Innovating outside the beaker

Innovating outside the beaker

Sponsored by: Cosmetics & Toiletries | Written by: Rachel Grabenhofer 

Supply chain disruptions, sustainability, chemical recycling and natural ingredients are among the top trends in chemicals and materials cited by Kline for 2023.1 The American Chemical Society highlighted three additional factors impacting the chemicals market: a lurking recession, fragmentation and consolidation, and start-ups.2 How might these forces impact beauty product development?

Disruptions in the supply chain beg for innovating outside of the beaker. This has emerged in various forms, such as synthetic biology. Particularly ferments and ferment filtrates have gained massive consumer attention thanks to the media.

Glamour Magazine UK praised them in its April 2022 feature, “Fermented Beauty will Totally Transform Your Skin, Here’s What You Need to Know.” The story adds there is a wellness component to ferments thanks to their perceived connection to sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt, whose beneficial bacteria can improve gut health.3

Forbes also featured a story, “Everything You Need to Know About Fermented Skincare – and the Best Products,” in March 2022. In it, board-certified dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., explained how the process of fermentation can precisely transform sugars into different types of ingredients that are purer ingredient, and without undesirable byproducts that are common in extracts. “Now, brands are able to bring the benefits of fermentation to consumers in a safe and effective way with scalable technology,” she said.4

In a Cosmetics & Toiletries article, Singh detailed further, “bioferments are obtained via enzymatic actions, typically by bacteria and yeast, that break large, complex molecules into smaller, simpler ones. These materials are more readily absorbed by the skin, increasing their bioavailability, and have a greater affinity to hair, improving their efficacy.”5

The industry continues to innovate novel ferments and ferment filtrates to meet continued consumer demand. Indeed, these ingredients are projected, across several industries, to expand at a CAGR of 4.72% between 2020-2024.6

Thrusting this ages-old concept of microbe-based production into the future, the industry is also exploring synthetic biology (synbio). Here, DNA is assembled in a specific combination and implanted into cells for them to produce the desired molecules.

As Forbes explained,7 many personal care ingredients were traditionally petroleum-derived but consumer awareness of this and concerns for the environment have pushed personal care companies to find sustainable solutions. Enter: biosynthesis (or synbio), which according to the source, can be engineered “to convert sugar into just about anything you want. These new bioengineered products are more environmentally friendly than traditionally sourced products,” Forbes added.7

One current industry example synthesizes squalene for use as a moisturizer and antioxidant. Another was used to manipulate the output of microbes to control body odor through biology. Potential future work may attempt to not only remove malodor, but to influence microbes to produce desired scents on the body.8

A new paper by Dayan,9 coming out in the March Cosmetics & Toiletries, delves deeply into the process of synbio to illustrate its potential to solve the challenge of ingredient supply shortages. She reiterates, however, the dynamic and unpredictable nature of biology and reminds us that the correct controls must be put into place.

In addition to sybio, sustainability efforts and a circular design strategy, including upcycling materials, will help to drive the industry forward to face what lies ahead.

Read more here!

  9. Dayan, N. (2023, Mar). Synbio to solve cosmetic ingredient supply challenges – A discussion. Cosm & Toil. (in press)

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