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Skin Care Thinks Small to Deliver Big

By: Leslie Benson
Posted: August 5, 2008, from the August 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.
An array of polymer microneedles 1,000 microns tall

Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Tech’s school of chemical and biomolecular engineering, one of the professors leading a U.S. team in finding a new mass delivery method for the flu vaccine, holds an array of polymer microneedles 1,000 microns tall. This photo, taken by Gary Meek and duplicated from the cover, is used with permission from Georgia Tech.

  • R&D will borrow ideas from the medical field, materials science, food and environmental industries for future skin care ingredients and delivery system innovations.
  • It will be much more difficult to introduce a new ingredient to the market, due to growing global regulations, so companies will look much closer at how the “old” ingredients could work better.
  • Similar metal or polymer microneedles being researched in the U.S. and Europe for use in cost-effective, mass immunizations may enable new delivery methods for antiaging skin care actives and other ingredients.

Fowl” analogies such as the chicken and the egg question—Which came first?—stumped several interviewees recently when GCI magazine asked skin care brand owners, research scientists, ingredients suppliers and distributors: Which comes first—active ingredients or their delivery systems? In most cases, responses were all-encompassing, indicating the importance of each component in its own right, sometimes independent but always reliant on the other to uphold a product’s efficacy and, therefore, its marketing claims.

But from GCI magazine’s more than 17 in-depth interviews about the subject, four major factors made their presence known—the “4Rs of delivery—right chemical, right site, right concentration, right period of time,” as noted by Johann Wiechers, PhD, president of the International Federation of the Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC).1 These 4Rs define the future of skin care, encompassing most of the marketing claims consumers encounter, as well as outlining the importance of actives and their delivery systems, simultaneously. Like the chicken and egg cycle, you really can’t have one without the other.

“Usually the active gets the credit for the efficacy, but it must be delivered in a safe, stable and effective fashion. That is the role of the base and the delivery system,” says Konstantinos M. Lahanas, PhD, director of innovations for Limited Brands’ Beauty Avenues, a personal care sourcing company serving Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and third-party customers. “In the end, what matters is the value added in the product to attract consumers to purchase the product.”

A term borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry by way of delivery methods for smart drugs with time-release dosages, the concept of delivery systems for actives is just as important when it comes to skin care. This year’s delivery advancements have paved the way for other innovations too, including high-tech ingredients that trigger cellular functions and, in some cases, slow the signs of aging. These aspects work together to ensure that a consumer’s emotional and financial investment in a new product is worth it. After all, consumers expect claims to be backed up with efficacy.