When they’re Googled out, self-diagnosing consumers will often head to Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Target or the local pharmacy where the OTC aisle offers an array of products to help quell costs associated with doctor visits and prescriptions. According to the Truveris National Drug Index (released in January 2015), brand drug prices spiked 14.8%. And even in generics, major increases were reported in treatments for muscle pain and stiffness (up 31.9%) and acne (up 18.1%).
The OTC sector, like all other HBA categories, is seeing more natural ingredients and natural-leaning products designed to treat health concerns from the common cold to diaper rash to acne.
“Many consumers are seeking more natural OTC options for both adult and pediatric products and are seeking ways to use these products,” said Laura Mahecha of Kline & Co., which will publish “Natural OTCs: Impact of Non-Drug Products on the US OTC Market” in June.
That’s good news for companies that tout “healthier” alternatives, like Kamedis Inc., which recently announced the retail availability of Kamedis Bio-Herbal Dandruff Care system—a therapeutic two-step system to fight dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis—at Walgreens.
Dandruff is the most common scalp disorder in adolescence and adulthood, affecting more than 50 million people in US. The Kamedis Bio-Herbal Dandruff Care system pairs a scalp lotion and dandruff shampoo formulated with a combination of botanical concentrates and active ingredients to visibly reduce scaling and treat itching at the source, all while nourishing and hydrating the scalp.
Company executives call it the first holistic approach to treating dandruff using a two-step regimen that is based on natural ingredients. Specifically, the shampoo and lotion feature Botaniplex, which utilizes a proprietary process to purify and concentrate the botanical extracts for maximum efficacy. The system fights dandruff in two ways—pyrithione zinc kills the fungus that is the culprit behind many cases of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, and botanical concentrates soothe, hydrate and nourish the hair and scalp, relieving the common symptoms of dandruff. The formulation is also free of parabens, steroids and sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS), ingredients that have some consumers on high alert these days.
“Most people are becoming concerned with what they put on their bodies, and want to avoid toxic chemicals or harsh detergents like SLS, which some studies have linked to skin irritation and even hair loss and damage. At the same time, people with dandruff want a clinically proven solution to this uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing condition. At Kamedis, we wanted to bridge the gap. We did so by researching and developing Botaniplex, a combination of botanical concentrates and proven active ingredients; this system is based on nature and proven by science,” said Yossi Camu, vice president at Kamedis Ltd.
Previously sold online and through select dermatologist offices, additional retailers are expected to come online in the second half of the year, according to the company, which has rolled out the product in collaboration with Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
Aubío Life Sciences is eyeing the natural OTC sector with an offering for those suffering from cold sores, a segment that represents about two-thirds of the world’s population, according the World Health Organization. Company executives’ hopes are pinned on a formulation powered by an extract of the Pitcher plant, which is known for its unique properties including resistance to ultraviolet light, extreme seasonal temperature changes, high and low humidity, insect infestation and microbial infection, noted Lawrence A. Rheins, PhD, who is executive director of R&D at the Florida-based start-up.
Not just another fledgling start-up, Aubío has caught the attention–and funding—of a big player in the personal care sector: John Paul DeJoria. The co-founder of JohnPaul Mitchell Systems is now the majority stakeholder in the firm, having been introduced to the basic formulation by company founder Jim Stith.
DeJoria has never suffered from cold sores personally, but he saw first hand how the treatment healed almost everyone he met who has had cold sore, and “what excited him was that it was a plant based product,” Scott Woolley, Aubío’s executive operations director, told Happi in a phone interview.
Aubío, which has its own cultivation, extraction and filtration process and is growing its own source of Pitcher in the US, contends its gel-based “Ultra-Effective SuperBotanicals” enhance penetration and absorption of moisturizing humectants and emollients, which is critical for the skin to respond to environmental insults and begin the skin recovery process.
The product, which is dermatologist tested and has undergone multiple safety tests, is non-irritating to the skin as well as non-allergenic.
According to Rheins, the pitcher plant will be the chassis for a family of skin care offerings. In fact, Aubío has already followed up its cold sore treatment (which is now on Amazon and will hit Target this month) with a lip balm formulated with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen, ceramides and the company’s hero ingredient.
