One reason for the increased appetite could be the common ground between beauty and nutrition. Consumers gravitate to natural ingredients called out on the package of their favorite skin care products—especially if they are fruits and vegetables found in a low FODMAP diet or trendy bowl. Take, for example, Sweet Chef, a K-beauty brand that sells SKUs like Beet + Vitamin A Serum Shot and Kale + Vitamin B Fresh Pressed Sheet Mask.
It is all part of the ever-growing wellness industry, which according to some estimates, is valued at a whopping $4.2 trillion. According to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, consumers are spending money to stay healthier. In a recent How America Shops survey, WSL found that 35% of shoppers are spending more to stay well today than they did a year ago—and among Millennials and Generation Z, that number rises to 40% and 45%, respectively. Further, WSL says 31% of shoppers buy products that make them look healthier.
As interest in wellness grows on Main Street, there has been rising interest on Wall Street, too. Hair wellness company Nutrafol last month closed a $35 million Series B round financing led by the Growth Fund of L Catterton with participation from existing investor Unilever Ventures. With this latest funding, the company says it will further scale its personalized system, which features new targeted boosters that address deficiencies and imbalances including menopause, stress and gut health.
Nutrafol offers consumers a personalized assessment that leverages a proprietary algorithm to provide a customized recommendation of the brand’s ingestible solutions. Working with a team of physicians, researchers and scientific advisors, the company analyzed two years of customer data, comprehensive scientific research and results from thousands of hair mineral analysis tests with consumers to launch this personalized approach to hair growth. Nutrafol’s aim is to identify the root causes of one’s compromised hair health and build a personalized “GrowthPlan.”
“Each person has a set of unique challenges, biochemistry, genetic predisposition, environmental inputs and more—and all of that contributes to their manifestation of hair thinning or hair health. Through research and data we were able to tailor formulations to better suit individual needs,” Dr. Sophia Kogan, Nutrafol co-founder and chief medical advisor, told Happi.
One of Nutrafol’s newest formulas is for women transitioning into and going through menopause. It has been optimized to provide more support for hormonal balance and aging.
“This formula has higher dosages of saw palmetto to counter dihydrotestosterone, as well as two new ingredients—maca and astaxanthin. Women who are going through this transition have altered ratios of testosterone to estrogen and progesterone, which contributes to changes in hair during this time. Maca is an excellent adaptogen that supports balance of these hormones.
Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants available and helps provide extra antioxidant support for oxidative damage resulting from aging,” Kogan said.
New York City-based Nutrafol has expanded its Core for Men and Core for Women and rolled out new targeted boosters, too. The boosters include: Hairbiotic, a gut-optimizing probiotic formula that boosts absorption of nutrients needed for growing stronger hair; Digestive Enzyme, a mix of 16 digestive enzymes that help break down proteins and boost the nutrient absorption process; Stress Adaptogen, a blend of phyto-actives that helps to protect against stress-related complications and maintain a healthy hair growth cycle; Vitamin B-Booster, which supports body’s metabolic function, promotes natural detoxification and helps combat oxidative stress to maintain a healthy environment for hair to grow; Sugar Balance, which helps support healthy glucose metabolism to promote hair wellness; and DHT Inhibitor, formulated with ingredients known to help prevent testosterone from converting into dihydrotestosterone, which is known to lead to follicle miniaturization.
“When we initially founded Nutrafol and throughout the years, we leaned heavily into our science and research to educate both customers and western medical doctors of how the nutraceutical ingredients in our formulas work from the inside out,” said Kogan, noting the firm now has the support of more 1,500 physicians, most of which are dermatologists.
In addition, Nutrafol has undergone a brand refresh aimed at bringing a “different outlook on hair health and wellness.” Kogan told Happi, “It’s no longer just about hair loss and thinning. We want to highlight the positive aspects of being able to take control of your inner wellness and your hair health. We are done being ashamed or afraid to speak about it, especially women.”
The refreshed look also addresses how Nutrafol fits into the beauty business, according to Kogan.
“Hair wellness is a developing category on its own. It’s not hair care, and it’s not drugs. It is really the ability to take control of your own hair health from the inside out. That is a very new concept. It’s preventative, it’s restorative and it’s positive. There has been a lot of shame around hair loss, especially for women. We only recently started to voice ourselves and bring it to the forefront. This allows for more people to come out and stand in their power to take control. We believe that this is where wellness and specifically hair wellness is heading,” she said.
In fact, Kogan pointed to Hippocrates, who is credited with saying: Let thy food be thy medicine.
“I think we are finally getting back to this ancient wisdom,” she said. “There are no miracle fixes and no magic pills. Seeing poor hair health as a symptom rather than a disease that needs a patch, allows for a more comprehensive approach from the inside out.”
“We feel today’s consumers are more willing to address skin health and beauty from the inside out through dietary supplements,” agreed Tamara Bernadot, co-founder and chief nutritional officer, Persona Nutrition, a Seattle-based personalized nutrition subscription firm.
While some may cite sales data to show the sector’s promise, Bernadot points elsewhere.
“Today, there’s more research showing the benefits of key nutrients for skin health, including horsetail plant extract, collagen, CoQ10, omega-3s, vitamin C, and zinc. In fact, 10 years ago, there were approximately 30,000 studies on skin health research. Just in the past decade, that number has increased to about 80,000 studies! That’s a 150% increase in just 10 years,” she said.
