Pollution: A Business Opportunity for Cosmetics Ingredients

Antipollution cosmetics, a well-established trend in Asia Pacific due to the dangerous levels of air pollution, is now going global, driven by a growing consumer desire for a healthy look.

Western consumers are increasingly looking for cosmetics with benefits that not only fight the signs of ageing but also protect against pollutants. Growing urban pollution awareness in the West and global middle-class expansion in the East will shape the purchasing patterns of antipollution products over the coming years. This translates into big worldwide opportunities for leading cosmetic brands and ingredients manufacturers.

City air and premature skin ageing

A recent study conducted by L’Oréal points out the link between atmospheric pollution and premature skin ageing, especially in people with sensitive skin. According to this research, people living in very populous cities have lower levels of vitamin E and squalene in sebum compared to those living in rural areas. Urban pollution – and especially particulate matter with sizes of about 2.5 microns (PM2.5) and 10 microns (PM10) – seems to be one of the main threats to skin health. These fine particles are coated with polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals and other contaminants, which, in contact with the skin and hair, are capable of penetrating deeper layers, inducing collagen and elastin breakdown and the release of free radicals. Pollutants can cause cellular damage, dryness, inflammation and pigmentation, which are strong signs of premature skin ageing.

Unsurprisingly, cities in Asia Pacific, such as Shanghai and Beijing in China, New Delhi and Bangalore in India, and Karachi in Pakistan, are on the list of the most polluted cities in the world. According to the World Health Organization, over 99% of the urban population in China, India and Pakistan are regularly exposed to PM2.5 concentrations higher than those recommended.

Mean Annual Exposure

air pollution

Source: Euromonitor International, Natural Resources

Note: [PM10 Emissions: Euromonitor International from EEA, Eurostat, OECD: PM 2.5 from World Bank]

Diversification the secret for success

The highest levels of air pollution inevitably lead to the launch of antipollution cosmetics specially designed for the Asian market. Antipollution claims initially carried by facial skin products such as Lancôme City Miracle, REN Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist and Olay Total Effects are now increasingly advertised in skin cleansers, sun protection, hair care products and colour cosmetics.

Sun protection products such as Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution SPF 50, Shisheido UV Urban Environment Protection SPF 40 and Vichy UV Pro Secure Anti UV Anti-Pollutant SPF 50 PA+++ are now addressing both pollution and UV protection. Besides sun protection, companies are now also marketing cleansing products claimed to be able to remove pollutants from the skin, such as Tata Harper purifying cleanser or Ponds men’s pollution-out all-in-one deep cleanser. Other antipollution products gaining traction in the market are standard shampoos and colour cosmetics. Henkel just launched in February 2016 its Schwarzkopf Extra Care Purify and Protect, a hair care range of products specially designed for Asia, while Bourjois launched its City Radiance foundation back in January. In order to take advantage of the new antipollution wave, cosmetics companies such as Sampar with its Smart Skin in the City line, Estée Lauder’s with its Clinique City Block line or Unilever with its Pond’s Pure White Cleansing line are now launching entire product lines completely dedicated to combatting air pollution, driven by increasing consumer demand.

Antipollution ingredients on the rise

Leading global cosmetics companies are turning to a full spectrum of antipollution ingredients, ranging from plant extracts, vitamins or antioxidant complexes, through ingredients that simply create a physical barrier between the skin and the pollutants, to promising ingredients with metal chelating or magnetic properties that are claimed to prevent the pollutant from interacting with the skin.

Plant extracts, vitamins and antioxidant complexes are among the most popular antipollutioningredients on the market, favoured by the growing demand for natural ingredients in cosmetics. Aproven successful strategy is to simply reformulate skin care products by adding plant extracts and vitamins to make antipollution claims. Olay has reformulated its Total Effect with a greater proportion of vitamin E and Niacinamide and is expanding its Active Botanicals line containing two natural antipollution ingredients, artichoke extract and snow fungus, originally only used in its Chinese products, into Western markets.

