How to formulate nutricosmetics

As a cosmetic formulator, you are expected to know how to formulate any cosmetic product. But these days the definition of what is a cosmetic product is expanding. Now, brands are launching nutricosmetics to tap into the “beauty from within” trend. And your marketing people may expect you to formulate ingestible cosmetics. 

If you’re faced with having to make one of these products, here is a general procedure you can follow.

Nutricosmetics and regulations

In the US, cosmetics are regulated by the FDA. Some groups claim that the regulations are loose but the regulation framework has resulted in products that are safe and pretty much the same as products found in the EU, Japan, and Canada. The additional regulations of those countries have not had any impact on product safety.

Food supplements, which ingestible cosmetics and nutricosmetics would be considered, are a different story. The FDA does regulate them however, with the passage of the DSHEA act in 1994 there is much less government oversight. The claims that can be made and are pretty substantial despite the fact that the science supporting those claims is sketchy at best.

Formulating nutricosmetics

The form of your ingestible cosmetic can vary and includes things like tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders. Sephora has a whole section on their website dedicated to beauty supplements. If your marketing people want to launch their own supplement you will first have to figure out which form you want to make. To get starting formulas and background information check out the extensive series on Food Technology published by Woodhead.

Ingestible Cosmetic Ingredients

Once you have your form you have to figure out what marketing ingredients you want to include. This is really going to depend on the claims that your company wants to make. Most nutricosmetic ingredients fall into one of the following categories

  • Antioxidants - Consumers have heard the term antioxidant enough and most believe that skin or hair aging is caused by a lack of antioxidants. Including these in your formula is a good idea.  Most any vitamin will be an antioxidant and also so are things like carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids.
  • Anti-inflammation - Inflammation is another scary term that consumers are being convinced is wrecking havoc on their skin, hair and health.  When formulating a nutricosmetic be sure to include something in your formula that can be called an anti-inflammatory.  This would be ingredients like omega 3 fatty acids, polyphenols, and curcumin.
  • Immune protection - Another phrase thrown around in this marketing space is immune suppression. Supplements are supposed to “boost your immune system.”  If you want to include one of these immune boosters you’ll want to put in enriched polysaccharides, green tea extracts, or silymarin.
  • Skin hydration - Everyone knows that collagen and elastin are important for skin structure and hydration. So, you’ll find lots of supplements that include these ingredients.  Please ignore the fact that these things are destroyed in the digestive system.  Aloe is another skin hydration ingredients that people find compelling.

Nutricosmetic claims

As a formulator you need to ensure that your products are safe and this is especially true for products that get ingested. You can cause a lot more damage with an ingestible than you can with a topically applied product.  Follow GMP and use as many GRAS ingredients as you can.  Then include the claims ingredients at low levels to reduce the chances of harm.

The reality is that there is almost no science which supports the effectiveness of supplementation to improve the look and feel of skin and hair. The marketing hype is way more extensive than the scientific support.  But if you work for a company that wants to cash in on the beauty from within trend, you may have to make these products.  To ensure your company stays out of trouble be sure they include the appropriate warning on the products

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

To learn more about creating food products check out the Institute of Food Technologists group.

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