This week, I take a look at the skin-care supplements category, which purports to be the next generation of inner-outer beauty products. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
In the ongoing pursuit of perfecting inner-outer beauty routines, oral skin-care supplements are poised to lead the next generation of products.
Since 2020, there have been several skin-care supplements introduced to the U.S. market that promise to assist in acne-free, anti-aging or generally glowing beauty regimens. Brands include Murad, Embody, The Nue Co. and Dr. Barbara Sturm, to name a few. These supplements, typically in capsule or gummy vitamin form, go beyond the collagen and biotin ingredients that have been popular over the last decade to include other ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and retinol typically found in topical skin-care products.
The most recent entrant into the space is Ritual, the vitamin brand known for its attention to a traceable ingredient supply chain. On May 2, Ritual launched its first skin-care supplement called HyaCera, containing ceramides and hyaluronic acid for skin hydration. A 30-day supply retails for $54. According to previous Glossy reporting, Ritual earned more than $100 million in sales in 2021.
“We were paying attention to this space because it’s something our customer was asking for. Broadly [speaking], topical and ingestible [beauty] are some of the first things that come up when we do our insights work with our existing customer base,” said Kat Schneider, founder and CEO of Ritual. “All different ages are looking for slightly different things [from beauty supplements], but what unified everyone was the [need and desire] for hydration from the inside out.”
Starting three months ago, Ritual sent free HyaCera to influencer partners, podcast partners, media contacts and affiliate partners. Justin Fredlender, vp of growth at Ritual, said the brand has built a content creator program over the past three years and currently works with 200-300 people monthly. In the first week of the launch, it will activate paid social, influencer partners and affiliate marketing. About a month later, podcast ads will begin, including podcast host promotions. Fredlender said the marketing campaign was a “significant investment,” but declined to share specific figures or percentages.
“There’s going to be a lot of education that’s needed. [Our work has] centered around how to best educate the consumer, not only on the product benefits but also on the way somebody should incorporate this product into their skin-care routine,” he said.
Aside from product sales, Ritual is also tracking what percentage of new customers come to its DTC e-commerce site to shop HyaCera exclusively. Fiel Valdez, vp of creative at Ritual, said she is particularly interested in viewing customer sentiment in response to this new product category. Assets of the campaign include three models: an older woman, a younger woman and a plus-size Black woman.
“Our campaign has a lot of attitude, so we’re hoping it connects culturally,” she said.
Though skin-care supplements may be a novelty in the U.S., like almost any other beauty trend, it took off in Asia years prior. A 2015 story from The Cut pointed out that ingestible collagen was available for two decades in Asia prior to its emergence as a supplement in the U.S. According to Grand View Research, the global women’s health and beauty supplements market was worth $53.4 billion in 2022, and it’s expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 5.1% between 2023 and 2030. And the Asia Pacific region had the largest market share in 2022, with 38.8% of sales. Grand View Research further pointed out that the beauty supplements segment, sometimes called nutricosmetics, is expected to see a significant annual growth rate over the forecast period. The study found that 90% of female beauty consumers in the U.S. currently consume a daily vitamin and/or mineral for general health purposes. Of course, Covid-19 likely contributed to the interest in beauty supplements, as well, as people flocked to products to support their health and improve their beauty routines.
“We look to Korean skin-care trends all the time; we know that [skin supplements] are happening in several Asian countries, and we took inspiration from that, knowing that Asian skin-care trends take off 3-5 years [later in the West],” said Ginny Chien, CMO of Murad. “This absolutely influenced our view as to whether or not we should launch our three supplements.”
In June 2022, Murad launched its set of three supplements, which include a Bright & Even supplement, an anti-acne Clear Skin supplement and an anti-aging Youth Renewal supplement. Each 30-day supply sells for $45-$55 on Murad.com exclusively. Murad put its final formulated products through clinical testing with select results published on the brand’s website.
“Supplement [sales] have taken off since the explosion of wellness coincided with the pandemic,” said Chien. “But we did recognize that taking skin supplements isn’t necessarily intuitive consumer behavior just yet, so we purposely made this a Murad.com exclusive.”
