This Single Hydrating Ingredient Is Why Biossance's Skincare Products Actually Work
Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
When it comes to skincare products, having to choose between clean ingredients or effectiveness is no longer a decision you have to make. Just ask Catherine Gore, president of natural, non-toxic skincare brand Biossance. The products in the line are formulated with bioengineered squalane — nature's best moisturizer — mixed with other clinically-proven, effective, and sustainability-sourced ingredients like marine algae and sugar cane.
"At least with Biossance, the science and ingredients are so good, that clean and clinical are one in the same," says Gore. "I guess you can call it cleanical."
Clean beauty isn't exactly a new concept. However, while Biossance is doing its part to make effective, non-toxic products that also offer sustainable packaging, many other brands simply use the phrase as a marketing tool — all because the term, and the many buzzwords surrounding it, are not legally regulated.
To provide more transparency to consumers, Biossance recently launched The Clean Academy, a video series starring brand ambassador Jonathan Van Ness, where he interviews industry experts to debunk some of the biggest myths and questions about clean beauty.
Here, we caught up with Gore to find out why ingredients made in a lab can still be clean and sustainable, how the brand wants to change the clean beauty landscape with its new video series, what Bill and Melinda Gates have to do with the Biossance's creation, and more.
How did Biossance come to be?
Biossance is owned by Amyris, a 10-year-old Bay Area-based biotech company with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation started providing Amyris with funding because they wanted to bioengineer an affordable cure for malaria. The cure had been coming from China but it was overpriced, so they hired a bunch of Berkeley scientists to come up with a cost-effective way to replicate it so it could be given away for free in the sub-Saharan African market.
Next, Amyris evaluated what other industries they wanted to be in, and beauty was one of them. Biossance was created a little over two years ago based off the fact that the line’s hero ingredient, squalane, is your body’s best moisturizer. Historically, the most common ways to get squalane is from deep water shark liver or olives, which are really heavy and dirty. So, Amyris bioengineered and recreated squalane from sugar cane. This way it's sustainable because sugar canes grow like a weed; you can have a small field and it will grow like crazy.
It's incredible you can make such a large quantity of one ingredient.
We also sell our squalane back into the beauty industry. A lot of prestige beauty brands utilize our squalane and we really like this part of our story. We can make as much squalane as the world needs without making a single negative imprint on the planet. The ingredient is clinically proven to work for your skin because your body recognizes it. Think of it like this in comparison to other common skincare ingredients: Collagen provides elasticity, hyaluronic acid holds moisture, and squalane is moisture.
Can you explain how it can be a misconception that ingredients created in labs aren't clean?
It’s actually the cleanest and the most effective. I think biotechnology is one of the answers we’ve all been looking for in the beauty industry. You can take inspiration from nature like a specific species of plant or an endangered ingredient, and recreate them in a lab so that they're the most effective they can be — all without harming the planet. We really believe it’s the way of the future. There’s lots of ingredients we’re replicating and there’s much more to come.
How does Biossance approach making products?
It’s a combination, but first and foremost we look at what the consumer wants, and then ingredient trends. We have a chemist and over 250 scientists on-staff, so all of our formulations are done in-house and created to stand up to clinical data. Also, every step of the process has to be sustainable. If we source anything outside, it has to be farmed responsibly. For example, We have a sugar cane farm in Northern Brazil, far away from the Amazon rainforest. There’s no deforestation, and we don’t use any additional water or pesticides to harvest the sugar cane. Also, we use the stalk to make our boxes, which can be composted. We’re proud to say we’re the most sustainable skincare brand.
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Clean beauty is confusing term because it's not regulated. How will Biossance's Clean Academy help change this?
We launched a Google Analytics survey to find out what myths people have about clean beauty and what they want to know about matter better decisions for their skin. There hasn’t been a change in cosmetic laws in 83 years in the US. We ban 12 ingredients, whereas Europe bans over 1300. In a nutshell, that says it’s up to us to make better choices from a packaging and a product standpoint. I think that the Clean Academy will help air these questions surrounding clean beauty so that people can make better decisions about the products they use.
What are some Biossance products you're really proud of launching?
Our two most recent launches. We didn’t have a rich, creamy eye cream that would lift skin and tackle fine lines and wrinkles, so we made the Squalane Marine Algae Eye Cream. The blend is what makes it so incredible. It has marine algae and squalane, plus paracress extract, which is known as nature’s instant Botox in the ingredient world. It instantly lifts the eye area and produces incredible, instant results. It’s already taken off and we want to use this ingredient in more products.
Second, our Squalane + Rose Vegan Lip Balm. This product has taken almost a year-and-a-half to perfect, which is our longest development process yet. Historically, a lot of lip balms say they’re natural but there’s still an animal derivative — usually beeswax — in them. We came up with a formula that feels luxurious, hydrating, and is entirely vegan. Along with squalane, there’s hyaluronic acid and ceramides in it. The balm gives long-lasting moisture and the clinical data is off the charts. Plus, it smells amazing because we added in rose absolute. It just launched a few months ago and it’s already on fire.