Special Edition: Marine-derived ingredients

A sustainable splash? Indie brands investing in the ‘unsung heroes’ of beauty – marine ingredients

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Super-charged marine ingredients are being increasingly incorporated into complex formulas by smaller brands, and the sustainability story is getting plenty of spotlight (Getty Images)
Super-charged marine ingredients are being increasingly incorporated into complex formulas by smaller brands, and the sustainability story is getting plenty of spotlight (Getty Images)

Related tags sustainable beauty Indie beauty marine ingredients Marine derived ingredients Sustainability

Independent beauty brands, like big players, are lapping up the vast potential of dynamic and innovative marine ingredients, touting efficacy and sustainability along the way, say experts.

Marine ingredients have been a hot beauty topic for some time, with many brands now featuring flagship seaweed, microalgae or marine collagen products. Almost all beauty majors, including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder and Shiseido, have incorporated marine-derived ingredients into portfolios, but has uptake been as broad in independent beauty?

A sea of innovation providing a ‘great segue from health to beauty’

“Marine-derived ingredients are definitely popping up in indie brands,” ​said Millie Kendall MBE, CEO of the British Beauty Council.

“They offer a great segue from health to beauty and they are a superb way to utilise potentially organic ingredients that suit vegans,”​ Kendall told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

Marine ingredients also carried a “high performance notion”​ that enabled brands to target very specific market segments, she said.

Margo Maronne, founder of The Organic Pharmacy, said marine-derived ingredients importantly carried a plethora of benefits that held plenty of appeal.

“Marine-derived ingredients are some of the most innovative ingredients in the beauty world and the indie beauty world (…) They are key ingredients and have so many benefits – from moisturisation, to peptide action, to re-mineralisation,”​ Maronne said.

Dominant products on the market were serums and masks, she said, with seaweed and marine-sourced hyaluronic acid proving popular ingredient choices.

Increasingly sophisticated and sustainable beauty formulas

Jillian Wright, co-founder of Indie Beauty Expo, said the benefits of marine extracts were, rightly touted by indie brands – notably the protective and nourishing properties – and many were working with advanced proprietary formulas.

“Marine ingredients have been unsung heroes within beauty for many years. Combined with science, the formulations are becoming far more sophisticated, making them not only incredibly dynamic ingredients but oftentimes a more sustainable option than animal-based ingredients,” ​Wright said.

And this sustainability aspect, she said, was being widely spotlighted in the start-up world.

Some stand-out examples included California-based Kaibae that was working with female seaweed farmers in Zanzibar to source its star ingredient and had a documentary to tell this story; Ireland-based Ri Na Mara that sustainably harvested its seaweed by hand, leaving the lower section intact to regenerate quickly; and California-based Samudra Skin & Sea that also harvested its own seaweed and collaborated with ocean conservation campaigns to help people and marine life.

Wright said as marine ingredients continued to increase in popularity, it would become harder to remain competitive and differentiate without proprietary formulas or highly traceable supply chains.

Marine messaging must be ‘transparent’ and sustainability efforts real

Kendall agreed the sustainability story behind marine ingredients was especially important, as was any efficacy messaging, but how this was delivered consumers was what mattered most.

“We need to consider how much the consumer knows about the ingredient deck of a product they buy. I would hate to see the use of these ingredients become yet another marketing campaign. We need to speak about the benefits of marine-derived ingredients in a way that is transparent and relevant,”​ she said.

Wright agreed, noting it was important indie brands working with marine ingredients stood firmly behind the sustainability cause.

“The most important thing is to have intention when launching a line with marine-based ingredients. Make sure you know the origin, how it is harvested and produced. I implore brands to think through sustainability standards and ensure you are not interrupting the natural ecosystem of that environment.”

Bringing a “really amazing” ​product to market was one thing; supporting local communities and conservation efforts had to be the other, she said.

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