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Blue biotechnology blends natural and sustainable in personal care
DSM Personal Care, N.A.

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The promise of lab-grown ingredients: bringing naturality, performance and sustainability together

Sustainability in the beauty and personal care industry has become a non-negotiable way of doing business, as well as an expression of a brand’s values and priorities towards consumers. In turn, they make purchasing decisions driven by these qualities.

The proof is not difficult to find. In the UK for example, 58% of Gen Z beauty users always look for products that are environmentally friendly.1​ Similarly in Canada, 35% of adults are more likely to buy beauty products from environmentally responsible beauty brands/retailers.2

Ethical matters

But today’s conscious consumers continue to raise their expectations. Increasingly, a brand’s transparency and corporate responsibility also matters. How products and ingredients are sourced and produced is also under the microscope. 

This attention is fostering a new understanding on the part of consumers that ‘natural’ does not necessarily indicate sustainability, and this is becoming an important consideration in the global effort to protect our oceans and planet. Since compromise on these topics is not an option for consumers, many are gradually seeing the promise of biotechnology to bring natural and sustainable together. In Germany, 25% of adults are interested in beauty and personal care ingredients made in a lab, while in Spain, 51% of adults would be willing to pay for beauty and personal care products made exclusively with lab-grown ingredients if they are better for the planet.3​ This growing acceptance of lab-grown alternatives is set to drive new innovations in beauty and personal care ingredients.

Algae makes waves in skin care

One such example is the growing popularity of microalgae in a wide range of products. Known for its natural resilience and packed with vitamins and minerals, algae has been used for years in dairy products, meat products and spices. Now, we’re seeing the benefits of incorporating algae into skin care, where its abundance of amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids deliver benefits such as skin firming and collagen restoration and boosting, making it an effective pro-aging ingredient. This superfood is showing up in a wide range of innovations from both established and indie beauty brands. New products featuring algae are growing at twice the category average, with many adding the claim to packaging.4​      

The promise of blue biotechnology

Lab-grown algae, in particular, goes a step further. While most often sourced from marine environments, lab-grown algae demonstrates the promise of blue biotechnology. Cultivation in photobioreactors maximizes optimal growing conditions, providing sufficient light and enabling standardization. The production method respects terrestrial biodiversity and results in algae that’s exceptionally pure, rich in active substances and of high quality due to minimum contamination risk.

For brands looking to seize blue beauty trends, lab-grown algae offers a solution that successfully merges natural and sustainable. And as consumer acceptance of lab-grown alternatives evolves, brands have an opportunity to embrace the transparency and sustainability benefits of blue biotechnology. 

Innovative ingredients deliver multiple benefits

As an ingredient in personal care products, algae bring superior skin tightening and anti-aging benefits that combat skin’s inevitable collagen loss as we age. Consumers naturally appreciate the short-term skin firming benefits, but this ingredient’s ability to also deliver long-term advantages is a game-changer with increasing relevance in the market.

These two key actions appeal to consumer preferences that are shifting toward multi-benefit skin care products that help to streamline beauty routines. While demand for anti-aging skin care products remains strong globally, there’s growing scrutiny of multi-step beauty routines, which consumers may question for reasons ranging from efficiency to environmental concerns. In China for example, 63% of female facial skin users prefer a simplified approach to facial skin care, and in the US, 38% of skin care users think multi-step routines are wasteful.5​ Innovative products that can deliver multiple benefits, without compromising on efficacy and performance, can offer an alternative that appeals to consumers.

The PEPHA-TIGHT CB experience: Two benefits, one product

As a science-based purpose-led company, DSM leverages the power of lab-grown algae for youthful looking skin in PEPHA-TIGHT CB. This active ingredient is a combination of pro-aging long-and mid-term effects, based on biological sources that are processed with biotechnology. It’s relevant in a net zero climate change policy, as all production processes are operated under mild conditions without hazardous chemical substances and generate only small amounts of non-hazardous waste. In addition, currently 60% of the energy used for the photobioreactors is renewable.

This unique formulation delivers both immediate still long-lasting lifting and firming, as well as wrinkles reduction and elasticity boosting with more long-term regular application, enabling consumers having it all in one skin care product.

In the short term, with just one application, PEPHA-TIGHT CB forms a thin film on the skin, exerting an instant and long-lasting perceptible skin smoothing and lifting effect. PEPHA-TIGHT CB is also proven in vitro to act as a protective shield against oxidative stress and to help stimulate the formation of Collagen I, driving substantial pro-aging benefits within long-term regular routine.

In a new in vivo study, female volunteers aged 40-65 years showed smoother skin and a more homogenous texture already within minutes from the first application of a product containing 3% PEPHA-TIGHT CB. A significant increase in skin firmness and a decrease in sagging was measured after 12 hours from the second application, proving long-lasting effect. The volunteers’ skin also gained elasticity in critical facial areas such as the eye lid. Product performance was also perceived by volunteers: 70% said that their “overall facial skin looks and feels firmer with PEPHA®-TIGHT CB”. In a long-term in vivo study, volunteers who applied a formulation featuring 3% of PEPHA-TIGHT CB regularly for two months experienced anti-aging benefits, including a significant reduction in wrinkles by over -20% and a +15% improvement in elasticity.

PEPHA-TIGHT CB features in DSM’s Deep Beauty range of formulations powered by blue biotechnology ingredients. This line up meets consumer demand for high performing, multi-benefit skin care products that respect the environment and prioritize the need for natural and​ sustainable solutions. In the formulas also PEPHA-CTIVE CB and PEPHA®-AGE CB, other two ingredients of the DSM PEPHA® range, derived from Microalgae. The PEPHA ingredients are 100% Natural origin (ISO 16128) serving the “Clean Beauty Trend”. The power of algae for healthy-looking skin.

An opportunity to drive biotech innovation in personal care

As consumers expand their understanding of sustainability on the product level and continue to raise the bar for responsibility and trust from brands, without compromising on performance, there’s an opportunity to further explore the use of lab-grown ingredients and blue biotechnology in personal care. This future-minded approach can deliver the transparency consumers expect while also delivering innovative, on-trend products that resonate with consumers.


1.​ The Generation Z BPC Consumer UK. Lightspeed/Mintel (2019, Aug).
2.​ Promote sustainability with marine-inspired ingredients. ​Lightspeed/Mintel (2021, June)
3.​ Promote sustainability with marine-inspired ingredients. Lightspeed/Mintel (2021, June). 
4.​ Mintel GNPD data interpretation: Face/Neck Innovations feat. algae 1996-2022.
5.​ Kantar Profiles/Mintel, March 2021; KuRunData/Mintel, June 2022; Kantar Profiles/Mintel, April 2022