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Biossance is formulating a new future for the beauty industry 

Photography By Biossance

Catherine Gore was one of the first employees to be hired at beauty-retail giant Sephora in North America, springboarding a career in the beauty industry that saw her working for Sephora and Kendo to develop brands like Marc Jacobs, Kat Von D and Ole Henriksen.

Donning high heels and makeup during the week to help the biggest names in beauty carve their reputations, in her spare time Gore volunteered at a marine mammal centre and worked in ocean preservation. It wasn’t until she joined Biossance in 2018 that she saw a way to combine these two passions.

Founded in 2015 by biotechnology company Amyris, Biossance are leading the clean beauty revolution. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, following the company’s prior breakthrough in malaria treatment, they used science and innovative biotechnology to explore new solutions in skincare, landing on squalene.

As Gore explains, squalene is what’s in our skin; a lipid naturally produced in human bodies by our own skin cells. The oily substance is also found in shark livers and in plants. It’s a highly sought after ingredient in cosmetics because of its emollient and restorative qualities.

Try not to be grossed out, but in the same way cochineal dye from beetles is used in lipsticks and blush products, rendered animal fat is added to cosmetics and ambergris from whales’ stomachs is used in perfumes, squalene is sourced from shark livers and used in skincare products to mimic the positive effects of our body’s natural squalene. An unpleasant reality for those who not only want to avoid toxic chemicals in their beauty regimes but also animal by-products.

Amyris discovered an alternative, one that didn’t require animal derivatives and could recreate squalene in an ethical and sustainable way. “Amyris decided to use sugar fermented from sugar cane, and basically through biotechnology, they were able to recreate squalene and rename it squalane. It’s not only better for the environment and sharks, but it’s also much more non-comedogenic than its natural counterpart,” Gore says.

Non-toxic, eco-friendly and vegan from the outset, Biossance’s squalane products are derived from renewable sugarcane on a farm in Northern Brazil (far from the Amazon rainforest, might I add). The brand also uses the stalk from the plants to make the boxes their products are sold in, which can then be composted, adding to their circularity and waste-reducing efforts.

“We will be zero waste by 2025,” Gore says. “Already, over half of our packaging is in glass [and] you can compost our boxes because they’re made out of sugarcane. There are tough choices for pumps and things of that nature, so you just have to commit to it as an organisation and do your best.”

For a consumer, perhaps the biggest question posed is whether the clean alternatives developed by scientists produce beauty products as effective as those already on the market. “There have been a lot of questions as to whether or not clean [cosmetics] are as effective as conventional options which contain toxins,” Gore says. “And the answer is yes, in spades.

“Clean and clinical are synonymous in our mind but I think over time it just takes education, whether it’s a household cleaning product or prestige skincare…You can have the most beautiful skin you’ve ever had and not throw a bunch of toxic ingredients in there as fillers.”

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