Personal Care: A Natural Progression

November 9, 2005

More and more consumers are going natural

Antioxidant, vitamin-enriched and natural are the terms to which more and more consumers are responding when determining which hair and body care products to buy. Because of this demand, vitamins, herbs, botanicals and other natural ingredients have found their way into every type of personal care product. From lip gloss containing St. John’s wort and shampoos with antioxidants, to body mists boasting ginseng and hemp and soaps with vitamin E, rosemary and chamomile, there seems to be no limit to the use of natural ingredients in body care products, and it doesn’t appear that the tide will ebb any time soon.

This trend toward natural ingredients continues to rise even though their efficacy, in many cases, is unsubstantiated. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no factual or scientific basis for assuming that cosmetics, creams or shampoos with added naturally-derived ingredients, those extracted directly from plant or animal products, are beneficial. At the same time the FDA doesn’t say that natural substances are bad for the body either. Though the FDA does not recognize naturally-derived ingredients as having any substantiated benefits when used topically, there are many natural substances that the general public believes are beneficial, and since they, and not the FDA, are the ones shelling out their money for products that they believe will help them look and feel better, the FDA’s opinion on the subject is moot.

According to Nutrition Business Journal, the natural personal care market is considered a high growth niche, expected to expand at an annual rate of 20-25%. This is significant compared to the 5-10% overall growth rate of the cosmetics industry. In 1999, natural personal care products made up 10% or $3.6 billion of the $36 billion health and beauty care products market. Sales of natural personal care products are believed to have done even better than expected in 2000, doubling to more than $7 billion, though no final numbers for 2000 were available at the time of this writing.

The Nutrition Business Journal reports that supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers combined to a 5.6% growth in 1999 as compared to 1998 in total personal care product sales, though total unit sales were down 4.4% in supermarkets and 4.6% in drugstores. Mass merchandisers achieved a 6.1% increase in unit sales and a 10.3% increase in dollar sales, while both supermarkets and drugstores achieved modest dollar sale gains of 3.9% and .5%, respectively. In sales of natural personal products, natural skin care products were the most popular among consumers, registering 1999 sales of $1.5 billion and accounting for 42% of the $3.6 billion skin care market. Natural hair care products registered 1999 sales of $1.45 billion, making up 28% of the $5 billion hair care market. Natural bath/toilet soap sales were $170 million, 9% of the total market and sales of other bath items, including gels and body washes were $40 million, or 19% of the bath market.

“There is a growing trend in this country toward herbal medicine and natural products,” said Dr. Murad Alam, dermatologist, Skin Care Physicians of Chestnut Hill, MA. “Everyone wants to look young and the skin, being the most visible sign of good health and youth, is where most people start. People try to improve the appearance of their skin in varying degrees, from laser resurfacing and cosmetic surgery to the use of creams and gels. The latter is relatively inexpensive and because women are accustomed to using cosmetics, it is a small jump for them to use products containing vitamins and other natural ingredients in order to not just conceal signs of aging, but to reverse them. And while there is still not a great deal of scientific data concerning the efficacy of many of the natural substances being used in personal care products, the bottom line is that these products make people feel that they are doing something healthful that makes them feel good.”

Naturally Good
Of all the natural ingredients found in personal care products, aloe vera is one of the most common. Not only is aloe believed to be good for rashes and burns, it also hydrates the skin without the use of oils. Other substances long believed to have topical efficacy include sesame oil that is used as a skin softener and protection against ultraviolet rays. Green tea is reputed to have antioxidant properties and, like sesame oil, also provides protection against UV damage. Papaya with its papain enzyme helps the skin rejuvenate itself by sloughing off dead skin cells and is used in masks and scrubs. Rose hip oil helps diminish fine lines and is best when used in masks and moisturizers. Witch hazel from the Hamamelis plant, is a soothing and mild astringent that helps shrink pores. Strawberries have a cleansing, softening, and astringent effect on the skin and can be used to combat oily skin. Jojoba oil moisturizes without clogging pores. Oatmeal is well known for its soothing and softening properties and its ability to draw out skin impurities. Among herbs, cham
omile, melissa, calendula, elder flower, fennel, nettle, lady’s mantle, mint and yarrow are reputed to be among the most effective ingredients.

