Biotechnology for Natural Formulation

Three biotech ingredient technologies that are raising the bar on sustainable beauty

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags biotech Biotechnology Sustainability Natural beauty market Ingredients

Biotechnology has been heralded as a less costly, more efficient means of producing a range of active ingredients for beauty and personal care, but perhaps the biggest advantage is the sustainability factor.

Because natural active ingredients derived from plant life have become an integral part of cosmetic and personal care formulation, one of the biggest dilemmas is the fact that this plant life invariably means taking up valuable farming land to this end.

Environmentalists and activists have argued that with farming land increasingly becoming a premium worldwide, land that is not used for food crops reduces the supply of potentially valuable food sources that are necessary to sustain a global population of more than 7 billion people.

Land is for food crops, right?

For this reason, land used to grow crops for beauty products can fall prey to this kind of criticism, particularly if the farming is taking place in an area or region where there is a lack of available farming land.

For some very specific types of plant-based active ingredients, biotechnology can prove to be the answer to this dilemma, not only creating a far more efficient and cost effective means of producing the required extracts, but also serving to significantly reduce the carbon footprint for the process.

This is because the amount of land, water and energy required to produce the plant crop is reduced, often to a small laboratory facility, where the biotechnology process can reduce these requirements to almost nothing, in comparison.

More and more biotech ingredients being launched

According to a 2018 mini-review by Swiss scientists, an estimated 50 biotech ingredients existed for cosmetic and personal care applications, a figure that has undoubtedly grown exponentially in the last year with the launch of a plethora of new offerings on the market.

Beauty brands that are already taking advantage of this type of technology include Bioeffect in Iceland, and Bioassance, which both specialise in skin care products that have been developed using biotechnology.

Both of these brands make extensive claims in their marketing materials that their products are considerably more sustainable than conventional skin care products thanks to the incorporation of biotech-derived ingredients in the formulations.

Indeed, both of these brands have met with considerable success in an otherwise saturated skin care market, a position which both companies would argue has been strengthened because they have been able to deliver the type of sustainability claims consumers are looking for.

So let us take a look at some of the most interesting and innovative ways that companies are using biotechnology to make plant-based ingredients more sustainable.

1) Givaudan’s biotech-produced Ambrofix

Swiss fragrance specialist Givaudan recently announced that it had used its new breakthrough biotechnology to produce a more sustainable version of its tried and tested Ambrofix fragrance ingredient.

According to the Givaudan development team, the technology is being used to deliver identical olifactive qualities as the traditional production method, while offering the most sustainable and carbon efficient ingredient of its kind on the market.

The new biotechnology that is being used to produce Ambrofix involves fermenting sustainably sourced sugar cane to produce the ingredient, which the company says is 100% naturally derived, while also being 100% renewable carbon.

2) Mibelle’s IceWake anti-aging ingredient

Last month Mibelle launched IceWake, a biotech ingredient that is based on glacial ice melt from the Swiss Alps, that takes advantage of high levels of useful microbial and bacterial content.

The company has used biotechnology to reproduce the microbes and bacteria, which are contained in IceWake and said to provide rejuvenation for skin that has been damaged by long periods with a lack of sleep.

The biotechnology not only serves to bring unique live microbial and bacteria properties to the ingredient, but also means that the sourcing of it has been derived from just a few samples of glacial water, minimizing the impact on the environment.

3)​ Biotech’s answer to palm oil

Palm oil has presented a dilemma for the industry. It is extremely useful for a wide range of applications, including soap-based products, but farming palm oil can have a devastating impact on the environment, and even the more eco-friendly alternatives still require huge swathes of land, water and energy to farm.

A Boston-based technology start-up, C16 Bioscience, believes it may have come up with a more sustainable alternative, thanks to it lab-grown alternative to palm oil.

The premise for the technology is that it relies on a method that ‘brews’ a sustainable alternative to palm oil using microbes in a laboratory facility, rather than the conventional plantation-derived palm oil.

The biotech fermentation process is simple, and not too dissimilar to brewing beer. According to the development team its palm oil alternative is grown in tap water and is fed on either a carbon source or feedstock to encourage it to multiply in the lab.

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