Redefining the Gold Standard for Skin Hydration

Interview with Mathias Fleury,
Head of Category – Actives at Givaudan Active Beauty

Hyaluronic acid is considered the hydration champion for skincare. Why did you decide to try to improve it?

Dehydrated skin represents one of the major skincare concerns for global consumers, with market demand for products with moisturising and hydration benefits continuing to increase. According to Mintel, more than 70% of product launches in the face care market in recent years claim moisturising benefits. Meanwhile, our research reveals that “hydrate and nourish” is the benefit most desired by women when looking for beauty products. Consumers of all ages and genders also want access to products that harness the potential of “hero ingredients”. Hyaluronic acid (HA), especially, is such a beauty blockbuster in the minds of consumers that 87% seek out products that include it.

But, while consumers recognise and have confidence in the ability of HA-based products to hydrate and moisturise the skin, they want these benefits to last longer. Likewise, existing HA formulations can only deliver hydration benefits when used in leave-in products. We wanted to find a way to supercharge and enhance the power of HA in leave-in beauty products and deliver its amazing properties in rinse-off formulas, too. 

How did you approach this challenge, and what did you discover?

Our White Biotechnology Centre of Excellence in Pomacle, France has been involved in HA research and development since the early 1990s. Drawing on their long-standing experience and know-how, our Active Beauty experts investigated ways to improve the known benefits of third-generation HA by adapting its chemical structure. 

The skin’s surface holds a negative charge, so it attracts and retains positively charged molecules. We knew that if we could switch HA’s negative charge to a positive one (through cationisation), we could improve its skin adhesion capabilities. To optimise efficacy, we began to play with the balance between HA’s molecular weight and the degree of cationisation.

One surprising discovery in our research was that a shorter polymer chain (or lower molecular weight) was able to deliver greater hydration benefits and more optimal skin coverage, as compared to higher molecular weight (HMW) forms of HA. HMW HA is less accessible for cationisation, whereas rather low molecular weight can reach a higher cationisation degree, offering the best structure and performance for skin adhesion. This discovery enabled us to craft a unique ingredient, PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+], with a low molecular weight and a high cationisation degree.  

How does PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] work, and what makes it so exciting?

Thanks to its new chemistry, PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] strongly binds to the skin, delivering measurable biological benefits in terms of optimal skin coverage, barrier function improvement and intense moisturisation. At a dosage of only 0.1%, our analysis shows that the product provides instant hydration in a single application, reinforces skin barrier function by increasing lipid and protein production, and delivers long-term hydration with prolonged use. 

When used in leave-on products, PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] outperforms standard HA hydration benefits by at least a factor of two. Equally impressively, these benefits are maintained for up to four days after stopping the treatment. And that’s not all: our studies also show that PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] is similarly efficacious when used in rinse-off products.

How have you established these claims?

To test efficacy, we undertook several evaluations (ex vivo) of PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] applied at 0.1% in different formats mimicking rinse-off or leave-on conditions. The studies measured skin adhesion properties, barrier function and skin hydration, demonstrating improvements in each case. These included a significant boost of skin water content in rinse-off (up to +67% compared to other HA grades) and leave-on conditions (up to +95% versus HMW HA).

In addition, we undertook several double-blind versus placebo clinical evaluations to test hydration improvements. Among other positive findings, these studies showed +11% instant gratification after a single use (shower gel), x2.6 flash hydration improving over time (lotion), and +100% moisturisation boost and improvement of skin barrier function after a single application (face mask). Additional results revealed significant increases in the content of lipids and proteins in the skin (up to +21%), the thickness of the stratum corneum (up to +30%) and total water content (up to +41%), each lasting for up to four days after the last application.

Finally, we undertook a home usage test with 120 volunteers (male and female). It established that PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] not only triggers perceptible benefits to consumers at the clinical dosage, but also when used three times lower (0.03%). Volunteers were able to perceive the hydration improvements to the extent that they also reported a willingness to pay twice the price for products with such benefits compared to the products of their usual routine!

How did you measure the accuracy of this perceived benefit? 

We evaluated satisfaction using a new implicit finger-tracking movement technology to ensure accuracy and overcome bias. The technology captured users’ gut feelings by measuring finger movement and reaction time, producing a more granular, discriminating and accurate analysis by eliminating the risk of false positive/negative reporting. 

Without knowing that the formula contained HA, 79% of users reported the shower gel had increased hydration (82% at the clinical dosage, 76% at the lower dosage): “After using the shower gel,
I felt my skin [as] hydrated as if I had used body lotion”, remarked one volunteer.

What’s next for PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+]?

Givaudan has created two inspiring marketing concepts to bring PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] to market. For rinse-off application, S3D® HydraSplash Shower, an in-shower cream, combines 0.1% PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] with BisaboLife® and aloe vera LG Veragel, replacing the need for body cream after showering. For leave-on application, S3D® HydraSpash Mask is a sheet mask made with 100% degradable fabric (containing 0.1% PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+], Masknyl™ and Chamomile LG) that hydrates, brightens, soothes and repairs the skin after a single application.

These two concepts are designed to help our customers support global consumer demand for skincare products with increased moisturising and hydration. By offering a new HA gold standard for face and body care, PrimalHyal™ Hydra[+] will enable them to deliver never-before-seen benefits to the skin and expand the limits of skincare hydration in rinse-off products, too.

To find out more, visit our website.

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