Venerable lip care specialist ChapStick is also adding benefits by way of natural ingredients. One of its newest products is ChapStick Total Hydration 100% Natural, billed as an age-defying formula sourced from all-natural ingredients like argan oil, avocado butter, rosehip oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, shea butter, mango seed butter, olive fruit oil, shea butter and raspberry seed oil, according to Donna Barker, senior director, ChapStick. It is available in Fresh Citrus and Soothing Vanilla, and both are clinically proven to provide healthier and more youthful looking lips, according to the brand, which is owned by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.
“ChapStick is an iconic brand with more than 125 years of rich history as America’s favorite lip balm. We pride ourselves on being the experts in lips; and we’re always looking to bring consumer products that deliver advanced skin care for lips. While the classic flavors that many of our fans grew up with remain a staple, our newest innovations which deliver on the needs of the modern consumer have been immensely popular with our fans,” said Barker. Chapstick recently tapped Rachel Bilson for a new campaign to showcase its lip products in the context of smart skin care.
“The skin on the lips is one of the most sensitive areas on the face, so lips require special attention and care to stay healthy, but are often overlooked in skin care regimes. Everyday common behaviors such as drinking wine or coffee and eating salty or acidic foods can dry out the skin on your lips. Our new campaign, is rooted in ‘skin care for lips’ to help open consumers eyes to the sensitive nature of the lips and the importance of lip care,” said Barker.
Another venerable brand, Palmer’s, is tackling skin concerns during an important, but temporary, phase of a woman’s life: pregnancy.
“During pregnancy, caring for skin is especially critical because there are a variety of skin changes happening all at once. One of the most common skin care concerns during pregnancy is stretch marks. Stretch marks can occur when the skin’s own natural collagen and elastin fibers tear due to rapid weight gain or growth,” said Jennifer Leonard from E.T. Browne, maker of Palmer’s products.
To that end, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Stretch Mark products address these specific skin care needs with a unique blend of ingredients that include pure cocoa butter, vitamin E, shea butter and exclusive Bio C-Elaste.
“Bio C-Elaste is our powerful stretch mark fighting combination of collagen, elastin, centella asiatica, sweet almond oil and argan oil,” noted Leonard. “Each ingredient provides a specific, targeted benefit toward helping reduce the appearance of stretch marks.”
Palmer’s stable of stretch mark care products for the expectant mom include Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks, Massage Cream for Stretch Marks and Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks.
According to Leonard, the lightweight lotion was developed for all over body use during and after pregnancy. With consistent use, skin elasticity improved in 97% of the test subjects, according to the company.
“Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Stretch Mark products prepare stretching skin for optimum elasticity and moisturization, helping put skin in peak stretch mark fighting mode,” said Leonard.
Palmer’s recently embarked on a marketing campaign with maternity company Belly Bandit. The partnership will provide women with what they are calling a “double dose” of stretch mark treatment and care. Belly Bandit’s Flawless Belly, Thighs Disguise and Belly Shield products will include a 1.7oz sample of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks. The three Belly Bandit products feature WonderWeave, which works as a protective barrier to keep lotion on the skin and off of clothing, according to the company.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Palmer’s. I used their products during both of my pregnancies and know from personal experience that their stretch mark creams are the absolute best.” Lori Caden, founding partner, Belly Bandit.
Wearing Pain Relief
More Americans seek healthier alternatives when it comes to OTC pain relief, and companies such as Keys, a Cheyenne, WO-based firm, are answering the call. The company is using a technology that will turn vegan and fruit oil into jellies that mimic petroleum jelly as the base for a new product line that includes Heat Cool, which it bills as a natural alternative to pain relief products like Icy Hot and BenGay.
The range, which Keys is calling “Alternative Naturals,” also includes Avo Jel (designed to be a vegan alternative to Vaseline), VaporJel (billed an alternative to Vicks that is formulated with camphor, menthol and eucaplyptus essential oil) and a product designed for diaper rash, bites, stings, rashes and eczema.
Beyond topical creams that reduce the pain associated with sore muscles and joints, patches continue to grow in popularity with consumers who wish to avoid ingestible products.
In fact, recent launches include new options that range from simple fabric patches to high-tech wearables, which is another area where Kline is ramping up its research. This summer, Kline will publish a new study, “Pain Management Devices: Global Market Assessment and Opportunities.”
