3 Big Ideas – Driving Innovation in Cosmetics and Personal Care 3 Big Ideas

Euro Cosmetics Magazine - Deanna Utroske
Deanna Utroske
Editor, Writer, and Beauty Industry Commentator

Products, People, and the Beauty-Being Axis

The Beauty-Being Axis is all about the brain-skin connection, about the gut-skin connection, as well as about how emotional and mental wellbeing are bidirectionally linked to personal care.

Some of the concepts and market realities underlying the Beauty-Being Axis are the popularity of probiotic supplements; consumer interest in microbiome beauty; our long-standing awareness of aromatherapy; and the nuanced functionality of cannabinoid beauty. Psychodermatology figures into this conversation too. And we are also, of course, seeing advances in science and new ingredient technologies bolster the idea of a Beauty-Being Axis. Additionally, repercussions of the pandemic experience, including our lived recognition of holistic wellness are significant here.

But notably, in the ingredients and consumer products I’m seeing, there is something of a distinction between the skin-gut axis, the sensorial skin-brain axis, and the emotional skin-brain axis.

Newness gets a lot of attention in our industry. But what I see driving real innovation is not novelty simply for novelty sake. Rather, it’s that our body of knowledge and our knowledge of the body are not only growing in volume but in nuance and sophistication. Today, we collectively understand more about our skin, our bodies, and our world than ever before.
And that understanding is where these 3 big ideas driving innovation in cosmetics and personal care come from: the beauty-being axis, biomimicry, and regenerative beauty.

To be fair, I don’t know which of these is most important to consumers right now. What I do know is that with each and any of these axes, consumers’ understanding and expectations of what’s possible with skincare and body care is moving beyond cosmetic effects, beyond changes and improvements to appearance and onto a more holistic result.

An article published this summer on the consumer-facing site Oprah Daily helps beauty lovers make the link between digestive function and skin appearance. Isabel Burton, in her article titled, The Secret to Healthy, Dewy Skin Just May Be Bugs, writes: “There’s a secret language spoken within your body—constant chatter, plotting, planning, deal-making happening below the surface. The conversationalists: bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that make up the microbiome in your gut, among other places. What are they discussing in their microbial language? How your organs and systems should operate. The biomass of these bugs,” she writes, “is greater than your actual human cells by orders of magnitude. So they have a lot to say. And as science is discovering, one topic of conversation is your skin.”

Brands are also educating consumers on the close link between digestion and skin, brands in the nutritional supplements space as well as beauty brands. Tula skincare, the topical probiotic brand founded in 2014 by Ken Landis, Dan Reich, and gastroenterologist Dr Roshini Raj, is a good example.

In 2017 Tula added supplements to its product portfolio. And in early 2022, P&G acquired the brand which today, sells two of what it calls “digestive health” supplements: one is Daily Dose, advanced daily probiotic skin complex; and the other is Balanced Beauty, gummy vitamins for strong skin plus probiotics.

The fact that Tula, which is now a fairly mainstream skincare brand, is wholly focused on probiotics and includes digestive health products among its offer, means that consumers are not only learning about the gut-skin connection from beauty brands, they are able to experience the results for themselves. Today, the link between digestion and skin is one that many consumers understand; it’s also a connection they believe in and expect to see results from.

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Tula is not alone in this space. The bioscience-led skincare brand called Codex Labs recently launched dietary supplements that promise to “help keep your gut microbiome balanced and your entire body in equilibrium.” There are four different supplements in the brand’s product portfolio, all of which promise skincare benefits: one of the supplements from Codex Labs promises Skin Barrier Support; another is a Clear Skin Probiotic supplement; there is one that’s meant to De-Stress skin; and one that targets Acne.

As much as we likely still have to learn about this gut-skin connection; this aspect of the Beauty-Being Axes is fairly well established. So, I’ll move on then to the connection between the skin and the brain. This connection, beauty that acts on this axis is, by comparison, still emerging. What’s most common in this space are products that are scented or textured to elicit pleasant effects.

A 2022 article in Well and Good describes what is being called “sensory beauty” this way: “sensory beauty is the creation of beauty products intended to stimulate our senses – sound, sight, taste, smell, and/or touch – for a calming and positive effect.”

So the long-standing practice of aromatherapy belongs here. And so does the idea of sensorial beauty, which conventionally relies on emulsifiers and rheology modifiers to create appealing product textures.

