I was recently honored to speak at In-Cosmetics North America in NYC. I was really pleased (and honestly quite surprised) by the turnout, as well as touched by some of the comments and dialogue that followed. It was very inspirational and motivating to get to meet with some of our readers in person — thank you to those who attended!
The transcript of my speech is below, for those who are interested.
“Hello, my name is Nicki Zevola Benvenuti, and I am the founder and CEO of FutureDerm, one of the world’s top skin care blogs. In my line of work, whether you want to call me a small business CEO, blogger, influencer, or writer, I’m being pitched hundreds of new ingredients almost every month.
Since I started the blog ten years ago, I’ve noticed a real emergence in trends. Back then, there were two major sectors of ingredients that got all of the hype: First, scientifically-proven ingredients, like peptides, retinoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Due to consumer advocates like Paula Begoun and scientists like Sheldon Pinnell, these types of ingredients that were backed up by peer-reviewed research were all of the rage. Never mind that some of the companies in the 1990s and 2000s started to use the named ingredients in far lower concentrations than were featured in the dermatological studies. Never mind that some of the companies didn’t use the ingredients with the same form of the ingredient, like retinol or retinyl palmitate, for instance, nor did it matter that the companies used different delivery systems and encapsulation methods than the studies did. Consumers started to associate benefits from certain ingredients, and looked for those ingredients, whether they were used in the proper concentrations, chemical forms, or delivery systems.
The other sector of ingredient that was huge about 10-20 years ago, or in the early 00’s, if you will, and which we still see remnants of today, are novel ingredients, like Estee Lauder Chronolux CB, or Lancome LSR. These types of ingredients are typically presented by large companies and as such have sophisticated, glamorous packaging and a lot of marketing dollars behind them. Many consumers would be drawn in by the celebrity endorsements or fancy-sounding trademarked names of the ingredients, and they would largely ignore the fact that these ingredients often did not have published peer reviewed studies to back up their efficacy. Despite this, there have been several breakthroughs and many successes, at least monetarily, with these types of ingredients.
Moving into the 2010’s, we started to see consumers looking less at the benefits from ingredients, and more into possible detriments. Websites like the Good Guide and Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database started to make consumers see that ingredients could have a negative effect, as well. Never mind that parabens are the most natural preservative that you can find, as they are naturally found in blueberries and many other fruits. Never mind that many of these studies that caused ingredients to be flagged used ingredients in tens to millions of times a typical dose concentration to “prove” toxicity. Never mind that skin cells will die in purified water, and that some of these studies will attempt to “prove” an agent is toxic because skin cells die in it. Sense went out the window, and in turn, consumers wallets opened. Clorox didn’t purchase Burt’s Bees for $925 million because people weren’t drinking the Kool-Aid. It wasn’t just that they were drinking it, it was that they couldn’t get enough of it, and science started to go out the window.
Ironically enough, at the same time we saw much of the western market turn towards natural and organic ingredients, we also saw a portion of the market turn towards the less regulated Korean skin care market. With more advanced ingredients and delivery systems, there wasn’t much in the early 2010’s in the Korean skin care market that couldn’t technically be classified as a chemical, but never mind that. People wanted the more advanced and efficacious ingredients, and Korean skin care delivered — or at least it did with its first introductions into the market.
As we are turning into the 2020’s, we are starting to see three classes of improvements: Namely, the market won’t stay blind to natural ingredients that don’t work just because they’re declaring that they’re safer forever, particularly not as their target audience gets older and exhibits increasingly more signs of aging. The scientific side of the skin care market will also continue to improve, but I believe it will be in terms of both improving upon the basics and continued development of technologically-advanced ingredients. In terms of improving upon the basics, this appears to be starting with major developments in ingredients like improved emollients and emulsifiers. With technologically-advanced ingredients, I believe we will start to see more advanced and efficacious ingredients, further blurring the line (no pun intended) between drugs and cosmeceuticals.
New markets emerging in skincare that will be of huge importance as we enter into the 2020’s are largely around customizable skin care. Millennials and Gen Z-ers in particular are less interested in fancy, big-box, name-brand, expensive skin care solutions and like to play a role in their skin care, whether it’s with something that is made for them, something that is recommended for them, or something that they play a role in the creation of. We see products made exclusively for customers with products like Dr. Ruthie Harper’s SKINSHIFT, which crafts products based on customer DNA, products recommended for customers with Dr. Leslie Baumann’s Skin Type Solutions system that is offered exclusively via physicians, and with Glossier’s voting system for new products, which is not unlike the way the fashion brand ModCloth allowed customers to “be the buyer” and collectively vote for the creation of new products.
So let’s talk more about natural ingredients that are likely to take off in the 2020’s. There are some pretty nasty natural skin care ingredients out there — for instance, cucumber actually increases transepidermal water loss, drying out the delicate eye skin where it is most commonly used, and arnica may be good for bruises, but it is sensitizing and can cause allergy if you use it daily for 4-6 months. But I digress.
The natural ingredients that have been proven to work thus far include jojoba oil, chia seed oil, and prickly pear oil. These superfood-sounding ingredients also have tremendous benefits for the skin. All three oils are partially beneficial because they are rich in natural fats that mimic those in the outer layer of the skin. This means that, when they are applied to acne-prone or oily skin, they are more likely to help regulate the production of excess oil than they are to overhydrate or suffocate the skin. These oils can also help the skin retain moisture and heal itself.
