A Green Machine

November 14, 2005

Natural products are sprouting up in every corner of the personal care category.

A professional touch means better results, according to executives at Valencia, CA-based Cuccio Naturalé.
In personal care, everything's coming up natural. The green market grows year-on-year, according to data from the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), San Diego. According to the publication, U.S. natural personal care sales reached $4.1 billion in 2002, representing 10% growth over 2001.

With natural product sales as a whole garnering $36.4 billion in 2002, personal care represented a significant chunk of the green market, which also includes food, produce and supplements.

"The natural personal care category is enjoying healthy growth, fueled by consumer demand that is attracting attention not only from core natural product manufacturers, but from mainstream cosmetic companies as well," said Patrick Rea, research director, NBJ.

"While the mainstream cosmetic and personal care product market is growing at a sluggish, low single-digit pace, the natural personal care market has become a beacon of light in a foggy nutrition industry."

Hers for the Picking
There's a wealth of natural products out there-and marketers, large and small, are in on the action.

Jason Natural Products, a name known by virtually every segment of consumers, delivers "beauty from head to toe," company executives said. The Culver City, CA-based company recently acquired Orjene Natural Cosmetics, Long Island City, NY.

Jason's strategy for Orjene includes updating the entire line with a new boutique look and product reformulations using 70-100% organic ingredients. Jason executives also said the company is the first natural cosmetics manufacturer to be certified as an Organic Processor under the new State of California rules and the International Guidelines for Organic Certification. "Going certified organic is now possible, because there are rules," said Jeffrey Light, Jason's founder and chairman.

The company recently introduced Jason Satin Shower Body wash. Varieties include Glycerine & Rosewater, Tea Tree Oil, Mango, Chamomile, Natural Citrus, Aloe Vera, Lavender, Apricot and Herbal Extracts.

A Fun Twist
While all marketers want a superior product, some take a lighthearted approach, adding in a "fun factor" for the customer's benefit. For example, Pookie, New York, offers a lip balm that's "a lot of fun, and serious lip protection," according to executives.

The balm contains apricot kernel oil to nourish and revitalize; avocado oil to promote skin regeneration; sweet almond oil to soothe and heal; shea butter for natural UV ray protection; coconut oil and vitamin E oil.

The lip balm is available in flavors such as cherry, tangerine, blue Hawaii, vanilla and melon; Sport, a lemon-lime flavor and a peppermint-spearmint vanilla variety. To add to the fun, the lip balm also comes in I Do, a champagne flavor and It's a Boy/It's a Girl.

Pookie executives said the fun and functional lip products are popular across-the-board. "We didn't initially think the balms would reach such a wide audience (demographic-wise)," said Gianine Rothschild of the company, "but the natural ingredients and cute packaging really do appeal to a broad spectrum of customers."

Pookie lip balms are divided between all-natural products, with essential oils and no colors, and products which are 100% natural except for the color. "They're as close to natural as we can get them," Ms. Rothschild said, pointing out that the colors do not color the lips-they're added for visual appeal. Products can be found on the web at www.pookiestore.com.

Cleanser Kudos
When a company strives to go the extra mile with its natural products, a little industry recognition for that effort may not be necessary, but it doesn't hurt. In fact, natural products and ingredients are being highlighted more frequently as positive models of how natural personal care should be.

Executives at Boscia, owned by Fancl International, Irvine, CA, are proud that the company's Purifying Clean-sing gel was named 2003's Healthiest Cleanser by Health magazine.

"It meant a lot to us," commented Karen Conrad, general manager, Boscia. "We believe your real beauty won't show through unless you have healthy skin."

All the more impressive is the fact that Boscia, which stands for "botanical science," just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

"Our company is making some really strong headway," Ms. Conrad said. "We've received excellent feedback from customers and good press about having preservative-free formulas, and having them be so advanced."

She added, "The reason it's so important to look at the science behind personal care is that we know naturals are wonderful, but there can be side effects to some of them. When formulating an all-natural product, you have to pay close attention to the ingredients used and their percentages in a product, so there's no reaction."

Boscia products strive to match science with nature in its array of products. "Everything is produced in conditions that do not allow contamination," Ms. Conrad revealed. "That's just one way we're using science to create a better end result for the customer."

In fact, the products are stamped with a freshness expiration date. "When a customer opens the box, she can be positive that nobody has ever touched the product before and that sterile conditions were used," said Ms. Conrad. "And our products are dispensed by the customer via pumps, without her actually touching the product. We use every method possible to ensure the product is as pure as possible, in production, on the shelf and in the customer's hands."

