Nostalgia may have dominated the pop culture scene from 2020 to 2022 but as we head into 2023, the conversation has taken a sharp turn toward the future.
Practically every facet of our culture has some sort of galactic or futuristic element – The future is now—and for beauty, it’s much more than an affinity for silver shadow and an alien-like aesthetic. For beauty, the future is in biotechnology.
These days, many „all-natural“ ingredients are actually lab-derived.
Clean and natural beauty used to conjure images of simple, DIY alchemy in your own kitchen—now, thanks to biotech, it has way more of a futuristic feel, and consumers no longer fear „lab-derived“ ingredients on their labels. But the thing is, biotechnology has actually been an integral part of the beauty industry for ages.
A lot of people don’t know that the lactic acids, the sodium hyaluronates, and some of the peptides and biosaccharides, also fermended ingredients that are used in beauty are all derived using biotechnology. Now, people are realizing the benefits and using fermentation on a larger scale.
To be clear: These ingredients still come from plants—from their cells. Think of them as the „next generation“ of naturals manufactured with modern biotechnology methods (like cell cultures) which often makes them more effective than their agriculture counterparts. Biotechnology can provide more highly concentrated bio-actives into a formulation, thereby increasing the efficacy of a skin care product. The concentration can be up to 100 times from a typical natural extract. Fermented extracts contain a smaller molecular weight of proteins, peptides, and amino acids, which means they can penetrate deeper and more rapidly into skin.
Not to mention, formulators can easily replicate those potent, high-quality ingredients and standardize each product on a mass scale, all under a controlled, safe environment without the need for pesticides or other environmental hazards. When you have something that is lab-derived instead of agriculturally derived, you are able to maintain purity. That alone makes biotech the future of „clean“ beauty.
Biotech lays the groundwork for a more sustainable beauty future.
But „clean beauty“ means formulas that are both good for you and the planet, which is another reason why this move toward biotech feels particularly exciting: Lab-derived extracts are often way more environmentally friendly.
Some natural ingredients may have a stellar safety profile but take a large amount of natural resources during the harvesting or extracting process. Pure vanilla bean, for example, famously requires loads of water to grow and extract—according to the Water Footprint Network, it can take up to 126,505 liters of water (around 33,000 gallons) to produce 1 kilogram of vanilla beans. Palm oil is also generally well tolerated by the skin (and thus popular in many personal care items), but its farming methods vastly reduce the natural biodiversity of our forests.
To meet this dilemma, the beauty industry again turns to biotech: For instance, a company called C16 Biosciences brews a sustainable alternative to palm oil using its microbes, essentially fermenting palm oil in a controlled lab setting. Another lab called P2 Science uses terpene chemistry to take the upcycled building blocks of plants and assemble them into new materials with the same look and feel as some of the industry’s most classically unsustainable ingredients, like petrolatum, silicones, and palm oil. Codex Labs is currently swapping out comfrey and calendula, which were previously harvested and macerated in oil, with biotech-manufactured equivalents, Paldus says.
On the hunt for these sustainable, lab-derived alternatives, brands have even started to develop compounds with skin and environmental benefits. Backed by the likes of Chanel and Mousse Partners, Evolved By Nature’s Activated Silk 33B technology, for example, uses peptides from natural, renewably sourced silk that can be used in skin care formulas, textiles, and even medical materials. For example, Anya Hindmarch used it to create a fully biodegradable handbag collection. In skin care, you can find it in Evolved By Nature’s Barrier Redux Emulsion serum. It’s completely biodegradable, and it comes with skin-enhancing properties: „It has this really unique ability to bind to the surface of the skin and help the skin upregulate its own barrier function,
As consumers continue to demand clean, safe beauty ingredients (both for skin and the planet), the science must inherently become more sophisticated to catch up—and that’s how we wind up with this new biotech botanical boom.
Biotech alone isn’t the answer to beauty’s massive waste problem, but with new innovations transforming what it means to be a „natural“ brand, beauty’s future is certainly looking bright.
Source: Wellness Trends by MindBodyGreen.