Time to Shine: The Evolution of Nutricosmetics


Wellness and athleisure have holistically kicked cosmetic consumers into high gear. Does this mean it’s finally time for nutritional beauty to shine?

Back in 2008, Global Cosmetic Industry gave us an early indicator:1 “The current [nutricosmetic] market, according to Euromonitor Internat­ional, is relatively small at $2.​1 billion, accounting for 3% of the $66 billion skin care market in 2007. However, whether a supplement or a beverage/​food, the nutricosmetic offers enormous potential.”

At that time, the vitamin and dietary supplement market was valued at $56 billion, and a Global Industry Analysts report had forecasted the functional food and beverage market to reach $109 billion by 2010—making line expansions an attractive option for beauty brands.

And while several expansions were made into nutritional beauty, perhaps most famously by Nestlé,2 with its Glowelle beauty drink, the industry remained uncertain, and in 2009, continued to wonder if nutricosmetics were, “The Future of Beauty or a Passing Fad?” Here, Global Cosmetic Industry considered their slow growth.3

“Nutricos­metics and nutraceu­ticals have been hailed as the next big thing in the beauty industry, and many industry watchers have forecast the segment to boom in the next few years, but there are large disparities in the way the market is developing around the world.”

For example, sales were thriving in Japan, where 16% of all dietary supplements (in 2008) had a beauty positioning; and in Western Europe, where products were becoming increasingly sophisti­cated. Consumers elsewhere were slower to react to nutricos­metic introductions. This report noted that in order for nutricosmetics to grow, sales needed to take off in countries more resilient to global recession. The then-booming Brazilian market saw a negligible market for beauty supplements. China was a more positive story, with beauty ingestibles accounting for 13% of the supplements market; although overall spend on supplements in this region was just $4 per person (in 2008), compared with $45 per person in Japan. India’s spend on dietary supplements was even lower, at less than $0.​50 per person; and at that time, no supplements had been positioned for beauty enhancement.

By 2011—one year later than the projected 2010 success of functional foods—the beauty industry was hearing the same story: “Beauty From Within Lacking Global Acceptance.”4 Here, Euromonitor reiterated, “Despite clear evidence that Western consumers are willing to pay a premium for skin care, consumers in North America and Western Europe, on the whole, do not seem to be buying into the concept of beauty-from-within.”

Furthermore, cases of nutraceutical and nutricosmetic products being withdrawn or running into regulatory difficulties did little to advance growth. For example, Avon withdrew from the nutraceutical segment in 2010 following low sales in a number of markets, even Japan. The lycopene-based supplement Innéov Fermeté, a dual collaboration between Nestlé and L’Oréal, also suffered a setback when the European Food Safety Authority forced the company to withdraw the product in May 2010, as claims for the product to improve dry skin were unsubstantiated.4

Enter: Inside-out Anti-aging

Then around 2014, the tone toward nutricosmetics shifted. It seemed that traditional cosmetic consumers were seeing these natural health products more clearly—through the all-powerful anti-aging lens. Quirk reported,5 “As consumers continue to seek out ways to help them look younger, as well as products that are multifun­ctional, nutricosmetic products—ingestible products with benefits for skin, hair and nails—are again picking up steam.”

However, he pointed to renewed consumer interest as part of a much larger health movement. No longer were they focused solely on minimizing wrinkles and sun spots, but also decreasing their risk for degenerative diseases. Research in this field has identified how many important aspects of health—from mental function, visual acuity and skin youthfulness, to muscle strength and mass, bone health and energy metabolism—can all be improved with diet and lifestyle modifications.

“What makes this investigation so promising is that many bioactive compounds with anti-aging properties are found in a healthy diet from common fruits, vegetables and herbs,” Quirk wrote.5

In relation, in a 2015 Global Cosmetic Industry report, nutricosmetics supplier RiceBran Technologies shared that its customers were expressing growing interest in this market.

“The global nutricos­metics market is forecast to grow to $5.​5 billion by 2018, according to Natural Products Industry Forecast numbers,” RiceBran Technologies’ senior vice president of sales and marketing, Mark McKnight, noted. “The United ​States will undergo a nutricos­metics boom as its portion of the population aged 40 to 60 years old continues to expand. This sector will offer consumers anti-aging, skin-firming, wrinkle reduction and similar benefits.”

The New Boom

In 2016, nutricosmetics were given a much more positive outlook. In fact, Global Industry Analysts projected the market will expand to $7.4 billion by 2020. Transparency Marketing Research put the figure slightly lower, at $7.1 billion.6

In either case, the key drivers included the aforementioned aging population, escalating health care costs, rising awareness of natural beauty-from-within strategies and nutrition in general. Add to this concerns about conventional cosmetic ingredients, increasing urbanization of populations and pollution concerns, and growing affluence of consumers around the globe.

