A Skin-Win Situation


Cosmeceutical users are diverse. But despite their differences, they are united in one goal: to slow the signs of aging. “Everyone is looking for a good formula that works in real life,” says Ohad Cohen, CEO of herbal extract supplier Vitiva (Markovci, Slovenia). “If the formula is all natural, that’s the best scenario.”


In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote that “one is apt to overestimate beauty when it is rare.” That may be true, but when it comes to the market for beauty products, it’s difficult to overestimate demand. Cosmeceutical sales reached $13 billion in 2005 and may top $17 billion by 2010, according to market research firm Packaged Facts (New York City). Skin-care products earned the lion’s share, with about $7 billion in sales.

Who is the average cosmeceutical consumer? The answer may surprise you: Image-conscious women, men, baby boomers, and young adults. “The stereotype of this being a women’s-only market is passé,” says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. “While aging baby boomers are still the best target, marketers would be wise not to overlook the broader-reaching consumer base.”


Cosmeceutical users are diverse. But despite their differences, they are united in one goal: to slow the signs of aging. “Everyone is looking for a good formula that works in real life,” says Ohad Cohen, CEO of herbal extract supplier Vitiva (Markovci, Slovenia). “If the formula is all natural, that’s the best scenario.”

While FDA does not have an official definition of the term cosmeceutical, the consensus is that cosmeceuticals are cosmetic products, often derived from natural sources, that claim to offer therapeutic benefits. The term can refer to products that are ingested or topically applied. Some cosmeceutical ingredients, such as aloe, can be both ingested and topically applied.

Cosmeceuticals appeal to consumers for a variety of reasons. One reason is that consumers see the products as alternatives to invasive procedures like surgery or temporary solutions like Botox injections. Many shoppers believe that because of their therapeutic qualities, cosmeceuticals will offer benefits that last.

“While many cosmetics have short-term effects on the appearance of the skin, cosmeceuticals may improve the integral condition of the skin in the long term,” says Kristen Trautman, product category coordinator for essential fatty acid supplier Bioriginal Food & Science Corp. (Saskatoon, SK, Canada). ""Consumers therefore consider cosmeceuticals as a solution, not only for improving the appearance of the skin, but also for nourishing the skin.”

Another reason for the popularity of cosmeceuticals is that consumers are becoming more accepting of the notion that what they eat can affect how they look. “The idea that what we eat influences our health is a well-established concept worldwide,” says Christian Artaria, vice director of marketing and development at herbal extract supplier Indena (Milan, Italy). “The idea that what we eat can specifically influence our skin’s appearance is also becoming an established concept.


Consumers aren’t the only ones to embrace the concept. Cosmetics giants like L’Oréal (Clichy, France) have already launched their first wave of cosmeceuticals, and more are under development. “Products promoting healthy hair, skin, and nails have been offered by nutritional companies for years,” says Scott Rosenbush, botanicals business manager at P. L. Thomas & Company, Inc. (Morristown, NJ). “Now these products are going mainstream.”

In fact, companies like L’Oréal have been paying close attention to the success of the dietary supplement and healthy food industries. “If the whole natural products movement is gaining momentum, why shouldn’t they compete for a piece of it?” asks Wayne McCune, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Aloecorp (Lacey, WA). Most companies already have loyal customers, he notes, so offering cosmeceutical products under their brand names makes sense.

For instance, European consumers expressed strong interest in Innéov Fermeté, a cosmeceutical product that was the result of a joint venture between L’Oréal and Nestlé (Vevey, Switzerland). Launched in 2003, Innéov contains vitamin C, soy isoflavones, and lycopene to promote skin tone. Innéov proved to be popular among first-time supplement buyers, according to L’Oréal. The company also noted that nearly 80% of those who used the product for at least three months said they intended to purchase it again.


Few cosmeceutical products can survive for long in the marketplace if they aren’t based on a good formula. Because many cosmeceutical ingredients are unstable or lack scientific substantiation, choosing the right ones can be a challenge. On the other hand, quite a few popular ingredients are based on natural substances that are backed by centuries of traditional use and, in some cases, clinical trials. Read on for a discussion of several cosmeceutical ingredients that are more than just skin deep.


One of the most versatile dietary supplement ingredients on the market may also turn out to be one of the most useful cosmeceutical ingredients. Pycnogenol, derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree (Pinus pinaster), contains high concentrations of antioxidant compounds like procyanidins that protect collagen, improve the circulation of tiny skin capillaries, and counteract UVB radiation.


“One of Pycnogenol’s basic mechanisms of action is that it helps neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals, which can aggressively break down and damage cells,” says Frank Schönlau, PhD, director of scientific communication at Horphag Research Ltd. (Geneva), which supplies Pycnogenol. “In fact, research suggests that Pycnogenol may reduce damage to the skin cells caused by UVB radiation by effectively neutralizing the free radicals originating from UV rays that saturate the skin.”

