Derma-cosmetics: an exciting category for brands that are serious about efficacy

Derma-cosmetics: an exciting category for brands that are serious about efficacy

Derma-cosmetics are skincare products that use sophisticated active ingredients to directly support or care for the symptoms of various skin conditions.

“Derma” of course means ‘of the skin’, and we know that “cosmetic” relates to appearance. So a product that is derma-cosmetic is purposefully formulated to address both. It combines a dermatological action with a cosmetic action therefore bridging two quite unique market segments.

Derma-cosmetics tend to be gender neutral and have evolved as both a substitute and to complement medical recommendation. They are scientifically formulated and unanimously offer high quality, effective skin solutions – designed to stand out from other generic skincare products.

The COVID-19 pandemic created the perfect moment for this market segment collision, and we have derma-cosmetic brands gain a lot of traction. As people grapple with the heightened sense of risk, there’s intensified consumer desire for safety and science. Successful products in this segment can demonstrate their efficacy through evidence-based claims. Derma-cosmetics is part of a wellness proposition, a megatrend that will be long-lasting – far beyond the effects of COVID-19.

Trending search phrases relevant to skin defence include skin detox, pollution and microbiome. Also, numerous skin repair and restore ingredients have graced the search fields: butters and oils, avocado, sunflower, moringa, cannabis, collagen, shea, humectant, hyaluronic acid, retinol, peptide, arnica, ceramides, ceramide, niacinamide.

And to provide some context, the five most common conditions are oily skin with imperfections prone to acne, sensitive skin, dehydrated skin and dry or atopic-prone skin.

The interesting thing is that with the demand for products to offer this functionality, we also see the demands of the conscious and savvy consumers. They’re not going to simply take a brand’s word for it. They want facts and research to back up their claims if they’re going to be parting with hard-earned money to purchase something with a new proposition. For brands that are offering the real deal, this will be no problem at all. For brands that are looking to leverage off this trend, take this as a caution.

The crux of this conversation is that consumers are smarter than they’ve ever been, because we humans are being reminded to understand and care for ourselves in our own unique ways.

But although this is a unique opportunity for brands, there are some things to keep in mind here. Skin conditions are complex and unique. Their treatments can also be unique to individuals, depending on a number of factors. In successful derma-cosmetic brands, we have seen products that are not too complex, focused on an ingredient or condition, and are a celebration of humans’ uniqueness. The products provide consumers with comfort and sensory improvements that address the physical impact of various skin conditions as well as the mental health aspect, such as lack of confidence.

So what’s the difference between derma-cosmetics and standard skincare products?

  • More Potent and Advanced Ingredients
  • Higher Quality Ingredients
  • Better Delivery Of Ingredients
  • More Sophisticated Formulations

Derma-cosmetic products are designed to be multitasking with a more comprehensive approach to treating the root cause of a problem. They also don’t just apply to the face, but can also be applied to the body and hair.

Here are some examples you might like to take a closer look at:

BASF has a derma-cosmetic portfolio with Safe and effective skin care-regime-based solutions with high efficacy as an alternative to procedure-based treatments to address their personal skin needs. In this context, the company thinks these new peptides will enable skincare brands to develop innovative products with enhanced benefits.

Recently launched onto the market is New Zealand brand Raaie –

Super-fusing natural NZ botanicals with high efficacy with lab grown ingredients such as 15% Vitamin C: A power blend of two different types of Vitamin C; 13% Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate and 2% Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, two different molecular weights of Hyaluronic Acid and Ferulic Acid to boost the efficacy.

Kalichem Peptilift is a biomimetic endorphin oligopeptide-based complex (INCI: Sh-Pentaptide-5), with a particular tropism for the skin’s neuroendocrine system. It is incorporated into a functional lipo-oligopeptidic delivery system based on conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) glutathione (INCI: Potassium Glutathione Isomerised Linoleate), which selectively activates the opioid signalling directly on the skin and has intrinsic ‘anti-inflammageing’, detoxifying and anti-pollution properties.

New Zealand Premium Body Care range Tronque – would be classified as a derma-cosmetic as it is packed with high quality, high potency efficacious actives. Tronque was born through founder Tanne’s struggle with her reproductive health and is made with an ethos of full ingredient transparency, and maximum safety and efficacy. It’s free from endocrine or internal health disruptors and other toxins, designed for the glorious spectrum of skin types, genders and ethnicities.

The Ordinary

Packed with high-end active ingredients – This concentrated formula is designed to support hair health so that it looks thicker, denser, fuller and healthier. The technologies present in this formula include REDENSYL™ complex (with Larix Europaea Wood Extract and Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract), Procapil™ peptide complex (with Biotinoyl Tripeptide-1), CAPIXYL™ peptide complex (with Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3 and Trifolium Pratense Flower Extract), BAICAPIL™ complex (with Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Triticum Vulgare Germ Extract and Glycine Soja Germ Extract), AnaGain™ (Pisum Sativum Extract) and High-Solubility Caffeine (1% net Caffeine by weight), in an ultra-lightweight, emollient base for efficient penetration. The total concentration of these technologies in the formula by weight is 21.15%.

Overall, derma-cosmetic products unanimously offer high quality as well as effective skin solutions and stand out from other generic skincare buys.

On a practical level from a formulations point of view, ingredients used in derma-cosmetics should show an evaluation from a dermatological point of view, including:

  • Low skin irritating potential
  • Protection of the skin barrier function
  • Soothing, anti-irritant and moisturising capabilities
  • Safe, pure, effective
  • Reduce the chemical load of skin
  • Use as little ingredients as possible for minimal need
  • Use of “multitasking” ingredients

Usually when a new trend comes across my desk I expect to see the industry as a whole react in their own ways, but this trend feels much more niche – and serious – than that. While many users of cosmetic products suffer from skin conditions, the ingredients required to address these sensitivities are not cheap! This is not a mass-production opportunity for brand recognition. This is a much more serious market segment with a much more careful consumer group, and should be approached as such by any brand that wants to explore this emerging category.

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In my role as a Design Practice Teaching Fellow at the University of Canterbury's School of Product Design, I leverage my extensive background in entrepreneurial ventures and industry experience spanning cosmetic chemistry, marketing, design, and brand management. My mission is to empower and guide the upcoming generation of product designers. With over three years in this position, I have supported numerous students in honing their abilities, fostering their creativity, and building their confidence to craft innovative and impactful personal care products and brands. My dedication lies in bridging innovation, curiosity, and creative expression to produce formulations, products, and brands that truly differentiate themselves. Holding a Diploma of Personal Care Formulation from the Institute of Personal Care Science, my involvement has stretched across various initiatives and bodies within the cosmetic sector, including Cosmetics New Zealand and NZSCC New Zealand. I am perpetually in pursuit of fresh challenges and avenues for personal and professional development, finding my deepest fulfillment in witnessing the achievements of others.

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