Because it is a dot-com exclusive, the supplements are always featured within Murad’s digital advertising in order to drive people to its e-commerce site. They’re also frequently included within Murad’s owned social channels, since they exemplify the inside-outside beauty approach the brand has sought to emphasize in recent years. Supplements are also included within exclusive DTC e-commerce bundles. Chien declined to share specific sales details around the supplements but said that sales are fairly evenly split amongst the three. Additionally, she confirmed there are additional supplements and formats that will launch, likely in the next two years.
One of the biggest issues facing the skin-care supplements space and its popularity is efficacy, as supplements have long been derided for poor data and evidence to support that they perform and perform well. Yet, the space is prime for large exits and big returns. Unilever acquired Olly Nutrition in 2019 for an undisclosed price, while Nestlé bought The Bountiful Company for $5.75 billion in 2021.
“Evidence on the benefits of systemic therapy [in skin aging] is limited for several reasons: reliance on mostly small and predominantly female samples, short study durations, methodologic heterogeneity, and a lack of consensus on which outcome measures are clinically relevant,” wrote the authors of a 2022 paper from the University of Barcelona. “Oral hydrolyzed collagen and oral hyaluronic acid are well tolerated, and numerous clinical trials show they can mitigate some signs of skin aging.”
Five studies conducted between 2015 and 2021 with milligram dosages of hyaluronic acid of 120-450 milligrams a day for 4-12 weeks showed varying levels of skin improvement. For example, one 2021 double-blind, randomized controlled trial of 60 people using 200 milligrams a day of oral hyaluronic acid for 28 days showed significantly increased skin hydration and elasticity, and objectively decreased trans-epidermal water loss and facial wrinkles. Sixty-three percent of the participants reported a decrease in facial wrinkles and 90% an increase in elasticity.
The skin contains 50% of the body’s hyaluronic acid, which is synthesized by keratinocytes and fibroblasts. Hyaluronic acid regulates the water balance and maintains the skin structure. Its rate of absorption depends on the molecular weight. In the case of Ritual, it is using 120 milligrams of lower molecular weight hyaluronic acid. Ritual is conducting a clinical trial on HyaCera, though a completion and publication date is undetermined. Clinical trial costs can range from $100,000 to over $1 million.
“[We’re trying to push the standards of the ingestible skin-care space by marrying clean and clinical, which we’re already seeing in the topical space, but there’s a faster evolution there,” said Schneider.
When it comes to ingestible retinol supplements, the Mayo Clinic reports that “Large doses of oral vitamin A supplements don’t appear to affect acne.” For its final formulation, 3-year-old Embody’s retinol gummy underwent a clinical test focused on more anti-aging benefits. It involved 35 people in a non-randomized, non-controlled interventional treatment study over the course of eight weeks. In the study, which relied on before-and-after pictures to determine efficacy, 83% of participants agreed their skin looked brighter, more hydrated and generally healthier.
Embody launched in 2020 with retinol gummies and also now offers a skin hydration gummy supplement. It plans to launch a skin resiliency gummy in July via a national retailer. Online, customers can subscribe through the brand’s DTC e-commerce to monthly refills for a 10% discount. Currently, 35-40% of customers are subscribers. Chung described Embody’s customers as professional millennial women who seek a time-efficient beauty routine. Embody has been sold through 350 Thirteen Lune shop-in-shops at JCPenney since Oct. 2022.
Retailers have been paying attention to the supplement space, as Moon Juice entered Ulta Beauty in January, Bloom Nutrition joined Target in February, as did Ritual in April.
“We are bridging the gap between topical skin-care products and internal nourishment in a way that people can understand. Retailers see this, and [instead of] putting us in the supplement aisle, we are where topical products are,” said Jenn Chung, founder of Embody. “Women aren’t looking for skin-care products in the supplement section unless they know exactly what they want. We’re trying to [reach] the women who don’t know about beauty supplements yet.”
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