How advances in science and technology influence and support trends in beauty

How advances in science and technology influence and support trends in beauty

We did not see Botox™ coming

In this super competitive world, the most successful brands are often the trend setters. One of the most exciting things about working in new product development is to be first with a great concept that starts a trend. Cosmetic scientists are masters at adopting and adapting the latest advances in science and technology.

It is therefore especially important to be aware of all types of innovation in your search for that light bulb moment. Most new ideas are formed progressively by following the views of trend analysts who, by giving us their insights, help drive trends forward. However, every now and again a key innovation from another field comes like a curved ball out of the blue and starts a new trend. For example, nearly 20 years ago, ingredient suppliers, prompted by the success cosmetic surgeons were having with Botox™, suddenly found themselves seeking cosmetic actives with smoothing, Botox-like actions.

Then in 2005, it was the revolution in digital communication technology that gave birth to social media influencers who, by encouraging people to be themselves and experiment more, fuelled the growth of DIY beauty and started the personalization trend, which today is truly set to reach new heights fed by personalised information coming from genomics, metabolomics and proteomics. Smart technologies Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) through The Internet of Things (IoT) are making possible, what was once unimaginable.

Biochemistry – a rich source of innovation

Many key beauty trends are based on sound scientific achievements. Unsurprisingly, biochemistry has inspired some of the most innovative active ingredients.

Back in the 1990s, Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) and liposomes were popular in prestige skincare. Their shortcomings led to the deployment of other kinds of encapsulation, many of which owed their origins to innovations in food, flavours, and fragrance industries.

Cosmeceuticals, required the beauty industry to embrace many other aspects of molecular biology including the inclusion of cell-signalling peptides, MMP inhibitors, tyrosinase inhibitors, collagen, sodium hyaluronate, plus actives to scavenge or quench damaging Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and a variety of retinol-like molecules.

These biochemical ingredients had their stars. With thanks to the BBC Horizon documentary in 2012 featuring No7 Protect and Perfect, Matrixyl™ (INCI: Palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 or palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 before 2006) became a favourite with label reading consumers.

Another iconic biochemical, which championed advances in stem cell technology was Mibelle’s PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica. Next, having formulated with different combinations of biochemical actives, came the inevitable multifunctional actives.

DNA Technology – Brings Protection, Repair and New actives

In the past ten years the beauty industry has seen a growing interest in DNA technology. Initially the focus was on DNA protection. The free radical theory of aging had linked DNA damage by ROS to aging and more realistically, excessive sunlight had been shown to cause DNA damage resulting in skin damage and cancers.

Then in 2009, Nobel prize winning research into telomerase encouraged skincare product developers to see DNA repair as the way to counter the effects of aging. Another potential active for DNA repair emerged when scientists studying caloric restriction, identified the polyphenol resveratrol, (a key antioxidant in red wine), as a molecule that could modulate the expression of genes essential for DNA repair.

Next, gene expression became the tool for discovering new actives. High throughput screening using cDNA array techniques, were adapted from the pharmaceutical industry, to search for materials, which could up regulate or down regulate genes responsible for key pathways such as tyrosinase in melanin production.

DNA leads to the Microbiome and Transparency

The uniqueness of genomic DNA is also used to identify and classify organisms. In practice, often only the short barcode regions of an organism’s DNA or the conserved bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequence, are used to identify species. It was through the combination of classification and the incredible power of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to amplify minute quantities of DNA that opened our eyes to the complex ecology of the microbes sharing our world and so propelled the skin microbiome into the forefront of skin trends.

The same PCR technique is an essential part of COVID-19 testing. Coronavirus RNA in bodily fluids is converted into its complimentary DNA and amplified by PCR with a sensitivity that makes as little as 40 copies of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 RNA per ml detectable.

It is these advances in DNA technology that are bringing transparency to the beauty industry. The public have already seen horse meat discovered in foods claimed to be 100% beef products. Analysis of genomic ‘barcode’ DNA in health supplements has raised questions over their actual content and in some cases led to prosecutions. Genomic DNA is large and readily lost or destroyed during processing making it unreliable as an identifier in cosmetics. Also, most cosmetic ingredients do not contain genomic DNA.

A far more dependable way of creating transparent supply chains is to deliberately tag cosmetic ingredients with small pieces of DNA which, through PCR, can be assayed anywhere on demand. An infinite number of these unique DNA tags are commercially available for authenticating materials throughout global supply chains and on into the finished products.

Applied DNA Sciences, already use their SigNature® DNA molecular tags for authenticating pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, leather, feather-down, inks and a wide range of polymers. DNA tags confirm claims such that the cosmetic was made with sustainable materials in a way that analytical chemistry alone cannot. And joy of joy, because DNA is code it connects the physical world with digital Blockchain so ensuring secure shared documents really do relate to the physical materials involved.

Adopting and adapting the latest advances in science and technology for the benefit of the beauty industry has proved fruitful in the past and is the way to a successful future.

Looking to the future? Read about the latest ingredients you should be incorporating into formulations.

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Barbara is Past President, Hon Education Sec. of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists, Chair In-Cosmetics Formulation Summit (London). Her cosmetic career began nearly 30 years ago, at the Body Shop, after 8 years postdoctoral research/lecturing in Food Science and Technology at the Reading University. The new millennium found Barbara in New York managing the NPD lab. for Dr James Hayward, then CEO of the Collaborative Laboratories LLC, who were leaders in Liposomes and high shear technology for cosmetic actives. After extending her stay in America to manage Huntsman LLC Personal Care laboratory in Austin Texas, she returned to the UK and worked for the next 12 year as Scientific Advisor for Personal Care in Sales & Distribution for IMCD. Barbara re-joined Dr James Hayward, now CEO and Founded Applied DNA Sciences, in New York and became a Forensic Cosmetic Scientist, working to use DNA technology to secure cosmetic supply chains. Barbara is a frequent contributor to industry journals and her special interest is in how the very latest technologies impact the cosmetic industry.

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