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L’Oréal’s latest investment is a huge boost for sustainable beauty

The beauty corporation has made a new investment in a biotech company called Debut through its corporate venture arm called BOLD. It is betting on the future of Debut’s lab, which is reportedly creating next-generation of sustainable cosmetic ingredients.

In 2018, the century-old beauty giant L’Oréal announced the launch of its corporate venture capital fund BOLD.

An acronym for ‘Business Opportunities for L’Oréal Development’, the corporate arm was created specifically to invest in innovative beauty industry start-ups both financially and via mentoring schemes.

It aids start-up companies in attracting additional funding while offering expert advice on developing new strategies for marketing, R&I, digital, retail, communication, supply chain and packaging.

In its latest venture, BOLD and its partners have invested a massive $34 million USD in a biotech company named Debut. Peeking inside its cutting-edge labs based in San Diego, Debut looks to be one of the most promising manufacturers of sustainable beauty ingredients of the future.

Leaders at L’Oréal believe this could be the start of a new era for the beauty and skincare industry, with Debut’s technology knocking other brands off the totem pole and ushering in a new standard of ingredients.


All about Debut

The vertically integrated biotech firm was formed in 2019 and is dedicated to seeking out sustainable ingredients, producing them at scale, creating new formulas, and conducting its own clinical trials.

Debut received a $22.6 million USD investment in August of 2021, which allowed it to boost its ingredient development model, institute its in-house brand incubator, and expand into a 26,000-square-foot facility.

In the lab, its 60 full-time employees conduct cell-free fermentation to develop its ingredients. This is a process that does not require cultivation, chemical synthesis, or agrochemicals, making it far more sustainable than traditional methods.

Debut’s team refers to a database of more than 3.8 million pre-clinical data points to discover new formulas and ingredients, so far curating a total of 250 screened and validated ingredients for future use.

The company is reportedly planning to launch its own beauty brand by the end of this year, while also partnering with other companies that are looking make use of its novel ingredients and formulas.

Why is Debut’s work necessary?

In a press release, Barbara Lavernos, who is L’Oréal’s deputy CEO of research, innovation, and technology, said ‘Debut addresses one of the beauty world’s fundamental challenges: driving innovation without the resource-intensity and environmental impact that comes with relying on traditional manufacturing alone.’

From the moment conversations about sustainability entered the mainstream, the beauty and skincare industry has been criticised for contributing immensely to the destruction of our environment.

The most obvious issue is the industry’s production of plastic waste, and more recently, its use of harmful ‘forever chemicals’ in mass-produced formulas. Today, these issues persist but are hidden behind manipulative greenwashing tactics.

Many popular brands have also been found guilty of diminishing natural resources by integrating rare ingredients into products on a large scale. These include floral essences and oils extracted from endangered species, which are added to luxury skincare products such as serums and oils for their wellness and anti-ageing properties.

With consumers becoming increasingly concerned about how their daily habits impact the planet, consumer tastes have grown for no-nonsense brands such as The Ordinary and The Inkey List. These brands have become successful by exclusively creating formulas that use only necessary, active ingredients without any fillers or add-ons.

Judging by Deubt’s science-based and sustainability-focused approach to creating formulas, it’s likely that the company’s own brand could become a competitor of these two companies, as well as others which share a similar brand philosophy.

Speaking of the new investment partnership, the CEO and founder of Debut, Joshua Britton said, ‘We’re just at the start of beauty and biotech. [Our] ambition is to turn the active ingredient manufacturing process on his head.’

He continued, ‘Producing the same old active ingredients with a fresh twist is of no interest to us at all.’