[Part 1] “Materials tell stories.”
[Part 1] “Materials tell stories.”
  • By Kim, Na-hyun, ACTIVON
  • Accepted 2023.10.20 16:23
  • Comments 0
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Cosmetics Ingredients R&D Trend as Observed in In-Cosmetics Fairs
Kim Na-hyun* Senior Manager, Sales & Marketing, ACTIVON
Kim, Na-hyun* Senior Manager, Sales & Marketing, ACTIVON


*The city of Seoul, Seoul Biohub, Korea Health Industry Development InstituteKHIDI and THE K BEAUTY SCIENCE jointly held a Seminar on the Cosmetics Industry and R&D Trends in the Post-COVID-19 Era(October 2022). ACTIVON, a company specialized in materials, presented Cosmetics Ingredients R&D Trend as Observed in In-Cosmetics Fairs. This is a summary of the presentation. _Editor's note

As the government shifted the focus of the COVID-19 policy to adapting to life with COVID-19 in 2022, fairs, art shows, and seminars that couldn’t be held or held in minimum scale since 2019 are picking up steam. Every year, the cosmetics market becomes inundated with new concepts and ideas, but they must be backed by raw materials to be made into a real product. In-cosmetics Korea is a business-to-business B2B fair dedicated to raw materials, and the Innovation Zone is a venue for introducing ingredients released within eight months from the exhibition date, and the place where you can check out the newest technology on new forms and patented raw materials faster than anywhere else. When we first visited the in-cosmetics fair back in 2018, we lacked the energy and time to conduct a systematic analysis, and after 2019 all fairs were delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving us in a fog because we had to learn about the latest raw materials trends indirectly. After two years, it became clear that there were some trending themes in the sector. We analyzed the trends that include upcycling, stress care, anti-aging, sustainable sourcing for nature-derived materials, seaweed and microalgae, based on the winners of the Innovation Zone awards from exhibitions in three countries-- in-cosmetics Global, in-cosmetics Korea, and in-cosmetics Asia-- and those that were introduced in technical seminars. We then divided the keywords into four groups. Of course, they are not standalone trends but interconnected organically to interact with one another to be realized as raw materials. 


The first keyword: Environmental thinking

At in-cosmetics Korea, the Merck booth, which featured a lot of text on a blue background, caught my eye. Merck, which has continued to raise environmental issues by uploading postings on their blog, covered the booth with sheets filled with eco-friendly keywords like not just premium quality and safety, but also impact on the environment, sustainability, ethical supply chain, and clean beauty. They have long built a momentum surrounding the microplastics issue on their blog, and as a response to this, they introduced RonaFlair® LDP White, an inorganic functional powder, as a green alternative that does not leave behind microplastics.

Myralys from Greentech, the winner of the active ingredient category in the Innovation Zone at in-cosmetics Korea, is a raw material for eye care products made primarily of gentiopicroside sourced from gentiana lutea. Greentech reportedly extracted yellow gentian that were sustainably harvested in France to obtain a highly titrated extract through an advanced refining process. Greentech has an officer in charge of sustainable sourcing, who disclosed their story of their collaboration with Gentiana Lutea Association to supply and extract yellow gentian on YouTube. The award can be interpreted as the recognition of Greentech’s hard work on not just R&D but also their endeavor to make sustainable sourcing work for years. 

WASTAR™ from Lucas Meyer Cosmetics, another winner of the active ingredient category, is a product line created with the philosophy of putting value on byproducts just like its name suggests, from waste to star ingredients, by taking fewer resources from the planet and giving more to the consumer instead. WASTAR™ Lavender, which won the award at in-cosmetics Korea, upcycled lavender discarded after extracting essential oil. The upcycling concept like this was evaluated to well-reflect the ongoing trend in the field of skincare technology solution. WASTAR™ Pink Berry, another product in the same line with WASTAR™ Lavender, also received the Gold Award in the active ingredient category of the global fair. 

SC ESG Labs presented EcoCOLLAGEN , which is made from upcycled ginseng, and introduced multiple ESG raw materials that have applied carbon reduction technology and carbon capture utilization CCU, on the existing supercritical technology, claiming their support for ESG values. They presented EcoCOLLAGEN, an upcycling raw material that recycles protein that used to be disposed of after being extracted. They also applied CCU technology to remove fine dust to enhance the carbon reduction effects. One of the biggest features of SC ESG Labs is that they provide ESG data. Believing that disclosing how many grams of carbon they are reducing when making a single product is fundamental to authentic ESG management, they offer actual numbers to deviate from conventional ESG management, which had more of a conceptual framework. 

