Clearly the less Instagram-worthy sector of personal care, OTC products like eczema relief lotions, first aid/burn ointments and acne pads are revenue generators for many companies even when category growth is unremarkable.
For example, while IRI reports that acne treatment sales fell 1.5% to $571.9 million last year in US multi-outlets, Galderma Labs posted growth above 23%, fueled by the success of its Differin brand (see chart below).
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Differin Gel 0.1% (adapalene), a once-daily topical gel for the over-the-counter (OTC) treatment of acne in mid 2016. Today, Differin is a brand, not just a lone SKU.
“As a leader in treating adult acne, it’s our goal to continually bring new products to the marketplace that can treat the full lifecycle of acne. While Differin Gel can help clear and prevent breakouts, we want to ensure we’re offering consumers a full range of products designed specifically for acne-prone skin,” said Katherine Rouse, director, Differin OTC US.
The line now includes Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum, which offers a maximum-strength over-the-counter solution that’s gentle, yet effective in gradually fading unwanted post-acne marks to improve overall skin tone and clarity. It is formulated with 2% hydroquinone as well as antioxidants such as sea buckthorn berry oil and citric acid.
“This is an exciting launch for us that will continue to help adult acne sufferers get the clear skin they desire,” Rouse told Happi.
Differin’s additional SKUs are designed to help users develop a regimen that will lead to clearer skin.
“In addition to incorporating products with active ingredients that treat specific concerns like acne or hyperpigmentation, maintaining a consistent skin care regimen is crucial to keeping skin clear and healthy, regardless of where someone may be in their acne journey. This means using a cleanser, moisturizer and SPF along with any active products, so we’ve added a new cleanser and moisturizer to the Differin portfolio that pair perfectly with Differin Gel,” Rouse said. “The new Daily Refreshing Cleanser and Restorative Night Moisturizer expand the Differin line to offer consumers a full skin care regimen to get consistently clear skin they can count on.”
The Differin Daily Refreshing Cleanser, suitable for sensitive and oily skin, cleanses skin while maintaining its natural hydration. It is formulated with vitamin B to nourish skin and stabilizes the skin’s moisture barrier, along with glycerin to help soften skin, said the company.
Differin is also addressing a consumer misconception when it comes to acne care.
“While a lot of acne-sufferers think moisturizing will only exacerbate their condition, hydration is very important for oily, acne-prone skin, especially for patients who are using Differin Gel. Retinoids can cause retinization which can include redness, irritation and flakiness. It’s totally normal, but it’s important to keep skin moisturized, which is why we also launched the Differin Restorative Night Moisturizer,” said Rouse.
The moisturizer is formulated with allantoin, shea butter and ceramides to deeply moisturize skin overnight, visibly improve skin texture and immediately soothe dry and flaky skin. Additional ingredients in the moisturizer include licorice extract to help promote radiance and hyaluronic acid to boost skin’s elasticity and overall hydration.
CeraVe has also expanded its range of products that address acne-prone skin with new Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser with Benzoyl Peroxide and Resurfacing Retinol Serum. The cleanser, which was developed to be the first step in the regimen, is formulated with 4% benzoyl peroxide as well as hyaluronic acid and ceramides. The second step, CeraVe’s Resurfacing Retinol Serum, has encapsulated retinol. Both products are non-comedogenic and contain a combination of the three essential ceramides, 1, 3 and 6-II to restore the skin barrier and soothing niacinamide to help calm the skin.
What’s Up, Doc
In addition to acne, consumers tackle other skin woes with off-the-shelf options, some of which have been given the nod from medical experts.
“Cetaphil has been providing skin health solutions for the entire family for more than 70 years and is recommended by more dermatologists than any other facial brand of cleansers and moisturizers, which has helped the Cetaphil brand grow to where it is today,” said Michael Sabbia, marketing director, Cetaphil.
According to Sabbia, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which debuted in 1947, is “still an iconic and top-selling product for our brand today with about one bottle sold every minute.”