Other brands are betting on less traditional ingredients to provide pollution protection. Tula combines antioxidant and probiotic ingredients in its Urban Defence Hydrating Mist, while Lancôme City Miracle and Avon Clinical E-Defence Deep Recovery contain two specific antipollution ingredients – Detoxyl, adetoxifying and metal chelator agent that prevents metallic pollutants from sticking to the skin; and Thymosin ß-4, a protein that helps to attract healthy cells to areas that have been damaged by pollution – which are among the innovative formulations reaching the market.

Ingredient manufacturers are increasingly looking for novel ingredients to meet the growing consumer demand for antipollution products. In 2016, Silab launched Mitokynil, rich in glucomannans, Sederma started to commercialise Citystem, with natural active ingredients, and Algues et Mer launched Invincity, containing brown algae and fucoidans. Other ingredients suppliers are focused on antipollution solutions based on ingredients that create a physical barrier between the skin and the pollutants. TRY-K recently launched PhytoVTM and Solabia is now providing Pollustop. However, the latest innovation is the use of ingredients with advanced antipollution properties, such as Pollushield, supplied by Lipotec, which combines a polymer with metal chelating properties to prevent the interaction of toxic metals with the skin, EPS WHITE, developed by CoDIF, which is aprobiotic-derived ingredient that reduces pollution-induced inflammation, and Aquatide-TripleShield, provided by Incospharm, with strong autophagy inducing activity to help detoxify skin cells.

Although some of these ingredients seem to be very promising, further clinical research is necessary to better understand their effects against pollution. So far, there is no perfect solution or miraculous single ingredient able to provide full protection against pollution. A combination of a variety of botanical extracts, vitamins and ingredients that creates a physical barrier is likely to be the preferred option by consumers.

Markets for antipollution ingredients

China offers the greatest opportunities for antipollution ingredients in Asia Pacific, followed by India and Pakistan. Plant extracts and vitamins are the ingredients with the greatest growth potential, but demand for other antioxidant ingredients, such as niacinamide and ascorbic acid, is also expected to grow. Although facial skin care products such as moisturisers, masks, anti-agers and cleansers are still the most likely categories to carry antipollution ingredients, hair and sun care products are gaining momentum, especially in China and India.

Facial masks, a key beauty product for most Chinese women, are expected to drive the growth in demand for plant extracts in Asia Pacific over the 2015-2020 forecast period, while other products, such as facial moisturisers, shampoos and facial cleansers, will also show opportunities for plant extracts. Demand for vitamins in China is expected to grow in shampoos, sun protection and facial moisturiser formulations. In India, shampoos and facial moisturisers are expected to lead the growth in demand for plant extracts, while demand for vitamins is expected to grow in sun protection and shampoos in the next five years. Pakistan shows the greatest growth potential for vitamins in shampoo formulations in the 2015-2020 forecast period, while demand for plant extracts is expected to increase in moisturiser formulations in the same period.

Absolute Volume Growth Forecast for Antipollution Ingredients in Selected Countries In Asia Pacific (2015-2020)

antipollution ingredients growth

Diversity, differentiation and standardisation

Opportunities for new antipollution products differ between East and West. In the most polluted Eastern countries, such as China, demand for specific, single-purpose antipollution products, such as face masks containing plant extracts, is expected, while in Western countries consumers often use fewer beauty products and demand for multifunctional products with antipollution claims will be on the rise.

Although there is an increasing number of anti-pollution ingredients reaching the market, the key for success is to adopt an effective differentiation strategy from other cosmetics products that also contain antioxidants in their formulations. Chinese brands such as Hua Niang or Fumakilla market their products with more specific anti-pollution claims, such as anti-PM2.5, to attract consumer attention. This clever strategy has inspired international companies such as Pond’s, which has jumped on the PM2.5 bandwagon, to carry this claim on the labels of its Pure White cleansing line.

Not all products claimed to fight the effects of pollution are equally effective and the increasing number of educated and concerned consumers will demand scientific proof to back up antipollution claims. More research to understand the effects of pollution on skin over time as well as the development of standardised tests, similar to those in place for the SPF values, are required to validate and quantify the product efficacy. This will allow consumers to have a better understanding about which products offer the best environmental protection.