February 19, 2020
Customers are seeking out specific ingredients in products that are squeaky clean from sourcing to packaging.
The latest trend in health and beauty: Consumers are looking for specific science-supported ingredients in their products—CBD is an obvious one, but other ingredients like hyaluronic acid, collagen, and vitamin C are also in demand. As WholeFoods has previously reported, evidence of this shift can be seenin product names, wherein the main ingredient is right there in the title, even before the benefit. Derma E, for instance, sells “Vitamin C Gentle Daily Cleansing Paste” and “Advanced Peptide and Collagen Eye Cream.”
To give you an idea of what your customers might be looking for, now and in the future, we’ve asked experts what their go-to ingredients are—the ingredients that make it into their products, the ingredients they could never go without. A list:
Aloe Vera. “Aloe has so many great uses when it comes to topical application,” says Jack Brown, VP of Sales and Marketing at Lily of the Desert. “Aloe is actually known as nature’s best moisturizer and can be used daily to help keep your skin hydrated and looking fresh. It can be used before your daily makeup routine as well. It’s ideal for those with sensitive skin when it comes to shaving: Not only can it help reduce the likelihood of irritation, but it will help the skin retain its natural moisture.” It’s great for hair treatments, too—not only as a styling gel, Brown notes, but to keep the scalp hydrated.
Tina Tews, Personal Care Brand Manager at NOW Solutions, agrees: “We are big fans of aloe vera, which contains more than 200 biologically active constituents, including amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, and sterols.”
One thing to look out for: “As we know from consumer reports, in recent years, many topical aloe products available on the market do not contain much aloe at all,” Brown warns. “It has been noted that there must be at least a 30% concentration of aloe in a product in order for your skin to reap the most benefits. Lily of the Desert’s topical 99% Aloe Vera Gelly utilizes the maximum amount of our organically grown aloe, but users also benefit from Aloesorb, our patent-pending aloe polysaccharide-rich extract that enhances aloe’s benefits even further, allowing it to hydrate at least 3 epidermal layers.”
Astaxanthin. “We are in love with astaxanthin,” says Paul Schulick, Founder of For the Biome, “which is produced in microalgae when their environment is exposed to stress. It is one of the most effective carotenoids in the natural world, superseding the bioactivity of vitamins C and E, CoQ10, and green tea catechins. This natural guardian shields skin exposed to blue light radiation and empowers skin cells with inside out free radical defense for skin that appears smoother, brighter, and hydrated.”
Bacteria. “The skin’s microbiome has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason,” says Schulick. “The trillions of microbes cloaking your skin play a pivotal role in how you and your skin adapt to mental and environmental stress.”
The bacteria in question don’t have to be alive in order to be beneficial—and due to shelf-life issues, live bacteria often isn’t used. Many companies bill their products as “probiotic” for the sake of recognizability, while using probiotic lysates or postbiotics, both of which have been shown to benefit skin health. Lysates occur when the cell membrane is broken down, resulting in a fluid containing cell walls, bacterial metabolites, and dead bacteria, as well as compounds like hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, and a variety of other compounds with antibacterial and moisturizing effects (1). If you’re interested in stocking a lysate-based product, consider Probulin; the company uses ProbuSkin, a scientifically studied probiotic lysate that may support the natural skin renewal process and may help support the skin’s protective lipid barrier.
Postbiotics, on the other hand, are metabolites created by beneficial bacteria. Essential Formulas notes on their site that metabolites include everything from enzymes to vitamins to short-chain fatty acids (2). Essential Formulas brand Dr. Ohhira’s uses a probiotic extract made by feeding fruits, veggies, herbs, mushrooms, and seaweed to 12 different strains of probiotics. The line includes a beauty bar, lotion, and moisturizer.
Bakuchiol. Tews calls this “an important new ingredient everyone should be aware of.” It’s extracted from the seeds and leaves of the babchi (Psoralea corylifolia), a plant native to India, Tews says. “Bakuchiol offers a gentle alternative to retinol for improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and for blemish and pigmentation issues. Bakuchiol has antioxidant properties, and is appropriate for all skin types.”