While it may be a go-to cleanser, it wasn’t nearly as accessible as it is now.
“In its early years, this cleanser was only available from select pharmacists, but quickly became a highly recommended product by dermatologists, pediatricians and other health care professionals for common skin conditions. Due to consumer demand, more drugstores began selling it and by the 1980s, it was available at all major retail stores across North America,” Sabbia told Happi.
Cetaphil would go on to expand its stable with body moisturizers and cleanser in the 1990s, and later added specific collections that addressed acne-prone and eczema-prone skin, as well sensitive skin. Today, the brand also touts makeup removers, a facial scrub, eye cream, and other targeted solutions that address key skin concerns for both adults and babies.
The brand also offers Cetaphil Pro, which was created to support the brand’s “dermatological credentials through a sub-brand focused on products specially formulated to use as companion products to Rx treatments for prominent skin conditions,” according to Sabbia.
The Cetaphil Pro Restoraderm line, which launched in 2010, features the Eczema Soothing Moisturizer and Soothing Wash. The moisturizer is formulated with colloidal oatmeal, a blend of 15 moisturizers, vitamins E, B5, and B3, filaggrin technology, ceramides and allantoin. The wash is formulated with a similar group of materials and both products carry the seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association.
More recently, in July, the brand unveiled Cetaphil Pro Dermacontrol Purifying Clay Mask, which addresses skin care concerns for those with oily skin. The mask is formulated with white kaolin clay to provide gentle exfoliation, bentonite clay to absorb excess oil and pore-clogging impurities, apple fruit extract to help maintain skin hydration, and cucumber seed extract, which is rich in oleic acid and helps brighten skin tone.
“Many consumers often associate a clay mask with that drying component because once it dries, they can see the little spots of oil that the clay extracts. While those clay masks do a great job of absorbing oil and impurities, they can sometimes do more harm than good and leave skin feeling tight and dry,” said Sabbia. “With this in mind, we were inspired to create a gentle, clay mask geared toward sensitive skin to meet those consumers’ needs. The unique formula does not fully dry, ensuring skin isn’t left tight or dried out; however, it still works deep in the pores to extract and absorb those impurities, making it a great option for all skin types, including sensitive skin.”
Also new is Cetaphil Restoring Lotion with Antioxidants which, as its name implies, contains antioxidants as well niacinamide, and vitamins B5 and E. It is said to improve skin’s suppleness and appearance, especially on chest and neck areas.
“We saw a gap in the market where consumers were concerned about how the skin on their face appeared but weren’t necessarily devoting the same attention to the skin on their body and not many brands were offering sensitive skin body care solutions in this department,” noted Sabbia.
Looking ahead, Cetaphil has more in the pipeline, although Sabbia kept additional details close to his vest.
“Innovation is the cornerstone of the business. To succeed in a competitive environment, we must develop something other brands cannot offer. If we don’t enjoy patent protection of molecules or ingredients, we must differentiate through other means,” he said. “The winning combination is where our science can combine with consumer insight to create novel formulations or packaging, for example. Just as importantly, the results of our innovation must be consistent with our brand and resonate with both health care professionals and consumers.”
To stay at the forefront, Sabbia told Happi that the Cetaphil team attends “conferences and assesses whether new materials and new innovations meet the needs of our consumers and health care professionals. Additionally, our R&D team employs robust new ingredient testing.”
To maintain a pole position in OTC, companies must stay abreast of new chemistries from suppliers, treatments and trends in dermatology, and also new competitors—like Dutch biotechnology company Micreos, which brought its Gladskin brand to the US. The company, which develops technology-targeted antibacterial technology set to replace antibiotics, has production and R&D centers in Bilthoven, Wageningen and Zurich, and offers a range of OTC products for inflammatory skin conditions.
The first product being sold in the US is Gladskin Eczema Cream, which is formulated with Micreobalance, billed as a patented protein that balances the skin microbiome while moisturizing.