Newer concepts and research in this space consider the sensorial experience, emotional benefits, and visible benefits of application tools, product application techniques, and product routines. Quite recently, for instance, Dr Katerina Steventon published an item in Cosmetics & Toiletries documenting research on how daily self-facial massage can improve signs of aging and also improve a sense of wellbeing.

The concept of emotional insights is emerging among global beauty consumers. These are metrics similar to what we see from fitness trackers or skin assessment apps that measure, say, steps or hydration; but emotional insights correlate product and routine to quantified mood, emotion, and mental wellbeing stats.

Since we’re moving from the tactile to the emotional and through to mental health with this concept, I’ll mention a brand here called selfmade. selfmade is a skincare, body care, and intimate wellness brand that launched in 2020 and is educating consumers about the link between self-care and mental health. The brand is leveraging beauty to educate consumers about mental health in general and is at the same time developing products that are meant to stimulate the senses for a positive effect.

And while numerous brands are doing interesting work with aroma, texture, emotions, and even mental health, the potential of the skin-brain axis is best illustrated by recent innovations in the ingredient sector. When I speak with ingredient makers about these innovations, the word that I am hearing over and over again is “mood.”

Beauty ingredient makers around the world are developing ingredients that either have a documented impact on mood, which thereby has an effect on the skin and/or these ingredients have an effect on the skin that mimics the effect of a particular mood.

The ingredient maker Clariant has developed some mood-boosting ingredients. An item on that company’s site explains that, “Treating your skin with products that provide sensations of comfort can help improve the mood by stimulating the release of feel-good molecules such as serotonin and melatonin. This, in turn, positively impacts the skin and starts a virtuous cycle.”

The active called Rootness Mood+ is made from an extract of the plant known as Burnet and has been shown to mimic light therapy and increase levels of both serotonin and melatonin, which Clariant also calls “well-being molecules.”

Mibelle Biochemistry has developed a really interesting skincare ingredient that acts on the skin-brain axis. I say “really interesting” because the level of sophistication and nuance which has been demonstrated in clinical studies of TiMOOD is unlike anything else I’m seeing in the market.

When applied topically, TiMood improves skin neuron survival, improves neurite length, improves keratinocyte proliferation, and dopamine release, which then results in improved skin evenness, improved complexion, and improved luminosity. Volunteers, who self-reported as being stressed, and used skincare formulated with TiMood were then more relaxed, and felt calmer. And this emotional improvement was documented through clinical studies and neuropsychological testing.

In another of her articles for Cosmetics & Toiletries, Dr Katerina Steventon acknowledges that “Regulatory authorities debate whether cosmetics should be considered part of a larger treatment plan for improving consumer health and well-being.” And she goes on to observe that “Cosmetic ingredient exhibitions and innovation trends … lean in the direction of skin health, wellness and psychodermatology.”

I would agree that regulations, which are quite helpful in many respects, do at times complicate innovation. Cosmetics that fall under the heading of the Beauty-Being Axis may or may not have direct health implications, but there is clearly a link between digestive health, the gut microbiome, and skin; a link between sensorial experiences and skin; a link between emotions and skin appearance. And as the TiMOOD ingredient shows us, there is a link between the vitality of the nerves and nerve endings in a person’s skin and that person’s overall mood.

I’ll be paying attention to the Beauty-Being Axis for the foreseeable future and would suggest that you do the same.

Biomimicry and Beauty Ingredients Modeled on Nature

You may have noticed by now that this article is a bit more conversational than some of my other writing. That’s because this installment of the Global Perspectives column is an adaptation of remarks I gave as part of a recent webinar called Backstage Beauty (produced by the team at Mibelle Biochemistry). A couple of experts from that company were speaking as part of the online event. And the topic Stéphane Poigny, PhD, Director of R&D, covered is definitely driving innovation in cosmetics and personal care.

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Poigny shared a short synopsis of his remarks with me for this article: “Biomimicry is an approach that consists of innovating by drawing inspiration from the living, based on solutions adopted over the course of their evolution of nearly 4 billion years. Nature is the world’s leading R&D laboratory and an inexhaustible source of inspiration, whether it be animal, plant, mineral or other, whether the biological model is alive, or now extinct.

