Beauty Antioxidants: Facial Attraction


Beauty antioxidants are in demand for supplements, food, and beverages.

Beauty antioxidants are in demand for supplements, food, and beverages.

From grape seed extract to lutein and green tea, antioxidants are prolific on cosmetic and skincare counters. Indeed, market researcher Packaged Facts conservatively estimates that personal care/cosmetic products tagged with the word antioxidant posted U.S. retail sales of $3.9 billion in 2011.

Donna Marie Romeo, strategic national accounts manager, eastern U.S., with ingredients supplier LycoRed Corp. (Orange, NJ), reels off a list of just some of the personal care products touting antioxidants these days. “You have Burt’s Bees with its entire pomegranate line; Clientele Inc. using antioxidants; Reserveage Inc. using grape seed extract; Dr. Murad with an ellagic acid and grape seed extract formula; QVC’s Kate Somerville brand with a vitamin and antioxidant formula; GNC with lutein in its hair, skin, and nail formula; Nu Skin using green tea; and Perricone MD products containing lutein.”

And while these are all products that are topically applied-a concept consumers are familiar and comfortable with-more consumers are coming around to the idea that the same ingredients that are found in lotions and potions might also be able to influence outward appearance when incorporated in the diet.

“Consumers are getting smarter regarding their health in general and are making the link between inner beauty and outer beauty,” says Romeo. “The timing is right now, as consumers have grown in their understanding of how what you eat affects all parts of your biology, including how you look externally. Feed the inside; see the results on the outside.”

Laura Troha, marketing communications manager for ingredients supplier BASF Corp. (Florham Park, NJ), agrees that interest is growing in nutricosmetic foods and supplements that deliver beauty benefits, saying: “Consumers want skincare products that deliver beauty benefits through nutrition, driving one of the hottest trends in the market.”


Bouncing Back? Antioxidants in Food, Drink, and Supplements

The market data, however, tell a slightly different story. Mintel’s data show that the number of food and drink products with beauty benefits launched on the U.S. market has fluctuated over the last few years. Introductions peaked in 2008, with 39 new products entering the market. This figure then plummeted to just 10 introductions in 2009 and remained low during 2010 and 2011. On a more positive note, beauty food and drinks seem to be back on track this year, with 21 new lines hitting the market in the first part of the year. 

The inclusion of antioxidants in beauty foods and supplements has also seen its share of peaks and troughs, adds WH Leong, vice president of ingredients supplier Carotech (Edison, NJ): “In the United States, we noticed that the use of antioxidants as ingredients in beauty supplements or food and drinks gained popularity during 2007 and 2008, but many products have since been discontinued, likely due to the economic downturn.”

As Leong suggests, the poor performance of the last couple of years can likely be attributed to a tough economy, and therefore be viewed as a temporary blip on an otherwise upwards growth curve. Need proof? Take the number of new antioxidant-touting beauty launches, including BeautySweeties’ açai and fruits of the forest jelly hearts, which come in a 125-g bag emblazoned with the word antioxidants; Tea Forté’s Skin-Smart Antioxidant Amplifier Tea, which claims to “work with the body’s chemistry to take care of skin from within;” and Balance Bar’s Nimble, an all-in-one nutrition, energy, and beauty bar for women, formulated with lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E.

If the road has been a bit rocky for antioxidant food and drinks, antioxidant beauty supplements have had a smoother ride. In general, the market for beauty supplements seems to have been less affected by the recession. Packaged Facts’ “Antioxidant Products in the U.S.” report, published in March, stated that “between 2007 and 2011 there was an increase in antioxidant-rich supplements with the words age, beauty, youth, and skin used on the product.”

Representative of these products are 10B International’s Olivenol Livin’ Olive Biophenols Youthful Supplement Capsules and Big Quark LLC’s BeautySleep liquid supplement.


Beauty Antioxidants: From the Ingredients Industry

There is certainly plenty of support for antioxidants for beauty coming from the ingredients industry.

