Can lab-grown ingredients and biotech brands solve the industry’s sustainability problem?
Though we may be a long way off from 3D printing ourselves a new face every morning, there’s no denying that a new era of skincare is upon us. Namely a super-natural world of beauty in which bioengineered products are the norm.
This is thanks to an ever-evolving industry that continues finding new ways of harnessing science and tech to give us the opportunity of improving our appearance, as well as consumers themselves pushing for improved sustainability with the ‘clean’ movement.
It’s what encouraged independent and major brands alike to make long-term commitments to the use of animal-free and environmentally friendly ingredients.
So, what does this botanical boom actually entail?
Bioengineered beauty is a process whereby naturally sourced ingredients are fused with synthetic chemicals like bacteria and yeast to produce an active component that’s biologically identical to what you’d find in nature.
‘It’s essentially technology that’s used to recreate specific properties found in living organisms that are ultimately beneficial to beauty products,’ explains Sheila Chaiban, CEO of One Ocean Beauty.
‘The reality is our planet’s resources are finite, and biotechnology allows us to recreate powerful natural ingredients without negatively impacting our planet and oceans.’
By way of example, extracts from algae and seaweed have become extremely popular in skincare thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but rising sea levels have already put these species at risk, and there’s concern around the ecological impact of industrial harvesting.
For this reason, One Ocean Beauty has turned to lab-grown ingredients to mimic the benefits. Using bio-fermentation, they feed a small number of marine microorganisms and allow them to grow.
‘It’s bio-identical to the microorganism but it’s a much more sustainable way of doing it,’ adds Chaiban.
Of course, this approach isn’t reserved for marine ingredients, and offers brands the chance to make natural products more viable in the future.
Given they’ve already made significant breakthroughs in creating alternatives to extracts usually derived from animals – confronting another issue that plagues the cosmetics-obsessed – it shouldn’t be long before biological beauty hits the mainstream.
‘If, as an industry, we were producing all of our ingredients in a bioreactor instead of using huge swathes of land, the impact we would have would be significantly lower,’ finishes Chaiban.
‘It’ll be a few more years before widespread acceptance of this happens, but almost every ingredient out there with the right people behind it can be produced via biotechnology – the sky’s the limit.’