Because these natural ingredients enjoy a reputation as being beneficial, that by no means indicates that all naturally-derived ingredients are meant to be used on the body, nor does it suggest that natural ingredients, especially in the amount they appear in many of today’s top-selling personal care formulas, provide superior body care compared to synthetic ingredients.

“The notion that natural ingredients are better than synthetics just isn’t true,” said Paula Begoun, a cosmetics consumer advocate and the author of The Beauty Bible and Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. “While vegetable or plant oils may sound like they’re better for the skin, dimethicone and cyclomethicone (silicone oils) are actually far more beneficial and show up in over 80% of all skin care and makeup products on the market.”

Ms. Begoun and other cosmetic experts and chemists also warn against the use of essential oils on the skin because even though they are natural, they can cause allergic reactions.

“Ingredients like almond extract, cinnamon, grapefruit, jojoba oil, lavender oil, papaya, peppermint and tea tree oil, while they sound exotic, may cause irritation and possibly sun sensitivity. Natural ingredients do not guarantee a superior product,” she said.

“It is difficult to separate the marketing aspects from clinical efficacy when it comes to products containing natural ingredients,” added Dr. Alam. “Due to consumer demand, it is in the best interest of companies to include as many ingredients as they can, especially those that have been mentioned to have efficacy by the media or in scientific journals. Smaller concentrations of these ingredients are preferred because they are less expensive than higher concentrations and because, from a chemistry aspect, it is easier to maintain lower concentrations of many of these natural substances.”

Dr. Alam added that because there is so little scientific data concerning many natural ingredients found in personal care products, there are no real guidelines to how much of a substance need be present in a product to prove beneficial.

“The amount of an ingredient needed to be efficacious depends on the ingredient,” Dr. Alam said. “For instance, tretinoin creams, the prescription version of retin A, has been shown to be clinically effective as a skin rejuvenator in concentrations of 1/400 of 1%. Some data is also slowly emerging on the topical efficacy of some vitamins and the data on vitamin C looks promising. The efficacy of topical vitamin E, however, is a little more dubious, though it has been proven to provide some UV protection.”

“C” the Difference
Of all the vitamins used in personal care products, the antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, and Coenzyme Q10 are those most frequently found, especially in skin care, while B vitamins are most widely used in hair care products. Vitamin C seems to be the trendy skin care ingredient of the moment. Unlike some of its predecessors, however, there seems to be some actual basis in fact to its topical potency.

According to the first topical vitamin C clinical study using optical profilometry published in the Journal of the Archives of Otolaryngology, the topical use of vitamin C showed efficacy in the reduction of fine lines, wrinkles and photo damage.

The double-blind, randomized study, conducted by Dr. Stephen Traikovich, a Phoenix-based facial and reconstructive surgeon, included subjects who used a control agent on half of their face each day and an active topical vitamin C agent on the other half. Optical profilometry, an objective method for the quantification of facial wrinkles, was assigned a numeric value based on its depth. At the conclusion of Dr. Traikovich’s study, optical profilometry quantified a 73% improvement on the side of the face treated with the vitamin C agent. Moreover, the study revealed dramatic visual improvements on subjects when comparing each side of the face with an 84% improvement in fine lines and wrinkles, skin tone and firmness.

“Antioxidants attack free radicals and vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidants which is able to attack a higher number of free radicals,” said Ian Lirenman, president, EmerginC. “When applied to the skin in the correct concentration, vitamin C is better able to attack the free radicals that harm the skin. As an acid, vitamin C is also antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and it retards melatonin in the skin.”

EmerginC offers a line of skin care products containing vitamin C and other natural ingredients. EmerginC Relief is an emollient, protective cream that is formulated to supply soothing nourishment to dry, rough skin on the feet, hands, knees and elbows. The product contains vitamin C, aloe vera, vitamin E, avocado extract, calandula, plant glycerin and natural oils and minerals. A 3.4-oz bottle retails for $17.

EmerginC Revital-Eyes is an eye mask containing cucumber extract, licorice, arnica, ginkgo bilboa and green tea and retails for $35 for five masks. EmerginC-Forté, which has a retail price of $70 for 1-oz., is the company’s original serum and remains its best selling product with a 20% vitamin C concentration, the strongest concentration available, according to company executives.

