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Biotech Beauty: The Intersection of Innovation and Sustainability

With an increasing demand for a more sustainable beauty industry, innovation meets the beauty production process with the creation of biotech beauty. Biotech beauty uses biotechnology to develop lab-generated ingredients, which you would typically find in nature.  

The advantages of biotech beauty are huge in terms of sustainability. Ingredients are grown in labs instead of harvested, meaning resources such as land, water, and energy aren’t necessary for production. Its goal is to synthetically recreate naturally occurring ingredients in order to eliminate production issues, especially as these ingredients and resources are often finite.  

One of the biotech trailblazers is One Ocean Beauty, which has built its sustainability through innovative biotechnology and various packing and philanthropic strategies. While One Ocean has mastered the clean beauty image, big companies like L’Oréal and Unilever have also vowed to improve their carbon footprint using these sustainable practices.   

The Environmental Advantage  

The main driver behind biotech beauty is the opportunity for a much cleaner and sustainable production, aiming to cut back on environmental exploitation and production cost. As we know, the current beauty industry practices are playing a serious part in our pollution problems. Take a look at palm oil, one of the most used ingredients in this industry often found in shampoo, conditioner, various makeup products, and sunscreen. The cultivation of palm oil alone has led to extensive deforestation and animal extinction contributing to 2.3% of global deforestation. Furthermore, the demand for natural resources isn’t the only culprit. Non-renewable energies and fossils fuels also are severely overconsumed, leading to the climate and pollution problems present today.  

While biotech beauty might not be the ultimate sustainable fix to the industry, it’s a step in the right direction. The global natural cosmetics market is expected to be worth $48.04 billion by 2025, which means tons of water, land, and energy are going into the industry in the next couple of years – not to mention the unsustainable packaging practices also still present within the beauty industry. With the world’s increasing depletion of our natural resources, beauty companies need to investigate more sustainable production methods.   

Challenges and Barriers of Biotech Beauty 

The Upfront Cost 

Although the ingredients made through biotechnology can be produced cheaper than the harvesting of natural ingredients, the investment of new biotechnology can be pricey. It can reportedly take $1.2 billion to develop a new biotech product; however, with that comes decreasing operational costs overall, such as completely eliminating the extraction and cultivation processes in production. The initial jump into investing may be daunting, but the demand for sustainable beauty products is booming. One report shows that 64% of consumers says sustainability is a “very important” factor when purchasing a beauty product. With increasing consumer awareness of sustainable beauty products, consumers are expecting companies to implement clean production practices.  

Customer Skepticism  

Although biotech beauty is more sustainably produced, any time that lab-generated or GMO products are mentioned, some consumers can get nervous – especially when those consumers value organic, local, and natural ingredients. While companies understand consumers’ worries, beauty products that utilize biotechnology have a higher safety rating than those that don’t due to the extensive testing and fewer containments. So, consumers should rest assured that companies are still using organic and natural ingredients, but now are just finding a new way of producing them.  

Regulations and Compliance  

Since the biotechnology market is new and untapped, it has plenty of opportunities with unpredictable regulatory expectations. Regulations within biotech are fast changing and differ internationally, so a biotech breakthrough in Europe doesn’t necessarily mean a win for international cosmetic companies. However, the FDA has established regulations and guidance documents to implement its authority in this space, ensuring product safety and, when applicable, the effectiveness of these products. Although the FDA regulations may be a challenge to navigate, they provide public confidence and transparency in the production of biotechnology.       

Moving Forward 

Biotechnology in beauty is not a fad, but rather the future of the beauty industry. Cosmetic shoppers are looking for progress in sustainability, and biotech beauty is an innovative solution to solving this problem. Despite the challenges that companies could face upfront experimenting with biotechnology, not engaging in sustainable practices could be more costly in the long term. Consider looking into partnering with experts to introduce you to innovative solutions and help you implement more sustainable practices.  

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Contributions by Leah Harding

Tags: Quality Operations, Sustainability