Hisamitsu America recently unveiled a larger, latex-free Salonpas Pain Relieving Patch that features beige stretchable fabric with rounder corners, enhanced adhesion, peel resistance and improved effectiveness.
“We developed this new Pain Relieving Patch to improve the patch user’s experience while maintaining great value,” noted John Incledon, president and CEO, Hisamitsu America. “These patches are 20% larger than the original patches and allow for quicker skin permeation of methyl salicylate which is an important performance factor in reducing pain quickly.”
Beyond patches, consumers in the OTC sector can also look for new devices that were once found only in physical therapy centers. For example, the Icy Hot Smart Relief Knee & Shoulder TENS Therapy, which blocks the body’s pain signals by sending gentle electrical pulses along the nerve to intercept the signals before they reach the brain, providing relief that can last for hours, according to Chattem.
It costs $35 and is sold in major food and drugstore outposts including Walmart, Target, Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite Aid, Safeway and Meijer.
Health care company NeuroMetrix, Inc. has a wearable pain reliever called Quell, which harnesses neurostimulation technology to fight pain 24 hours a day, including while users sleep. This 100% drug-free wearable has received 510(k) clearance from the US FDA, which allows the unit to be controlled directly via a smartphone app—providing an unprecedented level of convenience and comfort, according to NeuroMetrix, Inc, which is rolling out an updated version of the product this month.
“What makes this different from other OTC TENS devices is the power of precision and personalization,” Frank McGillin, senior vice president and general manager, consumer health at NeuroMetrix, told Happi.
Quell is five times more powerful than average OTC TENS devices and through a special calibration process, it can identify the exact dosage that a user needs, he said.
“Pain is complex and it manifests differently with everyone,” noted McGillin, who said that topical pain relief lotions can be effective for sore muscles following an over zealous workout, but for those with chronic pain such as sciatica or arthritis, a “localized cream isn’t going to be enough. At the end of the day, the creams mask pain at a location. We are blocking pain in the system.”
Another point of departure is where it is worn; Quell is placed on the calf—no matter where the pain is—unlike other TENS devices which are designed to be worn on the sore spot (think knee, shoulder or lower back).
According to McGilin, the calf has a dense cluster of sensory nerves and offers a “relatively discreet” location.
Quell can be purchased online at Quellrelief.com and Amazon and in select health care offices; major chains are expected to carry the device later this year, according to the company.
Some Supervision Required
Consumers often “play doctor” with their own medical issues, especially when it comes to skin conditions like acne. According to IRI, acne treatments represented a $611.3 million market for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 27, 2015.
But leading dermatologists contend consumers need much more guidance, especially when they are confronted with a dizzying array of options.
“It is overwhelming when you see hundreds of skin care products,” said Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, who is president and medical director of innovative dermatology, PA and clinical assistant professor in the department of Dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “There are a lot of products—and there are some good things and some not so good things,” added Dr. Desai.
Dr. Michelle Green agreed that the OTC marketplace provides many more options today. And while this New York based dermatologist offers her own line of skin care products sold through her office, she noted “many OTC products work well.”
Still, Dr. Green warned consumers could go overboard. She suggests patients use a gentle toner and cleanser and a spot treatment.
“A mistake they make is that they use a lot of scrubs. You can’t scrub out your acne…It doesn’t have to be harsh and abrasive to work,” she said.
Both Drs. Green and Desai agree that a key mistake in DIY acne care regimens is moisturization, or more accurately, a lack thereof.
“People think I’m oily, I don’t need to moisturize. And that’s not true. Moisturizer is very important,” said Dr. Desai, who is also national secretary/treasurer of the Skin of Color Society and will deliver a keynote address at Happi’s 2016 Anti-Aging Conference and Tabletop Exhibition later this year. (For more details on the conference, see conference.happi.com.)
Dr. Desai also dispensed more sound advice for acne sufferers: don’t just chase pimples. “People get lazy when they are treating acne.”
And while they can turn to OTC products to do, if the problem persists, dermatologists say consumers need to call and make appointment.
“The sooner they get treated, they more likely they are to fare better,” concluded Dr. Desai.