The company has gone the extra mile to research ingredients that can serve as natural preservatives, always a tricky proposition in the natural personal care industry. "The company has worked long and hard to make sure each our products are both safe and effective," she said. Boscia's product lineup includes gels, creams, moisturizers, treatment and specialty products.

Only a year in the making, "we're basically nationwide at this point," Ms. Conrad said. "We're not in every city or town, but people have options in a good variety of locales, and being available on the web is a great resource. Women online talk about everything in their lives, beauty and health included."

Men Are People Too
Despite a rash of new introductions, men still constitute a much-neglected segment of personal care. Though great strides have been made in male personal care, guys still tend to stick to the basics when cleansing and caring.

That's not a problem for Aubrey Organics, the Tampa, FL-based natural products veteran. The company has created and marketed its products since 1967 and is an industry staple.

Aubrey is breaking new ground by focusing on "metrosexuals"-the new wave of men who care more than ever about appearance and the finer things in life.

According to a company representative, "Men nationwide are catching on to what women have known all along: it feels good to be pampered."

According to the company, men now account for 29% of spa patrons, and that number is expected to increase year-on-year. Spas "just for him" are emerging around the country, complete with manicures, pedicures, waxing, full-body wraps and facials.

In response to this growing trend, Aubrey introduced the Men's Stock line, which goes a step beyond shaving cream and aftershave, according to company executives.

Ginseng face cream is a multi-purpose lotion that puts in triple duty as an astringent, toner and moisturizer. Ginseng, witch hazel, rosemary and sage smooth and revitalize the skin, according to Aubrey executives.

Ginseng face scrub is made with a man's thicker skin in mind. It washes away dead skin cells and dirt with the gentle exfoliation of walnut meal and smooths and conditions with ginseng, shea butter and allantoin.

Herbal Mint and Ginseng shaving cream "lets the razor glide across for a smooth, close shave every time," according to company executives. It can be followed with Ginseng Mint aftershave for an all-over invigorating, cooling effect.

Aubrey Organics products are available at 4,500 locations nationwide, as well as at the company's website, www.aubreyorganics.com.

"Aubrey Organics recognizes that men are people too," said a company spokesperson, "people with feelings who get upset when their skin care needs are ignored."

Great Lengths
Skin can, at least to an extent, heal itself. Hair is a different matter. Once the hair has grown past the follicle, it is essentially non-living material.

But that doesn't stop folks from wanting their hair to look vibrant. Shiny, strong hair is one sign of good health, and coveted by most consumers, especially those who have overprocessed their hair and are left with dry, frizzy or unmanageable strands.

Conair Corp. goes to great lengths in smoothing, thickening and caring for the hair with its Rusk line of hair care products. The Rusk Sensories line contains natural botanical ingredients that offer a totally new chemistry for hair care, according to executives.

Addressing the desire for thicker hair, Rusk offers Thickr, a cumulative hair care system that creates results, company executives said. The line features panthenol, pro-vitamin B5 and ThermaPlex Plus, a heat-activated ingredient that is said to penetrate the hair. The line includes a shampoo, conditioner, spray, mousse and hair spray.

The Sensories line utilizes the company's compressed formula technology (CFT). With a little water and gentle manipulation, botanical aromas are released. Products in the Sensories line do not weigh the hair down; "they allow the natural beauty of the hair to shine through," said a company spokesperson. The line includes shampoos, conditioners and other hair products that respond well to various hair types, company executives said.

Information on the products can be easily found by the customer at the company's website, www.rusk1.com.

Rusk products do not necessarily fall into the "all-natural" category-they do contain some synthetic products. But Rusk takes its task very seriously. "We think it's very important that the consumer understands that the product development is as important as the marketing of each brand," a company spokesperson said. "It sets the Rusk brand apart. Personal care is not just about interesting packaging or trends; it's also about technology. The technology comes first."

Making Scents
Many marketers insist that an allover sensory experience helps make a product experience more beneficial. For that reason, aromatherapy has become more popular in recent years, and has found its way from the bathtub or shower to the vanity table.

Essencia, which offers products and company information at www.essenciaonline.com, provides products that are effective and are an olfactory pleasure, executives said.

