Recently, clean, eco-friendly beauty has gotten a lot easier to find (which we love!). But a perennial concern, expressed everywhere from the social media comment section to the boardrooms of beauty brands, is: what is truly green? And what about warnings, such as all-natural ingredients that actually deplete the environment?
Like many revolutionary ideas, the answer may lie in a surprising place: biotechnology. Bay Area innovator Amyris has designed a method to mass-produce a life-saving treatment for malaria using sugarcane-derived molecules and a genetically modified fermentation process. His first brand, Biossanceuses this patented fermentation process to produce an ingredient called squalane, an emollient previously derived from unsustainable sources such as shark livers.
“Squalane is a highly effective moisturizer that our skin naturally contains. We are literally born with a layer of it on our body, but we lose it over time, “says Ramya Viswanathan, director of new product development for Biossance, who has an all-female team.” Squalane also improves the effectiveness of others. ingredients it is paired with, making it extraordinary in skincare. “At launch, Biossance quickly became a Sephora favorite and today has Reese Witherspoon as a fan and spokesperson. (Her curated Biossance kit, The Sunshine Set, will come launched this month.) Since designing the squalane, Biossance claims that 2 million sharks a year have been spared from harvesting the liver for beauty products.
“By harnessing the power of biotechnology, we are able to deliver high-performance products that reveal your best skin, without negatively impacting the environment,” explains Catherine Gore, president of Biossance. All the sugar cane used in this process is Bonsucer certified, which means it is produced responsibly. “It’s possible to have it all: a beautiful and effective product, driven by science and sustainability,” says Gore. “At Biossance, we believe that the nerdy side of science and the glamorous side of beauty can coexist.”
Indeed, this is what attracted Witherspoon to the brand. “I was so impressed with the formulas and how they made my skin feel,” she says, who visited the labs herself. “I loved the fact that it’s led by women and that they recreate effective ingredients to be more sustainable.”
This biotechnological fermentation process developed by Amyris is part of what the industry often calls “clean chemistry”: where cutting-edge technology meets Mother Nature for a sharply diminishing footprint without compromising efficacy or safety. Since its launch, Biossance has won numerous awards for its formulas, many of which have earned cult following, such as Squalane + Omega Repair Cream and Squalane + Seaweed Eye Cream. Today Biossance sells a product every 15 seconds. “When you invent something these days, it’s usually about reinvention, but that’s really a breakthrough,” says Viswanathan. “We are so proud that Biossance is truly creating a more sustainable future for the beauty industry.”
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