If the sea air strongly enhances the development of marine cosmetics, in particular through extensive research and the formulation of new, ultra-powerful actives, the breeze may well intensify, and winds may become even more favourable. Indeed, new markets are opening downstream, and there is a reorganisation in distribution channels.

Demand is getting more diversified

While Asia as a whole - and not only Japan - is culturally favourable to the beneficial effects of seaweed and other natural planktons, many other countries are getting increasingly interested in the sea’s benefits, including when they are available in the form of skincare creams. The claim of naturalness remains key to enter the market, in particular in Brazil and China, whereas people in Russia are more sensitive to fast efficacy promises.

As for French brands, it is both the origins of the Label France and the historical expertise in thalassotherapy that make a difference. Thalgo’s growth mostly comes from exports. The brand is now present in 90 countries thanks to the development of their spas and day-spas. Similarly, Phytomer has achieved a two-digit growth over the past two years, with 75 % of their turnover resulting from exports, and a presence in 80 countries.

The professional channel of beauty salons and thalassotherapy centres in France remains the main path to reach women consumers. “There is this idea that consumers are actually discovering the benefits of marine cosmetics, because these are not necessarily a first choice,” sums up Stéphanie Leclere, of the Bio Carnac brand.

Nevertheless, distribution channels could get more diversified and gradually include selective counters, which are still poorly supplied in this type of products. “Marine cosmetics could be a growth-driver much beyond the professional channel, and it would definitely have its own place in selective ones because it has a truly different offer,” explain managers at Daniel Jouvance. The brand has been suffering from the decline of distance selling, its original channel, and is thinking about entering the retail business. They have had the same idea at Algotherm. “Although the relationship with consumers is closer in beauty salons, we are gradually opening up to pharmacy and healthcare networks,” highlights Angélique Labbé, Product Development Manager for Algotherm.

Efforts in communication

The sector of marine cosmetics should be able to both rely on and give more value to its own differences. If it benefits from a favourable image, it does remain quite unknown to the public. “Deep abysses, skin dehydration… the sea both scares and attracts people. It’s up to us to explain and reassure them, as well as to come up with the right, convincing and differentiating arguments”, affirms Laure Courpotin, Marketing Director at Daniel Jouvance. “It’s up to us to make our microalgae more ‘glamorous’.” And this is exactly what the Breton brand is working on: at their customers’ request, they are now trying to add shapes and colours to these micro-elements in communication documents.

Reluctance also comes from the quality of seawaters, and therefore of the ingredients derived from the ocean. This new concern results from the massive discharge of all kinds of pollutants all around the world.

Manufacturers have been multiplying promises of meticulous sourcing to guarantee raw materials were taken or grown in the purest waters. At Thalgo, a brand that has otherwise undertaken to adopt environmentally friendly practices, actives are sourced according to the results of a scanning operation carried out to spot the most relevant areas, and are thus selected for their quality. Bio Carnac and Algotherm draw their own materials from the Iroise Sea, a world reserve of biosphere labelled by UNESCO, where the concentration in ions and minerals is quite high thanks to strong currents. Similarly to Daniel Jouvance, Phytomer has been working on the culture of marine microorganisms. “We manage to make microorganisms work in such a way that they can reproduce their active molecules in laboratory conditions, and all this is done using green methods,” explains Mathilde Lagarde, of Phytomer.

Apart from the quality of raw materials, the sector of marine cosmetics also makes more and more commitments in relation to environmental protection. Algotherm’s newest solar range Algosun is the latest example of this trend: it protects the skin while preserving the ocean’s ecosystems. According to brand managers, 25,000 tons of sun creams are spread across the oceans every year, which threatens coral reefs and marine species. Therefore Algotherm has developed a partnership with French magazine Thalassa to raise public awareness of the toxicity of sun products. They also offer a unique, “Ocean Respect”-labelled line which they guarantee is harmless for the marine environment.

Formulation, distribution, communication… the beauty of the sea is definitely sending promising signals.