Immunity & beauty has a 'very promising future' but less claims, more science needed – experts

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

The immunity concept in beauty holds huge potential across topicals and ingestibles, with some clear pathways available to move successfully forward [Getty Images]
The immunity concept in beauty holds huge potential across topicals and ingestibles, with some clear pathways available to move successfully forward [Getty Images]

Related tags: immunity, Inflammation, skin microbiome, active beauty, ingestible beauty, inside-out beauty, beauty from within, cosmetic claims, Skin health, probiotics

Manufacturers should pull back on making strong claims and focus more on consumer education, holistic health and wellness concepts and ingredient innovation when addressing immunity in the beauty and personal care space, say experts.

That was one of the key takeaway messages that came out of the expert panel debate at CosmeticsDesign’s recent Immunity & Beauty​ webinar, moderated by CosmeticsDesign-Europe editor Kacey Culliney as part of the NutraIngredients Immunity Broadcast Series which was now available to watch on-demand​.

Speaking during the webinar, Luca Bucchini, managing director of Hylobates Consulting, said: “We should not over-emphasise the significance of on-pack claims, but I think it is important to educate consumers about the role of immunity in beauty because that is what will really matter in the end. Consumers will recognise certain ingredients and have expectations about the mechanisms for healthy skin. Claims are important but they are not the key and the risk is that you end up with a drug. Consumer education is more important.”

From a regulatory standpoint, Bucchini highlighted that the claims situation is also different for ingestible supplements and topical cosmetic products.

“In general, cosmetic products allow more flexibility in terms of ingredients and claims. Manufacturers are required to provide substantiation, but it is easier to come up with a claim which may not explicitly mention immunity. Whereas for food supplements you are restricted with the ingredients you can use and the claims you can make. On the plus side for ingestibles, you can speak more directly about immunity.”

More science needed that is ‘relatable’ to consumers

Regardless of whether manufacturers are looking to make claims or infer an immunity benefit, the panellists agreed that more science was needed to back up immunity in beauty.

“There have been efforts to explain the mechanism of immune products but there’s still a lot of work to do, particularly into the role of nutrients in skin appearance: how and why they work,” ​said Isabel Gómez, global marketing manager at Lubrizol Life Sciences.

In addition, Gómez said the regulatory status of products that target immunity and provide beauty benefits will only be improved through further scientific research linking the immune system and beauty.

“I also think that inflammation and oxidative stress should be studied on skin cells to understand how this kind of inflammation and UV-induced stress is impacting skin,”​ she said.

But Gómez emphasised that clinical data must be “relatable”​ for the consumer. “It is very important to combine ​in vitro testing parameters around bioavailability and nutrient absorption with data generated from people talking about the benefits they have perceived after ingestion of these ingredients,” ​she said.

Karin Hermoni, head of science at Lycored, made a similar point, saying: “It is not just the clinical parameters that are important but also the perceptions of people who are using the product throughout the study.”

On the plus side, Dr Ebru Karpuzoglu, molecular immunologist, skincare expert and founder of AveSeena, offered up an encouraging statistic: the number of keyword results for skincare and immunity on PubMed increased by 158% between 2017 and 2020.

“This tells us that science is catching up, consumers are catching up, wellness and beauty are emerging and we are finally addressing that stuff going on under the surface, so there is a very promising future - especially in inflammaging,” ​she said.

Immunity in beauty – ‘quite new, yet not new’

Describing the state of immunity in the beauty space, Karpuzoglu said it was “quite new, yet not new”.

“It started with skin microbiome products and is moving into a more comprehensive picture today, with topicals as well. Before the pandemic there wasn’t a lot of interest because people weren’t focusing on immunity. Now there is a huge opportunity that needs to be explored with the right ingredients, the right formulations and the right science,” ​she said.

The panel agreed that huge untapped potential exists in both the topical and ingestible spaces for immunity and beauty.

Bucchini said he thinks we are only scratching the surface of the ingestibles opportunity. “There is a lot that could be done with probiotics, and we are just at the beginning with vitamins,”​ he said.

Karpuzoglu has gone down the topical route with her cosmetics brand, but emphasised that supporting the skin from inside and outside is key.

“From the inside, ingestibles are perfect  – we do that every day through diet and lifestyle – but the body is not a closed system, it’s an open system, so you need to take care of it inside and out. That is why I wanted to go into the topical realm where I can support overall wellness from the outside,” ​she said.

“There are four pillars of skincare: chemical balance, physical balance, microbiome and skin immunity, but most conventional skincare brands only address the surface.”​ 

Immunity ingredients of the future?

As for the ingredients that will feature in tomorrow’s immunity beauty products, Karpuzoglu’s prediction is for more focused botanical extracts that are produced in labs to avoid the use of pesticides.

Bucchini’s tip is that botanicals will make incremental gains and vitamins and minerals will remain important, but probiotics will be the game-changer.

Hermoni meanwhile, believes combinations are the way forward: “I see a path towards plant-based ingredients or anything that reduces environmental impact. Maybe there will not just be one superstar. Just as we eat many fruit and vegetables to have the benefits of all of them, in beauty products I think that researched combinations that work well together will form the basis of more holistic product development.”​ she said.

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