Biotech can drive beauty beyond plant-based ingredient-sourcing

type - big idea
Big Idea
sector - beauty
sector - health & wellness
Jasmina Aganovic, CEO of Arcaea, explains how biotechnology can help source and develop more ethical and intelligent ingredients

Let’s begin with what’s changing in the beauty sector. Why is science suddenly coming to the fore?

We are emerging from a period when innovation was solely focused on branding and market positioning. We should be very grateful for this dramatic proliferation of brand stories because we were able to access consumers that were previously not being spoken to. But while that phase was incredibly important, it lowered the entry barriers so that anyone could launch a brand.

There were tremendous positives to this, but the downside was that it created a lot of noise and confusion for consumers. Consequently, we’re starting to enter a period of discernment. Consumers are asking: ‘What is different about this product?’, ‘What is different about this ingredient?’, ‘Why should I spend my money on this versus something else?’ This discernment is opening the door to science-driven innovation, and Arcaea is playing a huge role in that.

Can you name a couple of problems that biotechnology and science could help solve in the beauty industry?

I will talk through some of the issues on the horizon, but I also want to acknowledge the packaging challenge. I think there's a lot of content and research there, and I believe it’s a real issue, but at this moment, Arcaea is not addressing the packaging problem. The issue that we are addressing is around ingredients and ingredient-sourcing.

Since the origins of this industry, we have made our ingredients by taking something out of something else. We squeeze it out of a plant, we take it out of an animal, we convert it from petrochemicals. This extractive relationship is what the industry was built on. It created the ingredients, the ingredients created the formulations, the formulations created the brands, and the brands created the stories that we know.

When we look at where the industry is going, there is a desire to move away from petrochemicals. The shift away from animals is already happening and so is the shift towards plant-based sourcing. But we cannot sustain an industry built on plant-based sourcing alone. If one multinational were to shift their entire supply chain over to plant-based sourcing, the earth could not grow enough plants just for that multinational. We need to change how we make our ingredients, and this is where biotechnology can really make a difference.

Published by:

12 September 2022

Author: Olivia Houghton and Jessica Smith

Image: Minoan, US


Arcaea, US. Collecting Cultures by BioArt Laboratories, in collaboration with Gemeente Eindhoven, project Overbruggen, GGZE, Internationale School Eindhoven and Woensel-West Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

How can biotech help with ingredient-sourcing?

You can grow your ingredients instead of extracting them. Instead of employing smokestack buildings that require temperature, pressure and heat, you can ferment your ingredients just like you can brew beer in these microbial little factories.

Biotechnology also enables us to access natural molecules that were previously inaccessible. Think about every natural molecule that exists on this planet, for example. Now the industry is limiting itself to this tiny pizza slice of plants, but biotechnology enables us to access much more, and in an ethical and sustainable manner. It’s very exciting to think about what types of new product functionality we can access or what types of product stories and experiences we can create. Biotechnology is a whole new creative tool.

Can you give us an example?

A great example is around sunscreens. Right now, sunscreens can be either physical or chemical blockers. But in nature there are certain types of marine life that can naturally shield UV light. When fish lay their eggs, for example, they have protective molecules to filter out UV light so that the eggs stay intact. While the conventional ingredient-making method would involve extracting from the fish or fish eggs to develop the UV-protecting formula, this would be unethical and it wouldn’t be scalable. Using biotechnology, however, we can read nature’s DNA, put the genetic code into our brewer’s yeast and replicate UV-filtering properties from the natural world.

‘Using biotechnology, we can replicate UV-filtering properties from the natural world in beauty ingredients.’

Want to unlock more?
This is a taster of the content we publish for members of LS:N Global

Sign up to our trends intelligence platform LS:N Global and get unlimited access to a hive of insights - from microtrends and macro trends to market reports, daily news, research across eight industry sectors.


Already a member? Click here to login