Unlike the Innovation Zone, where only products launched in the past eight months can be submitted, the Green Ingredient Award is given to ingredients used in currently available products that have been launched over two years ago and that have demonstrated a meaningful difference in the environment and society. Biopolymer Hydal PHA from Nafigate Corporation, which picked up the Gold Award, is made by upcycling used cooking oil. According to the company, they consume less energy compared to the existing polyethylene by 50% and are 100% biodegradable.

Biodegradable sun care ingredients with improved sensory elements also enjoyed some attention. Below is an excerpt from the introduction of the Technical Seminar on the in-cosmetics Asia fair website, which will explain why these sun care ingredients attracted attention at the fair.

“Sun care product restrictions are fast-changing. The list of UV filters allowed in all parts of the world is becoming shorter, and some ingredients that were traditionally used in sunblock products are disappearing in new sun care products. The rise of mineral sunscreens is a clear response to this trend, but you need multi-functional ingredients to make a safe, effective, and elegant sunscreen just by using mineral filters.”

The website introduced two products from Hallstar Beauty: SolaPure™ Glo and SolaFresh™. SolaPure™ Glo uses turmeric root extracts and allows for safe reduction of zinc oxide to produce a silky mineral sunscreen formula with little white cast. SolaFresh™ has an outstanding ability to dissolve solid UV filters, and as for liquid UV filter and commerciality, SolaFresh™ can be made into sunscreen oil, including spray types or a lotion with a high SPF and low viscosity.

An ingredient called Valida from Sappi, which was introduced in the technical seminar at in-cosmetics Asia fair, is a highly fibrillated cellulose that is 100% derived from nature, biodegradable, and sustainable. They described Valida as an ingredient that can be used in both chemical and inorganic sunscreens where cellulose fibrils form a network to stabilize particles without having to use an emulsifier.

The SENSOCEL® series from CFF GmbH & Co. KG, which took home the Silver Award in the functional ingredient category at the global fair, also creates soft focus effects by imitating the sensory profile of microplastic powder, but they are 100% biodegradable and do not generate microplastics. They reportedly confirmed that between 70% to 100% of the ingredient becomes biodegraded on the 39th day following disposal. 

Ashland’s Natrathix™ bio cellulose is a nature-derived, biodegradable rheology modifier with suspension capabilities that maintains emulsion stability of the skin and sun care formulations with a desirable feel for the skin. Ashland also indicates that Natrathix™ bio cellulose is a wood-based cellulose from sustainably managed forests with FSC certification. Antaron™ soja glyceride, another product from Ashland was named the winner of the functional category at in-cosmetics Korea for its natural ingredients, excellent applicability, and positive sensory experience.


Second keyword is microworld.

Algae, microalgae, and extremolytes are included in this category. SeaBalance 2000 from Carbonwave is the world’s first seaweed-based emulsifier that jointly won the functional ingredient award with Ashland. Carbonwave is not a cosmetics ingredient company, but rather an R&D company dedicated to fertilizers and leather derived from seaweed. While seaweed has been touted as the vital raw material of the future in design and architecture, the cosmetics industry is conducting rigorous research into seaweed as a promising ingredient. Judges viewed SeaBalance 2000 as “an attractive raw material in all aspects, the ability to emulsify without the need for a co-emulsifier even though it was derived from seaweed, together with its sustainability, and silky skin feel.”

IBR-SolAge™ from Lucas Meyer Cosmetics is an ingredient developed to biomimic pink microalgae. You may have seen photos of mystical pink lakes online. Pink Dunaliella salina is a type of micro-algae that adapts to extreme environments, such as intense sunlight and high concentrations of salt. IBR-SolAge™ is a colorless fat-soluble extract that uses the photoprotective mechanism through biomimicry of the powerful adaptability of Dunaliella salina. It has been developed to fight Glyc-Aging™ (aging caused by glycation).

Ectoin® natural from Bitop was also inspired by extremolytes that survive in extreme conditions, such as high saline concentrations, exceedingly high temperature and dryness found in deserts, hot springs, salt lakes, and permanent ice and snow. Bitop applied extremolyte, a very powerful natural stress-protection molecule that enables these microorganisms to adapt to adverse environments, in cosmetics raw materials. Ectoin® natural maintains the skin’s immune system to protect it from external stress factors, including UV rays, heat, chills, and dryness.


The third keywords are anti-aging and anti-stress.

Many of the ingredients included in the keyword for the microworld we discussed above were used to prevent aging. While the approach to anti-aging has evolved from anti-aging to well-aging, you can see that raw materials companies around the world are focusing on the fight against aging caused by stress. 

