State of the Cosmetics Industry, Part II


All the research and invention in the world will not end up in the hands of consumers unless it ultimately appeals to them. Whether researchers ask consumers what they want or create something that they need, those needs and wants are the market trends that steer innovation.

One interesting trend that has made it mainstream is the consumer’s growing need for information, which has translated into product labels with scientific terms and claims written to explain how raw materials in the product work. As a result, recognition of the science behind products has grown and must be convincing to consumers since, in the end, it is their perception that sells a product.

Skin. There are many mysteries yet to solve about the skin, which is why so much time and research is dedicated to it—protecting it, repairing it, preserving it, tightening it, lightening it, revitalizing it, obscuring its flaws and even delivering things through it. In the personal care industry, skin care usually tops the list for product sales. As the behavior of skin and its underlying mechanisms are becoming clearer, innovations are emerging to trigger such mechanisms.

Currently, researchers are putting much energy behind anti-aging and have found that DNA is one area in which to focus. For example, mutations in mitochondrial DNA are being studied as principal aging factors. Research has been conducted to show how the sun can induce DNA lesions in cases of overexposure via the formation of UV-induced photo products. In addition, introducing enzymes onto skin has been shown to speed DNA repair.

Beyond DNA, peptides and sirtuins are other key words appearing on product labels. Such materials are biomimetic and can thus penetrate the skin to act on specific sites of action. Sirtuins specifically have been shown to affect the lifespan of cells by slowing the aging process. These of course are of great interest for the anti-aging segment in personal care.

With the many treatments designed to impact skin, skin sensitivity has become a greater issue, leading to developments in anti-irritating and anti-inflammatory formulas. In one example, the synergistic effects of bisabolol and ginger extract were examined, showing that the two combined resulted in an anti-irritant effect on detergent-induced erythema. Additional research has shown that biomimetic peptides could be useful to address neurogenic inflammation in the skin since nerves are involved in the functions of skin cells. One researcher on this topic noted, “You will be hearing more about neuropeptides in upcoming years.”

Sun. A great deal of funding has been poured into the effects of UVA on skin. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saw enough evidence of its damaging effects to propose classifying a product’s level of UVA protection separately from UVB protection on sunscreen labels.

In addition to UVA, photostability has been of great concern in sunscreens. Many studies have been initiated to examine the instability of commonly used UV-absorbing components and to find new materials to provide better protection against UVA exposure throughout extended periods of use.

Photostabilizers are just one of the tools in the sun care formulator’s toolbox, according to a presentation at the Florida Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ (SCC) Sunscreen Symposium held in September 2007. Other tools of interest include: actives, solvents, emulsifiers, waterproofers, rheology modifiers and feel modifiers.

A few highlights of the Sunscreen Symposium called into question the industry’s current beliefs about sun damage and protection. One expert suggested that UV protection is not about consumers getting UVA or UVB protection, but protection from overexposure to the entire spectrum. He added that there are multitudes of different systemic variables involved that can affect the body’s reaction to UV.

Debate also arose as to whether sunscreens really protect against melanoma. Some experts agreed that, based on logic, consumers are protected from UV exposure by using a sunscreen and thus the incidence of melanoma. However, others agreed this connection was not clear and that there is no compelling evidence to connect the two. Also related to skin cancer, banter occurred as to whether it is caused by a few, very high UV exposures or a lifetime of too much exposure built up in skin.

Skin lightening. Skin lightening is still a popular topic in ethnic-specific personal care, especially in the East. In the West, with the FDA’s proposal to ban hydroquinone from personal care products, formulators have sought new ingredients to provide similar effects. A few such examples include Phyllanthus emblica, and a combination of pea extract and sucrose dilaurate. The latter combination has been shown to decrease melanogenesis by decreasing tyrosinase activity in melanocytes, as well as inhibit melanosome maturation. The mechanism of action is neither direct tyrosinase inhibition nor oxidation inhibition, the primary mechanisms of skin-lightening agents such as arbutin, kojic acid and vitamin C derivatives. The challenge for new skin lighteners is reportedly to demonstrate innovative pathways of melanin synthesis inhibition while ensuring skin tolerance.

In another recent study, grapefruit extract was shown to act as an effective skin lightener; however, other research indicates there may be stability issues with this powerful antioxidant, which have been the focus of additional studies.

