products on a beauty-from-within platform, and recently launched Omega Longevity with fish oil, green tea and resveratrol for health ageing. Petty has watched the category evolve for about five years, and says she has spoken with all the major cosmetics companies. "They used to look at me like I had three heads. Now they are realizing that beauty equals health, and if they are not talking about this message, they look like they don't get it."
What's more, cosmetics companies are now dealing with much more savvy consumers, who not only want function from their body-care products, but also know what they don't want. "The cosmetics business used to be about brand names, pretty pictures and beautiful packaging," explains Alda Brandao, director of sales for cosmeceuticals and nutracosmetics for PL Thomas. "People didn't know what was in the cream, but they believed it was the best." Now, she added, people look at labels and "say 'I don't want parabens, but rosemary is ok. I eat that, so how bad can it be?"
Suppliers and manufacturers alike point to the recent convergence of food, health and beauty as another key factor. Food, supplements and cosmetics aren't as separate as they used to be, Brandao says. A successful ingredient in one segment will surface in the others. A good example of this are the superfruits, such as pomegranate, which was first added to supplements, then to foods. "Consumers know what it does and feel comfortable with it. They'll buy it whatever form it is in."
Ancient medicines — such as Ayurveda, Chinese and Native American traditions — also have stood the test of time. They are now being recognized in personal care for their use of nature's resources from botanicals, says Suhail Ishaq, vice president of Biocell Technology, maker of Biocell Collagen II CG, a cosmetics-grade collagen formulated for use in topical applications and dually soluble in lipid- and water-based formulations. "These same ingredients are fundamental in regard to anti-ageing cosmeceuticals products. With increasing demand for such products, we can expect their continued use."
This blurring of the lines between segments is also prompting companies to pursue both beauty-from-within and traditional personal-care platforms. Cosmetics companies are taking advantage of consumer awareness of traditional supplement ingredients and pointing to research that now indicates certain oral cosmetics or nutracosmetics can help topical products work better, says Mark Vieceli, manager of marketing and business development for Capsugel's Americas region. For example, "the oral carotenoids — lutein, astaxanthan and zeaxanthan — can be provided as powerful supplements to their topical offering." Capsule companies are also getting in on the act by offering new delivery systems to help make the ingredients more bioavailable. Capsugel's Licaps liquid-encapsulation technology, for example, allows an unstable phytochemical, such as astaxanthan, to be delivered in the optimal liquid form. "It represents the type of supplement that works synergistically with topical regimens," Vieceli says.
The best approach is both topical and oral, says Autumn Blum, formulator and CEO of Organix South, a maker of neem-based supplements and body-care products sold worldwide. There are topicals that work for many skin conditions, and that's what most people do, but you also need to support that effort from the inside out, Blum explains. "So if someone has a chronic rash due to an overgrowth of candida, then neem, which is strongly anti-yeast, would help to end the rash. There is synergy in doing both."
Traditional cosmetics act on a superficial level only, says Biocell Technology's Ishaq. "For example, they may act as a cover up or a topical barrier to seal in the skin's moisture, but they offer very little in terms of actually enhancing the skin's function on a cellular level. Cosmeceuticals, on the other hand, are applied topically like cosmetics, but they contain ingredients that influence the biological function of the skin. This is where I see the marriage between cosmetics and dietary supplements. It's a natural fit — cosmeceuticals are the embodiment of the dietary-supplement and cosmetics industries."
Out with the 'bad'
A rising consumer demand to get the 'bad stuff' out of cosmetics and personal-care products is also driving product development and ingredient innovation. Tilvee, an eco-ethical skin-care company is looking for ingredients that will effectively take the place of more toxic ingredients such as propylene glycol and parabens. Founder and CEO Kristi McNamara is both a chemist and a demanding consumer of ingredients. She believes there can be very effective substitutes for the chemicals and synthetics that have been used so pervasively. Chickweed balm, for example, is a plant sterol that replaces cortisone cream, MacNamara says, adding that it is high in vitamin c and has healing properties. But she admits there are some areas where new options are needed. She is trying to formulate a 100 percent organic spa line without emulsifiers, she says, but won't quite make it. "It is easier to formulate with those kinds of things, but I don't believe people should have to dodge all those ingredients."
