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Nature & Science: Biotech Beauty - the future for sustainable cosmetics?



Nature and Science

The Beauty industry is moving ever faster towards a clean and sustainable future. Modern technologies play a big role in this process. Today, biotech-derived cosmetic raw materials are gaining popularity not only because of their effectiveness and safety, but also by protecting the environment. 

The Earth's resources are limited and biotechnology allows us to recreate effective, natural raw materials without negative impact on our planet and oceans, which can be widely used in cosmetics.

Biotech ingredients on the market

Biotechnology uses microorganisms and enzymes to obtain specific products through fermentation processes and genetic engineering techniques. Examples of such products include active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, kojic acid, resveratrol, and certain enzymes used in anti-aging cosmetics. In addition, certain biotechnologically derived growth factors, algae, stem cells, and peptides are just as often found in cosmetic formulations. Thus, biotechnology and the cosmetics industry are now closely intertwined, with the production of high-quality active ingredients that stand out for their effectiveness and safety.

The global biotechnology ingredients market size was estimated at USD 1.63 billion in 2019. The market is also projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.0% from 2019 to 2025 to reach USD 2.56 billion by 2025. In 2019, Europe emerged as the leading market for biotechnological raw materials used in fragrances and as active ingredients in cosmetics, accounting for 32.7% and 37.4% share, respectively.

What is Biotech Beauty?

Natural plant-based active ingredients are typically positioned as safer and more environmentally friendly. In contrast, these ingredients are not always as "green" as they may seem. In fact, many of these plant- and animal-based ingredients require large amounts of precious farmland, water, and energy to produce, leaving behind a much larger carbon footprint than you might think.

Therefore, in the cosmetics industry, the definition of the word "natural" is changing over time. It is no longer just ingredients derived from nature, whose supply is constantly diminishing, but it is above all those obtained in a responsible manner, with minimal negative impact on the environment. The trend that follows these changes is Biotech Beauty. It refers to the synergy of science and nature. The term Biotech Beauty is widely used to describe laboratory-made cosmetic ingredients that combine natural ingredients with synthetic chemicals or create synthetic, sustainable alternatives to natural ingredients. Sustainably sourced natural ingredients are reacted with bacteria and yeast to produce an active ingredient that is biologically identical to that found in nature. In addition to increased safety and efficacy, it is the ability of biotechnology to create ingredients based on natural ingredients with minimal negatively impacting the environment that is driving this trend.

A biotech alternative to palm oil to save the rainforest?

Palm oil is once again coming under heavy criticism. The most widely used oil in the world, palm oil is present in all kinds of consumer products – from margarine to ready-made foods, candy, cosmetics, and detergents. The main cause for criticism of palm oil is the extensive clearing of tropical rainforests and thus the destruction of living habitats of countless species, all for the sake of new palm oil plantations to meet rising global demand. Slash-and-burn and drainage practices for clearing peat forests release large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide and methane. Furthermore, creating new plantations is often a source of social conflict due to land disputes. 

Biotechnological processes may also be a solution to this problem. Currently, many biotechnology companies are working to invent a sustainable alternative to palm oil. What these projects have in common is that they use a fermentation process, using large vats, in a manner similar to brewing beer. For example, they use genetically modified microorganisms to convert food waste and industrial by-products into a product that is chemically very similar to natural palm oil. This research is currently in its early stages. Despite a number of challenges, such as obtaining a similar texture to palm oil or, above all, a competitive price and global production scale, the industry has high hopes of creating an alternative to palm oil that does not threaten the environment.

Biotechnology as the future for sustainable and effective cosmetics

Consumers would like to avoid the choice between efficacy and sustainability when purchasing a cosmetic. Biotechnology offers the opportunity to develop science-based ingredients with effective skin effects, while sourcing them without harming the environment. Many brands and manufacturers are already formulating with biotech ingredients. Certainly, there will be more and more of them on the market.



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Joanna Strus

Product & Sales Manager

IMPAG is my first job after graduation. I am a biotechnologist. Did I always know that I would work in cosmetics industry? Probably not.. Starting as a Marketing & Sales Assistant, I had the opportunity to get to know the world of cosmetic raw materials step by step.
Currently, my sales activity is focused on producers of natural cosmetics. Personally, I am a huge fan of green cosmetics, so working with them is first of all a pleasure.

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