Naturals. The power of consumer perception is quite evident in the continually growing category of naturals. Some feel the industry has experienced overkill with “all natural” claims. Regardless, consumers still seek natural products because the word “natural” gives them a sense of safety. As most chemists know, natural does not mean safer; however, that message has not yet reached consumers and their beliefs continue to drive the demand. Key manufacturers are prepared to drive consumer interest into new areas.

Chitin nanofibrils have been explored as natural compounds that can generate the formation of a hygroscopic molecular film to slow water evaporation and keep the skin hydrated. Recent improvements to isolate chitin nanofibrils suggest its application in skin rehydration, wound-healing and maintenance of cutaneous homeostasis.

Relating to naturals, beauty has come to mean nutrition, health and wellness, and emits feelings of happiness. It even means being tuned in to the environment with the awareness about how purchasing behaviors affect the world—either during manufacturing or after it’s washed off and away—otherwise known as the green phenomenon. In a recent report about organics and naturals in personal care, the National Marketing Institute found that the natural personal care market experienced nearly three times the growth of the overall U.S. cosmetics and toiletries market, and more than half of those surveyed indicated that they seek products made with natural or premium ingredients; 44% were looking for organic ingredients.

However, consumers are beginning to seek function over fashion. At the Midwest SCC Technical Symposium held in October 2007, Terry Mahon of Symrise noted that consumers are no longer willing to settle for sublevel products; they want natural products that are as efficacious as synthetic products. He also pointed out that although 80% of consumers want to be more environmentally conscious and use natural beauty products, nearly 60% of those consumers cannot name a green brand.

Mahon also commented that it is difficult for formulators to create natural products. The first problem is fixed costs and, although marketers may want to add natural products, fixed cost only allows the formulator to include so much. Next is the problem of smell—according to Mahon, many naturals smell bad. A final hurdle is preservation, which reportedly remains a natural-formulating challenge.

Green. Consumers are aware of the effects of manufacturing on the environment, giving rise to interest in green chemistry. But what does “green” mean? There are many interpretations. Everything from Earth-friendly by-products and lab practices to natural and organic ingredients that can be used in label claims, which introduces an interesting thought: Products can be green in the sense of Earth-friendly, but, at the same time, the processes to make them green could in fact undermine the end intent.

Green also can mean certified organic ingredients. Organic cosmetic standards by Ecocert and NSF International are presented as new challenges for formulating chemists. Related to this organic standardization, a new association—Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS)—was launched in October 2007 to focus on organic standards specific to the cosmetics and personal care industry.

Wellness/health. The personal care industry has put some effort into formulating products focused on inducing feelings of happiness and well-being. In fact, at in-cosmetics in April 2007, one show segment, titled “in-focus Aphrodisia,” highlighted a talk about natural aphrodisiacs, grouping them into three major categories: urinary tract irritants, rubefacients that stimulate blood flow and odorous materials that have a psychosomatic effect on the senses. Another study looked at receptors for each of the five senses, which correspond to nerve endings that transmit electrical signals to the brain. These messages, according to their combinations and intensity, can be translated into pain or pleasure. This study showed how to model in vitro cutaneous perceptions and the potential to modulate the level of response, separating pain from pleasure.

In other research, models have been developed to measure wellness effects, such as one approach based on psycho-physiological measurements of test subjects to determine their reactions to various textile samples.

Nutricosmetics. Nutraceuticals have found their way to personal care consumers with the much-touted “beauty from within” concept. This has definitely stepped beyond the bounds of traditional makeup, coining the term “nutricosmetic.” Major cosmetic manufacturers have already begun to add nutritional supplements to daily skin care regimens.

Research has been conducted to determine the effects of materials, such as evening primrose oil and macroalgal fucoidan extracts as supplemental beauty care. The challenge of testing the effects of nutritional supplements on outward appearance is that the materials travel through an entire biological system, making claims substantiation next to impossible.

Actives. When Albert Kligman, MD, PhD, used the term “cosmeceutical” in the early 1980s, he not only modernized the language of cosmetics, but also he made an interesting declaration—makeup had evolved beyond just adding moisture or pigment to the skin. Reminded by the FDA that claims on a label determine whether a product is a cosmetic or drug, the industry forged ahead with ingredients designed to activate mechanisms in the skin. Actives emerged and continue to find new applications in personal care. Ingredient applications range from cellulite treatments to anti-aging serums, lip-plumping products, self-tanners, microcirculation stimulators and wellness-promoting products.

