What are Nutricosmetics?
Nutricosmetics are nutrient-dense, natural and sustainable formulations. From caffeinated eye creams to superfood body scrubs, ‘edible beauty’ or the convergence of food and cosmetics has been garnering pace over the past decade, driven by consumer demands.
Here, greater scrutiny by consumers of product ingredients has acted as a catalyst, while the growing acceptance that beautiful skin starts with nutrition and diet, has resulted in the emergence of edible beauty as a subset of the clean living movement.
The use of food in cosmetic and personal care products is far from new – some of the world’s most iconic cosmetic brands started in the kitchen – but the growing awareness of the benefits offered by food ingredients, both to the skin and the environment has kick-started a gastronomical revolution in the cosmetics industry.
You are what you put on your skin
The popular phrase ‘you are what you eat’ represents the notion that to be fit and healthy you need to have a balanced diet. Today, this has evolved from diet to skincare products. Here, nutritional supplements aid ‘beauty from within’, while the topical use of such ingredients in cosmetic applications has been embraced by both the industry and consumers as they recognise the benefits of formulations that use natural, edible ingredients.
Here, brands are increasingly turning to naturally occurring active ingredients to meet consumer demands for clean alternatives. This ranges from mushrooms in supplements to ground coffee in skin scrubs and seaweed in skincare, the latter of which has been used for more than 300 years – and to be found in many of the products that will be exhibited at in-cosmetics this year – as a suitable application for skin as well as rheumatic conditions. South Korean skincare and cosmetics manufacturer Skinfood recently launched a Fresh Green Pure Broccoli Cleansing Form enriched with 40.58% broccoli extract to minimise irritation and wash away oil and impurities. It also features wheat-grass and mung bean sprout extract to promote calm and healthy skin.
Hong Kong-based skincare retailer Beyorg Organic utilises the benefits the Yunnan tea plant for its first in-house brand, Cha Ling. The original Pu’Er tea of the Yunnan forests, preserved from any pollution, offers the purest, rarest and most concentrated ingredients, packed with detoxifying properties It offers 20% more polyphenols and anti-radical activity than green tea. It is combined with precious oils, such as rose and sea buckthorn, and marine ingredients, such as kelp, to create a range of skincare products.
Other popular food commodities include rice and coffee. When it comes to cosmetics, rice-derived products are often introduced in combination with other ingredients and have been recognised to present in vitro biological antioxidant activity, comparable to that of ascorbic acid, with remarkable elastase inhibition activity.
Green coffee beans are a rich source of phenolic compounds. These are among the most studied natural antioxidant compounds that present antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory or anti-ageing properties. Similarly, grapes contain valuable phenolic components and their by-products are widely available as a low-cost raw material.
A farm to face movement
Looking ahead to new edible beauty trends, fruit and vegetables are anticipated to emerge as the winner in the growing convergence of food and beauty in cosmetic and personal care products.
According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), 88% of new products launched in the Asia Pacific BPC market over the past five years included Persimmon. The fruit, also known as the ‘divine fruit’ or ‘God’s pear’, is rich in carotenoid antioxidants and vitamins A and C. It is extremely popular in Japan, where persimmon tannins are a common ingredient in shampoos and body cleansers thanks to their ability to neutralise odours. Described by Clarins as ‘your anti-ageing best friend’, it is also recognised for its ability to slow glycation – the deterioration of skin tissue – and promote suppleness and elasticity.
The second fruity hero ingredient recognised by Mintel is prized for its unique antioxidant profile, rich in xanthones with anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing and anti-microbial properties. The mangosteen is an exotic, tropical fruit – here’s an example of mangosteen use for cosmetics by in-cosmetics Asia 2020 exhibitor Starherb – native to island nations of Southeast Asia. Some beauty products use the crude extract, but it is in its purified state that unveils the true potential of this skincare favourite. It can be used to develop a variety of cosmetic products, from anti-acne, brightening and anti-ageing products, as well as those for sensitive skin. Its rich antioxidant content, also known as xanthones, help to heal cells damaged by free radicals, visibly improving skin blemishes and chronic dry skin.
The Philippine lime or Calamansi also hosts a surplus of benefits that have grown its use in skincare products. The mandarin/kumquat hybrid, native to South-East Asia, is credited for a surplus of health and beauty benefits from immunity-boosting, antibacterial, detoxification, and skin lightening. Commonly used in brightening creams, it offers a high dose of Vitamin C helping to create a brighter, more vibrant complexion, while tackling dark spots, acne scarring and hyperpigmentation.