Essencia Sandalwood Moisture therapy is a skin lotion that provides SPF 15 UV protection. "Sandalwood Moisture therapy contains titanium dioxide, which is a physical sunblock, as opposed to a chemical sunblock," pointed out Juliana Lipe, Essencia's founder. "We are currently doing more natural-type products and we're trying to use as many natural ingredients in our products as possible."

Sandalwood Moisture therapy was developed in response to consumers' specific needs and concerns, Ms. Lipe said. "If you put zinc oxide on your face, it's white," she pointed out. "With titanium dioxide, you get a clearer effect, and it's a better incorporation for certain finished products."

The titanium dioxide particles are too large to be penetrated by the skin, which allows for an even coating, Ms. Lipe said, while the more easily-absorbed skin caring ingredients give positive effects.

The company also offers a pleasant-smelling insect repellant, Aromaway. Oils such as lemon and tea tree are pleasing to people, but repel insects, according to Ms. Lipe. "It doesn't contain DEET," she said. "Consumers can feel safer about using it."

The company doesn't skimp-Essen-cia executives insist that quality comes first. For example, Youth Glow Eye therapy contains hazelnut oil and buckthorn berry essential oil, considered to be an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory oil but is relatively new on the personal products scene.

"We don't use mineral oils or petrolatum," Ms. Lipe said. "There's no arguing that those ingredients are less expensive than essential oils. But they don't carry the same benefits. We use quality ingredients to produce results."

Clearly Different
Since natural ingredients and all-natural finished products are becoming more common, the onus is on marketers to discover and communicate what makes their products different from the rest.

Some marketers are taking a closer look at commonly-used ingredients that are generally viewed as safe.

Herbal Care Systems, Scottsdale, AZ, markets Herbal Clear PG Free, a deodorant that does not contain propylene glycol (PG). Executives at the company insist that PG is a chemical and as such, should not be incorporated into "all-natural" products.

"Enhancing Mother Nature's perfection is our goal at Herbal Care Systems," said Jim Plaza, president and chief executive officer.

Herbal Care's deodorants include Herbal Clear PG-Free Aloe Fresh and PG-Free Shower Fresh, which contains chamomile.

"We've looked long and hard at propylene glycol and we've made the decision to take it out of our products," said Mr. Plaza. "We are licensing our technology to other brands."

Herbal Clear has worked in alliance with supplier Body Blue to file some patents on removing glycols. "We're looking at removing glycols from a number of different products," Mr. Plaza said.

Propylene glycol isn't the only commonly-used ingredient being placed under the microscope by Herbal Clear. "I see alternatives to parabens and other chemical preservatives being explored in the future," Mr. Plaza said. Incorporating patented raw materials is another way Herbal Clear strives to deliver quality products. "This is something that has been done widely throughout the general cosmetic market, but not as much in natural personal care," Mr. Plaza pointed out.

For example, the company is incorporated Hidrox, which is derived from certified organic olives grown in California, into its products. Hidrox, from CreAgri, Hayward, CA, is a powerful antioxidant that also contains skin benefits, helping to soothe and moisturize, company executives said.

"Hidrox has a lot of heavy scientific support behind it," Mr. Plaza said.

In addition to being propylene glycol-free, Herbal Clear's deodorants are aluminum-free as well. Company executives said that over time, aluminum can cause sensitivity in some individuals. "Many times, because of extensive use, we assume a product is safe," insisted Mr. Plaza. "But any chemical ingredient warrants a closer look, no matter how long it's been on the market. We need to ask ourselves whether we should be careful of using such ingredients on a daily basis, and if necessary, we should explore other options for our customers."

Green and Growing
The green market isn't slowing down, but it is being looked at more carefully, industry experts insist. Though natural products and extracts are all the rage, not every plant is healthy, beneficial or non-irritating.

"I think consumers need to realize that some ingredients, while very effective, can really backfire if used incorrectly or not used in the correct regime for their skin type," insisted Ms. Conrad of Boscia. "Formulators need to be very careful of what ingredients they use, and in what percentages."

Ms. Lipe of Essencia added, "The more educated people know that our products are produced with integrity and attention to detail, and that they do produce results," she said. "They're not gimmicks."

Meanwhile, naturals are "must-haves" for many of today's consumers, according to industry expert.

"The bottom line is that both retailers and consumers are looking for less harsh, safer, more natural products," said Mr. Plaza of Herbal Clear. "It's not a fad; it's an everyday occurrence. It's not just a trend anymore."