‘A lot of activity’ in probiotics targeting skin microbiome – expert panel

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Probiota 2020 expert beauty panel from left to right: Dr. Audrey Gueniche (L'Oréal), Luca Bucchini (Hylobates Consulting), Ewa Hudson (Lumina Intelligence), Kacey Culliney (CosmeticsDesign-Europe)
Probiota 2020 expert beauty panel from left to right: Dr. Audrey Gueniche (L'Oréal), Luca Bucchini (Hylobates Consulting), Ewa Hudson (Lumina Intelligence), Kacey Culliney (CosmeticsDesign-Europe)

Related tags skin microbiome probiotics L'oréal Lumina Intelligence skin microbiota

There is plenty of activity in probiotic topical formulations targeting the skin microbiome, but could ‘beauty from within’ using supplements be a strong alternative? Experts believe so.

This week, CosmeticsDesign-Europe held an expert panel debate at Probiota 2020 in Dublin entitled: ‘Beauty and the skin microbiome: Opportunities beyond the gut’​. The panel, made up of Dr. Audrey Gueniche, senior clinical expert at L’Oréal Research and Innovation; Luca Bucchini, director and owner of Hylobates Consulting; and Ewa Hudson, director of insights at Lumina Intelligence, aimed to discuss commercial, scientific and regulatory opportunities for probiotics targeting the skin microbiome – considering both topical applications and food supplements.

Tech and ingredient tie-ups in skin care for microbiome

Knowledge around the skin microbiome has evolved fast in recent years, and whilst science on the gut-skin axis remains nascent compared to work on the gut-brain axis, plenty of focus has already been placed on managing the skin microbiota through topical applications – creams, serums and the like.

Just this month, Dutch specialty ingredients major DSM signed a tech agreement with Belgian life sciences startup S-Biomedic​ to develop and commercialise a skin care active that uses probiotic technology to treat acne. The plan is to have the ingredient market-ready within 18-24 months.

Late last year, specialty chemical major Croda International also signed a commercial deal with UK skin health firm SkinBioTherapeutics​ to develop a microbiome-targeted skin care ingredient using the latter’s patented technology. The technology, which took around five years to develop, uses cosmetic- and food-grade lysates from extracted probiotics to increase skin barrier integrity, protect the skin and increase skin healing in response to injury. Recent human studies have also indicated increased elasticity and natural skin fibre enhancement – two aspects of interest for cosmetics.

Talk on active ingredients to incorporate into topical formulations targeting the skin microbiome was also widespread at last year’s SEPAWA Congress in Berlin – considering use of postbiotic molecules or dead probiotics​.

Probiotics for beauty – there’s ‘a lot of activity’

CosmeticsDesign-Europe beauty expert panel at Probiota 2020
CosmeticsDesign-Europe beauty expert panel at Probiota 2020

Addressing attendees during the expert panel discussion at Probiota 2020, Lumina Intelligence’s Ewa Hudson said there was “a lot of activity”​ in use of probiotics targeting the skin microbiome, from small and large companies worldwide and across Europe.

Data due to be published next month by Lumina Intelligence found more than 350 cosmetics products on the market containing probiotics and targeting the skin microbiome. And customer reviews on products were fastest-growing in this category – up 467% in three years.

However, Hudson said not all companies were calling out use of probiotics on labels. “There’s a big decision to be made there – whether to let the formulation do the talking or actually take the active route and feature that addition on the packaging,”​ she said.

From a consumer standpoint, she said beauty consumers were more likely to refer to customer reviews to work out whether a product was worth purchasing.

L’Oréal’s Dr. Audrey Gueniche agreed, noting the majority of beauty consumers were concerned about whether a product worked, versus any science behind it. “So, the science won’t bring sales unless the product works,” ​Gueniche said in the panel discussion.

Some products on the market claiming to incorporate added bacteria, however, did not contain anything active, she said, which was a challenge L’Oréal was well on its way to addressing. But, she said it wasn’t the only direction the beauty major was looking at taking.

“Targeting the skin microbiota using topical creams is a good solution because it will feed quickly into the skin, but the nutrition route is interesting in the sense that the benefit is long-lasting, even if the benefit does not show so quickly.”

Food supplements for the skin microbiome?         

Hylobates Consulting’s Luca Bucchini agreed that opportunities for developing food supplements to target the skin microbiome were significant, although the biggest hurdle would be regulations.

“We have a strict system in the EU where claims have to be substantiated. When you make a so-called ‘beauty claim’ – something related to aesthetic effect – that may not be a health claim, but they are still under food law, so they must be truthful and based on scientific evidence. But they don’t have to be screened by EFSA [European Food Safety Authority],”​ Bucchini said in the panel discussion.

Currently, this area of ‘beauty claims’ remained poorly regulated, he said, in terms of what evidence was needed and what type of research had to be undertaken. “When you start talking about skin dryness, this could be considered a health claim. So, it’s important to know if you are working towards a ‘beauty claim’ or a ‘health claim’.”

EU Health & Nutrition Claims

Nutrition and Health claims are regulated in the European Union under the EC Regulation No 1924/2006​. Within this, EFSA is responsible for verifying scientific substantiation of submitted​. The EU definition of a health claim is as follows: “A health claim is any statement used on labels, in marketing or in advertising that health benefits can result from consuming a given food or from one of its components such as vitamins and minerals, fibre and ‘probiotic’ bacteria.”

CosmeticsDesign-Europe will be going into more depth on beauty versus health claims targeting the skin microbiome in the coming weeks – stay tuned. We will also be hosting an online webinar in September on the skin microbiome.

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