Once a foreign trip meant exciting discoveries in French pharmacies and American drug stores, but now international products are available in the UK as the beauty industry searches the world for new ingredients
“Asia is where it’s all going on,” says Vivienne Rudd, Mintel’s director of global innovation and insight, beauty and personal care. And while innovation in Japan has always been a source of inspiration, in recent years Korea has become something of a beauty powerhouse.
“The West is looking east for inspiration at a time when the most financial growth in the industry is also coming from there. Korea is more accessible than China and has a well-developed beauty industry. Japan has been in recession for ages so it’s not such a profitable pool,” explains Kathy Phillips, international beauty director for Condé Nast Asia.
Skin clarity has long been an Eastern preoccupation and as a result skin brightening ingredients, such as kojic acid, mulberry and liquorice extracts popular there have migrated to the UK. In the future other ingredients will join them. Look out for big brands investing in peony extract, already present in products made by Fresh, Dior and Origins, and bearberry extract, currently in various Paula’s Choice and Strivectin products.
Beyond whitening and brightening, fermented ingredients have become something of a skincare buzzword.
Carbonic acid or fizzy skincare products could well be the next big thing, with bubbles promising to boost circulation and help lift dirt from pores
“This is a big trend in Asia and Korean brand Su:m 37 is very active in this area,” says Ms Rudd. “Different actives, such as yeast, garlic and ginseng, may be fermented for up to a year before being incorporated into products where they are credited with anti-ageing or skin-smoothing properties.”
But imported ingredients aren’t always about skincare actives; expect to see textural innovation too. Essences have already started to make in-roads with Shiseido, SK-II, Tom Ford and Estée Lauder all now offering one. They’re designed to clear dead cells and refine wrinkles, and are described by Ms Phillips as “not just a toner, not quite a serum and not only a moisturizer, but with some of the benefits of all these”.
Jelly formulations, such as Astalift’s Jelly Aquarysta, introduced to the UK by Japanese brand Fuji, are also infiltrating the mainstream. For example, there’s Garnier’s Miracle Sleeping Cream with “self-smoothing texture”. And, according to The Future Laboratory, carbonic acid or fizzy skincare products could well be the next big thing, with bubbles promising to boost circulation and help lift dirt from pores.
Whether it’s blow-dries or waxes, there’s no doubt that South America, and specifically Brazil, has had a huge impact on the global beauty industry.
Research by market analysts Mintel found that between August 2013 and July 2014, 90 per cent of all Brazilian-inspired products were launched outside Brazil, with 14 per cent of these launches being in the UK.
So what is it that Brits love about Brazil? In part it’s the fact that the Amazonian rainforest offers a wealth of natural extracts. And while, as in many developing countries, the population is becoming more affluent and they’re more likely to want to buy multi-national brands than local ones, there’s still interest in what’s on the doorstep.
“Brazilians definitely make use of their natural ingredients and are very proud of the country’s biodiversity,” says Ms Rudd.
One of the Western brands capitalising on this is L’Occitane, who created a specific line, L’Occitane au Brésil, using extracts from indigenous ingredients, such as the vitória-régia flower, the mandacaru cactus and the jenipapo tree. While originally launched for the Brazilian market, some of these are available in the UK.
Fans of suncare and bodycare should also keep an eye on what’s coming out of Brazil.
“Bodycare is possibly a larger part of the market in Brazil than skincare,” says Ms Rudd. “And, as Brazilians might be showering two or three times a day, formulations that can be reapplied easily, penetrate fast and dry quickly are very much in demand.”
If you want to know how to deal with sun-damaged skin, it makes sense to go where there’s a lot of sun, which might explain the success of Environ, the vitamin A-based range developed in South Africa after a dermatologist wanted to understand how to protect his patients from skin cancer.
Nearly 30 years on, the range is still developed and tested there, with their latest launch, a peptide-packed moisturiser, Avance DFP 312, debuting here in September.
But then the African continent has always done moisturising well. “African skins have the highest rate of trans-epidermal water loss, and therefore get and feel dry very quickly,” explains Nausheen Qureshi, founder of skincare brand Elethea, who grew up in Kenya.
As a result, traditional African emollients, such as shea butter and argan oil, have been incorporated in Western formulations. More recently brands such as Korres, Nude and Ole Henriksen have used baobab and moringa oils, while African Botanics have built an entire range around marula oil.
“All these ingredients are known to be superb antioxidants and have been a part of the African diet for years, yet their application in skincare has only recently been realised,” says Ms Qureshi, who is tipping similar “food-style” ingredients as ones to watch.
“I’m particularly excited about tamarind seed extract, which is over 40 times more effective than hyaluronic acid, at attracting water,” she says.
As with so much of modern skincare, it’s not just about throwing a handful of the hot new ingredients into a formulation. “We can use recent scientific advances to make these ingredients even more powerful in skincare by adapting them or attaching cell communicating ingredients to them,” says Ms Qureshi. “They are no less natural, but much more effective this way.”