Dawn of the super anti-agers: Will they save your beauty department?

GUEST COLUMN BY DANIELA CIOCAN

Beauty trends are as much a reflection of the consumer's state of mind as they are a reflection of the technological innovations put forth by research-and-development teams at laboratories around the world. While consumers are not able to verbalize their expectations for the ideal product that will fulfill their needs, they are able to pinpoint gaps with their unmet needs through their purchasing patterns. These shopping patterns allow marketing teams and product developers to gauge consumer readiness for the next innovation.

Major breakthroughs, while rare, alter the marketing landscape and inspire an excess of carbon copies. Advances in research and development allow new molecules (primarily peptides) and new compounds, as well as delivery systems in the form of micro-encapsulations and nanotechnology, the ability to deliver cutting-edge science with measurable performance results. Some cosmetics now are claiming "drug-like" efficacy — a point not missed by the Food and Drug Administration, which most recently started issuing warning letters to marketers of prestige cosmetics advising the companies to withdraw those claims that promise results beyond run-of-the-mill cosmetic products or risk agency action.

"As the cosmetic industry continues to innovate, and adopt and incorporate new technological advances, the challenge becomes how to communicate these benefits to consumers without crossing the drug/cosmetic line. Back in the late 1980s, the industry, in a fairly lengthy submission, requested that the FDA reconsider its position on where the line should be drawn between structure function claims that were considered drug claims from those claims that were considered cosmetic claims," said Sharon Blinkoff, of counsel to the firm of Edwards Wildman Palmer. "The request was based upon scientific advances that had been made since the law was first passed in 1938. The FDA summarily rejected [the] industry's submission and proceeded to send out a slew of warning letters. Over the last several months, we have once again seen a renewed effort on the part of the FDA to police the drug/cosmetic claim line with the recently issued warning letters."

Yet the demand for cosmeceutical products that have scientific findings and independent clinical testing to substantiate their claims is increasing. So high-tech skin care is becoming more and more accessible to the consumer. Trade shows aimed at cosmetic and dermatological fields allow innovative labs and scientists the opportunity to gain a stronger foothold in the market by starting with small-targeted distribution. So where do they go? Are drug stores the place for these products?

Drug stores are raising the bar when it comes to offering their customers a variety of niche skin care options, and price is not always an issue. Women will shop at specialty department stores, apothecaries and drug stores — wherever they can find the latest in skin technology. When asked what they are looking for in their skin care products, anti-aging and preventive skin care was the most requested category.

Consumer messaging is clear, although not easy to fulfill: They want the results-proven technologies that show quick improvement; at the same time, they distrust the chemicals incorporated in some products, therefore showing interest in the natural green-based niche market. While green cosmetics are appealing from a perceived safety point of view, their efficacy is limited unless combined with unique delivery systems or presence of active ingredients.

What are some of the most unique, innovative ideas in skin care from niche players most likely to find favor with buyers and consumers alike in the next year or so? Here are some of the finds that I uncovered at Cosmoprof in Bologna.

While most products in the market make more traditional claims that don't require in-depth clinical studies, those that are able to make the investment and have the science behind them can get their claims substantiated by clinical studies, which would have been impossible just 10 years ago because of advances in "cosmetic actives" and bioinstrumentation used in monitoring product activity.

"It is safe to say that cosmetics — referred to as cosmeceuticals, a term not recognized by the FDA — are now more powerful and may cross into the drug-like performance category," stated Craig R. Weiss of Consumer Product Testing Co.

The industry is at a crossroads — the dawn of the super anti-agers is here.

Innovations in technology, combined with consumer demand, result in cosmetics that are designed to deliver ingredients with enhanced performance that approach pharmaceutical-grade products. Yet, with the current regulation in place, the claims that can be made are very limiting. Are there cosmetics in the marketplace or coming soon to a drug store near you that get ever closer to pharmaceutical grade quality and performance? And, if so, how many stop short of making and/or testing claims that would put them under government scrutiny?

