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What's in your formula? A look at the ingredients beauty brands are using to fuel their formulations and capture consumers' attention.

The world is a formulator's oyster these days as Mother Nature offers a seemingly endless array of natural ingredients that can be used in skin care and beauty products, in addition to an extensive range of synthetic materials that also do the trick. The bench chemist's task is to sift through and evaluate this ever-growing cache of materials to find ingredients that are in tune with their brand's profile, performance requirements and price point.

But that's only part of the process. Once the R&D team is smitten with a particular component, the marketing department must get the consumer onboard by effectively translating what those ingredients can do to bolster one's appearance or battle the signs of aging. According to Jennifer Stansbury, co-founder and managing partner with The Benchmarking Company, it's a tactic that can work well when consumers have a comfort level with a particular ingredient that they may have encountered before (think familiar fruits and vegetables) but is more complicated when dealing with the unknown (i.e., snail secretion) or the uncomfortable (like stem cells).


Some firms have success building an entire brand around a particular hero ingredient. Stansbury pointed to Algenist, as an example. Developed and launched by TerraVia (then Solazyme) in 2011, the Algenist line of skin care products centers on a suite of proprietary algae-based ingredients including alguronic acid and microalgae oil. The company's formulations have garnered several awards, a steady following and, most recently, private equity cash. In August, Tengram Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the brand and also formed a partnership with TerraVia to identify other opportunities to use its algae-based ingredients across the beauty industry.

Ingredient Inventory

As Algenist is hitching its wagon to algae, a survey of recent launches and discussions with leading chemists and industry insiders revealed that many novel ingredients are fueling today's rollouts.

Alchimie Forever's R&D team tapped into a cocktail of powerful anti-pigmentation actives--specifically alpha-arbutin, vitamin C and citrus extract--for its new Pigment Lightening Serum, which rejuvenates the skin by preventing sun damage, evening out pigmentation, and lightening brown spots.

"We wanted to formulate something that was effective but was hydroquinone-free, which was part of our ingredient philosophy," Ada Polla, CEO, told Happi in a recent podcast.

At Freeze 24-7, a trio of ingredients is driving the performance of a new mask.

"The star ingredients in Freeze 24-7's Anti-Gravity Lifting Face Mask are adenosine, serilesine and mushroom complex extract with enriched [beta]-glucan," president Brian Robinson told Happi. "Adenosine boosts collagen and elastin, softening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and helping to prevent future lines from forming. Serilesine is a form of hexapeptide-10, a chain of six amino acids that stimulate cell activity. The final ingredient, mushroom complex extract with enriched [beta]-glucan, supplies moisturizing care and nutrition to the skin."

Dermarche Labs newest anti-aging weapon is a two-product AM/PM regimen that relies on a cocktail of antioxidants.

"BioRewind AM offers the world's first full-spectrum antioxidant blend designed to block the complete range of free radicals,"noted Esther Dong, senior vice president and general manager of Dermarche Labs. The proprietary blend contains antioxidants from a combination of chlorogenic acids, green tea, turmeric, cocoa and resveratrol from grapes.

"This combination fights against all forms of internal and external free radicals while helping protect cells from damage and optimize skin's vitality. The ingredient combination allows the product to work inside the cells (water soluble), in cell membranes (lipid soluble), in the spaces between cells, and in the deep dermis among the collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid fibers,"she said.

The second product, BioRewind PM, is formulated with a proprietary retinoid linked with lactic acid to form a unique molecule that provides maximum effectiveness with minimal irritation, according to Dong. "The retinoid helps support collagen, clarify pores, even skin tone, soften the appearance of lines, while the lactic acid helps increase cell turnover and provide a gentle exfoliation," she said.



