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Nutricosmetics: Facing the Obstacles

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“The most immediate issue [for beauty brands introducing ingestible products] would be regulatory issues,” says Marcelo Ferrer, category manager, beverage systems, Tetra Pak—a food processing and packaging solutions company operating under the mission of making food safe. “Is the product going to be FDA regulated or just fall to Good Manufacturing Practices? In personal care manufacturing, especially the large multinationals, equipment is sanitized and cleaned much like you would see in a food plant—sometimes to an even higher degree of protection, to protect the brand. I would say, though, that if cosmetic producers are really considering doing this, the best thing to do is partner up with someone, much like L’Oréal is doing with Coca-Cola, or get someone on board who comes from the food industry, because—even though the equipment and sanitary standards are somewhat similar—the processing requirements and the regulatory are very different.”

Scott-Vincent Borba, creator and founder of BORBA, began his foray into ingestible skin care with the launch of nutricosmetic waters. His company recently introduced gummi bear boosters that contain a cultivated bio-vitamin complex formulated to help skin regenerate its natural support system by increasing the potential to absorb skin care ingredients into the epidermis, and positioned as dietary supplements. “Dealing with [beauty] products meant for ingestion is a whole different league,” says Borba. “It’s dealing with FDA and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requirements, which a lot of cosmetic companies don’t really get into because they are really talking about structure function claims. For a company that’s a traditional cosmetics company trying to get into [the nutricosmetic segment], they take on significant challenges and liabilities if they are not taking into consideration that the product must not only be efficacious but true to the claims that it states—as well as meet the minimum FDA and FTC objectives when it comes to function.”

Partnering with an experienced food and beverage company allows some processing hurdles to be more easily crossed, but there are caveats.

“From a manufacturing perspective, manufacturers of [nutricosmetics] that are not used to beauty marketers or biochemists or estheticians coming to them saying, ‘okay, I want to create something,’ are typically manufacturing from a traditional food perspective,” says Borba. “When they are asked to put in this extract or this ingredient, they don’t typically have the R&D capacity or sourcing capacity to get some of these radical new nutrients or delivery systems or extracts—or even understand the importing procedures that it takes to get these products put together. “And there are already certain manufacturing machinery that’s been built for the traditional types of products they make, and usually beauty companies want something more unique and different—a little bit cooler or offers something a bit better in the delivery system of the packaging,” he adds. “So, that opens up another huge challenge; it’s even a challenge for a company to outsource those requirements. There’s probably 100 times more complexity in trying to tap into [the nutricosmetic segment] if you don’t have any equity tied to the brand within the segment. If you’re known for color cosmetics or topical products, even for traditional herbal supplements, to really have equity and consumer loyalty behind you is difficult unless you really know what you’re doing. There is still a challenge in breaking through to find consumer loyalties to new products.”

All About pH

For products intended for ingestion, particularly beverages, the pH level must be regarded because of its impact on what type of microorganisms may grow in the product and, therefore, on how a product can be processed and shipped, its shelf stability and the degree of regulatory scrutiny it is under.