Emblica® from Merck protects skin and wards off not only the sunlight, but all types of rays including blue light emitted from digital devices and pollution. Emblica® is a standardized and patented extract derived from the highest quality amla fruits using a water-based process. It inhibits the generation of tyrosinase, which facilitates the formation of melanin and other pigments, effectively preventing freckles and dark spots caused by aging. Emblica® is also described to function as a powerful natural antioxidant that safeguards the skin from premature aging and pollutants. 

ⓒLucas Meyer Cosmetics
ⓒLucas Meyer Cosmetics

Solastemis by Gattefossé, which won the Bronze Award in the active ingredient category is a natural raw material that uses the extract from Sechium edule(chayote), fruits cultivated according to the principle of zero waste and that are harvested manually on Réunion Island, as the active ingredient. It protects the skin from damage caused by UVA. 

Recently, stress has been blamed as the main culprit for signs of aging, pushing the ingredient companies to research and launch de-stressing skincare products. 

Against this backdrop, LipoTrue suggests three technologies that combat three types of stress through their Telessence line. Telessence Telmeric™, which responds to Envirostress, such as heat waves, cold snaps, and temperature change caused by air conditioners and hair dryers used in the modern world, activates an antioxidant response via biomimetics of the turmeric spice. Telessence Breeztel™, which reacts to Emostress, such as despair and anxiety, is made by fermenting microorganisms collected from the sea breeze near the isle of Tonga, Fiji. Regarding Phystress, which causes cell fatigue and telomere shortening, Telessence says an ingredient called Telessence Mitelion™ obtained from bilberry fruit and rosemary leaves, prevents mitochondrial oxidative damage, and reduces the production of active oxygen.

I expect products that approach stress care with sensory aspects will gain popularity in the near future. Examples include skin care, hair, and body products containing cannabidiolCBD, which relieves anxiety, calms you down, and helps you sleep better, or those featuring special fragrances. MYRAMAZE®-ESSENCE by RAHN based in Switzerland, claims to be a sensocosmetic active ingredient that revives and vitalizes the skin. It activates bitter taste receptors on keratinocytes, inducing a calcium influx which is the driver of skin vitality, and relaxes fibroblasts and restores them to a juvenile state.

ⓒMibelle Biochemistry
ⓒMibelle Biochemistry

The fourth keyword is storytelling.

MelanoGray™ by Mibelle Biochemistry is an anti-hair graying essence that is obtained sustainably by upcycling the peels leftover from organic Chios mandarins. MelanoGray™ won the Silver Award in the Green Ingredient category at the in-cosmetics global fair. In fact, MelanoGray™ was included in the last keyword because Mibelle Biochemistry told the story so well using appealing photos although it does also meet the other concepts above like anti-aging, sustainable sourcing, and upcycling. 

Chios mandarins grow exclusively under very specific conditions found on the Chios island where mandarins were introduced in the 13th century. This particular mandarin variety is used to extract the organic perfume essences. They go through a distilling process in a traditional small distillery, and the remaining mandarin peel paste is transformed into MelanoGray™. Mibelle Biochemistry does a great job of telling the story behind MelanoGray™, stressing that they not only refine the high-quality waste through an upcycling process, but also preserve the historic orchards and the original production method in the region. 

Iwase Cosfa Korea, which participated in the fair held in Korea showcased Dragon's Blood, which was used by native Americans to heal wounds and Cobiostem Alerce, a plant-derived stem cell ingredient extracted from the byproduct of the second oldest tree in the world. PromPerú, an export and tourism promotion agency of Peru, also joined the fair. They emphasized the biodiversity of Peru, from the Andes to the Amazon, and promoted that they use super foods as an ingredient for their cosmetics. 

Korean companies, such as BIOSPECTRUM, The Garden of Natural Solution, Morechem also captivated visitors with their booths that told respective stories by focusing on the origin and the characteristics of the main ingredient. They are continuing to display booths designed to introduce the natural extracts while visually explaining where they came from, giving the background information as to how they got to use it, and other literature about the ingredient. 

A company called RAWMAP presents themselves as a company that offers an ingredient mapping service that discovers and matches raw materials and technologies that best fits the concept of customers and provides an engaging marketing story that can appeal to the end consumer. I liked their booth, which looked more like a cafe, and I could see by looking at their brochures that they put an emphasis on storytelling. 

The overarching trend of the cosmetics raw materials market, including the four keywords we have explored so far, can be summarized into this diagram. Environmental thinking, anti-aging and anti-stress, and natural raw materials. These three themes are interconnected by sub-categories that include biodegradable ingredients, cellulose, upcycling, sustainable sourcing and extraction method, seaweed, and extremolytes. At the center of it all is storytelling. 

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