Marlena Hidlay, marketing analyst with DSM Nutritional Products (Parsippany, NJ), says she believes that demand for antioxidants as ingredients in beauty foods and supplements is on the up. In support of this, she cites a 2011 Nutrient Awareness survey performed by market research firm Multi-sponsor Surveys in which 200 adult supplement users surveyed demonstrated a strong effort or some effort to consume ingredients that benefit skin health. More specifically, 77% of supplement users surveyed indicated that they made an effort to consume lutein, while 75% said they made an effort to consume green tea extract or EGCG.

DSM has even developed a “beauty blend” called AgeWell. It’s an antiaging skin health formula containing select vitamins, carotenoids, and nutraceutical ingredients. Potential claims attached to this blend include “supports skin energy metabolism,” “helps vitalize the skin,” and “supports elasticity and firmness of the skin,” the company says.

So which antioxidant ingredients are the strongest candidates for inclusion in beauty-from-within products? Let’s discuss just a few.



According to Abhijit Bhattacharya, COO of OmniActive Health Technologies (Morristown, NJ), several carotenoids have been shown to have photoprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. He says that the yellow carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are most effective against high-energy solar radiation and that they guard against omega-3 oxidation in tissues such as the skin, eyes, and brain.

“There is human clinical evidence that these yellow carotenoids act like internal sunscreen to protect and improve skin health,” he says, referring to a 2007 study that tested the oral and topical effects of lutein and zeaxanthin over 12 weeks. (P Palombo et al., “Beneficial long-term effects of combined oral/topical antioxidant treatment with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin on human skin: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study,” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, vol. 20, no. 4 (2007):199-210.)

“Statistically significant, favorable effects were seen on three skin function outcomes, including hydration, photoprotection, and lipid damage,” says Bhattacharya. “Higher oral doses of zeaxanthin were shown to provide effective protection against sunburn, which could help reduce the risks of skin cancer, premature aging, and wrinkling.”

OmniActive extracts its Lutemax lutein and zeaxanthin isomers from the marigold flower.

BASF says lutein can help improve skin hydration, elasticity, and moisture, and when using the company’s Xangold natural lutein esters in beauty-from-within products, these benefits can be backed via up to 10 claims, including “helps improve skin hydration and elasticity” and “helps protect the skin against visible signs of premature aging.”

DSM carries the FloraGLO brand of lutein from Kemin Health (Des Moines, IA) and reports similar benefits. The aforementioned Palombo et al. study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology of female subjects aged 25 to 50 determined that oral supplementation of the FloraGLO brand of lutein specifically increased skin hydration and elasticity.

Fuji Health Science (Burlington, NJ) says that it has conducted more than 50 studies on AstaREAL astaxanthin, which have linked the carotenoid to a number of benefits, including skin health.

“We have conducted peer-reviewed, published studies in the area of skin beauty using astaxanthin, both as a topical agent and a dietary supplement. Astaxanthin was significantly shown to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, increase skin elasticity, promote skin hydration, and improve overall skin appearance. Astaxanthin has also been shown to decrease melanin synthesis (the cause of freckling and brown spots) and work to some extent as a UV protectant,” explains national sales manager Joe Kuncewitch.

Another well-known carotenoid, beta-carotene, has been extensively studied for its role in skin health. DSM points to clinical studies which have shown that beta-carotene-alone as well as in combination with lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene-helps protect the skin against the damaging effects of the sun.

Besides astaxanthin, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene, LycoRed offers Lyc-O-Mato, its natural lycopene complex typically used in softgel applications, as well as Lycobeads for tablets and capsules. One of the company’s clinical trials, published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research in 2003, involved lycopene and its effects on the skin. The company says this study found that lycopene helped repair damage caused by sunlight and UV rays, helped maintain the skin’s ability to protect against sun-related effects and aging, and helped protect skin from free radical damage to support healthy skin.



Pycnogenol, the French maritime pine bark extract, is said to contribute extensively to the antioxidant defense of the dermis.

According to Horphag Research (Geneva), Pycnogenol is one of the few antioxidants shown to effectively neutralize all oxygen radical species. It says this is especially important to the skin, as even low-to-moderate UV exposure generates oxygen radicals in the dermis. The protective effects of Pycnogenol for the skin have been demonstrated in human volunteers exposed to solar light spectrum at the University of Tucson. The study, which was published in Free Radical Biology & Medicinein 2001, measured the effect of oral supplementation of Pycnogenol on 21 volunteers.



