“This is the beginning of a new generation of ingredients”: spotlight on beauty agtech

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

In the near-future, once-common cosmetics ingredients may no longer be a viable option  (Image: Getty)
In the near-future, once-common cosmetics ingredients may no longer be a viable option (Image: Getty)

Related tags Ingredients Cosmetics Dsm firmenich Iff Sustainability

As cosmetics regulations continue to change in Europe and beyond, a paradigm shift is underway and suppliers are turning to new technologies and methods to create more sustainable and safer ingredients…

From the skin care category to fragrance, as more ingredients suppliers aim to innovate in the biotech cosmetics ingredients​ space, it appears that the possibilities are endless.

Many beauty and personal care ingredients’ companies have long been working behind the scenes in anticipation of the day when certain long-used cosmetics ingredients are no longer a viable option – perhaps due to sustainability concerns or potential safety issues.  

One such ingredient is IFF’s AURIST AGC: a water-soluble, readily biodegradable hair and skin conditioning polymer.

The ingredient won the In-Cosmetics Global 2023 Innovation Zone gold award at last year’s event and is enabled by IFF’s proprietary Designed Enzymatic Biopolymers (DEB) technology, which uses advanced biotechnology to create a new-to-the-world class of biobased polysaccharides with unique structures and product features.

According to IFF’s director for personal care, health & biosciences, Johan Jansen-Storbacka,

Designed Enzymatic Biopolymers (DEB) is: “a biotransformation process that gives rise to a new class of alpha-glucan polysaccharides through the enzymatic polymerisation of glucose obtained from feedstock such as sugar beet or sugar cane from Europe.”

DEB was over a decade in the making and allows the creation polymers that can be designed and customised to meet desired performance needs and product specifications for specific applications.

“Like natural polymers, these can then be further optimised via chemical modification,” explained Jansen-Storbacka.

“The alpha-glucan molecule has high purity, and the enzymatic polymerisation process allows a multitude of tailored structures and morphologies,” continued Jansen-Storbacka. “It can also be further functionalised just like other biopolymers, including with the addition of polar/non-polar, charged, etc.”

The DEB manufacturing process operates at ambient temperature and pressure, which allows the polymerisation process to take place in mild conditions without the use of harsh solvents.

It also creates a fructose co-product which can “be used for other applications to prevent sugar waste,” according to Jansen-Storbacka.  

He said that DEB take inspiration from polysaccharides found in nature (such as starch, natural gums, and cellulose), but also offer more benefits, including:

  1. High customisability.​ These polysaccharides can be specifically designed for the needs of the personal care industry, for example to be higher performing in applications such as conditioning or rheology modification. 
  2. Great structural uniformity.​ The precisely controlled enzymatic process ensures excellent structural uniformity for the DEB polymers. This offers high reproducibility and reduces the variability that can be associated with different harvests.
  3. Can be designed for biodegradability.​ Thanks to the ability to customise the alpha-glucan molecule, biodegradability can be added as a screening parameter in the eco-design process. 

“This solution enables both the synthesis of known polysaccharides with a higher purity and polymer structure precision as well as the synthesis of hard to extract or novel polysaccharides,” he said.

Advanced biopharming platforms

Meanwhile, another ingredients company dsm-firmenich, has just announced that it is partnering with a biotechnology business, Interstellar Lab​, a startup that was incubated by beauty multinational L’Oréal, which specialises in “advanced biofarming platforms to accelerate plant growth and trigger specific molecule production in plants.”

Interstellar Lab claims that its AI-environment-controlled biofarms optimise energy and resources consumption, capture CO2, and considerably improve the life cycle assessment of ingredients using a data-driven approach.

According to dsm-firmenich, the collaboration will pioneer an ingredient research program that will focus on the impact of environmental conditions on plant yield and phenotype evaluation.

When speaking on the new partnership, dsm-firmenich’s global head of natural innovation Xavier Brochet said: “By exploring cutting-edge agrotech advancements, we're reshaping the landscape of species selection, anticipating challenges of production and sourcing, and prioritising the highest quality of ingredients. This dedication ensures we deliver the purest, and most authentic natural extracts for perfumery.”

The CEO and founder of Interstellar Lab, Barbara Belvisi, shared that its biofarming platform “represents a revolution in the perfumery landscape, understanding and addressing the current industry needs to provide renewable ingredients, responsibly sourced and produced, that inspire creators and respect the environment.”

In late 2023, another fragrance ingredients supplier Robertet​ had also announced its plans to work with Interstellar Lab, to implement the startup’s BioPod cultivation system into its operations.

Beauty products of 2030 and beyond…

According to Jansen-Storbacka, many of the ‘building blocks’ that the personal care industry takes for granted will likely not be accepted in the future because they won’t meet consumers’ and brands’ requirements for sustainability and biodegradability.

“Our DEB technology is just the beginning of a new generation of ingredients,” he stated.

“To drive a sustainable transformation in this industry, not only do we need to create sustainable materials with performance equal or superior to synthetic materials, but we also need to be able to deliver them to brands at a scale that will make a meaningful impact.”

“I expect to see a wealth of sustainable innovation over the next couple of years that will lay the foundation of what the beauty products of the 2030s and beyond will look like,” he concluded.

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