The ingredient driving beauty industry innovation? Biology.

Valued at over an estimated $500 billion today, the beauty industry has been experiencing explosive amounts of growth in recent years. From global trends in K- and J-Beauty, to emerging spaces including Halal beauty and skincare lines for men, beauty brands and manufacturers are acting faster than ever to serve new markets with increasing demands for sustainability, transparency, ethical sourcing, and efficacy in their formulations. And in order to meet these demands, they’re relying on a seemingly unlikely ally: biology.

But the little known truth is that beauty already has an impressively long history of being a relatively early adopter of advances in science and technology. Science has enabled the unlocking of chemically synthesized ultramarine for blue pigments – previously considered to be more precious than gold, and priced accordingly – in color cosmetics (blue eyeshadow, anyone?), and the development of synthetic alternatives to whale-derived ambergris in fragrances. It’s also given us non animal-derived retinoids and hyaluronic acid. And while historically many of these advances have been rooted in chemistry, biology and biotechnology are poised as the innovation toolkits of choice for the 21st century and beyond.

“Biology and biotechnology are poised as the innovation toolkits of choice for the 21st century and beyond.”

Take the success of Amyris’ trans-β-Farnesene-derived squalane, an ingredient commonly used in skincare formulations as a moisturizer, emollient, and stabilizer (among other things), as one example. When customers began to voice their environmental and ethical concerns around squalane being harvested from shark livers in the mid-2000’s, the industry quickly responded, with brands like LUSH openly adopting a shark-friendly stance, and manufacturers eagerly incorporating Amyris’ shark-free and fermentation-derived alternative in moisturizers, lipsticks, and fragrances. Biology worked behind the scenes to make this sea change possible, seamlessly satisfying an industry need while giving consumers a cleaner and kinder product that they could feel great about using. Those who stuck with the old shark-derived squalane were left looking archaic and inhumane.

In our engagement with customers across the global landscape of beauty, from the establishment to up-and-coming disruptor brands, we’ve experienced firsthand the urgent need for innovative ingredients and technologies which give players in fast-moving industries a competitive edge and a compelling new story to tell. Biology is the answer. In the past two decades alone, and at a pace which continues to accelerate, we’ve made incredible strides in applying biological advances to consumer products which are being embraced by users. Biossance, Amyris’ spinout consumer beauty brand, proudly leads with its tagline of sustainability through biotechnology, and is one pioneer and a triumph of many more to come. We know that brands, manufacturers, and consumers worldwide are eager for more ways to actualize the benefits of biologically-driven products, and we’re already seeing how the technology is touching the worlds of food & beverage, materials, and beyond. Billions of lives, and the planet as we know it, are looking to biologists to deliver now – and the possibilities are both exciting and endless.

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