According to Schönlau, studies done at the University of California and the University of Arizona have shown that Pycnogenol has antiinflammatory properties. “Pycnogenol inhibits the release of proinflammatory mediators, preventing activation for immune cells, helping protect skin from photoaging, and extending the skin’s resistance to sunburn,” Schönlau says.

For example, Schonlau points to a small pilot study published in the January 27, 2006, issue of the Journal of Inflammation that examined Pycnogenol’s role in reducing harmful inflammation. In the study, conducted at the University of Würzburg in Germany, seven healthy volunteers received 200 mg of Pycnogenol for five days. Analysis of blood plasma taken before and after the trial showed that Pycnogenol lowered the activity of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), a molecule linked to inflammation, by 15%, according to Petra Högger, PhD, the study’s lead author. NF-kB can trigger inflammation by activating proinflammatory molecules that travel throughout the bloodstream.

“Inflammation is a double-edged sword for our health,” Högger says. “Beneficial inflammation is crucial for fighting infections and healing wounds. Harmful inflammation, such as that triggered by a noninfectious event, erroneously aims at the body’s tissue, causing significant damage. Patients who supplemented with the pine bark extract Pycnogenol benefited from an immune system response that attenuated excessive inflammation.”

Although the Journal of Inflammation study was a pilot trial intended to identify an in vivo method of measuring the antiinflammatory effects of plant extracts, Schönlau notes that Pycnogenol has been the subject of more than 200 studies, including clinical studies that have shown antiaging benefits from daily supplementation. “This is truly exemplified by the array of both topical and oral skin-care products with this ingredient that are available globally today,” Schönlau says.


Borage (Borago officinalis) oil is another cosmeceutical ingredient with strong antiinflammatory properties. In 2005, the National Institutes of Health’s (Bethesda, MD) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine awarded a grant to the Wake Forest (Winston-Salem, NC) and Harvard (Cambridge, MA) Center for Botanical Lipids to study the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from plants like flax and borage on inflammation.

According to Bioriginal’s Trautman, borage oil is one of the richest natural sources of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid that contributes to the healthy function of cellular membranes by maintaining the stability and fluidity of dermal cells and preserving the skin’s natural water-loss barrier. Trautman notes that GLA may also inhibit androgens that are related to acne. Bioriginal supplies BioAsteri, a generally recognized as safe (GRAS)–affirmed borage oil ingredient.

“By preventing transepidermal water loss, GLA prevents dry skin,” Trautman says. “The proper maintenance of the skin’s barrier function is also essential for preventing skin infections and irritation. If the body’s natural barrier is defective, then the skin can be more susceptible to damage and a variety of disorders including dry skin, eczema, sunburn, and acne.”

Trautman says that some studies suggest that when topical lotions containing high-quality borage oil are applied to the skin, GLA is absorbed by dermal cells. “GLA-rich borage oil has been shown to provide a powerful antiinflammatory effect, which means that it can be effective in the alleviation of damage from ultraviolet light,” Trautman says. “The skin generally contains high levels of arachidonic acid, which can inflame sunburn. Applied topically, borage oil acts as an antiinflammatory to reduce the redness, swelling, and pain caused by ultraviolet damage.”

Trautman adds that borage oil’s antiinflammatory properties, combined with its moisturizing effect, make it an attractive cosmeceutical ingredient. “As the body ages, it becomes less capable of producing GLA, meaning that cellular membranes retain moisture less effectively and the skin becomes dry and rough. The topical application of borage oil products can help promote a smoother complexion and soothe dry, scaly patches of skin. High-quality, concentrated borage oil, such as our BioAsteri brand, is becoming a popular ingredient for cosmeceutical applications, benefiting from well-documented research that highlights its various skin benefits.”


Opextan, an olive fruit extract standardized to contain the polyphenol verbascoside, is the product of a five-year joint collaboration between Indena and Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. (Tokyo). Research conducted by Kanebo, one of Japan’s largest cosmetics companies, found that verbascoside may help prevent thinning and dehydration of the skin. According to Takeshi Ikemoto, research and development manager at Kanebo, studies have confirmed the antioxidant effects of Opextan, which can be taken orally and topically. “Preclinical and clinical evidence of its free radical–scavenging capacity was obtained successfully in our laboratories,” he says.

“The main benefit for the skin is protection against premature wrinkles,” explains Indena’s Artaria, who notes that fear of the visible signs of aging was identified by DataMonitor (London) as the greatest influence on cosmeceutical use. “What makes Opextan unique is that it works via several different mechanisms to reach this goal.”

For instance, Artaria notes that Opextan prevents the weakening of underlying tissue and also hinders moisture loss, creating a plumper skin appearance. Specifically, Opextan’s antioxidant activity helps maintain the cellular structure of the skin, block damage from ultraviolet radiation, and lessen epidermal permeability. Moreover, Opextan helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, which preserves moisture, Artaria adds.