“Biomimicry represents an opportunity for humanity to innovate in a responsible and sustainable way by imitating tricks from nature. By taking biological systems as a model, it becomes possible to reconcile industrial activities and economic development with the preservation of the environment, resources and biodiversity.

“Biomimicry has been the subject of standardized work, notably by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the French Association for Standardization (AFNOR), to define the various concepts. There are different standards ISO 18458 on terminology, concepts and methodology. Mibelle Biochemistry is a partner of Biomimexpo, the first event dedicated to biomimicry in France, a member of the CEEBIOS and Biomimicry Switzerland, and has been identified as a key player in the field of bio-inspired cosmetic actives.

“Also, some of our ingredients are based on the concept of biomimicry:

  • SensAmone P5: A five amino acid biomimetic peptide containing the TRPV1 binding motive of the sea anemone venom protein APHC1.
  • Snow Algae Powder: Imitating the concept of caloric restriction for longevity.
  • RoyalEpigen P5: Five amino acid peptide mimicking the queen maker RoyalActin.”

Dr Fred Zuelli, Founder and Business Development Director of Mibelle Biochemistry, Switzerland, also spoke as part of the recent Backstage Beauty webinar. Dr Zuelli is one of our industry’s top biochemists and ingredient innovators; and he spoke specifically about how the company is developing not only novel actives but also the biotechnologies and production methods to realize those ingredients at scale.

There can, of course, be an overlap between biomimicry and biotechnology, as evinced with the mention of Snow Algae in both Poigny’s remarks as well as in Dr Zuelli’s. What follows is a quick synopsis that he shared with me for this article. “Manufacturers of sustainable cosmetics are committed to the responsible use of plant resources and [to ensuring] that they can regenerate. Active ingredients from rare, exotic, extremophilic and endangered plant species are of particular interest due to the interesting mode of action of newly discovered molecules and the associated marketing opportunities. The key to meeting these new and ever-growing challenges is innovation based on state-of-the-art biotechnology.

“To address this problem, various biotechnologies have been developed at Mibelle Biochemistry to produce natural ingredients in a sustainable way.”

And here, Dr Zuelli outlines “four of the most advanced and innovative biotechnologies from the past decade,” which he presented during the webinar (targeted to the US market): 1. “Hairy Root Technology: With this technology roots of plants can be grown in bioreactors without any plants or fields. The hairy roots deliver valuable metabolites in a sustainable way.

  1. Plant Cell Cultures: In this case plants materials such as leaves or fruits are wounded. This results in the development of a wound healing tissue called callus. Out of this tissue dedifferentiated cells (plant stem cells) can be isolated and cultured in liquid media to generate large scale biomass of the species.
  2. Moss Protonema Culture: Moss plants are difficult to use as cosmetic raw materials as they grow very slowly and are heavily contaminated with pollutants from the environment. The growth of a special protonema tissue of moss plants in bioreactors offers a sustainable and high-quality production of moss biomass.
  3. Growth of Snow Algae: Red snow algae can be found in summer on glaciers. They contain a lot of interesting antioxidants to protect them against sun irradiation. These algae can be cultivated in photo-bioreactors in the cold to access to large scale biomass. The algae are first grown in a green form at a low light intensity. Once the biomass is reached, the light intensity is increased to transform the algae into the red form to produce the active ingredients.”

Medicine, Skincare, Agriculture, and Regenerative Beauty

The idea of Regenerative Beauty is about products and practices that motivate, maintain, and manifest fully vibrant life.

Regenerative Beauty is kind of about longevity – the longevity of our life on Earth and (if you will) the life of the Earth. Regenerative Beauty is a progression of concepts like skin longevity and environmental sustainability. It’s about medicine, skincare, and agriculture; and it overlaps with what some call Blue Beauty.

So just quickly, Blue Beauty is a movement that goes a step or two beyond sustainability, beyond the idea of do no harm. Blue Beauty is about undoing through doing. That is, undoing the damage people and industry have done to the planet by doing much better with beauty. The retailer called Beauty Heroes does a lot with education and advocacy in this space. Just google Beauty Heroes and you will find a tab on their site to learn more about Blue Beauty.

