The Swiss-headquartered firm has identified a significant opportunity for beauty-from-within products in Asia, and in particular, China.
“The focus is more on healthy skin with nutrition, so we’re seeing the trend for beauty from within. It’s a global trend and its definitely booming. The Asian region has also been booming. It’s been incredible in the past five to 10 years. China, in particular, has been a very interesting market for us,” Sébastien Bornet, VP of global sales and marketing at Horphag Research.
According to e-commerce giant Tmall, beauty was the fastest-growing segment in the health and wellness category.
Between 2017 and 2019, Alibaba-owned company have observed that consumers purchasing beauty supplements have doubled. Furthermore, they were willing to pay more, RMB1,000 (U$156) and more, for them.
“I think now consumers are starting to understand that actually healthy skin is a beautiful skin. So, if your skin is healthy, if you're healthy, you will look you it, it will be shown on your skin – that’s why we have this trend of beauty from within,” said Bornet.
Bornet told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that there were still gaps in the beauty supplement market despite its increasing saturation.
“In the cosmetics industry, there’s historically been a lack of scientific approach, but consumer now want evidence-based ingredients because they want to make sure there’s research and science behind it. The other thing they are looking for is natural products as with everything these days.”
These factors present an opportunity for the company’s Pcynogenol, a natural plant extract that gas oral and topical applications for improved skin health and appearance.
“There have been more than 160 clinical trials on Pycnogenol alone and has more than 450 published studies and review articles. This is 40 years of research, a lot of science behind it. With Pycnogenol we can fill the gap in terms of the science,” said Bornet.
He added that the ingredient also appeals to the consumers’ desire for natural ingredients that are sustainably produced.
Pycnogenol is made from maritime pine bark extract from mono-species pine trees grown exclusively in a forest in southwestern France, where neither pesticides nor herbicides are used.
The forest plantation adheres to French forestry legislation, which states that fallen trees are required to be replaced every year.
Latest study taps into China
To tap into the opportunities in China, the company recently conducted a local study on an oral supplement with Pycnogenol to study how it can protect the skin from seasonal changes in the country.
“We have great data [on Pycnogenol] but China has a challenging environment with things like pollution, so we thought it would be interesting to run our study there,” said Bornet.
The randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study recruited 76 participants, 57 of whom are women, with an average age of 41.
All the volunteers were workers who spent long hours outdoors in Beijing and were exposed to urban air pollution and environmental stress as well as seasonal changes in temperature and humidity from April to November.
They were randomly selected to receive a daily dose of 100mg of Pycnogenol or a placebo for 12 weeks. After a one-week washout period, participants were crossed over from verum to placebo and vice versa for another 12-week study phase of a dry autumn period.
From April to July, the wet season, results showed that Pycnogenol was able to improve skin elasticity and skin firmness by 7%.
During the dry season, from July to October, data showed that participants in the Pycnogenol group had 14% less transepidermal water loss (TEWL) indicating a significant improvement of skin barrier function. Comparatively, there was only 4.5% increase in the placebo group.
Furthermore, there was less decrease in skin moisture, 3.3% compared with 14% in the placebo group. Volunteers also reported 13% improvement in skin elasticity and firmness and 13.8% increase in skin lightening.
Research in progress
Horphag Research sees more opportunities in the Asian beauty market aside from oral supplements.
At the moment, it is researching Centella asiatica – commonly known as cica or Gotu Kola, – a perennial plant used across various Asian cultures from traditional Chinese medicine to Ayurveda.
Cica products are best known as an antidote to sensitive skin concerns such as redness and irritation.
However, the company is studying its effects on collagen and how it can influence skin concerns such as stretch marks.
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