Adaptogens are a complex class of substances that enhance the body’s resistance to stress and promote a state of well-being and balance within the body.
They are typically fungi, herbs and roots and have a long history of use in traditional medicine, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Ginseng, ashwagandha and snow fungus – these are just some of the many adaptogens you may have encountered in traditional health foods or modern health supplements.
“The main function of adaptogens is to enhance our body’s or our skin's resilience to fight against internal or external stress factors. If your body is fit and prepared, it can better counteract any kind of stress, which could be even, let's say, a COVID-19 infection. Because if your body is fit you can better fight the stress factors,” explained Dr Fred Zülli, managing director of ingredient firm Mibelle Biochemistry.
Hong Kong-based Pretti5 is a skin care brand that uses a range of adaptogens inspired by TCM, such as snow fungus, ginger and licorice root in its formulation.
Founder Dorothy Chau told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that as adaptogens help regulate our body back to its optimal state of equilibrium. They can help, for instance, regulate sebum production on our skin.
Such properties have boosted the brand and its products during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen a rise in cases of ‘maskne’ – or mask-induced acne.
“Since the outbreak, we’ve been wearing face masks every day and with the moisture and heat captures within the face mask, that area becomes the best environment for the bacteria to grow. So, we have seen increasing demand for acne products and anti-inflammatory products.”
Zülli has also observed an increase in the use of adaptogens in cosmetics.
“I think today there’s really this big interest because the consumers have read more about adaptogens and they have a better understanding of the science… So I think that’s why it’s a hot topic now.”
He added that the concept of adaptogens may be easier to sell in Asia compared to the West, as these are concepts Asians are more familiar with.
“I think Asian people will probably have a better understanding of adaptogens because they come from the traditional Chinese medicine, and therefore I think it's kind of anchored in the culture of Asians. Here in Europe, it's more difficult to understand this type of concept.”
To find out more about the latest research and developments in adaptogens and the hurdles they face in the cosmetic market, watch the video above.