Persona has made its own deep dive into sleep—a major factor in one’s personal appearance—and found that more than 75% of Americans report sleep issues. Culled from its own data (which includes more than 800,000 online nutritional assessments), the firm also uncovered other health concerns: hair, skin and nails (71%), digestion (65%), energy levels (64%) and stress (57%).
“While it’s difficult to generalize the state of health or diet among Americans because each person is unique, our data suggest that Americans really care about their health and wellness, but find it difficult to do it all—balance work, fun and family while caring for themselves. They report they are more stressed, aren’t getting quality sleep, and need support for their hair, skin and nails, and they are looking for ways to support these concerns through nutrition,” said Bernadot.
To address these concerns, Persona recently rolled out new Essential Packs of vitamins and supplements to complement its personalized nutritional model. The 15 SKUs include options such as Daily Detox, Sound Slumber, Stress Relief, Women’s Essentials and Women’s Essentials 50+.
In addition, Persona has its own proprietary hair, skin and nails blend sold in mini-tab and capsule forms.
“The capsule can be easily opened and the mini-tabs can be sprinkled in yogurt, smoothies or simply taken with water,” Bernadot told Happi. The blend incorporates horsetail plant extract, a perennial herb that has been shown to support hair and nail growth, and two well-known skin care ingredients: CoQ10 and collagen.
Collagen is also top of mind at Amazing Grass, a marketer of powdered supplements and nutrition bars. The company recently entered the beauty sphere with its new Amazing Protein Glow. This new product features greens that are grown on the brand’s family farm in Kansas, plus an array of botanicals.
According to the Newport Beach, CA-based firm, Protein Glow is game changer when it comes to collagen supplementation.
“Our new Amazing Protein Glow is a first of its kind plant-based solution to the growing collagen trend. Collagen is the main structural protein in skin. Primary supplement sources come from cows, pigs, chickens and fish. As consumers continue to look for products that help aid in anti-aging benefits or support healthy hair, skin and nails, they currently have been limited to all the animal-based collagen products on market,” said Maggie Stewart, director of innovation at Amazing Grass.
In addition to coming from animal sources, Stewart said existing products generally do not provide the vitamins critical to collagen production in the body and general skin health.
“Given many consumers continue to look for plant-based solutions for environmental, ethical and health reasons, Amazing Protein Glow is a great alternative to the collagen supplements currently on market,” she said.
Amazing Grass provides 15g of plant-based protein to help muscle recovery and repair, 100% DV plant biotin (from organic sesbania leaf) to help support healthy hair, skin, nails, and B Complex and C vitamins (from acerola cherry) to support healthy skin. Other ingredients incorporated across the three available SKUs include rose petal (a source of phytonutrients for full body radiance), guava (rich in thiamin, riboflavin and niacin and B1, B2 and B3), lemon peel (which contains folate) and pitaya.
The firm has also paid close attention to taste, a key component in a protein powder. Protein Glow flavors are Chocolate Rose, Vanilla Honeysuckle and Wild Berry Hibiscus.
“We wanted to make sure we delivered broadly appealing flavors consumers always look for like chocolate, vanilla and berry but added a fresh spin from trending flavors that bring in a unique profile to the overall product experience. We worked really hard to make sure these unique ingredients and flavors added an enhanced flavor experience without being overwhelming,” said Stewart.
Expect more from Amazing Grass. According to Stewart, her company is in the “process of launching a unique beauty product under our novel effervescent form, as well as, other plant-solutions to collagen within the categories we play.”
Well: What Are You Waiting For?
As consumer interest in wellness rises, beauty and personal care companies would be wise to assess how they will incorporate “wellness” into their businesses models, according to executives at WSL Strategic Retail, which recently launched a new initiative called “The Big Business of Well” to address the changing ways in which consumers are acquiring their wellness and will co-host a “Well” leadership forum on May 10 in Zurich with Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, Switzerland. The forum (which will be livestreamed) will address how people are striving to improve their wellbeing through consumption.
“Consumers are taking their spending to a wider place,” said Corlett. “How are you going to change your company’s culture to participate in this?”
Avenues to explore can span from incorporating more wellness-focused ingredients to aligning with a nutritional products brand. Sephora, for example, has launched an exclusive line of supplements with Olly. It includes SC x Olly Glowing Skin, which has hyaluronic acid, collagen and sea buckthorn.
In addition, Sephora now sells Skin Heroes, an acne product from Hum Nutrition that specifically targets the gut-skin axis by balancing and nurturing the body’s microbiome with pre- and probiotics.
Ulta, too, is offering customers nutritional beauty developed by Nature’s Bounty. The collection includes ClearComplexion, which is formulated with zinc for non-cystic acne.
Hungry for More
As consumer perception evolves, nutritional product companies, retailers and investors predict a healthy future for beauty-from-within products.
“Consumers are always looking for that fountain of youth and are becoming more aware of the importance and role of diet, food and healthy supplements in achieving their overall health, wellness and beauty goals,” said Stewart of Amazing Grass.
Delivering on promises with scientifically backed products will be key to success, according to Kogan of Nutrafol.
“Clinical efficacy is non-negotiable for us,” she said. “These are plants, not drugs, and as such there was a lot of skepticism in the beginning because of all the snake oil in our sector. However, through education and clinical efficacy, we were able to dissolve it. Of course the integrative space and ancient medical traditions have known that inside wellness equals outside health forever, but for the scientific critics proof was essential. Not every supplement is created equal. Standardized, pure ingredients that are bio-optimized with today’s technology and delivered in efficacious dosages are truly what makes us unique. Today, however, as more and more people understand wellness, it is a much easier bridge to build.”