Updated: Aug 6, 2021
You may be familiar with gut flora and the role of its billions of microorganisms in digestion and immunity. What few people realize, however, is that the health of our skin also depends on a living ecosystem: the skin microbiome. With trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms, the skin microbiome acts as a shield against external forces, such as UV rays and pollution, and also forms a symbiotic ecosystem with our skin. These bacteria, yeast and viruses play an essential role, constantly interacting with our cells. "The microbiome is a key player in the health of our skin, so it is essential to take care of it," confirms Luc Aguilar, director of clinical and biological research for L'Oréal R&I.
This ecosystem, however, is also fragile and can be easily unbalanced under the effect of an excessive presence of certain microorganisms or undesirable bacteria. This imbalance can lead to skin damage that can manifests in the form of micro-inflammations, dandruff, eczema or acne.
Developing products that foster a healthy skin microbiome is a new product development trend in the cosmetic industry, attracting the attention of major players and niche brands alike. The sector is poised to take off but is still hindered by a lack of support regulations standardizing labeling and advertising claims and a lack of strong clinical evidence supporting the functional efficacy of these products. However, on the flip side, there is some proof in principle supporting the commercial feasibility of these products, case in point being the success of probiotic and prebiotic products commercialized off the back of gut microbiome research.
The cosmetics industry is leveraging the skin microbiome concept from three angles.
Products with probiotics which are “good bacteria,” to increase the number of favorable bacteria on the skin. Such a product would contain this good flora and probiotics and help to populate the skin with such “Good Bacteria” in order to achieve a better skin balance.
Prebiotics essentially serve as food for probiotics, stimulating their growth. The idea is that such products containing prebiotics will help to maintain a healthy balance of the microbiome with favorable bacteria.
This refers to soluble factors (products or metabolic byproducts), secreted by live bacteria, or released after bacterial lysis, such as enzymes, peptides, teichoic acids, peptidoglycan-derived muropeptides, polysaccharides, cell surface proteins, and organic acids. Experts believe that they can have a positive effect on skin health.
Current market offering in skin microbiome
At the moment, the market is generally focused on offering prebiotic and probiotic solutions. Consumers are more likely to already be familiar with probiotics in relation to gut health and live dairy products, although it should be emphasized that when it comes to cosmetics, products contain extracts made from bacteria rather than live cultures. Some brands take a scientific stance with products designed to address specific concerns and benefits, such as reducing wrinkles, while others place the emphasis on nature, overall skin health, holistic lifestyles and green beauty.
From skin microbiome-friendly cleansers and moisturizers, to skin microbiome-enhancing probiotic mists and serums, there is plenty of opportunity to innovate and also to redefine or reposition established products.
Companies offering skin microbiome products
In 2019, before the impacts of the Pandemic, Major brands including L’Oreal and L’Occitaine took lead roles at conferences focusing on skin Mocrobiota. This is clearly a trend that has taken hold within the industry and both major players and niche brands are positioning themselves for this evolution of the skin care business.
Unilever entered the field of microbial skincare by its investment in Gallinée; the first personal care brand focused on human probiotics. This brand’s products include hand creams, body cream, foaming facial cleansers, creams, masks, and scrubs, which have efficacy in treating skin allergies and acne.
Johnson & Johnson is aiming to help people to build a healthy microbiome from early in life by selective elimination of harmful bacteria. It also invested in startups Xycrobe and S-Biomedic to explore the elimination of acne by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
L’Oreal is studying the skin microbiome, enzymes, and the Intestinal microbiome, developing products for sun protection, wound repair, and cleansing. La Roche-Posay series from L’Oreal Group is designed to balance the Microbiome on the surface of dry skin. Lancome, another famous brand from L’Oreal Group, has been busy promoting its flagship product recently, the second generation of advanced genifique youth activating serum, whose nickname is Little Black Bottle in China. The product contains Bifidus Prebiotic, targeting the key signs of aging in just seven-days and improving radiance, tone, elasticity, smoothness, and firmness.
In conclusion, the microbiome segment within skincare is poised for growth, but there is clearly a long way to go, with a lack of scientific evidence to support claims. This is a trend that is going to continue for some time, and the segment has already picked up steam and companies already investing in research to overcome the gap between clinical evidence and pseudoscience. In addition, the microbiome segment fits in very well with current trends around ethical products and consumer awareness around the use of natural materials. With many consumers willing to believe, this is perhaps enough to support the rend and growth in this segment. However, with a lack of real clinical evidence the science needs to develop, or fall into a category like CBD cosmetics, where the belief in it doing something good takes precedence over any real clinical data.
BioAktive is a supplier of functional, plant-derived ingredients for use personal care and cosmetics. Our products are inspired by nature and designed to provide real value and functionality for our customers as they develop products in skin care, hair care, cosmetics, soaps and toiletries.
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