Nutricosmetic Ingredients on the Rise

Mar 30, 2016

  • Let’s face it: None of us is getting any younger. And while that news may look like an unwelcome cloud to some, it doesn’t come without a silver lining, particularly for those invested in the nutricosmetics sector. In fact, the aging population, combined with growing disposable incomes and health awareness worldwide, will boost the valuation of the global nutricosmetics market to a whopping US $7.1 billion by 2020, according to recent projections (1) from Transparency Market Research.

    This doesn’t surprise Paula Simpson, principal, Nutribloom Consulting (New York and Toronto). Both a longtime expert on the industry and an active participant within it, Simpson believes that a constellation of factors makes now an especially opportune time for nutricosmetics to reach breakout velocity. For starters, she says, “Feeling good is looking good. Lifestyle and wellness are becoming more integrated into how one looks and feels.” Consumers have caught on, and they’re hungry for tools like nutricosmetics that help them build beauty from within.

    Indeed, “Topical skincare is no longer the cornerstone of how we nourish our skin,” Simpson declares, adding that the science is there to support consumers’ shift. Cases in point: “The clinical research around the brain-gut-skin axis and the influence of stressed or unbalanced gut microflora on the function and appearance of skin” have received a lot of research attention, she says, and the result is not only a better understanding of how mind, body, and beauty interrelate, but a better crop of nutricosmetics that optimize that relationship. “Sophisticated technologies and manufacturing, along with higher-quality, more efficacious ingredients, are producing more effective products in many forms: pills, beverages, gummies, powders, bars, et cetera,” she says. As an added bonus: “All these forms help improve compliance and ease of use.”

    New channels for getting products to people are also broadening nutricosmetics’ reach. “Multi channels help merge beauty and nutrition,” Simpson notes; meanwhile, e-commerce companies have blended beauty and wellness brands into innovative hybrids that meet consumers where they really live. And just as these brands benefit from the improved access and higher profile that such channels grant, clued-in consumers enjoy “more autonomy and personalization of their beauty and wellness goals,” Simpson says.

    That’s no small matter, because autonomy and personalization are bottom lines with the Millennials who help to drive interest in nutricosmetics—and help drive new formulation directions. “There’s increasing consumer demand for naturally based solutions and products for beauty that work while reducing carbon footprints, and Millennials are really pushing this sector,” Simpson says. And industry has responded: “From vegetarian algae-sourced omega-3 fatty acids and unique actives found in herbs and botanicals to marine-sourced collagen and pre- and probiotics for skincare, understanding how specific nutrients and actives work on the skin from a dietary/supplemental and nutritional perspective has inspired active clinical research in all fields of dermatology, nutrition, and personal care.” Here are some ingredients to keep your eyes on.


    (1) “Global Nutricosmetics Market to Expand at 11.50% CAGR from 2014 to 2020,” Transparency Market Research.

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  • Laying the Groundwork

    Move over, collagen; you’re not the only game in town for strengthening skin’s supportive structure. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), an organosulfur occurring naturally in a number of foods, is building a track record of studies suggesting it has an important part to play in helping skin look its best.

    A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (2), results of which appeared in late 2015 in Natural Medicine Journal, looked specifically at the OptiMSM brand of MSM from Bergstrom Nutrition (Vancouver, WA) and found that the compound seems to regulate the expression of key genes responsible for skin health and the prevention of aging skin. Further, supplementation produced statistically significant improvements over baseline in crow’s feet and skin firmness, tone, and texture.

    Says Simpson, “As a molecule, collagen is poorly bioavailable and getting a bit overdone in the sense of the marketing of collagen-based products.” What intrigues her about MSM is that “it’s essential to building stable bonds within the dermal collagen/elastin matrix.” Even better, it’s been on the market long enough—mainly in the context of joint health—to build up what she calls “a strong safety and efficacy record.”

    (2) Anthonavage M et al., “Effects of oral supplementation with methylsulfonylmethane on skin health and wrinkle reduction,” Natural Medicine Journal, vol. 7, no. 11 (November 2015).

