“If I drink this stuff, will I become a beautiful supermodel?” reads an Instagram comment on a post from Kin Euphorics, a line of “mood-boosting” drinks co-founded by Bella Hadid.
Probably not, but Kin Euphorics makes bold claims about its products. The fizzy drinks in pretty cans will “evoke cosmic energy” and “welcome inner peace,” reads the company’s website. Its drinks contain mushrooms, amino acids and nootropics, substances believed to support cognitive functions and creativity.
One flavor, Lightwave, claims to help “transcend stress” and “open a portal to peace” with reishi mushrooms and the amino acid L-theanine. Another, Kin Spritz, is said to increase serotonin and reduce stress “so you can let loose,” according to a Kin Euphorics spokeswoman.
“We say, ‘Feed your spirit. Give yourself a break,” said Jen Batchelor, co-founder and CEO of Kin. “We talk more about how to achieve that feeling of happiness and beauty rather than being very prescriptive about it.”
Kin is part of a thriving category of “functional drinks”, often branded with gradients, pastel colors, nostalgic 1970s logos and non-alcoholic. Poppi, Ruby, Superfrau, Dune Glow Remedy, Droplet, Brighter, Evexia Kafe, Sunwink and De Soi claim that their sodas, juices and tonics can heal you from the inside out with prebiotics, mushrooms, apple cider vinegar, collagen, ginger and antioxidants. , amino acids, nootropics and adaptogens – which is not an accepted scientific term, despite widespread use in the wellness and beverage industries. Some of these ingredients are long-standing home remedies and doctor-recommended supplements. others, like adaptogens, are more dubious in their claims and may amount to little more than marketing.
In any case, the drinks sell out. What can they actually do for you?
The purported benefits include a balanced gut, a relaxed mind, and brighter skin — similar to the promises supplements and topical skincare products have always made. The caveat: These drinks are not regulated by the FDA, and none of the effects have been confirmed by regulatory or trade boards.
Drinks and beauty converge
“When I go to Sephora, it’s all of these products that give me hydrating and anti-aging benefits, and those are the same things you see in those beverage aisles,” said Food and Beverage Forecaster Andrea Hernández. and founder of Snaxshot, a newsletter for trendy sodas, canned wines, dips, cereals and more. “These drinks literally label ‘beauty’ as a function.”
And people will pay for anything perceived as a shortcut to beauty or better health.
Sales of functional beverages increased nearly 16% from November 2020 to November 2021, according to Spins, a data company. It is one of the fastest growing non-alcoholic beverage categories in the United States. Brands like Poppi and Ruby are sold in mainstream supermarkets, including Whole Foods; Erewhon, the California retail chain, is an investor in Barcode.
At the beginning of January, Katy Perry presented De Soi, her sparkling aperitif based on “softening” adaptogens. Barcode, developed for NBA players by Mubarak Malik, is Gatorade better for you; and Ghia, nervine appetizers and spritzes (herbs said to boost energy and ease stress), have become a favorite of influencers on Instagram. Droplet is selling a sample of three cans of its bubbly adaptogen drinks — Pretty Balanced, Pretty Happy, and Pretty Bright — for $20.
Every aspect of these drinks – their appearance, their name, the use of Goop-y ingredients and the prospect of being a better version of yourself – is designed for consumers of “clean”, gluten-free and diet beauty. vegans and fitness shop. And most of them aren’t cheap.
“Millennials wanted something cooler than Metamucil,” Hernández said. “They make prebiotic seltzer – which literally helps you poop – chic and sexy and want to be seen.”
Stéphanie Roy-Dufault, co-founder of Dune Glow Remedy, agrees.
“You want Tatcha, you want Glossier — you want cool packaging,” she said. “Why should I pay for something that’s good but the packaging is disgusting? I wanted it to be fun even if it’s annoying for gut health.
Dune’s three “beauty elixirs” – Bliss, Boost and Dewy – come in bottles adorned with pastel flowers and berries. Similar to Droplet, each bottle costs nearly $7.
“When I go to Sephora, it’s all of these products that give me moisturizing and anti-aging benefits, and those are the same things you see in those drink aisles. These drinks literally label ‘beauty’ as a feature. . »
Andrea Hernández, food and beverage forecaster and founder of the Snaxshot newsletter
Many functional drink ingredients have also appeared in skincare.
Superfrau contains lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid found in moisturizers and serums. Ruby is infused with polyphenols, the natural berry and plant compounds with antioxidant properties that are often used in skincare.
“We could sit in a Sephora and Ulta and do just fine,” said Allison Ellsworth, co-founder and brand manager of Poppi, a sparkling drink infused with apple cider vinegar. Poppi sold nearly $35 million of its seltzers and colas in 2021, up from $3 million the year before, Ellsworth said.
Do the drinks keep the promises?
Experts don’t know if ingestible skincare ingredients can actually improve your skin.
Overall, they say the research to support these claims and the potential benefits is flimsy at best (and non-existent, in many cases). It’s an evolution of a largely unregulated supplement and an unmanageable craze.
Marisa Plescia, cosmetic chemist at Bell International Laboratories and researcher at NakedPoppy, an online beauty store, said that while apple cider vinegar may have benefits when applied topically to the skin, it does contain acetic acid and exfoliates and helps balance the pH levels of the skin. – “there is little or no information on these benefits in case of alcohol.”
Likewise, ingesting lactic acid has not been shown to improve skin the way topical versions found in serums, exfoliants, and masks might.
For Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a dermatologist in Cambridge, Mass., the problem with ingesting skincare ingredients comes down to an inability to target specific issues.
“All the dermatologists on planet Earth went crazy and said, ‘Drinking collagen is bull’,” she said of the backlash after the collagen drink and supplement boom of these last years. But that’s not entirely true either. “The problem they have – which isn’t a bad point – is that you can’t drink collagen and say, ‘OK, please go to the skin on my jawbone,'” a underlined Hirsch.
Dr. Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist, neuroscientist and founding director of the Brain Microbiome Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, thinks there’s little to no “basic science” to back it up. the many claims of functional drinks, but he does think there’s “something” beyond mere marketing.
“If I see that certain things have survived thousands of years in a healing state – Ayurveda or Chinese medicine – then I almost take that as surrogate evidence in the absence of real scientific evidence,” he said. Mayer said. “Why would people continue to do this for thousands of years? »
While it’s hard to substantiate most of these claims, experts agree on one thing: the gut, brain, and skin are intimately connected, and what affects one almost always affects the other. . Even if your adaptogenic seltzer doesn’t plump or hydrate like an expensive (or injectable) moisturizer does, a balanced gut could make your skin look clearer and brighter.
Plescia said apple cider vinegar has potential benefits when it comes to gut health, even though there’s no evidence it improves skin.
The same goes for ginger, a common ingredient in functional drinks from Sunwink and Brighter.
Research on ginger teas, powders and the like is “extensive”, according to Plescia, and a variety of benefits – most related to gastrointestinal function, nausea, vomiting and pain – are well documented. .
Don’t underestimate a potential placebo effect.
“If you take 20 minutes for a drink and think about your stress level, that in itself will probably make you less stressed,” Hirsch said.
And if you’re less stressed, your skin and gut are less likely to act.
“Drink it if you like the taste and enjoy it,” Hirsch said. “Don’t expect much, and if it does, it’s gravy.”
Strugatz is a freelance writer. This article originally appeared in The New York Times.