The term “lab grown” is becoming increasingly common in the skin care industry and, in some ways, synonymous with sustainable.
You may have heard of lab-grown diamonds or lab-grown meat; now, it’s time to familiarize yourself with lab-grown skin care. In an effort to reduce the depletion of natural resources—without compromising efficacy—the skin care industry is pivoting to this lab-grown skin care concept, otherwise known as biotechnology. Researchers, manufacturers, and brands in the beauty industry are always looking for new, active ingredients that have the potential to yield even greater skin benefits than what is currently on the market. The process of finding such ingredients requires them to be first farmed and harvested, though doing so could be difficult, and some ingredients may even be endangered. Hearts of palm, coconut, acai, and other preferred skin care ingredients are natural resources whose removal from the landscape can have a lasting impact on the environment. A good example of this is the production of fragrances. Producing a single pound of lavender essential oil can take roughly 250 pounds of lavender, while producing the same amount of rose essential oil can take 10,000 pounds of rose petals. The effort and impact involved to acquire the raw materials for skin care products is not always sustainable.1
That’s where biotechnology comes in. Biotechnology allows manufacturers in the industry to continuously produce single molecules from one plant without the need for more live plant materials. Further, by genetically manipulating microorganisms, cosmetic chemists have the ability to create products that have higher concentrations of active ingredients all while being fully compatible with the skin.
This concept is not new, but with the gaining trend of clean and sustainable beauty, more companies are investing in biotechnology: 2
- The biotech industry is currently valued at 1.61 billion.
- Shiseido has been using biotechnology to manufacture hyaluronic acid since the 1980s.
- Biossance began using biotechnology in 2016 to make vegan squalene.
- Unilever has invested 120 million and partnered with a biotech firm to produce an alternative for palm oil and petroleum jelly.