Indena plans to promote the ingredient outside of Japan, where it is already marketed under the brand name Bella Vita. “We are proud of our long-term collaboration with Kanebo,” Artaria says. “Both companies have shared their expertise to achieve the success of this novel ingredient.”


The succulent aloe (Aloe vera) has a long history of use as a remedy for injured skin and as a laxative. Recently, however, manufacturers of beauty products have been eager to explore its potential as a cosmeceutical ingredient. According to data from the International Aloe Science Council (IASC; Irving, TX), growers across the globe cultivated more than 23,000 hectares of Aloe vera in 2004. IASC estimates that worldwide sales of raw aloe materials were in the range of $65 million to $80 million, while sales of finished aloe products reached $110 billion. One reason that manufacturers are upbeat about aloe is that it can be taken topically and internally.

“Aloe is unique in that it has been shown to be beneficial in both oral ingestion form and certainly topically,” says Aloecorp’s McCune. “The whole understanding that aloe can be beneficial in tablet or capsule form is still gaining momentum but will continue to grow, especially as further science is completed. It has been hypothesized that aloe is one of the few ingredients that supports the ‘beauty from within’ concept. Whether science supports such a theory remains to be seen.”

In 2005, Aloecorp helped manufacturers take the “beauty from within concept” one step further by introducing new technology that improves the taste of aloe ingredients while enhancing their bioavailability. The company’s Qmatrix process uses a combination of low-temperature, short-time dehydration and enzymatic modification to produce crystal flakes of aloe that meet a targeted molecular weight distribution. The flakes, which benefit from reduced moisture absorbance and improved flow characteristics, can be reconstituted, bottled, or packaged dry. The technology has also enabled Aloecorp to add fruit ingredients, such as blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries, to the aloe flakes. One of the first companies to take advantage of the new technology is Nutri Pharmaceuticals Research Inc. (Las Vegas), which will use the flakes as a carrier matrix for its oil-to-powder conversion process. Godfrey Yew, president of Nutri Pharmaceuticals Research, says the process will help manufacturers use oils such as docosahexaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and GLA in “a more production-friendly and flexible dry-powder form.”

“Developing a range of powders using oil-to-powder technology and our Qmatrix aloe vera crystal flake will enable us to help beverage suppliers and food producers develop unique, efficacious functional foods and beverages,” says McCune. “Plus, it will offer dietary supplement and cosmeceutical manufacturers an exciting opportunity for patented, health-specific products.”


While vitamin C may help keep skin looking smooth, soft, and supple, it often presents a problem for manufacturers. The nutrient’s instability can affect product potency and shelf life, and its acidic nature may render it unsuitable as a cosmeceutical ingredient for people with some skin types. Moreover, the need to keep vitamin C in an oil base can cause problems for people with skin that is prone to acne. “If a product containing vitamin C is water based or in a container that must be opened and exposed to the air repeatedly, it can lose up to 90% of its vitamin C within 30 days of being manufactured,” says Amy Nelson, sales coordinator for Zila Nutraceuticals Inc. (Prescott, AZ). “If you want to reap the benefits of vitamin C, you must get the vitamin C to the skin.”

According to Nelson, more-stable forms of the nutrient, such as Zila’s Ester-C, a patented, neutral-pH combination of calcium ascorbate and other ingredients, can maintain its potency for up to two years. Zila manufactures several grades of Ester-C for use in dietary supplements and also offers a topical serum, Ester-C gold. The oil-free serum, intended for beauty salons, day spas, and dermatologists, is packaged in an airtight and watertight pump bottle, guaranteeing an average vitamin C content of 14.3%. “It’s highly concentrated, so the user can add it just prior to application to any skin-care product and maintain the original stability of the product,” Nelson says. “This allows consumers to use it with a water-based product if they like, because it does not remain in that product over time but is only added just prior to application.”


Fragrance is an essential component of many beauty products. Although herbs from the minty Labiatae family of plants are known to give off an aromatic scent, their distinctive odor is only one of their cosmeceutical benefits. Labiatae plants like basil (Ocimum basilicum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and sage (Salvia officinalis) also contain the antioxidant compounds ursolic acid and oleanoic acid, which may have several beneficial effects on the skin.

“Ursolic acid makes skin firmer and more elastic, and it is therefore mainly used in anti-aging cosmetics,” says Vitiva’s Cohen, who adds that the acid inhibits the antiinflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase. Ursolic acid is also thought to improve the appearance of photoaged skin and suppress the production of UVA-induced oxidation. Vitiva manufactures an ursolic acid extract, Ursole, using a patented process that yields a 45% ursolic acid content. “The result is a cost-efficient production of highly concentrated Ursole,” says Cohen. “This remarkable product offers great opportunities for nutraceutical and cosmeceutical producers in several applications.”


