Published On: September 19, 2022

A new cosmetic industry

Ready to take care of the beauty of nature

There is nothing more beautiful than a natural landscape: a strong waterfall, a cliff facing the sea, or the fine golden sand of a desert. Because if there is something that requires no make-up, it’s our home planet.

Although we can appreciate the beauty of nature, in many cases we fail to protect it, producing and using products, such as cosmetics, that have a large ecological footprint and damage this beautiful world.

In our day-to-day life, we use lots of non-ecologic cosmetic products. To give you a more concrete idea; 150 ml of a cosmetic can contain between 130,000 and 2,800,000 plastic microspheres (not to mention other toxins and pollutants that are emitted during its production). This means that every time we clean our faces with a scrub or brush our teeth with conventional toothpaste, we are dumping thousands of pieces of plastic into the environment. If we multiply these thousands of microplastics by the 7.9 billion people in the world, the result is shocking.

Probably, for these reasons, there are already many cosmetic companies committed to more ecological production systems. Luckily, this is a positive, emerging, and we would like to think, irreversible trend: it is the era of eco-cosmetics.

Curbing the use oil-based chemicals in cosmetics

Plant-based and eco products seem to be a current hot topic in the cosmetic industry. But actually, there are plenty of precedents, which date back to, at least, the ancient Egyptian age. In fact, the use of aromatic herbs, vegetable oils, natural dyes or resins has been common in several civilisations and very different ages.

With all the accumulated knowledge throughout history on the benefits of plants, the cosmetic industry is ready to offer its best eco-friendly products.

Currently, cosmetic companies that are joining ecological production can do it in two non- mutually exclusive ways: they can move away from oil-based chemicals, and they can use organically grown plants.

To use products from ecological agriculture and farming is quite straightforward and, in fact, it is already a reality inside the cosmetic industry, but avoiding oil-based products is not so easy. This is because these oil-based products are key components in charge of emulsifying and improving the viscosity and absorption of cosmetics.

And so, the big question is, how can we create the same effects using only natural raw materials?

Tiny enzymes for a mighty change

As we laid out in our first blog post, enzymes are proteins that accelerate chemical reactions. As such, they have been used in many industries over the years, including cosmetics, improving their manufacturing process in different ways.

Imagine an enzyme that converts an oil-based material into the emulsifier we need. While that is an improvement in the production process of the emulsifier, its environmental footprint can still be further reduced because it uses harmful and polluting industrial feedstocks. It could be better, right? For example, if we could find another enzyme, or modify the one we have, to convert a sustainable material into the emulsifier we need; that would be just perfect.

There is an enzyme for each chemical reaction, whichever source material  we aim to work with or which final product we aim to obtain. That means that, in theory, enzymes can transform any natural raw materials into products that have the features that we need, in a production process that no longer relies on oil-based chemistry.

In addition, enzymes are so efficient that they require less quantity of starting materials and produce less waste, including toxic substances.

But there is always a catch: as each chemical reaction needs a particular enzyme, it’s not easy to find the exact enzyme that each product needs. Looking for a specific enzyme is a complex journey that can take lots of time and resources with no certain outcome. And the same goes for enzyme modifications.

Making hard things possible with RadicalZ

The need to find enzymes that allow the cosmetic industry to be more sustainable is an opportunity to put our RadicalZ project into practice. Thanks to the use of microfluidics technology and machine learning we will be able to find the necessary enzymes to produce the same cosmetic products with a significantly smaller ecological footprint: using just natural raw materials, using less energy, less water and generating less organic waste, CO2 and toxics.

Furthermore, incorporating enzymes into the products will make them more sustainable (reducing toxicity and energy demand) during their manufacturing process, their use and at the end of their life.

And not only this, but enzymes will also allow us to produce more innovative and functional products, with better characteristics (more effective and more pleasant) for consumers.

In short, if we create better products, made by a sustainable industry, we’ll be able to reduce the effects of climate change. A new scenario that will allow us to look even nicer along with the beauty of nature for many more years.

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