Big demand for effective skin lightening ingredients

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Acne vulgaris, Marketing research, Food and drug administration

Demand for effective skin lightening ingredients that could replace hydroquinone in pigment control products is significant, according to market researchers.

Pigment control products are becoming increasingly popular as they have so many different uses including reducing age spots, acne scarring and hyperpigmentation, according to Millennium Research Group (MRG), which specializes in market research in the health care sector.

“It is one of the areas of physician-dispensed cosmeceutical markets that is underpenetrated at this time,”​ MRG analyst Lisa Shantz told CosmeticsDesign.

In addition, the question mark that the US FDA has placed over hydroquinone, one of the original pigment control ingredients, is likely to enhance the need for alternatives.

According to MRG, in 2006 the US regulatory authority proposed a ban on the presence of hydroquinone in over-the-counter products, which is currently allowed in concentrations lower than 2 percent.

Search for alternatives is on

Although the FDA still has not made its final decision on the ingredient, and it is far from clear whether a ban will be put in place, the market researchers believe companies will still continue to invest in alternative ingredients.

“Regardless of what happens, whether the FDA bans hydroquinone or not, there is a lot of potential with new products as long as they are able to achieve the same results [as hydroquinone-based products],”​ said Shantz.

And for the analyst, efficacy is definitely the key to the success of a potential hydroquinone replacement.

“There are lots of alternative products out there, but they are often thought to be less effective. If someone could develop something that is as effective as hydroquinone with a better safety profile the results could be pretty impressive.”

Prescription controlled products, over-the-counter formulations and products available in the retail market are regulated in very different ways, but active ingredients are not necessarily restricted to one product type although their maximum concentrations may differ.

An effective skin lightening ingredient could appear in all markets; although, Shantz hypothesised it would probably hit the physician dispensed channel first.

“Such an ingredient would probably enter the physician dispensed market first, and then move into the consumer market,”​ she said.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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