Leading global cosmetics companies are turning to a full spectrum of promising anti-pollution ingredients. These range from plant extracts, vitamins or antioxidant complexes to ingredients that simply create a physical barrier between the skin and the pollutants, or those with metal chelating or magnetic properties that are claimed to prevent the pollutant from interacting with the skin. So far the industry has not been able to provide information to the consumer regarding the level of pollution protection in the same way that sunscreen manufacturers do by using the sun protection factor.
Anti-pollution ingredients on the rise
Although anti-pollution products are relatively new to the cosmetic market, some of the ingredients have been around for a very long time. Plant extracts, vitamins and antioxidant complexes are among the most popular anti-pollution ingredients on the market, favoured by the growing demand for natural ingredients in cosmetics. A proven successful strategy is to simply reformulate skincare products by adding plant extracts and vitamins to make anti-pollution claims. Olay has reformulated its Total Effect with a greater proportion of vitamin E and Niacinamide and is expanding its Active Botanicals line containing two natural antipollution ingredients, artichoke extract and snow fungus, originally only used in its Chinese products, into Western markets. However, the simple addition of these ingredients to the products does not always guarantee high anti-pollution efficacy which makes it difficult for consumers to distinguish between simple marketing strategies and real anti-pollution products. A good anti-pollution product needs to contain UV protection plus ingredients that are able to hydrate the skin, strengthen the natural skin barrier, create a film barrier and have the right antioxidants in the required concentration and form to work against free radicals.
Other brands are betting on less traditional ingredients to provide pollution protection. Tula combines antioxidant and probiotic ingredients in its Urban Defence Hydrating Mist, while Lancôme City Miracle and Avon Clinical E-Defence Deep Recovery contain two specific antipollution ingredients – Detoxyl, a detoxifying and metal chelator agent that prevents metallic pollutants from sticking to the skin; and Thymosin β-4, a protein that helps to attract healthy cells to areas that have been damaged by pollution – which are among the innovative formulations reaching the market.
Ingredient manufacturers are increasingly looking for novel ingredients to meet the growing consumer demand for anti-pollution products. In 2016, Silab launched Mitokynil, rich in glucomannans, Sederma started to commercialise Citystem, with natural active ingredients, and Algues et Mer launched Invincity, containing brown algae and fucoidans. Other ingredients suppliers are focused on anti-pollution solutions based on ingredients that create a physical barrier between the skin and the pollutants. TRY-K recently launched PhytoVTM, Solabia is now providing Pollustop and Covestro commercializes Baycusan, a water resistant multifunctional polyurethane polymer which does not require the use of external surfactants in the formulations.
However, the latest innovation is the use of ingredients with advanced anti-pollution properties, such as Pollushield, supplied by Lipotec, which combines a polymer with metal chelating properties to prevent the interaction of toxic metals with the skin, EPS WHITE, developed by CoDIF, which is a probiotic-derived ingredient that reduces pollution-induced inflammation, and Aquatide-TripleShield, provided by Incospharm, with strong autophagy inducing activity to help detoxify skin cells. New launches are on the horizon, for instance, the biotech company Greentech will launch in April 2017 a biological antipollution ingredient that activates the skin endogenous defence mechanisms and the detoxification pathways.
Markets for antipollution ingredients
Opportunities for new anti-pollution products differ between East and West. In the most polluted Eastern countries, such as China, demand for specific, single-purpose anti-pollution products, such as face masks containing plant extracts is expected, while in Western countries consumers often use fewer beauty products and demand for multifunctional products with UV and anti-pollution claims will be on the rise. Plant extracts and vitamins are the ingredients with the greatest growth potential, but demand for other antioxidant ingredients, such as niacinamide and ascorbic acid, is also expected to grow. Although facial skincare products such as moisturisers, masks, anti-agers and cleansers are still the most likely categories to carry antipollution ingredients, hair and sun care products are gaining momentum, especially in China and India.
Absolute volume growth forecast for antipollution ingredients in the fastest-growing Countries in Asia Pacific (2015-2020)
Source: Euromonitor International
China offers the greatest opportunities for anti-pollution ingredients in Asia-Pacific, followed by India and Pakistan. Facial masks, a key beauty product for most Chinese women, are expected to drive the growth in demand for plant extracts in Asia Pacific over the 2015-2020 forecast period, while other products, such as facial moisturisers, shampoos, facial cleansers and sun protection, will also show opportunities for plant extracts. Demand for vitamins in China is expected to grow in shampoos, sun protection and facial moisturiser formulations. In India, shampoos and facial moisturisers are expected to lead the growth in demand for plant extracts, while demand for vitamins is expected to grow in shampoos in the next five years. Pakistan shows the greatest growth potential for vitamins and plant extracts in anti-agers, shampoos and facial moisturizers in the 2015-2020 forecast period.
Consumers demand proof
Although cosmetic companies have found their own ways to proof their anti-pollution claims in an attempt to gain credibility among consumers, the reality is that there is no standardised protocol to back up these claims. Manufacturers can produce and market anti-pollution products with limited scientific evidence based on a wide variety of anti-pollution tests that vary from one company to another. More research to understand the effects of pollution on skin over time as well as the development of standardised tests, similar to those in place for the SPF values, are required to validate and quantify the product efficacy.
The industry needs to establish a minimum number of reliable parameters to be considered as anti-pollution markers to be tested. Some of the parameters that are under the radar are pH, levels of vitamin E, lactic acid, elastin, collagen and skin lipids such as triglycerides, free fatty acids, squalene, wax esters and cholesterol, which are believed to decrease with pollution, as well as other parameters such as the fixation of microparticles and heavy metals on skin and hair, the sebum secretion rate, and the levels of glycosylation end products, malondialdehyde, squalene monohydroperoxide, oxidized proteins, interleukin IL1a and adenosine triphosphate, which are likely to increase with pollution.
The development of a standard protocol to assess the efficacy of these products will allow consumers to have a better understanding about which products offer the best environmental protection. So far, there is no perfect solution or miraculous single ingredient able to provide full protection against pollution. A combination of a variety of botanical extracts, vitamins and ingredients that creates a physical barrier is likely to be the preferred option by consumers.
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