The Emergence and Evolution of Botanicals in Cosmetics

U.S. consumption of botanical actives in personal care products is forecast to reach $168.5 million by 2021, up from $140.5 million in 2016, according to a report from Kline & Company. The rapid and sustained increase suggests that botanicals are not just a trend in cosmetics, but rather, a market that will continue to grow as consumers gravitate toward natural skincare and haircare products.

Ancient Medicine Goes Modern

Humans have been cultivating the medicinal and cosmetic benefits of plants for thousands of years. The Egyptian Ebers Papyrus from 1550 B.C. shows hundreds of herbal formulas and remedies, as does the Charaka Samhita from Ancient India—but the benefits of botanicals are more than folklore. One ethnobotanist explained:

“Between 1990 and 1997, the use of botanical medicines increased by 380 percent in the United States. By 2010, the global retail sale of botanical dietary supplements amounted to more than $25 billion, according to Nutraceuticals World.”

The Cosmetics Industry Catches On

A trigger for the rise in popularity of botanicals might have been an outbreak of mad cow disease that spread in the 1990s. Kline & Company wrote:

“The actives manufacturers gradually substituted animal-derived ingredients with plant-based alternatives. Plant-based ingredients have high efficacy and, at the same time, received positive perception among consumers…”

Likewise, the easy and cost-effective availability of these ingredients gave brands the means to begin mass-producing them in lotions, creams, shampoos, makeup and other cosmetics.

Haves and Have-Nots

There are two types of botanical extracts: substantiated and unsubstantiated. Kline & Company explains:

“The two categories are primarily differentiated on the basis of their efficacy. Substantiated extracts provide excellent efficacy at defined concentrations, whereas unsubstantiated extracts are those which do not have any proven efficacy. Unsubstantiated botanical actives are used in cosmetic formulations for labeling purposes.”

In other words, substantiated extracts contain not only botanical ingredients, but, more importantly, their clinically proven soothing, relieving and other positive effects. Meanwhile, unsubstantiated extracts are relegated to label claims.

Cream of the Crop

The best botanical personal care products combine the allure of exotic, natural ingredients with real health benefits that consumers can see and feel. Unsubstantiated extracts remain inexpensive and widely available. Meanwhile, the movement toward organic and ethically-sourced ingredients further distances substantiated extracts. Sensient Cosmetic Technologies is firmly committed to the latter, with high-quality extracts substantiated by in vitro testing to deliver truly functional actives.

To learn more about bringing botanical actives into your formulations with our proprietary extraction method, contact us.

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