Bullish On The Biome

Brand owners look deeper into the role of the skin microbiome.

While consumers may not want to think about the microorganisms living on their skin, they appear to be coming around to the benefits of bacteria, and why stripping them all away may not be in their skin’s best interest. This has leaders in the space excited about the prospects of the microbiome in skin care and grateful for those who helped move the discussion outside of the lab.

“I keep being amazed how understanding is growing quickly. I think we really have to thank the press for it. Microbiome care also benefits from the massive interest in nutrition and minimalism—use less products but better for your skin,” said Marie Drago, founder of microbiome pioneer Gallinée.

This March, Gallinée rolled out its first ever scalp microbiome products—a cleansing cream, mask and serum, all of which contain the company’s prebiotics as well as fermented rice water.

For Drago, expansion to the scalp was a logical extension for her young brand, which can still be considered a start-up, although it did get an investment from Unilever Ventures back in 2008.

“I know it’s quite rare to see a new category in a young brand, but I always saw Gallinée as the beauty brand for the microbiome, wherever the microbiome is on the body,” she said.  “The Cleansing Cream, which I thought was going to be the most challenging product as it doesn’t foam, actually became our best seller.”

Derived from coconut and fruit sugars, the non-foaming cleansing cream is 100% natural and nonionic, and also contains lactic acid, mafura oil and tocopherol as key ingredients, according to the brand.

Launch Pad

According to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), the UK takes the global top spot for facial skin care launches targeting the microbiome. More than 37% of the world’s launches in 2018 were in the UK, followed by the US (25%) and France (15%), according to the market research and analysis firm.

One of the earliest US-based microbiome skin care players is now active in both of those top markets as it expanded across the pond. Mother Dirt rolled out in Harvey Nichols in the UK and Ireland in August, becoming the first ever probiotics skin care ranges to be stocked at the luxury retailer. The Boston-based firm—which was founded after a discovery by MIT graduates—also ran an interactive pop-up shop at the Harvey Nichol’s flagship store in Knightsbridge where its showcased its hero product, AO+ Mist.

“We’ve seen some really exciting growth in the gut health market in recent years and consumers are witnessing the positive benefits of good bacteria through the use of probiotics. Mother Dirt is a brand born out of research and as a reaction to the rise of skin concerns that have increased with our modern hygiene standards,” said Jasmina Aganovic, president of Mother Dirt, in a statement. “We enable consumers to take control of their relationship with their skin by restoring good bacteria and maintaining a balanced microbiome.”

Mother Dirt’s core technology is based on its “peacekeeper” ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, which it contends thrived on skin for most of human existence, until indoor lifestyles and modern personal care products removed it over the past century. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, according to the company, plays an important role in balancing all dry, oily and sensitive skin types, while improving the look and feel of the skin, promoting normal pH, and helping reduce dependence on conventional products. Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist is a live bacteria spray that repopulates this lost peacekeeper on the skin, while the supporting range of basic daily essentials (Foaming Cleanser, Moisturizer, Shampoo, Body Oil, and Body Wash) are biome-friendly products designed to help maintain beneficial microorganisms on the skin rather than having them wash away.

Mother Dirt is also set to expand its range. As Happi went to press, Mother Dirt was finalizing the launch of a shave “butter,” according to Jennifer Cookson, director of research and product development.

“This shaving product is biome-friendly, contains a high amount of emollients to help reduce potential irritancy that can result with shaving, utilizes surfactants with low irritancy potential, and closely resembles a creamy gel,” she told Happi. 

A new hair care product is also in the works, and Mother Dirt has more launches planned for fiscal 2021, too.

“In the next year we are really looking to evolve our biome-friendly product lineup and leverage much of the learnings we have gained over the past two years,” Cookson said.

Another person looking to leverage knowledge about the microbiome is Paul Schulick, founder of vitamin brand New Chapter (which was sold to Procter & Gamble in 2012). Having left his role at P&G, he’s now set to enter the personal care space with a new skin care brand born from his decades of work and knowledge about supplements and his understanding about the importance of the microbiome.

