The market growth of inside-and-out concepts in beauty explained
Sofia Jacobsson, regulatory expert at consultancy Toxintelligence: ”I reckon that some consumers perceive nutri-cosmetics as a more ’natural’ alternative since they are taken orally, compared to some of the topical beauty products.”
12 Mar 2024

Jacobsson has a Master’s degree in food science from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. She specialises in regulatory consultancy, primarily focusing on cosmetic products and dietary supplements, at Toxintelligence. This work includes writing safety reports for cosmetic products and providing guidance on content, claims, and labelling of dietary supplements and cosmetics. When discussing  the concept of nutri-cosmetics and nutri-cosmeceuticals, she explains, there are three types of relevant products — cosmetics, dietary supplements, and pharmaceuticals. 

— Each of these, Jacobsson says, is subject to product-specific legislation.

— In the industry, the terms nutri-cosmetics and nutri-cosmeceuticals are often used interchangeably and describe dietary supplements that claim to have an impact on beauty attributes such as skin, hair, and nails. Cosmeceuticals, on the other hand, typically refer to cosmetic products with active ingredients claiming to have medical effects. 

— In our regulatory framework, these types of borderline products do not exist; the product will either be a cosmetic product or a pharmaceutical. If the cosmetic product is presented with medical claims or contains potent active ingredients, the product could fall into the category of pharmaceuticals and become subject to an entirely different set of regulations.

— Therefore, nutri-cosmeceuticals cannot simultaneously belong to the product categories of dietary supplements, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Nutricosmetics, or nutri-cosmeceuticals, are specifically categorised as dietary supplements, while cosmeceuticals would either be cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. It is also crucial to note that a product’s presentation or claimed effects alone could categorise it as a pharmaceutical rather than a dietary supplement or a cosmetic product

In what way are nutri-cosmeceutics different from ordinary nutrient supplements?

— They’re both categorised as dietary supplements and follow the same regulations. The difference is how you market the products and the intended outcome of them. But the definition is the same. 

— Food supplements are concentrated sources of nutrients — vitamins, minerals or other substances with nutritional or physiological effects. But the intended outcome of nutri-cosmetics is more from a beauty perspective to influence the skin, nails, and hair. Ordinary food supplements are designed to address more general nutritional needs and may not prioritise beauty-related outcomes.

If we look at the inside-and-out concept, how would you define it?

—  It refers to a more holistic perspective on skincare and general well-being. It points out the connection between external beauty such as skin, hair, and nails and internal factors like overall health, lifestyle, and nutrition. This concept goes beyond the application of topical products and involves considering internal factors that can maintain skin health and appearance.

What shifts in consumer needs and behaviours have led up to this development and growth?

— I think that the overall wellness trend is an important factor in the growing demand for nutri-cosmetics. People are catching on to the idea that what you put inside your body, such as food and supplements, would affect how the skin looks as well. Consumers are leaning towards beauty products claiming to be more ’clean’ or ’natural’ and I reckon that some consumers perceive nutri-cosmetics as a more ’natural’ alternative since they are taken orally, compared to some of the topical beauty products.

— However, the use of terms like ’clean’ when describing cosmetics and dietary supplements can be misleadning for several reasons. One primary issue is the absences of a standardised definition for the term within the industry. Moreover, the perception of this term varies among consumers. Some may associate clean with products free from certain ingredients, while others might focus on environmental sustainability or ethical sourcing. Stating that a product is ’clean’ might unintentionally suggest that other products are dirty, possibly disparaging competitors’ products, despite their compliance and safety. When the term ’natural’ is employed, it often refers to the origin of the ingredient. However, the belief that natural is always superior may overlook the intricate nature of natural extracts, which often comprise diverse mixtures of ingredients, including potentially potent and even unknown substances.

What are the most commonly used ingredients in nutri-cosmetics?

— Complexes of vitamin B, such as biotin, niacin, or riboflavin, because they have scientific evidence that they actually can maintain the health of skin and hair, Jacobsson shares. She continues:

— Some new ingredients that are very popular to have today are collagen and hyaluronic acid. They have been used in cosmetics for a long time, but now we put them in the supplements as well. I think that the consumer has an idea that one will achieve an effect from the ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid if you apply it on the skin and then eat it as well. The function of hyaluronic acid in cosmetic products is to bind to surrounding water and to act as a humectant. However, when discussing dietary supplements, there is not sufficient scientific evidence for hyaluronic acid to have a physiological effect on the body when taken orally as a food supplement.  

— Dietary supplements are not required to undergo any pre-approval or mandatory testing before being released on the market. The company placing the product on the market is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe, contains what is claimed and has the purported effect.