As the government regulating agencies now are grappling with these issues, the consumer is expecting her skin care products to evolve and help preserve the look of her youthful skin longer and faster. Drug store buyers must constantly mine the market for the next trends coming from all places — be it space age technology, Nobel-winning ideas, pharmaceutical fields or surgeons' offices. The question is not whether you should scout the market and carry such technologically advanced, science-driven products, but how fast can you find such innovations and how well can you educate the consumer on the cutting-edge science behind these brands?

Because, ready or not, the age of the super anti-agers is here. I see beautiful skin in the near future in drug stores aisles everywhere — and an abundance of glowing profits.

SPACE AGE TECHNOLOGY

111SKIN is positioned as a new generation of anti-aging skin care founded and developed by American board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Yannis Alexandrides, who observed that while surgery can lift, enhance, reshape and correct, it cannot revive skin to be more youthful or radiant in appearance, or protect against environmental damage. Based in London, 111SKIN reports to combine Alexandrides' knowledge of accelerating the skin's healing process with space scientists' expertise in discovering ingredients that protect skin against environmental damage — whether in space, high altitude or urban settings. Key 111SKIN ingredients are claimed to have been used by astronauts in extreme space conditions, where accelerated aging is reported to occur. The 111SKIN range consists of eight skin care products. Each product contains a patented formula NAC Y2 (a combination of NAC, vitamin C and Escin), which claims to increase glutathione — the most vital antioxidant in our cells that maintains youthful skin, according to the company. The skin care range is exclusive to Harrods UK. www.111skin.com

NOBEL PRIZE-WINNING SCIENCE

Forlle'd is a cosmetics collection from Japan. The professional skin care line Hyalogy is stated to be based on a patented low-molecular ionized hyaluronic acid with molecules only five nanometers wide with high ionization levels, so it can reach deep into the skin without the need for injection. Forlle'd technology is based on the invention of Koichi Tanaka, an employee of the Japanese company Shimadzu, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002 for the development of methods of structural analysis and identification of macromolecules by soft laser desorption followed by mass spectrometric detection. Based on Tanaka's invention, and due to a patented manufacturing process, Forlle'd laboratory claims to have created and measured a low molecular hyaluronic acid capable of penetrating into deep layers of skin and protecting its moisture. The company claims that the penetration extends through the basal membrane into the dermis, and the low-molecular ionized hyaluronic acid enhances its ability to retain moisture, giving a double moisturizing effect — from the inside and from the outside. www.Forlled.com

EVAPORATIVE COOLING TECHNOLOGY

Liquid Ice claims to be the best true CosMedical Brand of Switzerland, established in 2005 and made available only by plastic surgeons, dermatologists and aesthetic clinics of the world for seven years. The brand literature describes the provision of innovative natural thermodynamic treatments that deliver targeted evaporative cooling to the skin by 5°C to strengthen the tissue and close the pores, along with other visible results, in just 10 minutes.

Liquid Ice claims to be medically proven, dermatological science fact-based treatments that are safe for professional use, as well as use in the home. Liquid Ice manufacturing is done in the center of the Swiss Mountains and benefits from the purest ingredients, such as Swiss mountain water and highest pharmaceutical production standards. This product has been used in the aesthetics, medical and sports fields, and is now being launched in the consumer market throughout the world. www.IceMask.com

BIOMEDICAL APPROACH WORKING ON A CELLULAR LEVEL

The Luksus Cosmetics skin care formulations are the brainchild of Lili Fan, M.D., scientist and anti-aging specialist, who is the formulator of many skin care products currently available in the marketplace and a peptide technology researcher. The Luksus skin care range claims to harness such ingredients as a RetinoPeptide/LYSODAG/Probiotic complex to help skin actually "digest" ingredients, thus diminishing age-related skin factors. These peptides are reported by the company to work synergistically to trigger a positive response in skin's gene expression, stimulating growth factors and boosting cells to increase collagen and elastin production. This technology produces visible line elimination, reducing appearances of aging, including wrinkles, large pores, sagging and spots. "By using bioactive anti-inflammatory and collagen regeneration, I believe I can return skin to a more youthful look and feel," stated Fan, a biochemist, microbiologist and practicing ophthalmologist. Luksus products have shown up to a 300% improvement in diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, according to the company. www.LuksusCosmetics.com

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