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Exclusive interview

Biomimetics: the future of beauty innovation from nature

By Lucy Whitehouse + , 27-Sep-2016

Biomimetics: the future of beauty innovation from nature

Biomimetics - using concepts and principles from nature to create new materials, devices and systems - could offer huge opportunities for beauty.

As the global cosmetic industry increasingly moves toward pharma-like behavior to ensure better safety and efficacy of skin care products, the concept of biomimetics has been rapidly adopted.

Prof. Andrew Parker, leading UK scientist specialising in biomimetics, will be speaking during the European edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in October . He will give an introduction to biomimetics and how nature’s technology can be a source of innovation for the beauty industry. We caught up with him for a preview.

How can biomimetics be applied to beauty?

Biomimetics includes the understanding of the ultrastructure of skin in humans and other animals, and how this is affected by the addition to certain chemicals,” he explains.

This can include chemicals applied traditionally for reasons of health or beauty - how humans have found something that benefits skin condition or appearance through trial and error. Evolution, after all, is trial and error, and biomimetics exploits just this.”

What are the challenges of beauty innovation with biomimetics?

My work in biomimetics in the beauty industry has been a little frustrating. Nature has evolved some amazing solutions to problems posed by challenging environments...but then we have invented some good solutions, too. Many of nature's innovations, it emerges, are covered in existing patents.

“My company, Lifescaped, has worked with a cosmetics company to take natural sunscreens and anti-oxidants found in (mainly) plants, including some quite obscure species. The performance of the natural products, such as sunscreen chemicals that had evolved under particularly high levels of ultraviolet light, was impressive - but somewhere, there would always be a patent to block progress to a product.”

Can you give any examples of beauty products using biomimetics?

There are no products using biomimetic technology yet, although if you include natural chemicals then of course there are plenty. Biomimetics, though, is the transfer of natural technology through engineered analogues.”

How does biomimetics link with any other major trends in beauty and personal care?

“Certainly, environmental sustainability. We are finding that pigment manufacturers are taking this subject more and more seriously, to the point where it has become a major part of their marketing and business strategies. Beauty and nature are inextricably linked - how many companies use leaves and raindrops as symbols? - but biomimetics may, and probably will, offer a new angle on this, further in the realm of technology.”

Can you give any predictions for the future of biomimetics applied to beauty and personal care?

“I can't say too much here, but there's a good chance that biomimetic research will offer new colours and colour effects to the beauty industry within the next five years.”

Find out more on biomimetics and its applications at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, 24 - 26 October in Paris. See the full programme here.

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