GABA Grabs Hold in Personal Care

Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that functions in the central nervous system as a neurotransmitter. It is found in animals and in many plant forms. It has been used for over five years in Asia in food and beverages to calm or relax individuals. Examples include ready-to-drink iced coffee and tea, juice and meal replacement drinks and sports and energy drinks for stressed individuals. In Japan, Coca-Cola’s Aquarius Sharp Charge is a drink containing GABA to “improve and relax the mind.” There is even a GABA-based healthy instant drink designed for seniors in Taiwan.

GABA is also used as a functional ingredient in confectionery products, as in the case of Ezaki Glico’s GABA Super Bitter chocolates, which contain 280 mg of GABA. Also in Japan, Dai Nippon Ink launched GABA Lina S, a nutritional supplement positioned for stress relief and relaxation. It contains glutamic acid, vegetable fiber and blue-green algae, which claim to transform into GABA via fermentation using Dai Nippon's technology.

Like many functional food ingredients, it was soon found that GABA had cosmetic benefits. As a natural muscle relaxant, it is said to smooth or reduce fine lines. According to Mintel GNPD Cosmetic Research, one of the first skin care products to capitalize on GABA was Dr. Brandt Crease Release Rapid Wrinkle Reducer introduced in 2004. It is formulated with a GABA complex that “works synergistically with the complexion to immediately smooth fine lines, wrinkles, crows feet and signs of stress with remarkable effects especially around the eyes and mouth, and between the brows.”

Since then, GABA has appeared in other skin care products in both mass market and selective distribution. In many cases, products claim to offer quick wrinkle-free results. Others position themselves as substitutes for cosmetic injections.

Like Dr. Brandt, Freeze 24-7 was one of the early adopters of this ingredient. The company has been using GABA in its formulations since 2004. In 2007, it introduced a new concept, "GABA on the Go." Freeze&Go Instant Smoother and Brightener is a lightweight  compact that contains a GABA-based targeted wrinkle reducer. In addition to smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, the product claims to immediately diminish “enlarged pores and rosacea on the face as well as stretch marks on the body.” The formula also contains polymers, black tea, pomegranate and orchid extracts, as well as shea butter and minerals.

Also promising instant results is Sudden Change GABA-Freeze Creme, a product launched in Summer 2007 in Canada . It claims to reduce the appearance of fine lines and crow's feet by up to 90%. It is formulated with “age-defying” GABA, “micronized line fillers,” “ultra-fine light refractors” and sesame seed oil. The front of the pack promises “visible results in minutes” and notes that GABA is an “active ingredient found in the world's most expensive wrinkle creams.” It can be applied directly to forehead lines, crow’s feet and lines around the mouth under regular moisturizer.

In Australia, Sally Hansen released Line Freeze for Lips. This lip cream claims to “instantly tighten and smooth out lip lines and wrinkles” for a “line-free effect that lasts all day.” It contains “age-correcting” GABA, vitamins, portuluca oleracea extract, Panax ginseng root extract and soy protein.

Face Lift Wrinkle Free At Home Wrinkle Reversal System claims to replace collagen injections with a “molecular penetration technology.” The pack contains a two-step system with cream and serum. The line relaxing cream is made with GABA, yeast extract and idebenone and claims to relax the skin around lines and soften the appearance of wrinkles. The wrinkle-filling serum contains hyaluronic acid, bilberry and citrus extracts and peptides. Together they act as a dermal filler and plump up sagging skin and wrinkles. The system states “results won’t wear off as wrinkles continue to fill in and diminish with use.”

Another product that contains the GABA and idenebenone combination is Menscience Androceuticals Anti-Aging Formula. Launched in 2006, this is one of the only men’s skin care products to contain GABA. It also has alpha lipoic acid, hyaluronic acid hydroctyle, green tea and vitamin E. It claims to be “the best men’s antiaging product” and is available online.

In 2006, Physicians Formula was one of the first brands to use GABA in color cosmetics. Last month, it launched CoverToxTen50 Wrinkle Therapy Concealer, which claims to offer “clinically proven visible wrinkle and dark circle reduction” in minutes, hours and days. It is formulated with GABA and Portulaca oleracea (little hogweed), a botanical extract that helps to relax facial muscles and works as a skin brightener. For long-term benefits, Centella asiatica extract is combined with BV-OSC, an active form of vitamin C, to enhance collagen synthesis and help clear the appearance of dark under-eye circles.

In Japan, GABA is a well-known ingredient, similar to omega-3 in the West. GABA’s mood-enhancing benefits are already being exploited in other food categories, such as cookies and diet products. Given the burgeoning development in beauty foods and cosmeceuticals, there is an opportunity for GABA to tap into the realm of well-being and relaxation, not just its anti-wrinkle claims.

—Nica Lewis, Mintel

The Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracks new product launches, trends and innovations internationally. The Mintel Cosmetic Research Database tracks mass market and luxury cosmetic innovations in France and the United States. For additional information regarding either Mintel GNPD or Mintel Cosmetic Research, visit or call Mintel International at 1-312-932-0600.

More in Actives