Calendula. “If you asked us on any given day, Earth Mama’s signature ingredient would be calendula—Calendula officinalis,” says Founder and CEO Melinda Olson. “Calendula—a.k.a. Pot Marigold, or Mary’s Gold—is this sunny little orange flower that happens to be one of the most reliable, trustworthy, and safe herbs used for skin-soothing infusions, extracts, and ointments. It’s been traditionally used to soothe burns, scrapes, and sunburn with its antiseptic and wound-healing properties. It’s such a safely versatile little herb, and you’ll see it in many of Earth Mama’s topical products: deodorants, balms, lotions, and even our organic castile soaps.”
Hyaluronic Acid (HA). “Reviva Labs has been a strong proponent of Hyaluronic Acid for decades, and we continue to advocate for its use and regularly include it in formulas that span our product categories,” says Bill Levins, President of Reviva. “It’s an ingredient that saw a tremendous increase in popularity in 2019, and this trend will likely continue into 2020 and beyond. HA’s ability to help skin retain and gain moisture is unrivaled and, to date, unmatched. And since most people’s skin lacks moisture, it can play a key part in achieving and maximizing skin hydration. Properly hydrated skin not only looks younger, but it also tends to function better overall. You’ll find HA in dozens of our products spanning Hydrating, Anti-Aging, Specialty, and more, and we have no plans on veering away from this go-to and must-have ingredient.”
Jojoba Oil. “We use jojoba oil in over 60 Desert Essence products,” says Christine Allmer, VP Marketing, “because we think it’s such an important natural ingredient that should be included in everyone’s skincare routine! Jojoba oil is an extremely versatile oil that keeps moisture in, is rapidly absorbed, and leaves no trace of greasiness behind. It balances skin’s oil production to calm oily areas and moisturize dry ones. We like to refer to it as nature’s multi-tasker!”
Phytocannabinoids. “CBD and hemp oil have made a booming entrance into the skincare category,” notes Allmer. “It’s something we see continuing to grow in the future with its many soothing benefits for consumers.” Desert Essence, she says, is launching two new hemp-based products this year—a hemp-and-jojoba oil blend and a cleansing pad.
Tews agrees, noting that this is one trending ingredient that’s only going to get bigger. “CBD will likely continue to be the hottest ingredient in the next year. It offers great soothing and antioxidant properties, along with hydrating and conditioning to help the body perform better.”
However, CBD isn’t the only phytocannabinoid out there—and, Tews says, possibly not even the most useful one for skincare. “The industry is looking at other cannabinoids such as CBN to help serve as a sleep aid, CBG to aid in several skin ailments, and CBC for powerful immune balancing effects. Formulations may be able to provide better therapeutic benefits when enhanced with these.”
There’s lots to watch out for in terms of phytocannabinoid-based products. First off, according to Jason Sepp, President of ShiKai, “Very little research has been completed on CBD due to its legal status as a cannabis compound. There is more research available on THC, but still very little done in total on cannabinoids. Source material—marijuana and hemp—to use in legitimate research was hard to come by for the past 50-ish years. Much of what the public hears about CBD is anecdotal and has not been confirmed by peer-reviewed scientific studies. That’s not to say that anecdotal statements are all incorrect, but that such information must be viewed with skepticism.”
Douglas MacKay, N.D., SVP of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, CV Sciences, makers of PlusCBD Oil, agrees that there’s a need for caution here—although not necessarily in terms of science: “Emerging research shows that CBD supports and balances the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is involved in promoting skin health and its homeostasis.” Rather, MacKay asserts that the problem lies in legal challenges and in poor-quality products. “Retailers should avoid misleading statements about any herbal product, but it’s fair to say the scrutiny on hemp and CBD claims is high. This product category includes rogue products that ignore regulatory limits for making claims, so it is important that retailers protect themselves and their customers by working with responsible brands. CV Sciences offers various methods of educating retailers and their staff via an online training program—Expert Voice—expert webinars led by our National Education Team, and in-store demos.”