EmerginC’s newest product, EmerginC Earth, contains natural plant-based minerals, created to resemble the molecular structure of bio-minerals found naturally in the skin. Ingredients include a phytelene complex made up of plant-based iron, copper and magnesium and manganese peptides derived from matricaria, horsetail, ladies’ mantle and ivy. A 1.8-oz. bottle of EmerginC Earth retails for $65.

Derma E was one of the first companies to devise a proprietary way to maintain the stability of vitamin C for long periods of time, a difficult proposition considering that water, light, oxygen and heat all play a role in the breakdown of the vitamin, according to company executives. The company’s Ester-C, marketed as “the first to last,” appears in many Derma E skin creams, the latest Ester-C Gel with E Skin Recovery Complex. The product is designed to protect against free radical damage, to stimulate collagen and elastin production, reduce and prevent UV damage, improve skin texture and inhibit melanin production. Along with Ester-C, the product also contains herbs and vitamins A and E. A 2-oz. jar retails for $14.95. Another new Derma E product is Psorzema Crème, natural relief for scaling, flaking and itching. The crème contains vitamins A and E and a blend of herbal extracts, neem and barberry. The product retails for $19.95 for a 4-oz. jar.

Cellex-C International has recently introduced its Advanced-C line of vitamin C-based products touted as providing maximum results in the shortest amount of time. The line is designed with a patented formulation of free-form L-ascorbic acid and hydrolyzed L-ascorbic acid to allow for higher levels of vitamin C to pass through the skin and accelerate faster, more visible results.

The Advanced-C collection utilizes a vitamin C concentration of up to 17.5% in combination with Resversatrol and L-ergothioneine, free radical scavengers believed to protect collagen by inhibiting enzymes that degrade collagen.

The Cellex-C Advanced-C Collection is a little pricier than the other vitamin C-based products. The Advanced-C serum, containing 17.5% vitamin C has a retail price of $115. Advanced-C skin tightening cream retails for $114; Advanced-C eye firming cream retails for $70 and Advanced-C neck firming cream has a retail price of $100.

Other new skin care products that recently hit store shelves include Alberto-Culver’s St. Ives Moisturizing Firming Body lotion containing gingko bilboa, rosemary, sunflower and cocoa butter extract and vitamins A and E that promise to boost skin elasticity in eight weeks. According to company executives, 93% of test subjects of a clinical trial reported an overall improvement in their skin condition. A 15-oz. bottle of the lotion retails for $3.79. Jergen’s offers a Skin Firming moisturizer containing seaweed ex-tract, acrylates and wheat protein that showed improved skin elasticity in 55% of test subjects in only two weeks, according to company executives. A 10.5-oz. flip-top bottle retails for $4.99 and a 15.5-oz. pump bottle retails for $5.99. Jergen’s also offers a Replenishing Multi-Vitamin lotion containing vitamins A, E and C to help nourish and heal dry skin. A 10-oz. flip-top bottle retails for $3.49; a 15-oz. pump bottle retails for $4.99 and a 24-oz. pump bottle retails for $5.49.

Making Scents of the Market
Figuring out what consumers are looking for in their personal care products and the ability to keep up with current and future trends is paramount for manufacturers. What does the consumer want? Is she looking for products that contain natural ingredients which provide reputed benefits, something that provides sensory pleasures, or a combination of the two? On the heels of the peace/love movement in 1971, Clairol first introduced Herbal Essence hoping to cash in on the back-to-nature mentality of the age. The Herbal Essence label depicted a fresh, young blonde woman with a wreath of flowers in her hair which caught the imagination of the generation, spurring strong sales throughout the 1970s. The brand met with hard times in the 1980s, however, due to a drop in the brand’s prestige and a shift in people’s attitude toward “natural” products, and was discontinued, only to be reintroduced as Herbal Essences in 1995 when the consumer trend toward all things natural was again hitting its stride.

“In our opinion, natural isn’t a lifestyle trend at all,” said Larry Lucas, group product manager, Clairol Essences. “Concern for the environment and things natural, including natural products is a permanent lifestyle change. This need continues to grow in all HBA categories.”