Bran, the nutritious coating of grains that is often discarded during food processing, is the source of one cosmeceutical ingredient that offers moisturizing and antioxidant benefits. In April, Eastman Chemical Co. (Kingsport, TN) introduced NutriLayer, a topical ingredient derived from rice bran.

Extracted from rice that is not genetically modified or chemically altered, NutriLayer contains rice bran wax, squalene, and phytosterols to create a barrier on the skin that seals in moisture. The ingredient also provides tocopherols and tocotrienols, antioxidants that help fight free radicals. According to Eastman, rice bran helps inhibit UV-induced oxidative stress and offers protection against the damaging effects of photoaging.

“NutriLayer helps personal-care brands meet consumer demand for holistic, natural treatments that yield touchable, visible results,” says James McCaulley, global market development manager at Eastman. “It gives brands the opportunity to substantiate their claims and give consumers exactly what they seek.”


Lumistor, an animal-free form of L-hydroxyproline created through fermentation, helps promote moisture retention and epidermal cell proliferation, according to manufacturer Kyowa Hakko USA (New York City). L-hydroxyproline is a major component of skin collagen, connective tissue, and bone, stabilizing collagen’s three-dimensional structure.

“Animal studies have confirmed L-hydroxyproline’s safety and indicated that it has a high potential for use as an effective ‘beauty from within’ ingredient,” says Karen Todd, RD, senior marketing manager at Kyowa Hakko USA. “Preliminary studies with oral supplementation of Lumistor have shown increased skin hydration after four weeks of oral intake.” Todd adds that Kyowa Hakko plans to study the effects on fine lines and wrinkles of a treatment that combines Lumistor with Resilen, the company’s hyaluronic acid ingredient. In addition, Todd notes that Cognizin, Kyowa’s cognitive function ingredient, may also affect the appearance of wrinkles by stabilizing cell mitochondria and improving energy storage.

“We have targeted both antiwrinkling and long-lasting moisturization of skin, hair, and nails because of the vast line of amino acids, amino acid derivatives, and peptides developed by Kyowa Hakko through unique fermentation processing methods,” Todd says. “Such innovations provide us with the means for supporting the cosmetic, food, and nutritional supplements industries with natural and highly functional ingredients in these important areas.”


An ayurvedic herb related to frankincense may play a role in combating irritation by inhibiting the activity of 5-lipoxygenase, an enzyme that mediates inflammation. Last year, researchers from Ohio State University (Columbus, OH), Georgetown University (Washington, DC), Creighton University (Omaha, NE), and the Laila Impex Research Center (Vijayawada, India) found that one of the compounds in the plant Boswellia serrata, acetyl-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA), inhibited the expression of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes that break down structural proteins in cartilage. The research was published in the April 2005 issue of DNA and Cell Biology. P. L. Thomas & Company’s 5-Loxin, the Boswellia serrata extract used in the study, is standardized to contain 30% AKBA.

According to Paul Flowerman, president of P. L. Thomas, a new study that appeared in the April 2005 issue of Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods confirmed the extract’s safety in animals, testing 5-Loxin for acute oral, dermal, primary skin, and eye irritation, as well as 90-day subchronic toxicity.

“This is an important study affirming 5-Loxin’s safety in several models,” Flowerman says. “These results are also supported by a recent Ames mutagenicity study, further developing the body of evidence supporting its use.”


Ultimately, many consumers believe that the best approach to skin care is one that is based on a holistic perspective that combines the topical application of helpful ingredients with nutritional supplementation. Two cosmeceutical ingredients from Keratec Ltd. (Lincoln, New Zealand) may address this need.

The ingredients, the topical Cynergy TK and the supplement Cynergy NK, are made from keratin extracted from sheep’s wool. The keratin contains low concentrations of zinc and copper protein complexes that help repair and maintain skin. The proteins also facilitate increased elasticity and moisture retention. According to Keratec, Cynergy NK also soothes inflammation by blocking prostaglandin E2 production. Gavin Frankpitt, international sales executive at Keratec, adds that the company extracts the keratin in a fully intact and biologically active form using proprietary technology. “Our unique process and product are covered by patents,” says Frankpitt. “With our gentle extraction process, we retain the functionality and bioavailability of the protein components by protecting selected bonds. These are not broken or denatured, as is the case with the harsh chemical methods used for production of traditional hydrolyzed keratin from animal by-products.”

The two ingredients appear to work together to create a synergistic effect on skin health, notes Fertram Sigurjonsson, vice president of business development at Keratec. “Our offering to consumers is a natural, renewable, and bioactive solution to the dilemma of which materials to select for integrated skin-health conditions,” Sigurjonsson says. “Cynergy allows customers to select an integrated vertical solution for premium skin care.”

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