Multitasking beauty: Multifunctional cosmetics trends and challenges

Multitasking beauty: Multifunctional cosmetics trends and challenges

The launch of the first two-in-one shampoo and conditioner in the 1980’s caught the attention of consumers worldwide who have now come to expect products that have more than one function. And so, formulation chemists faced a new challenge, since a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner was just the start of an ever-increasing demand for new combinations of functionalities in cosmetic products.

Thanks to the coacervation1 phenomenon combining cationic polymers and anionic surfactants (or silicone emulsions), the multifunctionality has been proven to be achievable.

Nowadays the formulator has different tools to plan multifunctional cosmetics that can be achieved in three different ways, as explained by Mort Westman in the book Multifunctional Cosmetics2:

  1. The use of an ingredient with more than one functionality, e.g. humectant and emollient, emollient and emulsifier
  2. The increased functionality of a secondary performance, e.g. two-in-one shampoo, body wash with high moisturisation
  3. The addition of a second functionality which would not be expected from the product: e.g. the beauty balm (BB) cream that combines makeup with skincare benefits

When developing multifunctional cosmetics, especially the ones from the third category, in addition to the formulation parameters of compatibility, stability, manufacturability, fillability, safety, microbiology, patent infringement, among others, the chemist must give special attention to the performance of the cosmetic product, making sure to substantiate the claims for all the functionalities that his product is addressing.

As such, in the development of a moisturiser with anti-redness properties, for example, a clinical study must verify the moisturisation capacity and the anti-redness effect, most probably increasing the budget of the consumer study. Fortunately, the possible combinations of functionalities are vast and the combination of makeup, whose performance is visually indicated, with a skin care benefit can be an advantage to the evaluation team of R&D.

The raw material suppliers, also following the trends, help us formulators with very innovative products that promise to ease our lives in the day-to-day of R&D and NPD, either by launching new ingredients or repurposing not-so-new ones. This helps provide the tools we need for multifunctional claims.

The increasing consumer expectations, in addition to technological advances in formulation and demanding marketers, contributed to the launch of bolder products claiming to do more than one basic function, to convince the consumer of the cost- and time-saving benefits. The launch of the BB cream is probably one of the most successful among multifunctional beauty products, since it opened the doors to a mix-and-match range of combinations across categories.

Multifunction claims can be achieved from simple to complex formulations and supported by consumer, instrumental and/or clinical testing, depending on budget, brand communication and strength of claims.

The savvy consumer will expect a well-performing cream, lotion, serum, and other formats from a trusted brand. However, in some markets, especially in Asia-Pacific, the consumers may need a visual cue that implies more than one function to the product.

By Gabriele Dadalt-Souto

Learn more about multifunctional cosmetics and formulation trends in the UL Prospector Knowledge Center .


  1. Understanding Deposition from Rinse Off Products
  2. Multifunctional Cosmetics. Cosmetic Science and Technology Series, Volume 26. Marcel Dekker Inc., 2001.

Newsletter abstract:

When developing multifunctional cosmetics, product performance is critical. Learn how to take advantage of the popularity of BB creams.



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