There are significant formulation issues for natural cosmetics, Blum says. "Maybe you want to make an antioxidant lotion with neem or açai, but you also have to preserve it and keep bacteria from growing. You can use alcohol, but that is contradictory in a moisturizer. You could also reduce the PH and make it unfriendly for bacteria, but that might not be good for people with sensitive skin. Blum adds that recent efforts to simplify and take cosmetic chemistry back to the 'kitchen' is not without some merit. However, she says, "right now natural products can stand next to conventional products as far as efficacy. If we go back to kitchen chemistry, we will not have the formulation sophistication, and that will take us back about 15 years."
Formulation challenges are a primary reason that the eco, natural and organic cosmetics trend lacks adequate regulations and standards. Though there are several industry efforts underway in both the United States and Europe to create standards for both natural and organic products, the resulting programs may create more consumer confusion than they solve. There is the Natural Products Association standard for natural personal care, OASIS, an organic standard for personal care, ECO Cert, a European standard, and the National Organic program standard, originally designed to regulate agricultural standards for organic foods but is not specific to cosmetics — just to name a few.
McNamara acknowledges that the multiple standards are problematic. "There are so many seals, and unless a consumer gets that some of these seals may allow synthetic fragrances and things like that, it can be very confusing. They need to know what shade of green they want."
MacNamara recommends more transparency between manufacturers and suppliers. "I think there should be one standard with stricter label laws and less room to green wash. Companies would clean up their act if they had to list all the chemicals in their ingredients."
Standards are less problematic for orally ingested products that are regulated under DSHEA. However, topical products with functional ingredients are not covered by DSHEA, so they can't use structure-function claims to explain what they do. "We can use the beauty claims, like soothe, hydrate and smooth, but we can't say heal or alter," Blum says, "so they are much more difficult to market."
Nevertheless, manufacturers will have more active-ingredients choices than ever for products in the health and beauty category. PL Thomas, for example, just introduced a new patented, dietary ingredient made of protein filtrate obtained from sweet whey. Called SkinGestPSOR, it supports immune function for skin, addressing skin irritations such as itching, flaking or scaling. The bioactive profile of the ingredient is related to growth factors, active peptides and immunoglobulins in the extract. In two double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials SkinGestPSOR was proved clinically safe and effective for treatment of mild to moderate skin conditions.
PL Thomas also recently introduced Lipowheat, a new natural ceramide ingredient for hydration and restoration of the skin's outer layer. Most ceramides on the market, Brandao says, are synthetic. "Ours is 100 percent natural \[made from vegetable origins\] and can be certified organic," she says, adding that three human studies showed that when taken orally the natural ceramide hydrates the skin, and when used topically it is good for skin and hair. The ingredient can be used in a supplement or in a water-soluble powder suitable for beverages and creams.
Both ingredients are part of PL Thomas' extensive portfolio for nutricosmetics and cosmeceuticals marketed under the banner, "Cosmetics so natural you can eat them." The brainchild of Brandao, the department reflects her vision and optimism about the category. Though she said it takes time to develop these ingredients, their sales are small, but growing nicely. "I think by the end of the year we will have a very interesting department."
DSM is another company with a growing portfolio of ingredients on the beauty-from-within platform, including skin-nourishing nutrients and formulations for skin hydration and barrier maintenance, UV protection and oxidative stress. The products include a variety of tried-and-true nutrients, including carotenoids, vitamins and antioxidants, polyphenols, PUFAs and customized beauty blends such as HydraBella Plus for hydration and Fruitful for healthy ageing.