    Photo © Vuckovic. Edited by Quinn Williams

  • Carotenoids and Sticks

    Another ingredient that’s been on the market for some time but is only now achieving heightened awareness for its skin benefits is the carotenoid zeaxanthin. In fact, Simpson calls the antioxidant the ingredient she’s “most intrigued by right now,” and for understandable reasons: For one, she’s a cofounder and formulator for ZSS Skincare, a nutrition-focused skincare system launched in early 2015 as a spinoff of ZeaVision Holdings Inc., a maker of vision supplements based on zeaxanthin. For another, several studies have added heft to anecdotal evidence among the vision supplement’s users that, at higher doses, the zeaxanthin improves the condition of their skin, as well as that of their eyes.

    Found in everything from leafy greens (including kale, pictured) and yellow bell peppers to corn and eggs, zeaxanthin is suitably natural for today’s mindful skincare shopper. (The ZSS line derives its ingredient from paprika peppers, Simpson says.) And she notes that its benefits stem from the body’s “ability to absorb and use it actively as a strong antioxidant in the skin tissue,” where it evens out skin tone and ameliorates the inflammatory response to environmental stressors like sun and pollution.

    Photo © Zijlstra

  • Black Is the New Black

    As consumers and product developers alike sign on to the notion that “superfoods” aren’t just good for the gut or the brain, Simpson says, “I expect to see more innovative food-based ingredients in nutricosmetic and skincare formulations.”

    One super food that’s gotten her attention is the black raspberry, which she says has “higher antioxidant capacity” than either its red cousin or the slightly larger blackberry. But don’t take her word for it; researchers at the University of Agriculture in Krakow, Poland, analyzed the phenolic content and antioxidant properties of extracts of blackberries, red raspberries, and black raspberries grown in Eastern Europe and found that the latter have not only the top antioxidant capacity of the three fruits, but more total phenolics and anthocyanins, as well.(3) While the researchers concede that a number of factors “complicates the understanding of the mechanisms and biological effects of polyphenols in humans,” the results certainly don’t hurt the fruit’s super standing.

    (3) Kostecka-Gugała et al., “Antioxidant properties of fruits of raspberry and blackberry grown in central Europe,” Open Chemistry , vol. 13, no. 1 (November 2015).

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  • Beauty Potions

    One nutricosmetic trend that’s as much about the delivery as it is about the ingredients being delivered is the rise of drinkable beauty potions. “Tonics, tinctures, and traditional herbal medicines are moving into wellness and beauty in a big way,” Simpson says, and they’re finding inspiration in sources as disparate as traditional Chinese medicine, hipster cocktail culture, and that whole “juicing” thing.

    Simpson points to havens like New York City’s Chelsea Healing Arts Center and its storefront Vitality Bar as a place that’s doing it right. The venue not only offers spa treatments and deep-tissue massage, but makes probiotic tonics with the likes of tamarind, kombucha, and chai spices, as well as coconut lattes powered by kava. Where’s the beauty link? In an interview on the website Well+Good, the Center’s founder, Barbara Close, said, “We’ve learned that clients and spas typically view skin health and healing from the outside, but we know that most imbalances begin on the inside.” The Vitality Bar’s menu, Close said, “allows us to link ingestibles with conditions, from acne to muscle and joint health.”

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  • Beauty’s Big Themes

    Paula Simpson summarizes what she sees as the future of nutritionally directed beauty:

    • “Integrated systems mean that topical skincare is merging with nutritional supplementation for improved results.”

    • “More clarity and specificity in features and benefit claims are possible even with less-complex ingredients and formulations.”

    • “Higher-quality clinical research is proving product effectiveness for real proof of concept.”

    • “Successful products fit readily into consumers’ lifestyle for greater ease of use and, thus, improved compliance.”

    • “We’re no longer working within a traditional marketing and advertising model. Varied resources—think social media, YouTube, content marketing, webinars—provide new strategies for educating consumers on product benefits, which allows indie and innovative smaller brands to reach consumers more intelligently and easily.”

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