These more unusual ingredients may be on the rise, but staples in the APAC region continue to dominate the cosmetics market. Asian rice (Oryza sativa) is often used as an antioxidant or skin conditioner, with claimed benefits including skin softness and hydration. Soy and Tea, although native to Asia, have also been cultivated for use around the world. Soy contains antioxidant compounds known as isoflavones, which are recognised for promoting skin health. Examples of the use of soy can be found in Aveeno’s Positively Radiant Exfoliating Body Wash, a moisture-rich soy complex that is made with crushed walnut shells and natural exfoliants.
Marketing your brand’s natural appeal
According to GlobalData, in the APAC region, 39% of consumers proactively seek products that contain only natural ingredients, with a staggering 80% and 74% claiming that the incorporation of fruit/vegetable extracts and tea, respectively, makes beauty and grooming products somewhat/very appealing for them.
Responding to this demand, brands are not only embracing the desire for natural and clean but marketing this shift to drive product sales. Brands such as Yes to, The Body Deli and Intelligent Nutrients have led the race to promote their use of natural ingredients. The fruit and vegetables used in the Yes to range – from cucumbers and coconut to grapefruit and tomatoes – are at the forefront of Yes to’s visual identity.
Speaking to Entrepreneur magazine, Joy Chen, CEO of Yes to, explained that each brand was positioned as a sub-family, offering a unique solution or benefit. “Consumers can view the sub-families as ingredients for a natural recipe, where each product solves a problem. Tomatoes are for acne solutions, while cucumbers are for sensitive skin. Then we added sub-families for further synergy.
“An anti-ageing blueberry shampoo may be necessary for your hair, while your face may need the grapefruit line for even skin toning. As we expanded the family, we grew the brand, so the products are complementing each other instead of competing with each other for market share. That was a huge win.”
The Body Deli, a pioneer for fresh, raw, organic face, body and hair care products, use the purest and most potent raw and organic superfoods available. Described as ‘getting your skin and hair care straight from a juice bar’, its most popular products feature blueberries, cucumber and cantaloupe melon. The latter of which is used in its Melon Peptide Crème Gel, which also includes Virgin Coconut Oil, Whole Leaf Aloe Vera and Tamarind. The founders, who describe themselves as ‘Cosmetic Chefs’, brought their extensive background in nutrition, raw food, wellness and beauty to create a personal care brand that uses processes similar to crafting fresh juices or smoothies, even recommending their products are refrigeration to extend the potency and efficacy of the raw ingredients used.
The founder of cosmetics company Aveda, Horst Rechelbacher, used more extravagant tactics to promote his range of Intelligent Nutrients products as ‘safe enough to eat’. He is known for famously opening one of the brand’s hairsprays, pouring it into a glass, and drinking it, truly demonstrating the blurring lines between food and cosmetics in the beauty industry.
Not all business owners will go to such extremes, but many brands are now recognising the benefits of using commonly recognised ingredients within their marketing campaigns.
Sustainability is a must
Extracting cosmetic ingredients from food industry by-products may promote waste reduction, but there is a growing concern surrounding ingredient sourcing. This follows the global crop shortages of popular ingredients such as jojoba oil and rosehip oil.
Sustainability remains high on the consumer agenda, with 68% of consumers indicating that product sustainability is important when making a purchase and 66% willing to pay more for brands that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
Brands are increasingly expected to account for their product formulation, design and production practices – resulting in growing pressure for transparency and sustainable processes. This has generated a greater need for the control of ingredient supply chains to mitigate potential risks of ingredient shortages, leading to heightened collaboration between brands and the agriculture industry. Popular natural beauty brands, such as Juice Beauty and Tata Harper, are leading the sustainability race by renting or buying farms to better evaluate and control the ingredient production process. And L’Oréal’s internally incubated brand Seed Phytonutrients has partnered with independent organic farmers to help preserve the production cycle.
What does the future hold for edible beauty?
With the growing demand for natural ingredients, a greater crossover between cosmetics, agriculture and biotechnology is anticipated in the bid to create more nutrient-rich products that fulfil the needs and demands of consumers who want to adopt a cleaner and more natural approach to skincare and cosmetics.
Also on the Road to in-cosmetics Asia Series…
Ageless beauty: Mature personal care | Episode 4
Beauty & technology: ready for the future of cosmetics? | Episode 3
Gen Z: What do they look for in personal care & beauty products? | Episode 2