For instance, one study shows that a single use of jojoba oil creates modest swelling, indicative of moisture retention, in the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of skin). Because jojoba is so similar to our skin’s natural oil, it is thought that jojoba oil can “trick” the skin into thinking it’s producing enough oil, which helps balance oil production. Jojoba oil can also help to increase the penetration of other ingredients into the skin, something that may be useful for the delivery of anti-acne treatments into the skin, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids (Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 1984). Topical chia seed oil, on the other hand, is better for dry skin. It has also been documented to relieve severe symptoms of pruritus, or skin itching.
Overall, these oils are not going to fix your fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, encourage collagen production, or otherwise help with signs of aging and UV damage. But, if you suffer from oily or acne-prone skin, jojoba oil may help regulate oil production and help to deliver key anti-acne agents into the skin, and if you have dry to very dry skin, chia seed oil is likely to temporarily plump up your skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines somewhat. If you’re somewhere in-between, prickly pear oil is better than the other two.
Moving on, another sector of natural ingredients that are proving to work are minerals, specifically copper, magnesium, and zinc. All three are naturally retained in the skin and contribute to collagen production and maintenance, but as you age, your skin’s ability to hold each of these elements decreases substantially.
Copper peptides in particular have been on the skin care scene for about a decade, but have only recently started to garner more interest. Copper naturally plays a role in maintaining healthy skin, and specifically in your skin’s collagen production by helping with enzymes involved with cross-linking of collagen during synthesis. However, supplementation helps. Since that time, studies have found that copper peptide complexes stimulate even greater collagen synthesis than potent anti-agers like Retin-A (tretinoin) or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). However, unlike retinoids or vitamin C, copper does not improve the texture of your skin — it has only been suggested in studies to increase skin’s firmness via collagen production with consistent use over time.
Magnesium has been shown to have two types of benefits in skin care: One, topically applying magnesium supplements your serum levels, which can contribute to relaxation and proper sleep since the mineral is able to traverse and be absorbed by the skin. In one study, patients had a 20 minute foot-soak with magnesium chloride flakes and then applied a magnesium-rich oil. There was a statistically significant increase in serum magnesium levels over control for all of the subjects in the study, without any change their diet. The second reason magnesium is beneficial in skin care is that magnesium may help improve skin hydration.
As for zinc, it protects the skin from UV light and other irritants and infection from bacteria and fungi, and enhances the effects of vitamins A and E, and soothes irritation. In fact, patients with severe zinc deficiencies can develop redness and pustules, as well as acne and other lesions, including small blisters, crusting, and flaking lesions. It works really well on the skin as well as the scalp. You can actually find zinc in the Millennial-friendly Glossier Glow Serum, in fair concentration.
Moving forward, let’s talk about how the 2020s are likely to bring improvements in the science behind ingredients. Behind the scenes, beauty and fashion magazines probably won’t be featuring the latest scientific improvements in emollients and emulsifiers, but I bet more than a few cosmetic scientists will be geeking out over it.
First, emollients. Emollients help to hold onto moisture, so they are a type of moisturizer, but they also go one step further, increasing skin’s permeability (and therefore the amount of water skin can hold). So you’re increasing not only water to the skin, but also the size of the container holding the water. Emollients have been around forever, but new emollients are promising to be all-natural, deliver ingredients into the skin, and even have anti-aging properties of their own. For instance, Tegosoft AC is one of these “next-generation” all-natural emollients. It’s made from 100% vegetable raw materials (coconut oil and sugar beets), is similar to dicaprylyl carbomat, and it has a nice light feel on the skin.
Second, let’s define emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are also known as stabilizers. They are ingredients that allow two immiscible ingredients to coexist and have a unified distribution in a product. Essentially, an emulsifier is something would allow combinations like oil and water to both be in a product, without having that product separate. Old school emulsifiers simply allowed you to blend ingredients together without the presence of much (if any) mixing or heat, but new emulsifiers do more. For instance, Abil EM 120, is PEG-free and can stabilize a range of systems for serums, and BB and CC creams. It is said to be especially suitable for stabilizing pigment-containing emulsions, where it provides the added advantage of enhanced color trueness.
Lastly, I believe that we are going to see a renaissance when it comes to novel ingredients. One such ingredient is Lincoln Gatulene Link and Lift. It’s made from chestnut flowers, so again we see remnants of that early 2000’s natural movement, but it also has been proven to work against wrinkles, crow’s feet, and dark circles. How it works is novel from existing eye treatments. Dark circles are either created by hyperpigmentation, or blood pooling, or a deep tear trough, or some combination therein. Hyperpigmentative dark circles are typically treated with your usual agents for hyperpigmentation — hydroquinone, vitamin C, AHAs, kojic acid, peptides, that sort of thing. Whereas blood pooling is harder to treat, and typically you see peptides like Haloxyl working there. On the other hand, I don’t know of anything except surgery that worked for dark circles caused by blood pooling, and that’s one of the reasons why I think Lincoln Gatulene Link and Lift is going to take off.
That’s about it for me on the latest and greatest in cosmetic ingredients. I’m happy to take your questions now.”