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Bringing the Asian cosmetics markets to greater heights
Once a privilege of elites, beauty products are now accessible and enjoyed by the masses. With many brands in the market, consumers are spoilt for choice and have higher expectations, which cosmetics manufacturers are determined to meet. In their quest for competitive advantage, cosmetics manufacturers have created and proposed various novel product claims that consumers and the industry have grown to embrace, Jessen Curpen tells us more.

Beauty in Asia

One of the fastest growing cosmetics regions, Asia is home to many cosmetics manufacturers, suppliers, and well-informed consumers. According to Statista, Asia’s mass beauty market is projected to grow by nearly USD 14.9 billion in sales between 2016 and 2021[1]. The region’s beauty market produces numerous innovations that spur new demand, like snail cream and BB creams — recent Asian beauty and skincare trends that have held their own and taken the industry (and rest of the world) by storm.

Perhaps the most discerning of consumers, Asians tend to pay a lot more attention to their skincare routine, and use a lot more skincare products than their Western counterparts. Undeterred, the Asian beauty industry is rising to the challenge by churning out beauty products at an unprecedented rate.

As the modern Asian consumer takes on more responsibilities and roles — from managing one’s career to looking after the family — multifunctional and multipurpose products continue to gain more traction in Asia. With personal time a scarcity, the consumer requires a convenient beauty and skincare regime that provides multiple benefits, and manufacturers are responding by producing a greater number of products that promise to resolve beauty-related concerns in a brief period of time.

The multifunctional product trend started off with BB creams and cushions that act as a moisturizer, foundation, and sunblock all in one. Today, apart from wanting a bright complexion and evenness in skin tone, the consumer demands their beauty products to offer anti-ageing, anti-pollution, and blue light protection effects.

Anti-pollution and Blue Light: The new trends

According to a report by World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 80% of citizens living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed limits set by WHO [2]. In Asia, over 99% of the urban population in cities like Bangalore, Beijing, Karachi, New Delhi, and Shanghai are exposed to atmospheric particulate matter, specifically PM2.5, at concentrations higher than recommended levels.

As anti-pollution awareness increases, consumer demand for anti-pollution products follows suit. In Asia, anti-pollution cosmetics and skincare products have seen rapid growth in sales as concern over the harmful effects of pollution rises amongst the growing middle-income class.

A study conducted by L’Oreal [3] revealed that urban pollution — especially atmospheric particulate matter like PM2.5 and PM10 — is a major threat to skin health. Coated with heavy metals, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other contaminants, these fine pollution particles are capable of entering deep layers of skin upon contact. These particles induce the release of free radicals and then cause the breakdown of collagen and elastin. Pollutants are also known to cause premature skin ageing such as cellular damage, dryness, inflammation, and pigmentation.

Similarly, exposure to infrared light and intense visible light from electronic devices like smartphones and laptops is likely to have an adverse impact on the skin. When skin is exposed to these harmful rays, oxidative stress takes place, contributing to premature skin ageing and skin pigmentation. So, as the use of electronic devices steadily increases, cosmetics manufacturers all over the world are taking steps to develop products that offer more than simply ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection[4].

For decades, sunscreens have been tested to show their efficacy in protecting the skin against UVA and UVB components of sunlight. Solar simulators and filters are set in place to mimic UVA and UVB, to determine the Sun Protection Factor against UVB (SPF) and the UVA Protection Factor (UVA-PF) of sunscreen.

However, various recent research works have shown that Blue Light, particularly in wavelengths between 400nm and 470nm, have significant cutaneous pigmentation effects [5].Other studies have also shown that the use of sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection does not completely protect the skin against hyperpigmentation disorders like PIHP and Melasma, and some scientists believe that the cause may be pigmentation induced by blue light.[6] Some cosmetics manufacturers are already marketing products that shield the skin against High Energy Visible (HEV) light, as the demand for such claims are expected to be on the rise in the coming years.

Role of CROs in substantiating claims

As consumers grow increasingly aware of the ingredients and benefits that cosmetic products claim to offer, more and more attention will inevitably fall on the products’ substantiation claims. For products with anti-pollution and blue light protection claims, the industry faces a challenge — the absence of a standard protocol to substantiate these claims of protection against pollution and blue light.

For example, cosmetics products with anti-pollutant benefits claim to play one or more of these essential roles in fighting pollution:

  • Prevent pollutants from adhering to the skin surface, i.e., act as a barrier
  • Remove pollutants from the skin (e.g. cleansing gels, toners, and mechanical cleansers)
  • Reduce the detrimental impact of pollutants while simultaneously regenerating the skin. Such products usually contain a high concentration of anti-oxidants (to neutralise free radicals) and anti-inflammatory agents (to fight against skin inflammation).

The real challenge cosmetic manufacturers now face is to objectively show that their product truly protects the skin against the harmful effects of air pollution and blue light. Moreover, as with any cosmetics claim substantiation, consumers must be able to perceive and observe the beneficial effects of the product.

