In the skin care industry, new ingredients that have been discovered involve pure serendipity. These fortunate accidents often occurred when someone was repeatedly exposed to something and noticed a positive change because of it. Oils and fats have emollient properties, which produces softer skin and temporarily lessens the appearance of wrinkles; as does honey, a humectant. While the advent of commercial formulas brought about improvements in texture and stability, the actual benefits obtained by skin care products were not substantially over-shadowed by any commercial concoctions until the last few decades.
With the microscope came cosmetic progress in truly significant ways. It allowed researchers to observe and quantify the changes that take place when skin is exposed to various substances. Once this occurred, there was no stopping the cascade of advancements that shaped the skin care industry. Right on the heels of documenting the fundamentals of skin physiology came the explosion of biotechnology, which allowed us to understand what specific component of a given ingredient was beneficial and to separate, concentrate, stabilize and optimize the efficiency of that ingredient.
That is where we are today. Cosmetic chemists have identified hundreds, if not thousands, of individual chemical constituents that solicit positive reactions in the skin. These ingredients, such as anti-oxidants, humectants and moisturizing agents, have performed well in replicable laboratory tests and can be seen in various forms in products for use by both professionals and consumers. In addition to the ingredients themselves, the vehicles (i.e., cream, gel, serum, etc.) and the delivery carriers (i.e., liposomes, microemulsions, etc.), allow formulators to modulate the action of a specific ingredient.
This ever-increasing ability to influence control over the performance of actives has altered every phase of the efficacy picture including the rate of delivery, the targeted action of actives to specific depths and structures within the skin and the potency, or activity rate, of the active ingredient. But with international cosmetics and pharmaceutical laboratories in a race to identify the next star ingredient or delivery system and the amount that consumers are willing to pay for these high-tech creams – some reaching the triple digits – the end to the advancements in this field are no where in sight.
Here are some of the emerging breakthroughs that can be seen in cosmetic ingredients, formulations technologies and industry trends, that have skin care professionals looking toward the future:
Natural, Organic and Fragrance and Preservative-Free Products
Organic ingredients may seem a little old fashioned compared to liposomes and microemulsions, but bringing certified organic components to the skin care marketplace on a large scale takes some pretty high-tech efforts. Machinery such as gas chromatography gives formulators the ability to examine the chemical profile of organic matter and substantiate that it is untouched by things like pesticides. Perhaps more importantly, it verifies the naturally occurring chemicals that have the desirable effects are consistent from batch to batch.
The other side of the organic and natural skin care trend is creating finished goods that have little or no additional or synthetic fragrances or preservatives. While leaving something out may seem like a simple adjustment, it can have the same effect as leaving out a critical ingredient in a recipe. Formulators are trying to address this increasing demand in a number of ways. First with the demonization of substances such as parabens, there is a race to identify a safe and effective preservative substitutes. This will be critical to support growth in the field of natural products. This is because all those yummy organic ingredients that can “feed” your skin can also feed the growth of bacteria. That is why the safe solution for delivering truly organic and preservative free products may come from thoroughly modern containers.
Processing and Packaging
Some of the most impressive technology may not actually be in the product itself but in how the product is processed, delivered into its container and dispensed to the consumer. Technologies such as super-critical CO2 extraction and nitrogen blanketing may not ever be something consumers hear about, but these technologies allow formulators to obtain substances that have concentrations and levels of purity that have only becomes possible in recent years. Nitrogen blanketing, which can be used to prevent oxidation or contamination of a product by reducing its exposure to atmospheric air, may end up playing a role in the increasing availability of “natural” cosmetics, as it is one of the most effective methods for processing and preserving organic materials.
Once these types of products are produced they must be sealed to prevent bacteria from forming. That is why with the increasing consumer demand for preservative-free products and seen a huge growth in airless pump dispensers. These types of containers – a decided advantage over jar-type packaging – allow a pristine product to be dispensed directly to the fingertips, decreasing the likelihood of contamination and the need for anti-microbial ingredients. Along with these high-tech solutions to contamination we will also see more single-use packages that give the consumer fresh product for every use and have the added benefit of being easy to travel with.
Textures, Particles, Vehicles and Penetration
The form which modern skin treatment products will take is becoming almost as important as what is in them. For example anti-oxidants, a growing must have on any savvy consumer’s skin care list, tend to be fragile and degrade rapidly when exposed to air. Some recent research even indicates that “airless technology” is not enough to ensure potency because as soon as the product is dispensed it degrades even as we are applying it to our faces.
To remedy this and several other cosmetic conundrums researchers are looking at a number of encapsulation technologies to protect the enclosed ingredients.
To what degree a product and its actives penetrate is another hot topic in formulations chemistry. Almost everyone is now familiar with transdermal delivery systems, much like those used in nicotine patches. However, this technology was only recently made possible when scientists began finding ways to breech our skin’s very efficient barrier, the stratum corneum. This is where the biotechnological mechanisms such as liposomes, come into play. Some of these vehicles act like Trojan horses, sneaking in ingredients that the skin’s barrier would normally prohibit. Others act to temporarily weaken the barrier, overpowering the skin’s structural defenses to gain entry. Since these technologies are still emerging and FDA approval is pending, here’s a list of upcoming technologies to keep an eye out for:
- Triphase microemulsions
- PET System
- Microsponge adapalene system
- Cutaneous patches
Enzymatic processing takes substances that have skin benefits like collagen and peptides, and breaks their structures down into smaller and more absorbable fragments for more effective absorption.
Using products that work from the inside out along with a regimen that works from the outside in seems like a no-brainer. However, beneficial skin supplements, also called nutriceuticals, have taken their sweet time coming into mainstream skincare, largely because research is still lagging in this field. But what we do know and what we can hypothesize based on existing studies indicates that the future of skin care will undoubtedly include oral supplements along with topical remedies.
Editor’s Note: Get Made Up!
Interested in meeting a Cincy Chic freelancer and get a free gift? Estee Lauder at Saks Fifth Avenue will be hosting a national makeup artist from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. March 6. Saks will be offering free valet parking, a free gift and refreshments and a chance to meet Cincy Chic beauty writer Trina Paul! For an appointment with a national makeup artist, call (513) 421-6800 ext. 362.