Gladskin Eczema Cream has proven itself at home before coming stateside in January. It was chosen as Europe’s most relevant innovation of 2018 at the Ideas from Europe finals, and in 2019, Gladskin products provided a solution for more than 100,000 adults and children across Europe, according to the firm.
“Understanding the frustrations that most people with eczema go through every day, and the endless efforts they put forth to find a safe and effective treatment, we’re excited to finally bring our patented endolysin science to the 30 million Americans suffering from eczema,” noted Skyler Stein, president of Gladskin USA.
Gladskin Eczema Cream, which has been accepted by the National Eczema Association, is free of steroids, fragrances, preservatives, alcohols and is hypoallergenic. It is being sold online for $35 per 50ml bottle and in two versions (one with colloidal oatmeal and one that is oatmeal free).
Pain Points & Aching Joints
Another mainstay for OTC remedies is pain relief. Last year, consumers turned to mass market analgesic rubs to the tune of $894.6 million (in US multi-outlets), an increase of 11.8%, according to IRI. A number of manufacturers enjoyed their own gains—from a solid 6.0% reported by category leader Chattem, maker of Icy Hot, to a massive triple digit gain reported by Avadim Health, maker of Theraworx Relief, a product that addresses muscle cramps and spasms and symptoms associated with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). In a clinical study, participants noticed a significant reduction in the frequency of their leg and foot cramps within the first two weeks of daily use, according to the Asheville, NC-based life sciences company, which is planning an IPO.
In Q3 2019, Avadim expanded the brand by rolling out Theraworx Arthritic Joint Discomfort and Inflammation to 22,000 pharmacies. The product combines a topical foam and a medical grade compression sleeve (impregnated with silver fibers) for patients diagnosed with arthritic hands or knees.
Another fast-growing story in topical pain relief is cannabidiol (CBD). A bevy of companies are leveraging the new legal availability of this ingredient after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
In fact, it can be hard to keep up with the frenetic pace of launches in the space since the law was signed by President Trump. There have been myriad rollouts, some with the backing of high-profile athletes from boxer Mickey Garcia (Pound for Pound CBD) to former NFL players Roman Harper (founder of The Hemp Doctor) and Rob Gronkowski, who endorses CBDMedic, part of Abacus Health Products.
Last month, Abacus Health Products acquired Harmony Hemp in a $5.5 million deal. Harmony Hemp sells CBD-infused personal care products, including OTC topicals including joint relief sprays, pain relief gels, roll-ons and lotions in more than 4,000 locations in major grocery and drugstores. With the acquisition, Abacus will expand its retail footprint by approximately 50% to more than 12,000 retail location, giving it—by its own calculations—the largest retail footprint of topical CBD and hemp-infused products in the US.
Other new players in CBD pain relief include Costa Mesa, CA-based Seven Points CBD, which touts a 1000mg Body Repair Balm that combines organic full spectrum CBD extract, menthol, eucalyptus and a blend of natural organic oils; and cbdMD Inc., maker of cbdMD Freeze, which was named “Product of the Year” in the CBD topical category—a new designation in the annual competition organized by Kantar Media Group.
Cannabidiol is also being explored for other issues that are targeted by OTC players. For example, Jupiter, FL-based CBD Brands, a wellness brand dedicated to exploring the multiple therapeutic and medical uses of cannabidiol, says it has initiated a clinical study to investigate the efficacy and safety of its proprietary CBD-infused lotion formulations in the treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema).
There’s no doubt the use of CDB in personal care is on the upswing. In fact, Allied Market Research contends the global CBD skin care market was estimated at $736.6 million in 2019, and is expected to hit $3.48 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 24.8% during the forecast period.
But the FDA is keeping close watch. In November, it issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling products (including topical lotions, balms and soap) for containing cannabidiol in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. At the same time, it offered consumers cautionary advice about usage, too, in a revised Consumer Update.
But consumers are a fickle lot. While they may listen to an MD or the testimony of a retired NFL player, they are just as likely to gloss over FDA’s concerns—especially if they are in desperate need of relief.