According to Ralph Blessing, Suave brand director, Unilever, Clairol was one of the first mainstream companies to introduce a product that offered an aromatherapeutic-type experience. A sensory experience, he said, that is at the forefront of all new products containing natural ingredients.

“Natural ingredients have been used from the dawn of time for their therapeutic benefits as well as for their fragrances,” Mr. Blessing said. “Herbal Essences, came, went, and came again, driven by fragrance. While there is a growing segment of consumers looking for products that deliver a particular benefit, like vitamin E or aloe for their moisturizing properties, those products that provide sensory and emotional benefits are what is currently driving the natural ingredients market.”

The growth of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works as well as the growing number of products on the market, from shampoos such as Suave’s new natural line and a new Secret line of experiential deodorants to women’s fragrant shaving gels and body washes, are proof that the market is becoming more about natural fragrances and less about traditional skin care benefits, Mr. Blessing said.

“The market has moved from efficacy support to fragrance,” Mr. Blessing said. “Within the fragrance trend there has been a lot of fragmentation, from products that offer whole, single note fragrances like lavender, to exotic blends made up of known flowers and fruits and herbs that people recognize and enjoy. The names of these products often denote places and times, like ocean breeze and home and hearth meant to conjure up pleasant emotions.”

Hair Today
The recent trend in hair care has been toward products that offer the benefits of natural ingredients for specific hair types and fragrances that are consistent throughout a product line. Suave, which cashes in on growing trends by selling its products for less, will introduce in 2001, its new Natural Care shampoos and conditioners made with natural ingredients designed to infuse hair with shine, softness and full body. The line consists of Suave Freesia with Aloe Vera & Vitamin E shampoo and conditioner; Suave Vanilla, Almond & Silk Protein A formula shampoo and conditioner and Tropical Coconut shampoo and conditioner. Suave Natural Care shampoos and conditioners are available in 15-oz. bottles with a suggested retail price of between $0.99 -$1.39 and 22.5-oz. bottles with a suggested retail price of $1.79-$1.99.

Bath & Body Works’ new bio (beauty, individualized, organics) collection of hair care products is made from all- natural ingredients and offers products specific to different hair needs. Volumizing Hair Care features natural citrus and rosemary to help give fine hair volume. The Volumizing shampoo and conditioner retail for $7.50 each in 12-oz. bottles. The Volumizing masque, designed to purify the hair and stimulate the scalp, retails for $8 for a 5-oz. tube. Balancing Hair Care features natural sunflower and grapefruit formulated to provide added strength and shine to normal hair . The Balancing shampoo and conditioner each retail for $7.50 for a 12-oz. bottle. Leave-in fortifier with added cherry bark for enhanced body, UV protectants and vitamin E retails for $7.50 for an 8-oz. tube. The bio line also includes Color Care containing water lily and papaya to prevent color-treated hair from fading; Hydrating Care with jasmine and lavender to moisturize dry hair and styling aids.

Alberto-Culver has come out with St. Ives Hair Reconstructor containing vitamins C and E and a citrus fruit concentrate to help increase the hair’s resistance to breakage and minimize environmental damage while adding superior shine, said company executives. A 10-oz. bottle retails for $3.69. St. Ives No-Frizz serum contains collagen, keratin, wheat protein, chamomile and panthenol. A 1-oz retails for $3.69.

Moving Naturally into The 21st Century
Unlike the all-natural trend of the early 1970s, the current rise of consumer interest in natural products is no passing fad. Today’s consumers are looking to achieve balance, improve quality of life and feel better inside and out. Natural products are viewed as one way to achieve these goals.

“People want to achieve a balance of mind and body and look for products that go along with this ideal,” said Unilever’s Mr. Blessing. “The word ‘natural’ connotes purity, gentleness and a compatibility between nature and the human body. In the future, the natural personal care market, currently being driven by women, will expand more and more into male markets and consumers will be looking for products that not only provide a sensory experience, but also provide ingredients that support specific claims of efficacy. It will be important that the products not only smell good and invigorate the senses, but also provide the healing and rejuvenating properties their natural ingredients are reputed to provide.”

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