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Against a backdrop of consumers looking to improve their general wellness and appearance, the beauty industry is gradually transforming to become more health orientated. As a result, cosmetics companies are increasingly focusing their innovation efforts in this new direction.

In responding to these demands, new product development is steadily becoming ever more concentrated on the capability of addressing topical health conditions experienced by consumers. This requires sophisticated technology to offer efficacy as well as to combine beauty with therapeutic solutions. Most commonly, these products are known as cosmeceuticals, and are generally prevalent in the areas of hair and skin care.

Dermocosmetics: The New “Derma” Approach

Companies are developing products that take a more preventative and nourishing approach. Hair care is undergoing rapid development with changing formulations that greatly improve efficacy. For example, in the area of scalp health, companies have developed stronger products with antidandruff positioning formulated with pharmaceutical-style ingredients like tar and ketoconazole aimed at treating itchy and flaky scalp.

Moreover, the growing awareness of scalp health has prompted the industry to supply more sophisticated products that offer targeted solutions, by using traditional skin care ingredients like keratin, aloe vera and avocado oil. Unilever’s TRESemmé 7 Day Keratin Smooth and Renewal Hair & Scalp are both positioned as treatments for scalp health and strong hair. Similarly, Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena portfolio spans across medicated shampoos with the T/Gel range, as well as more cosmetic hair treatments such as the Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask designed to moisturise and nourish the hair.

Hair loss is undergoing a similar development in product formulations with the use of FDA-approved Minoxidil, a molecule claimed to promote hair regrowth. Traditional cosmetic shampoos are being extended with pharmaceutical-style ingredients, such as Procter & Gamble’s Pantene brand extension Pantene Expert Collection Minoxidil Topical Solution USP 2% Hair Regrowth Treatment for Women. Others include L’Oréal Paris Elvive Fibrology, launched in early 2014, formulated with the patented ingredient Filloxane, claimed to thicken hair, thus increasing hair volume over time.

In skin care, the use of salicylic acid, a staple ingredient that treats blemishes, is rising in order to treat acne-prone skin. According to Euromonitor International data, volume consumption of salicylic acid trebled over 2007-2012. Likewise, skin care players like Unilever are capitalising on skin problems to advance established brands by offering targeted solutions, as with the recent launch of DermaSeries, which forms part of its Dove portfolio. DermaSeries was driven by consumer insight, with users demanding effective treatments for extremely dry skin, which, nevertheless, were cosmetic and contained a beauty element rather than being solely pharmaceutical. Dermocosmetics are bridging the gap between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and allowing beauty companies to strengthen brand credibility and expand their portfolio.

Naturally, suppliers are also adapting to this trend. The ingredients company Evonik has developed the new active Sphingony, claimed to prevent hair loss and address scalp health. Likewise, Sederma developed Sebuless, a multifunctional ingredient designed to mattify and equalise the skin tone of acne-prone skin.

Potential Future Developments

Inspiration from different ingredients and categories is creating crossovers that drive innovation. Such was the case with BB creams combining SPF, colour cosmetics, hydration and spot correction.

Among the challenges cosmeceuticals face is the need to differentiate them from pure pharmaceuticals, while promoting their intent of preventing and controlling the aggravation of hair and skin conditions. This also pushes the need to gain further expertise and develop new technologies. One path is through merger and acquisition activity.

Merger and acquisition activity enables cosmetics companies to move into niche areas. Skin care is one particular opportunity, which, according to Euromonitor International, is projected to achieve a 2013-2018 global CAGR of almost 4% in value terms at constant 2013 prices. Businesses must think outside of their existing knowledge base and evaluate what synergies could be achieved by diversifying into adjacent categories where there is consumer demand and hence research that is worth investing in. This is exemplified by Allergan, a healthcare company, acquiring skin cosmeceutical firm SkinMedica in 2012. In 2013, L’Oréal acquired India’s Cheryl’s Cosmeceuticals, which enabled it to gain access to the professional skin care market.

Beauty companies are progressively playing a specialised role in hair and skin care. Potentially, this will evolve into product combinations that stretch further beyond the current choices, conceivably including deodorants with antifungal treatments, or topical body moisturisers also positioned as circulatory aids for varicose veins, among others. High-tech innovations will enable advanced “near-medical” claims with the ultimate aim being of health-based beauty. While cosmeceuticals are an intersection point between cosmetics and healthcare, the lines of delineation are still somewhat blurred. Nevertheless, as health benefits become more prevalent, the beauty industry will embrace cosmeceuticals as competitive points of difference.

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