Healthcare Cosmetics Cross-sector

Neurocosmetics: those products that speak to our brain

Published on 17 February 2021 Read 25 min

In search of always greater efficiency, the cosmetics and personal care industry is increasingly exploring the field of neuroscience in the hope of identifying and integrating breakthrough innovations. Studies have shown that direct product application to the epidermis influences the condition of the skin and its protective function via the nervous system – this type of product defines neurocosmetics. Alcimed provides an update on the definition of these “neurocosmetics” as well as on the latest innovations both in terms of active ingredients and products.

Neurocosmetics: when the skin talks to the brain

When applying a cream, its texture, its fragrance and its finish on the skin awaken our senses. Studies (Institute of Personal Care Science (Australia), Harvard Medical School (US)) show that these generated emotions have a significant impact on the condition of the skin, in particular on its natural protective function and on its ability to defend itself against external aggressions.

Research from the field of neuroscience, studying the links between the brain and the nervous system, has been of interest to the cosmetics industry for a long time. For example, Lancôme teams have been studying the brain’s response to emotions triggered by the application of a cosmetic product for the past twenty years.

Today, neuroscience is not only used to assessing the benefits of a product. Current research includes the development of products that directly stimulate communication between the nervous system and the skin, ultimately reaching the brain. Neurocosmetics therefore relate to any products which can be applied to the skin exerting a direct action on the epidermis and linked to an influence in the nervous system. This action can be soothing or stimulating, reduce inflammatory reactions or modulating certain receptors.

Towards new neuroactive ingredients for neurocosmetics

Many players in the cosmetics and personal care industry are embarking on an exploration journey in the field of neuroscience.

For example, in 2018 Shiseido’s scientific teams developed a range of moisturizers. With an innovative texture based on microspheres and an extract of ashitaba, a Japanese plant, ReNeura technology improves the transmission of skin nerve signals and blocks the effects that slow down their proper functioning.

At the beginning of 2019, Givaudan launched Sensityl, a new cosmetic active ingredient resulting from biotechnology work on microalgae. This active shows a strong positive impact on mood and on the general condition of the skin, by acting on the microbiome and on the cutaneous inflammatory pathways.

The ExpoZen compound, offered by Greentech, is a phytobioactive that protects the skin against attacks involving neurosensory dysfunction. Mibelle Biochemistry’s SensAmone P5 active ingredient, inspired by work on the properties of sea anemone venom, relieves discomfort in sensitive and reactive skin. ExpoZen and SensAmone P5 derive their soothing and protective properties from direct actions on Substance P and TRPV-1 receptors, well known in neuroscience.

CODIF’s Neuroguard ingredient has a protective action on the nerves in the skin, maintaining good neuron-fibroblast communication to fight against aging and established wrinkles. Skin treatments with a global action are even developed, combining actives with neurocosmetic and genetic protective effects, such as the rejuvenating treatment program Total Infinity by Casmara.

An infinite range of opportunities for neurocosmetics

The nervous physiology of the skin, very complex, is still far from having revealed all its secrets. The skin would contain no less than 800,000 neurons, 11 meters of nerves and around 200 sensory receptors per cm². The potential of the skin for applications in neuroscience, and in neurocosmetics, opens up a wide field of possible applications.

Scientific progress in neuroscience makes it possible to better understand the links between the nervous system, the brain and skin health. These active ingredients, which communicate with the brain, are fascinating research and development teams in the cosmetics industry, which, beyond skin care, seek to better define its synergistic role with conventional medical treatments.

About the autor
Elodie, Senior Consultant in Alcimed’s Chemicals & Maeterials team in France

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