ChromaDex (Irvine, CA) markets its pTeroPure brand of pterostilbene, a methylated cousin to resveratrol.

The company says that pterostilbene has the advantage of being both an antioxidant (it is a polyphenol) and bioavailable (it is lipophilic, which helps with both evading metabolism by the liver and improving uptake by the skin cells).


Vitamin E

“Vitamin E enhances the skin’s antioxidant defenses and regenerates vitamin C, and research suggests that increased skin protection can be achieved when vitamin E is combined with carotenoids,” says BASF’s Troha.

However, according to Carotech, most fat-soluble phytonutrients (including the regular tocopherol vitamin E) and antioxidants are poorly absorbed, which results in poor bioavailability. Thus, consumers may not get the optimal benefits from a product, or it may take a longer period of supplementation to see health effects.

Carotech claims that its tocotrienol ingredient, Tocomin SupraBio, which it touts as “the new super vitamin E,” guarantees an increase in absorption of each individual tocotrienol by an average of 250% compared to any regular tocotrienol oil extract.

Dietary supplements containing Tocomin SupraBio can apply for three structure function claims, the company says: “tocotrienol supports healthy skin,” “tocotrienol maintains healthy skin,” and “tocotrienol supports healthy hair or maintains healthy hair growth.”


Antioxidants and Beauty From Within: Spotting an Opportunity

Of course, skin health and antiaging are just two of many platforms for antioxidants; there are other less obvious-but no less lucrative-beauty-from-within approaches.

“Consumers normally associate antioxidants with antiaging beauty products, yet antioxidants can play a significant role in other areas of beauty care, such as acne control,” says RV Venkatesh, CEO of ingredients firm Gencor Nutrients (Anaheim, CA).

Venkatesh says that the firm’s ingredient, Cleargen, a proprietary, standardized extract of Garcinia mangostana, more commonly known as mangosteen, offers numerous other beauty benefits. “The extract, made from the peels of mangosteen fruit, contains xanthones. Xanthones are known for their antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to its known antioxidant properties, Cleargen, which is standardized for its xanthones, has been shown to have inhibitory activity against the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, which is the root cause of acne.”

Venkatesh says that the efficacy of Cleargen was well proven in in vitro and human clinical studies, although it should be pointed out that the research has not yet been peer-reviewed. (Both studies were done in Thailand. The in vitro study was conducted by a university, and the clinical study was done by the contract research organization Dermscan Asia.)


Antioxidants: Making Claims

Professor Paul Berryman, chief executive of market research firm Leatherhead Food Research, advises that there are several points to consider when making antioxidant claims on beauty foods in the United States. And these rules are different-and somewhat more stringent-than those governing beauty supplements, which are largely covered by structure-function claims.

First, nutrient content claims cannot be made for substances without an RDI (Recommended Daily Intake). Secondly, Berryman points out, the level of a nutrient must be sufficiently high in order to qualify for a “high in” claim in the United States. For example, to bear the claim “High in antioxidant vitamin C,” a product must contain 20% or more of the RDI for vitamin C. That’s something to keep in mind, if a company is thinking about making an antioxidant claim on its beauty product.

But even if a company chooses not to make a specific health claim on its beauty food or drink, consumers may still assume the health benefits that they have come to associate with antioxidants, thanks to other influences.

“The amount of information on antioxidants and health-especially beauty-that is out in the market, in women’s magazines, on the news, is huge...compensating for the fact that you may not be able to make a health claim on your product-you don’t need to,” says Aurore DeMonclin of marketing firm Healthy Marketing Team.

“’Antioxidant’ is more of a belief-driven proposition,” she continues. “You cannot feel the immediate physical benefit. Antioxidants are more of an intellectual and emotional concept-you believe you are better with them than without them because you know these foods are good for you.”  


Read more: Looking for the next beauty trend? Look for nutricosmetic ingredients that can be used topically.

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