— I’ve also seen nutri-cosmetics containing omega-3 fatty acids claiming to affect the skin. However, I have not seen any research confirming this, yet. Another widely used ingredient is Vitamin C, known to contribute to normal collagen formation for the normal function of the skin. Therefore, it is very common to include Vitamin C in dietary supplements intended for the skin.

When you speak to clients, what do they ask about? Have you identified any common issues they are facing when introducing skin-boosting supplements to complement the skincare products?

— They are usually thinking from a marketing perspective when they want to expand the product range. If they have cosmetic products and they want to sell food supplements as well, they have an idea of what they want to claim and how they want to present it. But often they haven’t considered the regulations that govern these types of products. That’s where we come in to support and guide what can be claimed, how it can be communicated, and how to follow the regulations in marketing.

— The most common questions I receive about food supplements are, ’Can I make this claim about the product? I have an idea I want to say this, am I allowed to say it?’

Sofia Jacobsson.

What other trends have you noticed in the field?

— Companies are getting more creative with their approaches, Jacobsson says. For instance, fashion brands, instead of just selling clothes today but also their own laundry detergent that is meant to pair perfectly with the garments. You can see the same trend in the beauty industry as well. Instead of just selling cosmetics, you want to include dietary supplements, or you sell scented candles with a specific fragrance. It’s more about selling this ’fabulous’ lifestyle concept instead of just selling one type of product.

Related to marketing, do you see any issues regarding regulations related to packaging and declaration of ingredients when it comes to combining skincare and supplements?

— First of all, if you just compare cosmetics and dietary supplements, different frameworks regulate these different groups. If you have only worked with cosmetics before, it can be hard to navigate within food regulations if this is something new.

— If you’re discussing nutri-cosmetics within the food supplement group, I think that marketing is the most significant challenge for the companies. As I mentioned, you can make claims on dietary supplements that refer to a function of the body — for instance the immune system —  or beneficial physiological effects, such as maintenance of normal hair. These claims are considered to be health claims and are strictly regulated.

— But if you talk about nutri-cosmetics, you can use so-called beauty claims instead, which are claims that refer to the maintenance of a normal structure, elasticity, and appearance of the skin, hair, and nails and do not necessarily refer to a particular physiological function of the body. Unlike health claims, beauty claims are not as strictly regulated when it comes to wording. However, communication shall not be misleading. All claims used in all kinds of communication shall be supported by evidence. I think it’s challenging to know how to communicate it if you’re not used to these kinds of regulations.

What future trends do you forecast?

 — Me and my colleagues believe that the personalisation trend will keep growing. For example, in the cosmetic industry, you can customise your perfumes instead of buying them off the shelf. I think this trend will expand even more into skincare and nutrition as well. People might do self-tests about their skin and their nutritional needs and then you will get a combination package of what creams you need and what supplements you should eat. The increasing popularity of subscription services in these areas gives the potential for personalisation in wellness and beauty to expand even more, Jacobsson predicts, continuing,

— I imagine that you can pre-order everything and every month, you get the skincare and nutrition you need. This will be different depending on what gender or age you are, the environment, and if it’s summer or winter, and the personalisation trend will take part here.

— In general, the sustainability factor is important in all industries and a lot of companies are struggling with these questions because customers are demanding more sustainable products. Just like for the food industry and food supplements, everyone is talking about the packaging and how to make it sustainable and that we don’t want to use any ingredients harmful to the environment in the products or the packaging. At the same time, you want the product to look exclusive and you want it to look nice. The term ’sustainability’ is a complex subject — and what consumers and companies mean by sustainability is not always entirely clear.

— I believe that the trend of beauty from within will continue to grow. A healthy lifestyle is closely linked to our physical well-being, which can also be reflected in how our skin looks. Eating healthy and exercising have always been discussed in terms of our well-being and that it can affect our appearance. Overall well-being has gained more interest. If it can make your skin look better, people are more interested in it.

— It’s important to emphasise that we often want to take shortcuts with beauty and nutrition and find the easiest way, for example by taking dietary supplements that may not always be necessary. We often forget the most fundamental aspects of health, like maintaining a good diet, ensuring sufficient sleep, and exercising. It’s important to recognise that vitamins and minerals serve different functions in cosmetic products and in dietary supplements. For example, zinc is a common cosmetic ingredient in sunscreens due to its ability to provide effective UV protection when applied topically. On the other hand, when incorporated into dietary supplements that are supposed to be taken orally, zinc plays a crucial role in supporting various physiological functions within the body. It is an essential mineral involved in the immune system, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Therefore, one cannot expect the same functions from substances in cosmetics as in dietary supplements.

Top picture: Ninnie Schröder