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In an interview during his run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1980, Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy spoke of the U.S.’s propensity for innovation. Nearly 30 years later, that comment was among the remembrances of the recently deceased Kennedy, and it struck me that this line is equally applicable to the beauty industry as it eyes 2010.

As I write this column from the floor of my fifth HBA show (which will be recapped in upcoming issues), it’s clear from the floor exhibits, the conferences and the conversations, the industry hasn’t rested on the laurels of its past innovations, and it appears to me that technology and nature—two words that, as a whole and particularly in terms of ingredients, certainly have seemed to be at odds with each other in this industry—are being reconciled. In this month’s “Chemical Reaction” column, as it happens, Steve Herman notes that modern science often has the tendency to discount nature-based solutions—even if these solutions have a long history of use. The merits behind antidotal benefits can often be overlooked, and natural product discovery was de-emphasized in favor of the new methods.

Soon after this column came across my desk, Swissclinical—a newly launched skin care brand that looked at the melding of science and nature as the foundation for its products—was brought to my attention. It was a bit of serendipity, providing me with a perfectly timed for-consumer-consumption illustration of Herman’s points, and I think the ideas inherent in the column and behind the brand aptly reflect what the majority of consumers are truly after—brands that consider the wide-ranging impacts of their products and products that are effective.

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Herman heralds the growing inclination of an open scientific approach to the use of natural ingredients, and it must be noted that the more advanced packaging becomes, the more, too, related concepts (sustainable, recyclable, green, etc.) are considered. Are we on the cusp of dropping certain labels from positioning statements? I don’t think so. Consumers are still looking for key words to identify how a brand fits in their lifestyle and on the shelves of their vanities, but I do think they are ready for and open to a new way of thinking about products.

I think that this is a good thing, challenging brand owners to realign some of the banners they’ve carried. GCI magazine has offered its definitions of innovations on a number of occasions: Innovation means looking at the world in different ways; innovation is the development of a competitive edge. And this challenge, if undertaken, requires brands to look at what has been so heavily parlayed in a different way and will foster the development of new and impactful competitive edges.

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