New Brightening Cleanser and Brightening Toner formulations recently launched by Le Mieux Cosmetics, Los Angeles, tout mandelic acid and glutathione in addition to licorice root, bearberry and papaya extracts. According to Janel Luu, CEO, mandelic acid offers gentle exfoliation and resurfacing while glutathione, an antioxidant, targets signs of environmental damage. Licorice root, bearberry, grapefruit and papaya extracts boost clarity and radiance, while 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) provides absorption and brightening properties.

Next month direct seller Avon will further expand its Anew franchise with Ultimate Supreme Advanced Performance Creme. The treatment is said to be infused with black pearl essence, an ingredient known to improve skin's ability to retain moisture, as well as the highest level of Avon's exclusive Celluvive anti-aging complex.

Estee Lauder Revitalizing Supreme + Global Anti-Aging Collection includes a creme and a balm that feature an exclusive moringa extract that supports skin's natural Nrf2, which helps "turn on" multiple anti-aging benefits, including new anti-irritation and antioxidant pathways. Lauder contends the extract also helps amplify the benefits of a powerful collagen complex to help further promote natural collagen while prickly pear cactus extract nourishes and strengthens skin's moisture barrier.

Dr. Ilya Raskin, an internationally known plant biologist at Rutgers University, played a role in product development. According to Lauder, Dr. Raskin developed a moringa extract derived from the nutritionally dense seeds of the Moringa oleifera species, which is exclusive to Estee Lauder. This patent-pending extraction process produces a high concentration of this potent molecule and maintains the stability to significantly enhance its natural bioactivity. In vitro testing showed that the moringa extract increases Nrf2 in skin cells by 76% after 24 hours.

"This exclusive moringa extract has allowed us to target even more anti-aging pathways, including skin's natural anti-irritation and antioxidant pathways to help defend against environmental aggressors," according to Dr. Nadine Pernodet, vice president, skin biology and bioactives R&D, Estee Lauder Companies.

Plant stem cell ingredients are making waves in Europe and Asia, and while US consumers remain a bit more hesitant about the concept in general, more brands are incorporating these efficacious ingredients into their skin care products.

For example, Alpessence, a Swiss-based luxury skin care line that is sold online in 14 countries, is infusing its products with extracted rose stem cell powder.

"Plant stem cells have been known to vigorously ward off aging by boosting cellular regeneration to repair weathered skin. The rose stem cells also prompt our own stem cells to increase collagen production, further smoothing out fine lines and helping to protect skin against future wrinkles. The infusion-plus technology, favored by Alpessence, ensures the rose stem cells penetrate the skin's surface, delivering its top-of-the-line ingredients to the epidermis layer, where they're most needed," noted Chencheng Quan, business operation manager of Linco International Trading Company, Inc., parent company to Alpessence.

Rose stem cell technology is also big at Rodial, a brand that has caught consumers' attention with unique ingredients like dragon's blood and bee venom. The company recently launched Stem Cell Magic, a 10-in-l hydrator gel. The formulation's BioProtect complex, along with PhytoCellTech Alp Rose stem cell technology (a powder based on the stem cells of Alpine Rose leaves) helps fight against environmental stressors by retaining skin's hydration balance.

Venerable ingredients are also finding their way back into modem skin care regimens. Derma e, for example, uses activated charcoal, a powerful natural skin detoxifier, in its Purifying skin care regimen to cleanse and reboot skin, according to Dr. Linda Miles, cofounder and chief formulator.


Miles is also a fan of bladderwrack seaweed, a marine algae that is rich in nutrients to help moisturize, and Kinamarine Wakame, a patented marine algae that is clinically proven to protect skin against environmental pollutants, free radical damage and UVA radiation. Both ingredients are incorporated into derma e's Purifying Deep Detox skin care regimen.

Proven Winners

In fact, many workhorse ingredients are being used in conjunction with novel materials in today's newest formulations.

Joey Chancis, founder of Joey New York and Labb Aesthetic Beauty Bar, cited snail secretion as a standout new ingredient, but told Happi her "go-to" materials include salicylic acid for blackheads, blemishes and large pores, hyaluronic acid for hydration and retinol for smooth even skin tone and anti-aging.