To help prove that their products do protect the skin against air pollution and blue light, cosmetics manufacturers can work with independent Contract Research Organisations (CROs) like CIDP to evaluate their products and the corresponding ingredients and raw materials used. CROs will also be able to help manufacturers determine the efficacy of their products, or assist in formulating new products with innovative, natural active ingredients that are complete with claims substantiation support, and that fall in line with the industry’s latest trends. Cosmetics manufacturers can then ensure that their products stand out in a competitive and saturated market.

Substantiating claims with innovative protocols

Another way to objectively substantiate the anti-pollution and blue light protection claims is to engage an independent CRO to conduct efficacy tests, whether through in vivo, in vitro or ex vivo skin models. By exposing the skin to defined and controlled concentrations of ambient dust, ozone, UVA, and UVB, researchers can then demonstrate the efficacy of a given cosmetic product or ingredient.

A good CRO should offer cosmetics manufacturers a solid claims substantiation study that includes both biophysical and biochemical evaluation, to objectively demonstrate potential effectiveness of cosmetic products on biomarkers, and the biophysical properties of the skin.

Typically, anti-pollution efficacy studies set out to evaluate the protective and repairing efficacy of a cosmetic product against the detrimental impact of pollutants on the skin, such as oxidative stress triggered by pollutants, and various ageing and inflammatory effects of pollutants.

In an in vivo clinical protocol, researchers use a specially developed pollution exposure system to administer controlled exposure to pollutants like ozone and ambient particles. Features such as online monitoring and real-time control of the concentration and flux of different pollutants give researchers total control over various parameters. Through these tests, CROs help cosmetics manufacturers to evaluate the protective and repairing efficacy of a product against the detrimental impact of pollutants on the skin, comparing results of standard conditions vs. real polluted conditions with biomarker, biophysical, and photographic evaluations. Such efficacy studies can also be done in ex vivo or in vitro models, depending on the manufacturer’s needs.

Separately, CROs can help evaluate blue light protection claims using a calibrated blue light source to investigate the effect that it has on the skin. In these efficacy studies, researchers look at how beauty products protect against the oxidative stress triggered by blue light, observing the pigmentation, ageing, and inflammatory effects on the skin. Depending on manufacturers’ needs, these tests can be conducted in vivo, ex vivo, or in vitro, with researchers providing various types of evaluations (e.g. biomarkers, colorimetric measurements, etc.) from test results.

For instance, CIDP recently worked with a global pharmaceutical company to conduct in vivo efficacy studies for a number of anti-pollution and anti-ageing products. A group of participants in New Delhi (under real, polluted conditions) were compared against another group of participants in Mauritius (control group, simulated exposure). CIDP also conducted an in vivo anti-pollution efficacy study in Singapore to substantiate a long-term claim on some newly developed makeup products from a Japanese multinational personal care company. The exact set-up of any given study is entirely dependent on the manufacturer’s needs, and can be tailored to suit specific requirements.

As cosmetics manufacturers continue to respond to consumers’ ever-evolving needs, the industry will see even more product launches in the cosmetics category of anti-pollution and blue light protection. Manufacturers willing to invest where it matters can reap various benefits from the expertise offered by specialised, independent CROs, from product development planning stages right through to final product launches.


  • Statista, Cosmetics industry worldwide, 2017
  • World Health Organization, Air pollution levels rising in many of the world’s poorest cities, 12 May 2016
  • Euromonitor International, Pollution: A Business Opportunity for Cosmetics Ingredients (Part 1), 14 March 2017
  • Cosmetics Design-Europe, How blue and infrared light affects the skin: the future of antipollution beauty?, 25 Apr 2017
  • Mahmoud, B.H., et al., (2010) Impact of long-wavelength UVA and visible light on melano-competent skin, J. Invest. Dermatol
  • Duteil, L., et al., (2014) Differences in visible light-induced pigmentation according to wavelengths: a clinical and histological study in comparison with UVB exposure, Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 27; 822–0826

About the Author

Jessen Curpen
Biophysics Manager & Head of Clinical Study Design
Centre International de
Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP)

Jessen Curpen is responsible for the development of Clinical Study Designs for CIDP Group. He also leads the CIDP Biophysics and Imaging Committee, which sets up the methodologies for Claims Substantiation of Cosmetic products.

Jessen joined CIDP’s Quality Department in 2009 as Quality Officer and, he acted as the Global Quality Manager of the group before stepping into the Chief Operating Officer role in 2014. In 2016, he moved to the newly created Biophysics Department with the aim of setting up novel study designs for cosmetic trials. Jessen is currently working on new methodologies for substantiating anti-pollution and blue light claims.

Jessen holds a Master’s Degree in Quality Management and a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Chemistry from the University of Mauritius. He also studied Limnology and Geochemistry at the Uppsala University in Sweden.

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