I say that Regenerative Beauty is about medicine, skincare, and agriculture; and that it overlaps with this idea of Blue Beauty because this concept is still relatively new. And because as consumers, brands, and industry insiders, we can’t decide if this is an all-encompassing trend or if the term Regenerative Beauty will eventually belong to dermatology, or to consumer skincare, or to ingredient sourcing and agriculture, or to practices that take us fully into circularity. Suffice it to say that, for now, Regenerative Beauty is multifaceted.

The term Regenerative Beauty first clicked for me at Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna last year, when it was my honor to introduce select brands to an audience of buyers interested in truly innovative brand concepts and product lines.

One of the brands presenting was Milan-based Amarey, a newly launched brand that describes itself as Italian Regenerative Skincare. The brand is dedicated to ensuring that the full value of the entire coffee plant is put to good use, that nothing goes to waste. It may not all be used in skincare but the brand has impeccable sourcing relationships and is doing important work to valorize and upcycle every bit of the plant.

And the Coffea Arabica extracts used in Amarey’s product formulas has been developed in partnership with leading experts in both coffee and dermatology and, according to the brand site, they “have harnessed the full potential of coffee, unlocking its antioxidant-rich and rejuvenating properties.”

A Brooklyn-based brand called Palermo, that I met at the recent New York City edition of Shoppe Object has a Regenerative Facial Serum in its product portfolio. The serum is, according to the product page on PalermoBody.com, “Formulated with Rosehip CO2 and other supercritical extracts, this luxe serum is formulated to restore skin’s appearance by encouraging cell regeneration and boosting elasticity.” With these brands we’re hearing about rejuvenation and cell regeneration.

Moving this concept further into the future is Sweet Chemistry Skincare. This is a new brand that borrows directly from the technologies of regenerative medicine. I recently had a nice, long call with the Co-Founder and CEO of Sweet Chemistry Skincare, Alec Batis.

The hero ingredient for the brand are regenerative bone peptides called Matrikynes® that are also currently being used in leading biomedical research for organ tissue repair. And the data from that field is really quite astounding. Matrikynes® have a less than glamourous INCI name: Hydrolyzed Cow Bone Extract. But come to think of it, almost no INCI name sounds glamourous.

And like we saw with Amarey and with the jumble of possible iterations of Regenerative Beauty that I mentioned a moment ago, Sweet Chemistry Skincare fits into the Regenerative Beauty trend with its legitimately regenerative ingredient but also with the sourcing of that ingredient which valorizes what would otherwise be waste. Plus other ingredients in the Sweet Chemistry formulas are cultivated by leveraging regenerative agriculture practices.

We can see a mix of regenerative ag and regenerative skincare from ingredient makers too. For instance, in 2020 Symrise teamed up with a French organization that helps the producers of aromatic and medicinal plants adapt to climate change. They partnered on a bio-regeneration project using an in-vitro lab technique to ensure that the ingredient maker’s White Lavender Plants are free from chronic lavender disease.

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On a visit to an Ashland Specialty Ingredients facility about four years ago, I heard the word “regenerate” a lot. I was on a trade media site visit to learn about the company’s SeaStem ingredient, which is sourced from kelp, and was told that, “kelp is one of the plants with the highest regeneration rate,” that the company was “maintaining this kelp forest in a healthy state … we are not damaging this forest and its ability to regenerate,” and that the SeaStem ingredient itself provides “skin regeneration” benefits.

In a Ceramides overview item that I wrote for an August issue of Beauty Insights, I included the news that ingredient maker Evonik launched SkinMimics Pro MB this year. This new ceramide ingredient is actually a blend or combination of seven ceramides “embedded in a modern and globally applicable emulsifier system,” according to materials the company shared with me. SkinMimics Pro MB is comprised of both long-chain and short, bioactive ceramides; and it promises benefits including improved barrier function and skin regeneration.

In that same issue of the Beauty Insights newsletter, I pointed out that in early in 2023, BYOMA (a brand out of Scotland-based Future Beauty Labs) that describes itself as a barrier-care brand or barrier-boosting skincare launched several new products including, a Barrier Lipid Complex: “A truly unique oil-soluble complex, this optimum concentration of ceramides and skin identical lipids delivers barrier strengthening actives to your skin in an oil-based formula for…restorative and regenerative results.”