NutraGenesis and Sabinsa, both on the cutting edge of the trend, are combining ayurvedic ingredients to create patented extracts for topicals and orally-ingested products that address beauty and ageing issues. NutraGenesis recently introduced Sendara, touted to reduce levels of cortisol and stress hormones in the body. The branded ingredient contains Sensoril from the mood enhancer ashwagandha, and Capros, an antioxidant, to provide stress relief. Available in a powder form, Sendara can be used in dietary supplements as a standalone, or a complementary ingredient.
Sabinsa has a long ayurvedic tradition as well as being one of the earliest players in the nutricosmetics segment. The company began applying materials for cosmeceutical applications as early as 1999, and pioneered the concept of Biostandardized natural extracts for cosmetics, according to Lakshmi Prakash, PhD, vice president of innovation and business development. The company's latest introduction in the beauty-from-within-and-out category is Saberry, a standardized extract of Indian Gooseberry (amla), which is an ORAC dense superfruit with antioxidant properties, immune support and anti-inflammatory activity. "It has the ability to balance the antioxidant systems in the body," Prakash explains.
Looking to develop anti-ageing strategies from natural extracts, Prakash notes that Sabinsa is also studying boswellic acids developed from gum resin, shown to inhibit inflammation and reverse the signs of ageing; and sesame lignans from sesame oil, which have long been part of a traditional beauty routine in India. The company has a proprietary Natural Sesamin Complex, available as a free-flowing powder extracted from seeds, shown to address blood-sugar and lipid levels and support a healthy liver and immune response, all of which contributes to healthy, younger-looking skin. Sabinsa also offers a natural anti-ageing extract from green coconuts in a proprietary freeze-dried product that can be used in hair-care formulations and in topical preparations to nourish, condition and soothe tissues, Prakash says. The product can be used in cosmetic preparations and functional foods.
Frutarom recently announced its partnership with Copalis, to market the French company's well being and oral-cosmetic ingredients in the US.. Among these is Collactive, a prominent oral anti-wrinkle ingredient in the French market that contains collagen and elastin of marine origin. Copalis works within the French fishing industry to sustainably harvest unused parts of the wild-caught fish, primarily skin, and uses an enzymatic hydrolosis process to break the fish down so the collagen can be absorbed, much like your body does when you eat food, Mathern explains. "There are a lot of different collagens on the market," she says. "This is different because of the more natural gentle process, and it contains elastin, that 'works synergistically' to lift and tone skin, minimize lines and increase moisture retention."
Collactive has shown promising results in an independent clinical study at Dermascan Laboratories in France. When taken orally by 43 women, aged 40-55, it showed a 19 per cent decrease in deep wrinkles among 71 percent of the subjects. The ingredient is available for food supplements, bars and beverages and may eventually have GRAS status for use in functional foods.
Frutarom is launching a line of ingredients for topical use focusing on natural solutions for skin ageing, sun care, inflammation and oily skin. They include Alguard featuring a red micro-algae to shield the skin from ultraviolet rays, Z Care for acne and inflamed skin conditions, and TopicPure, a line featuring green matte for DNA protection and anti-ageing, pumpkin seed for oily skin, and pink rock rose for inflammation after sun exposure. The ingredients are in response to what Frutarom sees as a global demand for more natural cosmetics ingredients, Leduc says. For the moment, the ingredients will not be organic, but, he says, if the company sees increased demand for organic certification, it would consider that.
While product development is strong currently, in the long run market pressure and increasing regulations could eventually make it more difficult to introduce new ingredients in the health and beauty arena. So companies will need to strive to make new and foundational ingredients work better, says Biocell's Ishaq. In that respect, he adds, "researchers are discovering some ingredients that are already used today that offer a host of health benefits that were once widely unknown." One such ingredient is i-Sabi, made from pure Wasabi Japonica. Containing high levels of isothiocyanates, which bolster the body's cells to reduce oxidizing free radicals and toxins, and culprits of ageing, i-Sabi is a great example of outside-the-box solutions for future personal care.