Air, Water, Earth – Beauty Innovation and the Elements

January 10, 2012
4 min read

Water Mintel @ incos Asia 2011

At last year’s in-cosmetics Asia, our theme was Air, Water, Earth – Beauty Innovation and the Elements, as we’ve seen beauty companies incorporating oxygen, carbon, special water and other earthly elements as ingredients in 2011. If you didn’t have a chance to visit Mintel’s Beauty & Personal Care team in the Innovation Zone, you can catch up here.


There has been a steady rise in the number of cosmetic products that mention the word oxygen. This has
gone beyond simple use of the term in product names to imply freshness and energy, and now reaches
into the formulation itself.

Mintel’s “Beauty Innovation and the Elements – Air” trend concentrates on products that promise to
deliver oxygen to the skin cells, going beyond more generalised claims of improving oxygenation. The use
of oxygen in delivery systems was started by premium facial skincare brands in the US, Europe and Asia,
but has now been taken up by masstige and mass market brands. Recently, the trend has migrated from facial skincare to bodycare products, but haircare treatments and shower products have also got in on the act.

Similarly, oxygen-related claims are also on the move. The latest crop of oxygen-related claims refer to combating the effects of reactive oxygen species, improving the energy of cutaneous tissues, lasting storage of oxygen in the deeper layers of the skin for controlled energy release, and increasing elasticity, skin brightness and youthfulness.


While Aqua is more often than not the first ingredient to be listed on product labels, the source of the water has come under the spotlight.

This is nothing new in Europe, where brands such as Avene, Vichy and Biotherm have based their comprehensive skincare ranges on thermal spa waters, rich in minerals and oligo elements, which are said to nourish the skin and help it retain its youthfulness. However, newer brands are emerging in Asia which use thermal waters from celebrated Japanese sources.

Coastal waters are also being plumbed for their minerals and trace elements, spearheaded by the algaerich Brittany waters and joined by the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Inland, glacial water is lauded for its purity, while Polynesian lagoons offer up water fortified by coral reefs. Where there’s water, it appears, there’s a way.


At first sight, earth appears an unpromising source for cosmetics. That’s far from the case, however. Muds and clays have traditionally been used by women around the world for detoxifying and cleansing face masks, but now cosmetics companies are carefully selecting green, white or red clays for their particular purifying, protective and anti-ageing properties, searching river beds in the Amazon, the Tuscan countryside and parts of India. More usually seen in facial skincare and bodycare products, muds are now being used to nourish the hair and to add richness and colour to make-up lines.

Volcanoes have come under the spotlight too, recently. Formulators have found a rich seam of skin-vitalising minerals in the muds on the slopes of volcanoes as well as exfoliating and toning sand. These are appearing in premium skin and bodycare products as well as spa brands.

Carbon is also in focus. After a brief initial flurry of activity, manufacturers shied away from fullerenes in the face of consumer anxiety, but Asian brands have brought them back into the spotlight, and Western brands are now following suit. Initially selected for their powerful anti-free radical activity, fullerenes are now being combined with whitening ingredients and high-tech actives such as EGF (epidermal growth factor) and stem cell extracts to present global anti-ageing skincare. Most recently, fullerenes are riding the BB wave, adding an extra touch of skin conditioning, while claiming to combat the appearance of dark spots in other formulations.

Visit our website to find out more about Mintel’s Beauty & Personal Care.

Ina Woitalla
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