Notes From Asia

Beauty Probiotics, A Promising Concept

By Michelle Yeomans | April 3, 2017

Researchers are taking the fermented beauty concepts far beyond vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants, says Michelle Yeomans.

Research into the benefits of probiotics in cosmetic formulations has been ramped up by the industry of late as it seeks to evolve fermented beauty concepts far beyond that of vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. Experts say the use of microbes is less about the latest cosmetic industry trend, but rather more of a technological breakthrough as scientists have discovered, through the lens of DNA sequences, that large numbers of microbes are present throughout the dermis, epidermis and into the adipose layer, making it abundantly clear that they are integral to skin structure and function.

At the beginning of the year, an international beauty giant with a strong foothold in Asia’s markets, Johnson & Johnson, announced its ongoing commitment in this area by investing in S-Biomedic, a probiotic cosmetics specialist. The venture will see the two working together on “microbiome-based solutions for skin care,” as part of the personal care player’s JLINX program which aims to nurture early stage companies with the potential to transform human health. J&J also signed deals with Xycrobe Therapeutics just a few months prior to this to develop treatments for acne and psoriasis by re-engineering bacteria to grow and secrete biotherapeutic material.

Cosmetics suppliers have also jumped in on the action as Euromonitor International counts Ganeden Biotech’s probiotic derived ingredient Bonicel and Ashland’s initiative to support new products that help to normalize microflora on the skin among the most noteworthy efforts that are helping to get this category off the ground.

A Marketing Fad?

While Asian cosmetics giants like SK-II and Sulwhasoo have already launched probiotic-based products onto the market, there is still a way to go in establishing universal regulatory guidelines for incorporating microorganisms like live bacteria and lysates into beauty ranges. According to Maria Coronado, ingredient analyst at Euromonitor International, challenges also come in the form of marketing claims and the preservation of the microbes through the manufacturing and distribution process.

“Most products contain a large percentage of water, and preservatives are required to prevent spoilage and, as a result, products on the market generally tend not to contain live microorganisms,” stated Coronado.

However, the analyst notes that international players such as Clinique have found a way around this by including probiotics that are not alive or viable to form colonies to the formulation at the end of the manufacturing process.

“This is a cheap solution that does not require any real change in the preservative system or in the rest of the makes it virtually impossible for consumers to understand what to expect from a product carrying the probiotic label,” she added.

Then There Were Two…

Two companies are making headway in the live probiotics arena. North American firm Mother Dirt is doing great work with live ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, having introduced an AO+ Mist Spray that claims to restore “essential” bacteria to the skin. The product needs to be kept in the fridge and promises fully recyclable pharmaceutical grade plastic packaging.

Company president Jasmine Aganovic told Euromonitor’s Coronado that they are exploring the potential of the bacteria in the treatment of rosacea and other inflammatory skin disorders.

“She is very enthusiastic about the potential benefits of AOB in this kind of application since the White House launched the ‘National Microbiome Initiative’ with AOBiome, the scientific partner of Mother Dirt, taking part. This initiative will play a key role in translating findings in microbiome research to consumer products,” Coronado reported.
Meanwhile, Esse Probiotic Skin Care is building momentum in Hong Kong with its serums containing live microorganisms that have been inactivated by freeze-drying and stabilized by encapsulation.  

“Our current live probiotic products are oil-based. The microbes are encapsulated in a double glass unit that contains a polypropylene bag and get dispersed in a thickened vegetable oil, there is no water in the formulation. These probiotics activate and start to grow when they encounter water on the skin surface,” Trevor Styn, founder, told Happi.

Styn is targeting the professional skin care market with these products as he says therapists can educate the client on the benefits of living probiotics, which is still a confusing concept, as Coronado also pointed out.

Challenges for his brand he says, came in the form of clearing the live products through regulatory bodies within each market.

“It took us more than six months and a lot of testing to reassure EU regulators that the products were safe and effective,” Styn said.

Personalization Potential

While there is potential for this category to offer personalized concepts—they are still a way off.

“We are waiting for the cost of sequencing the skin microbiome to come down enough to make this accessible. The price of sequencing is currently falling exponentially faster than the cost of computing, so it will probably not be long, we think, before this is an option. It will obviously be costly to start off with but the value of this approach is undeniable,” noted the ambitious entrepreneur.

When it becomes a reality, consumers can analyze the state of their own skin’s microbiome and key symbiotic species could be reinstated with personalized probiotics in a relatively inexpensive way, according to experts.

About the Author
Michelle Yeomans is a an award-winning multimedia journalist. She has been reporting on cosmetics industry movement in EMEA, US and Asia for five years and has won an award for her coverage of the complexities of operating in the Middle East. Michelle's passion lies in tracking the beauty culture and trends of the Asia Pacific region. Ever the AV enthusiast, she also relishes the opportunity to create engaging video and podcast content for the B2B industry. Email:

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