Nanoparticles have been used in beauty products for some years. As the debate about the safety and desirability of this grows, how is beauty product marketing being influenced?
Is Nano Becoming an Expensive Prefix to Luxury Beauty?
Until recently the use of Nanotechnologies in products has focused on innovation rather than the direct driving of sales. Some beauty companies have invested heavily in scientific research and this has helped their products to achieve popularity by delivering results.
L’Oréal’s Revitalift skincare is one of the most famous nano-engineered creams on the market, and has received a strong following with many celebrity endorsements.
These products have remained accessible in price and have achieved a large following due to their effectiveness. Any nanotechnologies used help the creams out-perform competitors and are not prominently advertised on the box.
More recently a new type of product with a high price tag and the word “nano” on packaging or on related marketing materials has been arriving on the shelves. This use of “nano” emphasizes the products’ high-tech credentials, possibly implying results.
The Chantecaille Nano Gold range of premium skincare combines nanoparticles of gold and silk microfibers.
Dr Brandt’s Time Arrest Range is advertised on a website as containing “a highly effective platinum nano-particle delivery system that works like the skin’s own GPS.”
High-end beauty packaging has a tendency to a glossy, futuristic representation of pure luxury. On the shelves and on the dressing table, these products look as expensive as they are. They look as if they will work and in most cases they really do. Anti-ageing needs a buzzword to sell ever more expensive and involved formulas so could nanotechnology be the savior of highly priced skincare?
Will Safety Concerns Over Nanotechnology in Beauty Change Product Marketing?
As reported on Responsiblenanocode.org, in 2006 three bodies came together to focus on “the technical, social and commercial challenges presented by nanotechnologies.” These were The Royal Society, Insight Investment and the Nanotechnoologiy Industries association (NIA).
This process started with a business focused workshop to help industry engage more fully in questions affecting the development of new formulas. The aim was to establish a voluntary code of conduct surrounding the commercial application of nanotechnologies. The briefing paper was presented convincingly and should have persuaded industry to take matters of transparency and ethics in the pursuit of long term profit seriously.
Four years on, whether the beauty industry has signed up to any voluntary code of ethics surrounding the use of nanotechnology is unclear. As a consumer it is difficult to obtain hard facts about which products contain nanoparticles just by asking at the point of sale or reading a sales based website.
Natural Organic Cosmetics and Nanoparticles
Natural cosmetic brands at the moment opt not to use nanoparticles in their formulas. Natural companies trade on an ethical, healthy image and in the advent of a consumer backlash against nanoparticles in cosmetics, companies that have seemed to betray their principles would no doubt be the most condemned. So, natural brands have a commercial as well as ethical interest in staying free from nanoparticles until safety is proven. I asked Elemental Herbology about this and they said, “we believe more study needs to be done to ensure the safety of nanotechnology and therefore don’t currently use it.”
Results driven natural brands include Ren, Nude Skincare, Elemental Herbology, Suki, and Trilogy. Such brands use a high percentage of essential oils and pure plant ingredients. The body absorbs these easily leaving no need to enhance an already efficient delivery system. Raw ingredients that would not be naturally absorbed without nanoencapsulation are not used.
However as yet, consumer interest in this debate is as nano-sized as the particles themselves. So, even these products are not especially marketed as free from nanoparticles. Brand experts in beauty marketing, Ren Skincare feature a printed seal on each product that catalogs absent ingredients. Nanoparticles have yet to make this list. For now any condemnation or proud “free from” is absent from labelling, as is the confirmed presence of nanoparticles in many products containing them. It seems as if the beauty marketing machine as a whole is unsure of the way that public opinion will fall.