The best way to differentiate between responsible and irresponsible brands? MacKay says retailers should look into a brand’s transparency practices: “CV Sciences, for instance, includes QR codes on all product labels that direct consumers and retailers to third-party test results for that product. Our website provides consumers with additional information about CV Sciences state-of-the-art San Diego-based facility that is third party certified for Good Manufacturing Practices to ensure the strength and purity of our products.”
Other ways to differentiate between high- and low-quality products: “A poor-quality CBD skincare product will feel greasy or gritty,” says ShiKai’s Sepp, “and/or have a marijuana smell and/or be green/brown in color. A high-quality skincare formulation will be unscented or intentionally scented, white to off-white in color. It will apply smoothly to the skin and absorb quickly without leaving an oily or greasy feeling.” Sepp adds a reminder: “Keep in mind the brief history of the CBD industry. Many products come from businesses built to serve the cannabis dispensary market, and are not often made by companies with expertise in skin or face care products. The CBD industry is still cottage-based, and products may be made in someone’s kitchen or garage. Where a dispensary customer may accept a crude product that smells like pot and stains clothing, the customer who purchases from a natural products retail outlet will expect a CBD product experience that is indistinguishable from the skincare products they currently buy.”
In terms of hemp’s functionality, it may help, MacKay says, to prioritize full-spectrum hemp extract over CBD alone—although that isn’t to say that CBD itself isn’t useful: “A full spectrum agricultural hemp extract includes fatty acids, phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and other naturally occurring hemp compounds. Phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, influence skin mast cells that can play a role in skin redness and inflammation. CBD has also been shown to balance inflammation in sebocytes that produce sebum, which influences skin moisture and pH.”
Sepp adds that CBD is an antioxidant: “Going forward, retailers will likely see CBD combined with other common antioxidant agents found in face care products such as vitamin C, A, and E. Solid studies on the efficacy of CBD as an antioxidant in face care are not yet available but claims about a product’s effectiveness are currently being made based on the presence of those other ingredients. If a retailer wants to feel confident about recommending a CBD product for its antioxidant properties, they will want to make sure that vitamins A, C, and/or E are present in a product at efficacious levels and not just one drop added per bottle to justify those ingredients being included on the label.”
Swiss Black Bee Honey Ferment. “This comes from the rare bee, Apis mellifera, adapted to live in the harsh conditions of the valleys of Switzerland,” says Schulick. “It is fermented with the revered probiotic strain Zymomonas mobilis. This nutrient-rich ferment sets an ideal balance for healthy microbial growth while reducing sebum production for matte, hydrated skin that feels fortified and resilient.”
Vitamin C. This is one of NOW’s go-to ingredients, says Tews, along with other antioxidants: “Antioxidants help counteract free radical production that damages healthy skin cells, reduce pigmentation damage, and improve quality of skin. They also act as natural preservatives, which we value because our HABA product formulation is guided by a commitment to their being as natural as possible while also being shelf-stable and safe.”
…And more. These may be the ingredients about which our experts waxed poetic, but they’re not the only trendy ones. “Other natural beneficial ingredients are finally receiving the attention they deserve,” says Levin. “Soothing antioxidants such as turmeric, its extract curcumin, and other more exotic ingredients. The popularity of Korean beauty and the globalization of the beauty industry has made shoppers more receptive to more exotic and unique ingredients—think snail slime.”
Tews points to minerals to help maintain skin hydration, and niacinamide, which “revitalizes, firms and smooths skin, and minimizes appearance of large pores.” She adds that gentle alternatives to harsh ingredients are becoming popular: “Gluconolactone is a Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA), nature-derived and a mild alternative to both alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) ingredients, which can be very irritating to the skin. This is particularly appropriate for mature skin.”
One ingredient that may catch customers’ eyes: colloidal gold. Nature’s Aid sells products infused with this ingredient, which, according to the company, “may be crucial in protecting your skin from unnecessary cellular aging, and may be a great source of skin nourishment and an anti-inflammatory.”
Here’s good news: “There has been an increasing trend for natural products, natural ingredients, and transparency,” says Desert Essence’s Allmer. “This trend has always been a priority for us as a category leader.” Part of that, she says, involves getting third party certified.
