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New York Times misses the mark on nutricosmetics

New York Times misses the mark on nutricosmetics

Yesterday, a coworker forwarded me this New York Times article on nutricosmetics, which looks at trends in mass-market beauty-from-within products. Oh yeah, and there's a perfunctory (borderline condescending) nod to “the dusty aisles of health food stores,” where top nutricosmetics ingredients such as acai, collagen, green tea, lutein, and resveratrol got their start.   

These ingredients could only “whet the appetite only of Anthony Bordain, like porcine placenta,” according to the piece. However, now they’ve made their way into department stores, drugstores, even the corner deli.

I can appreciate the article’s recognition of nutricosmetics’ biggest research-backed players, pithy zingers included. I even can acknowledge that among the many nutricosmetics misses mentioned (and, arguably, if they still exist, they're still worth a mention) in the article—delivery systems like chocolate, beauty beverages, and simply creepy cologne supplements, lead to consumer skepticism—at least one of the included mainstream manufacturers is making intelligent business decisions. Beauty Booster, from cosmetic manufacturer io, is a high-ORAC, plant-based formula that’s sugar- and calorie-free, which were concerns about early nutricosmetics. It also capitalizes on what I think shows the greatest potential for nutricosmetics efficacy: pairing topicals with ingestibles.


What I can't appreciate is why this piece seems to classify health-food stores as nutricosmetics’ past, when I strongly believe they hold the key to this category’s success. Earlier this year, we looked at why "dark green" consumers should be a target demographic: they’re more likely to seek out targeted supplements (think skin, hair, or nails) and educate themselves about a product before purchasing. Not only have they heard of the so-called “porcine placentas” of the nutricosmetics world, they’ve likely researched and tried them. They don’t rely just on the instant gratification from topical products, and they will allow time before expecting results. Plus, many customers are now purchasing natural personal care (it's the fastest growing segment of the personal care industry) as well as natural/organic food, so purchasing nutricosmetics from natural retailers seems to be, well, a natural progression. 

Natural manufacturers succeeding in nutricosmetics

The end of the New York Times article addresses an issue that will continue to plague the category, whether in mass or natural, a common argument not just against nutricosmetics but supplements as a whole—that many experts still say the best beauty-from-within comes from whole foods and water. 

But as more science emerges and products use research-backed ingredients in efficacious doses, I think nutricosmetics are building a stronger case. If you’re not getting enough of a certain beauty-boosting nutrient, why wouldn't supplementing help promote healthier skin, hair or nails? Consumers seem to be in agreement: 2010 nutricosmetics sales are estimated at $900 million, 6 percent over 2009, according to Nutrition Business Journal. 

But the smartest manufacturers are earning our trust by keeping it simple, often marketing products as being as close to real, whole foods as possible and simply focusing on therapeutic doses of ingredients, rather than “creative” or flashy deliveries.  

The point is, many natural products companies are manufacturing and marketing nutricosmetics right—unfortunately not one of them was mentioned in this piece. That's why articles like this don’t make a convincing case for nutricosmetics, and fail to focus on the areas where opportunity exists. I thought the category was evolving (and not away from the natural products store) ... 

To be sure I wasn’t the only one who saw its downfalls,  I ran it by said coworker who sent me the initial email (which stated: “This stuff sounds crazy! I would never eat some of this ****.”)   

I sent her a link to one of my go-to beauty supplements: a whole-food based supplement for skin, hair and nails from MegaFood. Her response sums it up:

"I’d feel A LOT better about poppin’ that supplement."

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