Avid readers of the Beauty Insights newsletter may even recall that in November 2022 I shared a short news item titled, Upcycled Kiwi Leaf Extract Hits Beauty Ingredient Market. In this item I wrote: “Following 10 years of research and development work, Groupe Berkem announced the launch of Ki’Leaft … The new skincare ingredient promises antioxidant benefits, firming and regenerative properties, as well as skin barrier reinforcement.” Later on in that item, I quoted the company’s Marketing Manager Charlène Martin as saying, “The development of this new active ingredient with remarkable benefits by upcycling meets the demands of our customers in the cosmetics industry, both professionals and major brands, while also illustrating our Group’s CSR commitments.” So again we see Regenerative Beauty promising not only better skincare benefits but better environmental practices.

Before I summarize the idea of Regenerative Beauty and the whole of my commentary here today, I’d just like to consider the definitions of Regenerative Medicine and Regenerative Agriculture to help further contextualize Regenerative Beauty and where this concept can take us.

So, Regenerative Medicine deals with the “process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human … cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function” (according to numerous sources, including Elsevier’s ScienceDirect).

And, Regenerative Agriculture (to paraphrase Wikipedia) is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration (which is the storage of carbon dioxide in vegetation), increasing resilience to climate change (like we saw with the White Lavender from Symrise), and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.

Regenerative Beauty has the potential to be similarly comprehensive. In its current iteration, I see it as the convergence of beauty, longevity, and environmental ethics.

But if we zoom in on Regenerative Skincare. I see this as skincare that moves us beyond preventative and reparative care, and maybe even beyond some of the current ideas about skin longevity. Another way to think about Regenerative Skincare is to consider how skin changes and responds to UV exposure and how skin changes and responds through the wound healing process.

What if Regenerative Skincare could take skin back to the condition before the UV exposure, before a wound happened and any scaring began? Back to that sort of baseline ‘normal function’ that we heard in the definition of Regenerative Medicine or the repairing of planetary harm that Blue Beauty promises to deliver? That’s my general sense of what Regenerative Skincare could potentially be.

Biological Systems and a New Kind of Newness

And quickly before I’m done, if we consider the Beauty-Being Axis, Biomimicry, and Regenerative Beauty together for a moment, we can see that none of these is neatly linear.

Late last year I spoke with Alison Cutlan. Cutlan is a biologist, with an academic background in medicinal plant research and a well-earned reputation as a skincare formulations innovator. She and I spoke about fungal and mushroom biotechnologies for cosmetic applications, the topic of the November/December installment of my Global Perspectives column for here in EURO COSMETICS Magazine.

She told me that “fungal products [are] degradable and sustainable and regenerative. Regenerative,” she said, “is the word beyond sustainable.” It’s “aspirational … Regenerative is more circular …[It] creates food, not waste.”

Now it’s fun that fungus figures into all three of the ideas we’ve discussed here. Fermented ingredients are integral to gut-skin health and the beauty-being axis. There is tremendous potential for biomimicry in the mycological world; fungi are commonly used in biotech. And of course, fungus itself is regenerative.

But, what I really want to embrace from Cutlan’s comments is nested within the fact that fungus is regenerative: It’s this notion that fungus degrades to create food.

It brings us to a new kind of newness (if you will), a kind of new that is about, not an original something (like with think of with innovation), but, a kind of new that is always something nourishing, always an origin.

None of our 3 big ideas driving innovation in cosmetics and personal care follows the take-make-waste linear model of modern industry. They are each, instead, premised on biological systems and just may be the impetus of our own evolution to a genuinely holistic, nourishing, circular way of life.

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Deanna Utroske
Editor, Writer, and Beauty Industry Commentator Website

Deanna Utroske is Editor of the weekly Beauty Insights newsletter and one of the most well-respected critical thinkers in the cosmetics and personal care industry today. She serves our industry as a public speaker, writer, and consultant for supply-side companies.
As a regular contributor to this publication, Deanna writes the Global Perspectives column, covering cosmetic and personal care product formulation trends, emerging ingredient science, and ingredient marketing trends impacting the future of beauty around the world.
As a public speaker, Deanna addresses company teams, higher-education classrooms, and event audiences. She’s spoken at Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna, in-cosmetics global, MakeUp in Los Angeles, NYSCC Suppliers Day, the Anti-Ageing Skin Care Conference, the International Cosmetics Innovation Conference, Cosmoprof North America, the AIRS International Conference on Genomics & Microbiomics, and many others.
Learn more and find a link to subscribe to the Beauty Insights newsletter at www.DeannaUtroske.com

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