Levins seconds that: “Astute consumers want brands to declare not only what’s in their formulas, but specifically how much. We’re regularly asked how much of each key ingredient is in our products. We’ve responded by including key ingredient percentages on our website under the additional information tabs, but our 2020 plans will make this informational transparency even more visible moving forward.”
Schulick agrees, and adds: “Core to our business but happening to also be trends are transparency in terms of ingredients, sourcing, and labeling, and sustainability.”
Looking at packaging, “Sustainable packaging must be the focus moving forward. If using plastic packaging, companies need to focus on making them reusable, recyclable, or compostable,” says Tews. “Bottles don’t need to be in boxes, especially when brands can put on their websites the information they used to need the extra labeling space to convey. There is a continued trend of zero waste and eco-consciousness amongst consumers that is here to stay.” Hand-in-hand with that, though, comes practicality: “To-go packaging is another big trend,” Tews adds. “Single packets and pouches, making it convenient to take in your bag or while traveling, offers great convenience to today’s consumer.” This convenience, she says, extends to the product itself: She expects to see more single dose topical skincare capsules, in which pre-measured ingredients are encapsulated to help preserve ingredient potency.
Levins notes that it doesn’t take a total remodel to take part in the sustainability movement—but consumers are looking for it. “Savvy shoppers want brands to use less packaging, and/or boxes and bottles that are recyclable. It’s one of the reasons we removed the foil stamping from our packaging—to allow for easier and more environmentally friendly recycling of our packaging.”
When it comes to skincare-specific trends, there are plenty. One: “Prevention is likely to gain traction among consumers,” says Levins. “As consumers become more educated about skincare, the coming years will likely see a shift toward more European preventative skincare rather than our national obsession with corrective skincare. This is a natural progression as younger generations accept how the sun, the environment, and lifestyle affects our overall health and our largest organ, our skin.”
Olson notes rising awareness of what she calls the “blue light factor”—the hours that we spend in front of screens: “Did you know that the blue light emitted from our digital screens has recently been linked to skin damage? Recent studies show that blue light emissions from our digital screens can cause oxidative stress on our skin over the span of just one hour. But a tinted mineral sunscreen—like Earth Mama’s Lady Face—will help with that. It’s the tint; studies have shown that the addition of iron oxide to mineral sunscreen, creating the pigment, greatly enhances the protection of your skin from blue light.”
“Organic” is rapidly becoming an important factor in skincare, too. Olson observes: “Since we’ve been around, the global understanding about the importance of organic certification has really gained ground. People are seeing its value and recognizing that the word ‘natural’ is not regulated and has no inherent meaning, while the word ‘organic’ has tremendous weight when it has third-party verification. Anything that goes on your skin—or your children’s skin—should be as clean as possible, and free from harmful chemicals, especially in products used around mucous membranes, like perineal care or a baby’s diaper area, because they are being applied to very thin skin that absorbs almost everything. We cannot stress enough the importance of reading personal care ingredients just like you do for food.”
Rob Brown, President and CEO of essential oil supplier Lebermuth, also notes the importance of organic: “We have seen certified organic essential oils becoming increasingly more popular for flavors and food. The interest has been growing in the use of certified organic materials in personal care products and aromatherapy products due to consumer demand for clean label and responsibly sourced ingredients.”
This desire for organic is just a part of a larger desire for “clean,” contends Levins. “More knowledgeable, informed consumers are demanding cleaner and more natural ingredients. And this isn’t restricted to active ingredients; smart shoppers are keen to know that supporting ingredients are also ‘clean’ and not harmful, such as preservatives, pH stabilizers, and bulking and thickening agents. This trend started years ago when Whole Foods Market published their body care guidelines and has accelerated as EWG.com, other websites, and beauty influencers have made information about ingredients even more accessible and understandable.”
One final note: Diversity is ever-more important. Tews says the trend is clear on the manufacturer’s end: “We’ve entered the era of diversity, inclusivity, and gender-neutral marketing, advertisement, packaging, etc. The images used in product marketing need to accurately reflect the world we live in today.” WF