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For the Ages: Ingredients Targeted to Different Generations

By: Abby Penning
Posted: May 29, 2014, from the June 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • Age demographics are typically broken into four categories: teens, young adults, mid-age adults and mature adults.
  • In addition to claims/ingredient actions themselves, different age demographics respond to different product textures.
  • Different age groups have different expectations of performance and how much they’ll spend, and positioning (prestige, mass, etc.) also sets expectations for the product’s performance.
  • Although there is a possibility age segmentation in beauty product development will go older, it’s more likely that anti-aging claims and benefits will continue to filter into other beauty categories.

When creating skin care products, there are a variety of considerations—what will the product do, who will use it, what will it look and feel like, how will it be developed, what will be included, and so on and so on. To help in the development process, brand owners and product developers hone in on key consumer demographics to make the product as relevant to the target consumer as possible. To do so usually means considering age demographics while also considering what ingredients to include.

“At different ages you have different skin needs,” says Beata Hurst, head of marketing and sales, Mibelle Biochemistry. “Classically, anti-aging should start very early, but skin at 30 has a different anti-aging focus than skin at 50. At 50, the skin starts sagging, so you need more for lifting and firming and for increasing collagen, whereas a 30-year-old is fighting the first wrinkles.”

And Patrick D. Bentley, manager, global sales and marketing, Active Organics; Marie Ollagnier from Lubrizol; and Elena Canadas from Lipotec, [three companies owned by the same parent company] note anti-aging products and beauty routines are becoming increasingly specialized in terms of the age groups targeted. The same occurs with active ingredients, Bentley, Ollagnier and Canadas explain, as more and more anti-aging launches target a specific age segment. The skin requirements and concerns of consumers in their teens and 20s are very different from those in their 30s and 40s, which differ from consumers in their 50s or 60s.

Generally, the age demographics are broken into four categories—teens, young adults, mid-age adults and mature adults. “You’ve got your teens to young adult category—that’s basically your anti-acne, anti-shine, oily skin type of claims that are going to appeal to the average teenager looking to help their complexion,” says Mike Anthonavage, technical fellow, active ingredients, Presperse. “They’re using ingredients that obviously reduce the amount of breakouts, but they’re also trying to reduce the amount of sebum and the inflammation that maybe their pimples are giving them—not to mention [addressing] any type of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation issues like acne marks or acne scars.”

There can be similar concerns for young adults, agree Bentley, Ollagnier and Canadas. In the 20s, skin is radiant and young, they say, but to address increased sebum production, formulations should contain active ingredients with mattifying properties to reduce the level of sebum while maintaining or even increasing the hydration of the skin.

“And sun protection is being added to the equation,” notes Tom Kovats, vice president, Centerchem. Again, it’s all about protection and prevention for the young adult consumers, points out Anthonavage. “They probably aren’t going to be so aggressive in terms of correction, but are probably seeking more of a preventative claim,” he says.

Moving on in the age progression, for consumers in their 30s, hydration is still important, as a part of basic care and the first step in the beauty routine after cleansing. The first wrinkles also start to appear (“expression” wrinkles, caused by repeated muscular contraction). To counteract this, an ingredient able to diminish these is the best ally to fight against further development. And Kovats notes the growing power of consumers in the 25–35 age group.

However, Hurst points out, “At each age, protection is very important, and [consumers of all ages can] use antioxidants. These can help neutralize toxins in the skin, help detoxify skin. That is something I personally believe is really important at all ages, and I think that’s an ingredient that, especially when it’s about protection, you cannot start early enough.”

For the next age range, Anthonavage says, “Between the young adults and the baby boomers, [consumers] might be looking for more of a corrective therapy rather than a preventative, and maybe a little bit of both.”

Kovats says, “I know, for us, at least the category of peptides are certainly very big for the baby boomer market and the Gen X market, because they will address wrinkle and expression lines—certainly stimulating and strengthening the collagen. That’s very important in those two markets. And instant tighteners—an quick, instant face lift and instant, quick smoothing—that’s become more and more important for the older set of Gen Xers, as well as for baby boomers. Addressing lipids certainly can play a role, because there is a diminishing concentration of lipids in skin as one ages—certainly of the lipids that are important, like the ceramides.”

Hurst shares that Mibelle often looks to anti-wrinkle ingredients and ingredients that help build collagen and elastin, as well as plant stem cells from an argan tree, for this market demographic. “We [also] have ingredients that are for chronic inflammation. There is the word ‘inflammaging,’ which is a fairly new term in cosmetics. Chronic inflammation is something you usually have with increased age because skin becomes thinner and is more sensitive,” she notes. “You have this inflammation that is always there [and usually] isn’t doing any immediate harm, but when it’s a permanent stress for the skin, it’s also an aging factor.”

Beyond that, Bentley, Ollagnier and Canadas share the perspective that when a women reaches the age of 60, the main concern is no longer related to wrinkles; instead, the issue is sagginess, the visible loss of firmness and elasticity that is the macroscopic result of an elastic fiber degeneration and a decrease of subcutaneous fatty tissue. This is accompanied by changes in the dermal thickness and hyperpigmentation, they note, and beauty products targeting this age group should include active ingredients that, in addition to boosting the synthesis of collagen and elastin, should inhibit the degradation of these elastic fibers.

Product Development Based on Age

In working to develop products that target particular age segments, ingredient supplier partners can be valuable resources. “We’ve positioned ingredients to embrace the [age] targets,” Anthonavage says, and Kovats explains that when working with a brand to develop a new product, “Usually we’ll try to ask the question, ‘What are you working on now?’ If the brand says, ‘We’re working on more of a preventive line,’ I usually will always ask, ‘What is the age group that you are targeting?’ Because if you’re targeting a younger set, for example, I would maybe have a different set of ingredients that I would recommend.”