Schulick said he has long been fascinated with the microbiome, noting that New Chapter was selling probiotics back in the early 1980s.

Schulick’s new company, For The Biome, will debut with a skin care range that’s scheduled to launch sometime this Fall. The range, known as Sentient Skincare, will include powder mask, powder cleanser, face and eye serums, and essence sprays formulated with ingredients from the “5-Kingdom Alchemy”— mushrooms (fungal kingdom), aromatic herbs (botanical kingdom), microalgae-derived astaxanthin (algal kingdom), honey (animal kingdom) and probiotic strains (microbial) kingdom.  The Shield Face Serum, for example, helps protect skin from environmental stress and blue light via astaxanthin, delivering free-radical defense that is to 500 times stronger than vitamin E and 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, according to the brand.

In addition, Schulick’s formulations are also bolstered by two core technologies—CO2 volcanic extraction and dual-stage fermentation, he said.

“It was an obvious segue to go from gut health to skin health,” he told Happi in a phone interview over the summer about his new venture.

Skin Health

Knowledge about the role of the microbiome is expanding, and this will advance products that address skin issues such as eczema and acne, say experts.

I love how research is progressing in acne and eczema at the moment,” said Drago. “I can’t wait to see the dermatology products arriving on the market—it’s going to rewrite everything we know about treatment for these disease: from antibacterial to probacterial care.”

At the 2019 World Congress of Dermatology in Milan, Burt’s Bees presented a poster on “Effect of Topical Skin Care Products on the Structure and Diversity of Human Skin Microbiome,” by a team led by Hemali Gunt, PhD, head of clinical and scientific affairs. According to the poster, results suggest that topically applied extracts, lysates, ferments and prebiotics may modulate the microbiome and have distinctive effect of the skin microbiome and sebum excretion rate, depending on desired skin benefits. In the one-week clinical study, subjects were treated twice daily with one of four prebiotic or probiotic-containing formulations to determine their impact on desired skin benefits. One formulation increased diversity, while two others did not alter pre-existing diversity but increased sebum excretion, according to Burt’s Bees.

Based in Paris, Laboratoire Synbionyme has introduced five probiotic skin care products into the US market—Universal Serum, Radiance Moisturizing Gel-Cream, 24-Hour Moisturizing Cream, Enzymatic Clarifying Lotion and Progena Lift Cream.

“The skin is home to millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses termed microbiota. We have two categories of commensals microbes living on the skin—resident microbes which enhance and stimulate our immunity; and transient microbes which come from another part of the body or the environment,” said Dr. Michel Bohbot, CEO. “This population of microbes is living in symbiosis with our skin and maintains a balance, so our immune system is not alerted. If the balance breaks (dysbiosis), which can happen anytime because of environmental assaults, inflammation starts in the skin, causing tissue damage and accelerating skin aging.”

According to Bohbot, to maintain the balance of the skin microbiota, Synbionyme works with a “synbiotic complex” (a combination of prebiotic and probiotic extract) that stops inflammation on the skin and restores the balance of skin microbiota.

Synbionyme’s products are fueled by its “Pro-B3” proprietary formula comprised of prebiotics, probiotic extract and Omegas 3, 6 and 9. The probiotic extract comes from the cell wall of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast) and the Omega 3,6, and 9 come from linen seed oil. These prebiotics and probiotic extracts are said to restore equilibrium to the three essential skin barriers: the outer skin, the immune system and the microbiota. The firm’s R&D team took two years to develop Pro-B3, which helps restore, balance and reinforce these barriers.  

Another key parameter is the formulation’s pH, according to Bohbot.

“The pH of the products is fixed to maintain the acidic coat of the skin, which is very important to maintain the microbiota balance,” he said.

Joyome is another brand addressing the correlation between skin health and a balanced microbiome.