Later in 2016, the “quest for prevention” emerged as a new approach to both beauty and health. According to Euromonitor,7 “Achieving beautiful skin [was] no longer confined to wearing makeup or applying anti-aging creams to hide or reverse the unkindly visible. At the same time, greater knowledge and urban lifestyles [began] encouraging consumers to have healthy skin at all times.”

In this new consumer mindset, the bottom line was to both feel and look good by maintaining hydrated, luminous skin; protecting it from impurities and pollution; and building a gradual tan without burning. This shift had added market significance: it was driven by Millennials. Furthermore, it suggested the market for “anti-aging” products could eventually lose steam to other skin care categories, such as nutritional beauty, healthy aging and dermocosmetics.

Overall, however, the numbers still showed Asian market dominance. And, in other regions, especially North America, legislative constraints, consumer cynicism and a desire for instant visible results limited the segment’s growth.

The tone toward nutricosmetics shifted when consumers saw them more clearly through the all-powerful anti-aging lens.

Partner Movements?

As nutricos­metics have struggled to take off beyond Asia-Pacific, some experts believe their best bet is to align with other growing segments; take dermocos­metics,7 for example. Why? Perhaps because health or medically positioned products hold more credibility, especially with skeptical consumers, as they offer more tangible proof of efficacy. Dermocosmetics are also a major driver behind the premium beauty and personal care market, and analysts predict this segment will outpace its mass counterpart between 2016 and 2021 at a CAGR of 3.6%, compared with 2.4%.8

Then there’s the larger wellness movement, which has expanded over the last 30 years to mean everything from a holistic lifestyle, encompassing everything from beauty, physical and mental fitness; to apparel, nutrition and travel. In fact, within wellness, the beauty and anti-aging sub-sectors represent a staggering $1 billion opportunity.9

Emerging Research

If tangible evidence is the key to nutricosmetics, new research is emerging showing strong connections between health, beauty and nutrition. For example, in 2016, a PLOS One paper10 described how energy and the consumption of macronutrients including protein, carbohydrates and fats affect the skin.

In other work, new actives in nature are being more closely linked with specific beauty benefits. Orally ingested Boesenbergia pandurata (Chinese ginger, or fingerroot), for one, has been shown to contain panduratin A, and its benefits appear to effect skin hydration, gloss and wrinkling.11

FOMO: When All Else Fails

If all else fails, marketers can put the fear of missing out (FOMO) into consumers, to drive nutricosmetics forward. This social dynamic has had a “seismic shift” on the way beauty products are perceived by a group of influential consumers, referred to as the Pivotals.12

Pivotals combine the Millennials with Generation Z. Ranging in age from 13-34, this group is “collectively pivoting the beauty industry away from antiquated ideals about attracti­veness. . .and forcing companies to re-think their approaches surrounding beauty.”12

Individuals in this group see beauty as an expression of their identity. They cross social and physical boundaries like never before, and are heavily influenced by one another and FOMO. K-beauty provides the perfect example. This industry has been growing at a rate of 9.2% even during the global economic recession. The Korea International Trade Association reported Korea’s beauty exports grew from $800 million in 2011, to $3.9 billion in 2016.

Considering the established strength of nutricosmetics in Asia-Pacific, and Pivotal eyes toward Asian trends—plus the growth in allied sectors, the time really does seem right for nutricosmetics to shine worldwide.


All websites accessed on Jan. 17, 2018.

1. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/nutricosmetics/27923379.html
2. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/nutricosmetics/30095284.html
3. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/nutricosmetics/63546147.html
4. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/nutricosmetics/117543143.html
5. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/nutricosmetics/Bioactive-Ingredients-for-Inside-Out-Anti-aging-264473021.html
6. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/nutricosmetics/Inside-Out-The-Nutricosmetics-Boom-376770931.html
7. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/antiaging/Skin-Deeper-400299951.html
8. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/cosmetics/The-Future-is-Premium-432674053.html
9. GCImagazine.com/marketstrends/segments/natural/A-Better-You-409560115.html
10. CosmeticsandToiletries.com/formulating/category/nutricosmetics/You-Are-What-You-Eat-Nutrient-Ratio-Affects-Skin-Structure-401695725.html
11. CosmeticsandToiletries.com/formulating/category/nutricosmetics/Korean-Team-Puts-Their-Finger-on-the-Next-Nutricosmetic-420408843.html
12. GCImagazine.com/business/marketing/82-of-Pivotals-Believe-Digital-and-Physical-Identities-are-the-Same-455745353.html
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