"These are tried and true ingredients that really make a difference and are compatible with just about every skin type," she said.

Skin Inc. has a new serum mist that hydrates, soothes and calms skin with just eight ingredients, one of which is that old reliable, hyaluronic acid. To bolster its mist's performance, the formulation also contains mineral-rich Japanese Onsen hot spring water, which has been found to have several therapeutic effects that contribute to soothing and calming influences for skin problems, such as reducing the redness and itch of sensitive skin, as well as acne-prone or blemishprone skin.


Sente, Inc., a privately held specialty aesthetics company based in Carlsbad, CA, is using retinol and patented Heparan Sulfate Analog (HSA) technology in its new Bio Complete Serum.


"Both of them have been clinically proven to improve the appearance of mature and solar damaged skin," said Virginia L. Vega,

PhD., Sente's new vice president R&D and physician education. "What makes this combination extremely attractive is the potential synergism between an iconic skin care ingredient--retinol--and the new century breakthrough technology (HSA)."

According to Vega, these actives penetrate the skin reaching efficacious dermal levels but they target different pathways, resulting in a broader/stronger anti-aging result.

"Mechanistically speaking, retinol must be converted into its active form, all-trans retinoic acid, before activating collagen synthesis, decreasing collagen degradation, increasing cell turn over and evening skin pigmentation. Although extremely efficacious, retinol often triggers skin irritation that is observed as burning, scaling or redness limiting it acceptance by patients."

HSA, she continued, "is an analog of endogenous heparan sulfate, a biologically active glycosaminoglycan (GAG) that has been described as the most information-dense biopolymer in nature due to the multiple functions that can perform such as rebalanced dermal matrix health, deep dermal hydration and modulating the activity of key secreted factors and enzymes." Vega told Happi that in addition to its unique anti-aging and pro-skin health properties, HSA is well tolerated even by patients with sensitive skin.

What's To Come?

Where is ingredient technology heading now?

According to Vega, emerging fields in skin biology that will drive new ingredient development include glycans and environmental damage.

"Glycans or complex carbohydrates such as GAGs, which not long ago were considered over-complicated structures with obscure functions, are emerging as key players of skin physiology rapidly becoming potential targets for anti-aging therapy," Vega said.

Her interest in environmental damage was echoed by industry analyst Nica Lewis of Euromintor, who authored "Revealing The Future of Anti-Aging Skincare) on behalf of In-Cosmetics, which hosts its first North American show this month in New York City (Sept. 7-8, 2016).

According to Lewis, with air pollution hitting critical levels in cities like Beijing and Delhi, cosmetic ingredient suppliers can help manufacturers with NPD by offering actives that claim to protect against the effects of pollution.

Other industry insiders are intrigued by the benefits of new ingredients that bridge the gap between natural and synthetic.

For example, Valerie George, a senior chemist at a leading salon hair care company and 2016 chair of the California Society of Cosmetic Chemists, has been impressed with work by two suppliers to functionalize a synthetic ingredient with the benefits of natural shea butter.

"This is a synergistic technology that bridges the world of natural and synthetic," she said, referring to Shea XI? which was a joint development between AAK and Sonnebom.

"I feel like there is such a battle in our industry between natural and synthetic. Both are proven to work and have their own place in the market. AAK and Sonnebom have done what I hope others will continue to do--embrace both and optimize the benefits of both together."

In the end, leading R&D experts are always on the prowl for new materials that deliver.

"Our R&D team and I are focused on discovering and integrating ingredients that are not only healthy, but perform extremely well," said Miles of derma e.

And when sourcing ingredients, chemists want to build a lasting relationship with that supplier.

"I try to think of the long term relationship because these ingredients are hopefully going into products for years to come," George told Happi. "I want to make sure I use someone that I can count on. The chemist-supplier relationship is extremely important."

Christine Esposito * Associate Editor
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Author:Esposito, Christine
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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