One study looked at a safer route to tanned skin through actives designed to create a self-tanning effect on skin by stimulating the synthesis of melanin in the skin, which not only protects it, but also provides the desired tanned look.

Slimming treatments incorporate actives that can address a number of targets in skin physiology, including enhancing the removal of fluid buildup by improving microcirculation to the areas in question; strengthening the connective tissue while protecting it from further degradation caused by inflammation and the subsequent release of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs); and targeting the adipose tissue via stimulation of adipocyte cell metabolism/thermogenesis or some other mechanism to decrease adipocyte contents—lipolysis.

Bringing a natural focus to actives, one study examined the survival strategies adapted by watermelon from growing under extreme conditions, such as drought, UV radiation and high salt concentration, and applied watermelon’s secrets into protective products for skin. In other work, slimming effects were studied and newer approaches using ingredients to achieve these effects were described, including a newer method of body contouring in the United States—mesotherapy.

Delivery. Without proper delivery, ingredients, such as actives, cannot perform as they were designed. Biomimetic tripeptides are one delivery vehicle that have been studied for improved dermal transport to help prevent wrinkle formation and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. In addition, nanomaterials have been designed “smarter” to deliver particles deeper into the skin.

Nanotechnology. Nanomaterials in all industries continue to drive innovation as well as concern—primarily for the levels of materials absorbed into the skin, but also into the environment.

However, the top concern, according to Steinberg, is whether nanosized materials are actually used or present in finished formulations.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines nanoscale as being from 1–100 nanometers (nm) in size, and it is generally recognized that particles smaller than 30 nm pass through the skin and into the bloodstream.

In June 2007, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) of the European Union (EU) issued its Preliminary Opinion of Safety of Nanomaterials in Cosmetic Products, in which a nanoparticle was defined as having one or more dimensions at 100 nm or less. They also were divided into two groups: labile nanoparticles that disintegrate upon application to the skin, such as liposomes, microemulsions or nanoemulsions; and insoluble particles, such as fullerenes, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The SCCP concluded that for the labile group, conventional risk assessment methodologies may be adequate. However, for the insoluble group, the uptake must be considered due to their ability to penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream because of their size. The group, therefore, is reviewing the complete safety of nanosized particles of inorganic sunscreens.

Reviewing the safety of materials based on particle size was dismissed by the FDA when the industry was dealing with microsized particles; however, if the industry is in fact using nanosized materials, the SCCP is correct in reviewing their safety.

However, Steinberg asks, are nanosized materials actually used or present in finished personal care formulations? He explained that microsize inorganic particles agglomerate readily as would nanosize materials. Once formulated, how stable would the small sizes actually be? Would they become much larger and thus have no safety issue?

Preservation. A number of different microbes can invade a cream or lotion during processing or handling, so a well-built, multifaceted defense system to attack them all is one of the most efficient ways to defend cosmetics from contamination. Solutions formulated as preservative “cocktails,” such as iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC) or parabens, have been deployed for this purpose. But slowing this progress are barriers such as the recent Adaptation to Technical Progress ruling by the EU to restrict the use of IPBC, and the public’s mistrust of parabens.

Substantiation of preservative efficacy is one speed bump on the fast track to market since traditional preservative efficacy testing can take up to 56 days. The industry has focused on a means to shorten this process.

Color. Color palettes rotate with each season, but breakthroughs in color technologies seem less common than in other areas. In the past year or so, some developments have really stood out. One example is a co-precipitation process described for inventing new pigments, while another invention used metallic pigments to expand existing color palettes.

At the recent IFSCC conference in Amsterdam, an interesting pearl pigment was presented offering properties similar to snow for use in makeup. This area of fillers, surface effect materials and particulates is really growing in Asia and gaining momentum.

Occasionally, new treatments for existing pigments aid in stepping up innovation in color and improve on existing attributes, such as better dispersion or color deposition on skin, such as encapsulation treatments for organic colorants designed to mimic the look of natural skin. In addition, in consideration of new requirements for travel-sized personal care, a loose powder containing a high amount of liquid phase has been designed.


New angles on old ideas are cropping up from many industries and keeping innovations fresh—sometimes even inventing new regulatory needs. So, what’s the forecast for the future? Stay tuned as the industry unravels DNA strands, builds interesting new collaborations to yield deeper scientific insight, and discovers advanced means to employ everything learned into the next steps for personal care.

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