Global Retail   //   July 11, 2024

How GLP-1 drug use is boosting beauty and wellness sales

The rise of prescription weight loss medications could be a boon for the beauty and wellness industry, as supplement brands, skin care companies and more are increasingly pushing products to mitigate some side effects from GLP-1s like Ozempic and Wegovy. 

By the end of 2022, U.S. health providers wrote 9 million Ozempic and Wegovy prescriptions, a growth of 300% in just three years. Now it’s estimated that about 7% of U.S. adults are using some type of GLP-1 drug. As a result, brands in categories from health supplements to skin care are thinking through what this change in behavior could mean for their companies.

For many people, taking a GLP-1 curbs their appetite, leading them to eat less and thus leading to weight loss. In turn, supplement retailers like GNC and the Vitamin Shoppe are rolling out dedicated sections that cater to GLP-1 users who are trying to maintain nutrient intake while their appetite is low. Meanwhile, the beauty industry is positioning products as a way to combat the hollowed look known as “Ozempic face.” Swiss pharmaceutical company Galderma, Cetaphil’s parent company, says it has seen growth from its injectables products that compete with Botox. Cosmetic treatments are also expected to rise as a solution for the facial results that come with rapid weight loss.

The past month, online retailer iHerb launched a supplements line specifically designed to support customers using semaglutide medications. According to iHerb, its three new products can help address common adverse reactions to Ozempic, such as digestive issues, nausea and pain, loss of muscle mass and skin elasticity.

The line is under iHerb’s private brand California Gold Nutrition, and developed in collaboration with iHerb’s global advisor and stakeholder Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Murray, the company’s chief scientific advisor. 

IHerb has been in business since 1996, and sells health and wellness products, such as vitamins, minerals and supplements from over 1,800 brands. Emun Zabihi, CEO of iHerb, told Modern Retail that “we got a lot of feedback from customers but also looked at the research on GLP-1 medications,” to develop the new products as medications like Ozempic took off. Much of the data showed people stopped taking these drugs due to negative side effects like bloating, nausea and stomach pain. Zabihi pointed to a recent report that cited 60% of patients stopped using their GLP-1 medication before reaching their targeted duration, largely due to negative side effects like stomach pain and nausea. 

“One reason we got into developing these products is to support people to take these medications successfully,” he said. Zabihi said one of the biggest concerns with rapid weight loss on Ozempic is muscle mass loss, which led to the launch of CollagenUP Plus. It purports to help prevent muscle loss, regulate blood sugar levels and minimize nausea and bloating. Similarly, iHerb is positioning its Digestion Pro SKU as a solution to safeguard against side effects such as bloating, nausea and stomach pain.  

The third product is Berberine Advanced, which Zabihi said is positioned as an alternative to GLP-1 drugs as it doesn’t come with the extreme side effects of Ozempic or Wegovy. One of Berberine Advanced’s ingredients is berberine, which can be found in various plants, and has shown to help with metabolic boost and weight management. Zabihi said this is an option for customers who want to shed pounds at a slower rate without taking a GLP-1 drug.

As the Ozempic boom takes shape, food and beverage companies have been among the first to roll out new products designed specifically to appeal to GLP-1 users. Daily Harvest, for instance, debuted a curated selection of quick meals for busy people taking the meds. In June, Nestlé Health Science division announced a nutrition platform dedicated to the needs of Ozempic users. Other CPG giants, like General Mills and Conagra, have said they will continue to look at their portfolios and develop new products in response to weight management and nutrition trends.

But as more people use GLP-1 drugs, more data is being gathered on how it could reshape other parts of their health and wellness routines. Hair loss is one concern that some GLP-1 users have reported. Though it’s not listed as an official side effect, rapid weight loss is known to trigger hair loss or thinning hair. Hims & Hers, which recently launched a weight loss program and now offers access to GLP-1 injections, has also begun publishing blog posts delving into the potential side effects of GLP-1 drugs.

Hair loss isn’t listed as a side effect on drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy. But Dr. Hardik Doshi, lead surgeon at hair restoration center Ample, said medications like Ozempic help suppress hunger, which can have an adverse effect on hair health due to rapid weight loss and decreased nutrient intake. Doshi said patients can start to improve hair health adopting lifestyle changes such as eating a diet that’s high in biotin, iron, zinc and vitamins A, C and E. Protein intake, hydration and exercise can also help prevent or reduce hair loss when losing weight quickly.

But demand for over-the-counter supplements, topical treatments and professional hair restoration are likely to become more popular as people try to reverse hair thinning, Doshi said. 

As for specific trends seen at New York-based Ample, “there has been a significant increase of patients experiencing hair thinning or loss after commencing Ozempic.” 

“Many individuals may exhibit nutritional shortages as a result of a decreased appetite and dietary intake,” he said. However, patients’ ages, medical histories and duration of Ozempic use can vary greatly, and require individualized approaches.

While the early reviews for iHerb’s new products have been largely positive, Zabihi said it’s too soon to judge the success of the GLP-1-geared line. “We haven’t made the heavy push in marketing that we wanted,” he said. Instead, the company is selling products organically to gather feedback before promoting them to its global audience. 

In the coming months, iHerb is also planning to update labels on products that specifically support health goals of people taking GLP-1 drugs, as well as the products that can help reduce their side effects.

“GLP-1 [sales] is not something we’re directly navigating,” Zabihi said, adding that many of the ingredients in the new supplements have been around for years. “We’re careful not to make any health claims, but we leverage education and allow customers to do their research,” he said.