“Most skin care regiments assume clean healthy skin requires eradication of bacteria on the skin, utilizing strong soaps and detergents as the foundation for skin health. This is an outdated concept of skin health that doesn’t consider the contributions of our commensal skin bacteria to keep bacterial overgrowth in check, as well as helping to maintain a healthy skin pH, which is quite low compared to other regions of the body,” said Mike Rogowski, senior nutritional scientist at Plexus Worldwide, the Scottsdale-based company behind Joyome.

Joyome’s two-step system (Illuminating Day Serum and Intensive Overnight Repair) features the company’s Microbiome Balancing Complex, which helps replenish the skin barrier.

According to Rogowski, the complex “provides prebiotic fiber and botanicals to help give a leg up to helpful commensal skin bacteria which are associated with strong skin moisture barrier integrity and antagonize the less than desirable strains of skin bacteria that contribute to skin irritation. Despite our inadvertent efforts to scrub it off, the skin microbiome will regenerate on its own—Joyome’s Microbiome Balancing Complex was designed to help the skin microbiome come back stronger with the right microbes rather than relying solely on a cleansing regiment that doesn’t address potentially underlying microbiome imbalances that can contribute to unhealthy looking skin.” 

The complex is fueled by polyphenols from cranberry, protocatechuic acid (a polyphenol metabolite in fruits and vegetables), and short chain fructo-oligosaccharides, according to Rogowski.

“This complex was developed based on testing a large number of different permutations of ingredients and taking the one that demonstrated the best added growth benefit to skin commensal strains originally derived from human skin samples. Additionally, we include beta-glucans, which demonstrated anti-adherent properties to some non-commensal skin bacteria,” he said.

Joyome last month expanded its roster of products with a new Multi-Action Collagen Complex.

“It was a natural step for the brand because as you age, your body’s natural ability to produce collagen slows, leading to crow’s feet, expression lines and wrinkles—so it was important to offer an age-defying product that helps tackle one of the root causes of visible aging which takes place under the surface,” said Rogowski.

What’s To Come

Scientists and stakeholders will no doubt dig deeper into the role of microbiome in 2020 and beyond.

For example, Rogowski said he’s interested in skin microbiome shifts related to aging.

“We don’t know enough to establish a cause and effect relationship, but aged skin appears to be associated with depletion of healthful skin commensals, which suggest remediation of the skin microbiome is a promising means of reducing or possibly reversing skin aging,” he said.

Cookson of Mother Dirt agrees that there’s much more to explore.

“I’ve recently been looking into biofilm formation and the implication of biofilms in skin diseases. Novel treatments, such as ‘quorum sensing inhibition’ and the ability to ‘turn off’ biofilm formation has emerged as an exciting new technology,” she said.

“We also see a lot of new ingredients coming on the market. Not only new bacterial ingredients, but existing ingredients tested for their effect on the microbiome. This is great.”

Taking a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats approach, Drago of Gallinée lauded all of the microbiome-related activity that’s taking place in the marketplace—even that which is coming from a competing brand.

She contends the relaunch of a high-profile Lancôme product with emphasis on the microbiome will help pique consumers interest in the role the microbiome plays in their beauty routine.

Lancôme Genefique has also been great for starting the conversation on the skin microbiome,” she said, referencing the relaunch of  Lancôme’s Advanced Génifique Youth-Activating Serum. Bolstered by microbiome science, this iteration of this best-selling serum now contains 10% bifidus prebiotic.

As for where she sees microbiome research heading, the founder of Gallinée pointed to personalization.

“The individuality of the skin microbiome makes it very interesting. You really need to start thinking differently about the way products are created,” Drago said.

For Cookson of Mother Dirt, the market is rife with opportunities, thanks to advancements being made in technology as well as increasing consumer knowledge.

“The probiotic skin care market is estimated to see significant growth and I believe this can be attributed to a combination of the affordability of DNA sequencing and consumer awareness,” she said.
“Consumers have long been aware of the implications of what they put into their body and are growing increasingly aware of the affect and implications of products they put on their bodies.”

Written By  Christine Esposito

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