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The Solution Swarm

With inflammatory skin concerns on the rise, brands respond with a slew of treatment-based and over-the-counter products.

With inflammatory skin and scalp conditions on the rise, brands, both mass and prestige, are responding with a slew of over-the-counter stock keeping units and solution-based products. 

According to the Global OTC Topical Drugs Market 2022 report, the global over-the-counter market is expected to reach $70.4 billion by 2028. The report cites growing skin concerns and increased spending on health and wellness as key drivers for the category. 

Mintel also reported consumers have shifted from being reactive to proactive, adding products to their routine to avoid a greater issue or flare up later on, adding to the category’s overall growth and brand’s increased commitment to developing solutions. 

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This growing market comes on the heels of growing inflammatory skin and scalp concerns, including psoriasis, eczema, dandruff and keratosis pilaris. When it comes to chronic skin conditions, dermatologist Dr. Naana Boakye cites cosmeceuticals, OTCs and prescriptions as available treatments. For a chronic skin condition, she recommends “ingredients that are going to help maintain the condition and help control the condition.”

Seborrheic dermatitis, commonly known as dandruff, affects 50 percent of people globally, according to the International Journal of Trichology. For many years, the category has been dominated by homogenous drugstore brands. However, now, more prestige brands like Ouai and Klorane are entering the category to offer solutions to what was once considered a taboo hair concern.

After launching its bestselling Detox Shampoo, $30, Ouai received an influx of direct messages on Instagram asking if the formula would help with dandruff. While the product couldn’t address these issues, the brand recognized there was a need and set out to create their own solution-based over-the-counter shampoo.

“We took a trip to the drugstore. We noticed that nothing was really aesthetically pleasing. Nothing smelled great. Nothing, texture-wise, felt great. We were like, ‘OK, we can do more than drugstore,’” said Diana Pratasiewicz Barnao, director of education at Ouai. “We knew we needed to do an OTC because the ingredients that have proved to be effective are ones that are regulated by the FDA.” 

In creating the new shampoo, $36, the brand combined the typical ingredients found in an over-the-counter dandruff solution with Ouai’s minimalistic packaging, luxe texture and spa-like scent. 

Klorane took a different root when tackling dandruff, with an all-natural shampoo, $24, developed with galangal, which it claims can remove dandruff four times faster than zinc pyrithione, an ingredient traditionally used in OTCs. It also employs lactic acid, a popular ingredient for chronic conditions like dandruff and keratosis pilaris. 

Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, affects 16.5 million adults, and the prevalence in children has grown from 8 percent to 15 percent since 1997, as reported by the National Eczema Association. Its research shows consumers are willing to spend, with more than 42 percent reporting spending $1,000 or more on management therapies per year. Brands like Skinfix are known for offering more premium solutions to the skin concern, while brands like Eczema Honey dominate innovation within the mass market. 

“We realize that customers are wanting simplicity and good-for-you, easy to pronounce ingredients in their products. We presented a natural solution to a problem typically resolved via steroids,” said Eczema Honey founder and chief executive officer Minesh Patel. 

Skinfix has paved the way for prestige when it comes to chronic skin conditions with its solution-focused lines, including Eczema+, Acne+, Barrier+, Remedy+ and Resurface+. At the heart of it all is the eczema collection, which kickstarted the brand and now includes five skus. The Targeted Body Balm, $26, a hero product, packed with colloidal oatmeal, sweet almond oil and zinc oxide, is clinically proven to be as effective as a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for treating eczema. With full ranges of skin solutions, the brand has carved out a niche within the prestige market, most notably with its Sephora partnership. 

“The fact that we are so focused on problem-solution and therapeutics is the reason Sephora wanted us to begin with, because I think they really felt, and the success of Skinfix would illustrate that they were correct, that there was demand for therapeutics in the Sephora environment,” said founder and CEO of Skinfix Amy Gordinier

Skinfix’s Resurface+ line addresses another common skin condition, keratosis pilaris, which affects 50 to 80 percent of teenagers and 40 percent of adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The line employs alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids to exfoliate the skin, sloughing away bumps and rough patches. 

Several Skinfix’s products are ultra-hydrating with peptides and barrier-boosting ingredients that can help treat psoriasis, which impacts more than 8 million adults in the U.S., according to a 2021 report from JAMA Dermatology. 

For Gordinier, expanding the solution-based category is important in order to not only address people’s needs, but to normalize the conversation around previously taboo skin conditions. 

“It’s not something to be ashamed of,” Gordinier said. “It’s helpful to have it…be part of the beauty experience, ultimately. Healthy skin is what we’re all after, and that’s part of the whole beauty journey.”

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Murad Eczema Collection, $42-54

Murad Eczema Collection

This month, Murad launched its new eczema collection, which includes three skus, the Soothing Oat and Peptide Cleanser, the Quick Relief Colloidal Oatmeal Treatment and the Daily Defense Colloidal Oatmeal Cream. The products were developed to address eczema safely on the face, around the eyes and on the body. 

Ouai Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, $36

Ouai Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

With 2 percent salicylic acid and propanediol caprylate, Ouai’s new shampoo addresses the symptoms of dandruff, while also sloughing away the bacteria on the scalp that causes the condition. 

Eczema Honey Original Skin Soothing Cream, $29.95

Eczema Honey Original Skin Soothing Cream

Eczema Honey’s bestselling Skin-Soothing Cream, which is approved by the National Eczema Association, combines traditional eczema combattant colloidal oatmeal with honey to address the condition and leave skin nourished.

Klorane Flaky Scalp Balancing Shampoo with Galangal, $24

Klorane Flaky Scalp Balancing Shampoo with Galangal

Klorane’s new Flaky Scalp Balancing Shampoo is infused with galangal to loosen and remove dandruff flakes and lactic acid to exfoliate the scalp. The new galangal collection also includes a twice-weekly exfoliating mask to further address the symptoms of a flaky scalp. 

Soft Services, $26-58

Soft Services product line.

Soft Services launched in 2021 in an effort to create solutions for body skin concerns, such as keratosis pilaris and ingrown hairs. Several of the brand’s products are formulated with high levels of alpha hydroxy acids to address these conditions.

Topicals Like Butter Mask, $34

Topicals series A
Topicals’ Like Butter mask. Photo courtesy of Topicals

Topicals, which closed a $10 million Series A fund this November, was founded by Olamide Olowe with the goal to address chronic skin conditions. “Topicals is built around creating authentic and positive conversations and a community around living with a skin condition,” Olowe previously told WWD. With the category expanding, Topicals is purported to be the fastest growing skin care brand at Sephora with products that can help with keratosis pilaris, hyperpigmentation, ingrown hairs and eczema-prone skin.