When nature meets high-tech science in a lab, biotechnology is created. Biotech skincare creates active ingredients in the lab using sophisticated bio-fermentation, combining microorganisms and lab-created microbes such as yeast and bacteria.
Here’s why it matters: Biotech is good for the environment. The active ingredients are sustainably sourced as land and water don’t have to be set aside for growing plants.
This type of technology allows active ingredients to work in harmony with the skin naturally. Why? Because the skin is a host to a community of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, known as a microbiome. Microbes (the microorganisms that cause fermentation) interact with the microbiome to keep it in balance.
Its main functions are to protect skin against environmental damage from harmful microorganisms known as pathogens, support and strengthen the skin barrier by producing fatty acids and lipids to nourish skin, and communicate with the body’s immune system.
Keeping these microbes happy and healthy will result in good skin – and biotech skincare recreates the microorganisms that do that.
For one scientist, it was both science and personal experience that led her to biotech-driven skincare. Dr Barbara Paldus, founder of the US-based Codex Beauty Labs, discovered that her son had a severe allergy to phenoxyethanol, found in baby products. Her research to learn more eventually inspired her to focus on developing plant-based biotech ingredients with specific functions.
“Our mission at Codex Beauty is to create exceptionally effective and sustainable skincare. The only way to achieve (truly functional products) is through biotech-based ingredients that are designed to deliver a specific functionality,” she shares.
When her team could not find a microbiome-friendly preservative that was non-fossil-fuel based, they ended up creating their own, using US FDA-approved food preservatives. Called PreservX, it is Codex Beauty’s industry-first food-grade preservative made entirely of food-grade ferments and organic acids. “The preservative enhances skin hydration and skin barrier function, while supporting the microbiome,” she says.
Codex Beauty is built on a sustainability philosophy (right down to its completely plant-based packaging), so as biotech ingredients are created, water and energy usage are reduced. “This type of manufacturing provides more highly concentrative bioactive ingredients in a formulation, increasing the efficacy of a skincare product. It can be up to 100 times more concentrated than a typical natural extract.”
And Dr Paldus knows what she’s talking about: She holds 40 patents for her inventions, and her expertise has been in providing research and manufacturing equipment to the industry – manufacturing equipment that includes those being used by companies like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to produce their Covid-19 vaccines.
Codex Beauty has two ranges: Bia, for hydration, and Antu, to address inflammation. Both use microbiome- supporting ingredients that destroy pathogenic bacteria while keeping good bacteria in balance. The products are tested and certified by German-based My Microbiome, Leaping Bunny and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Dr Paldus says the way forward with skincare formulations is to rely on biotechnology to ensure cleaner ingredients, and a more viable way of sourcing, manufacturing and packaging.
“I only see advantages with biotech formulas. These plant cell extracts can be made free from pesticides, industrial chemical pollutants, allergens and any toxic substance, as they can be produced under controlled, clean-room conditions, with good manufacturing practices in place.”
How other beauty brands are using biotech
The vegan skincare brand is one of the few companies in the world to use Brazilian cane sugar to make squalene, an exceptional skin hydrator, replacing the need to kill sharks for shark liver oil – Biossance says it saves over two million sharks a year. The cane sugar is bio-fermented and makes a perfect match with the skin to lock in hydration.
It also uses its expertise to create biodegradable packaging, including glass containers and plant-derived plastics.
Founded by Dr Luke Burnett, a retired US Army colonel, the brand discovered a way to extract human keratin in its purest form, to help with wound healing and tissue regrowth – its Alpha Keratin 60ku is extracted from ethically sourced human hair. An accidental discovery was that it could also repair hair. The body recognises this lab- created protein and treats it as its own, binding it directly to areas of damage. The product repairs almost instantaneously, increasing moisture levels and thickness.
Biotech skincare to try
The lab-created active ingredients in these products promise to be good for your skin, and are environmentally sustainable.
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