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The future of beauty: why biomimetics is the key to effective, sustainable skincare

The best skincare ingredients are the ones your skin naturally produces.

Or at least that’s the argument behind biomimetic skincare, an emerging approach to skincare formulation that sits at the intersection of cutting-edge scientific technology and nature. 

“Biomimetics – using concepts and principles from nature to create new materials, devices, and systems – could offer huge opportunities for beauty,” Lucy Whitehouse writes in Cosmetics Design

She explains that as consumers become more aware of safety and efficacy in skincare products, brands are increasingly looking to nature for inspiration. If skincare brands want to find the next best effective ingredient or product, biomimetics could be the key to unlocking all of nature’s secrets.  

Biomimetic skincare explained

Let’s break it down even further: the prefix “bio” refers to life, while “mimetic” is derived from the word “imitate.” Biomimicry literally means “imitation of the living,” and refers to a branch of science that studies nature and then imitates, or takes inspiration from, natural designs and processes to solve human problems.  

Translation: the evolution of life and nature (thanks in part to natural selection) knows better than we do. Nature has a way of solving just about every problem you can think of – mostly because it has about 4.54 billion years of experience. Ingredients and chemical properties that the body is already familiar with could lead to better results than a completely new chemical compound that the body has never seen before. 

“These are synthetic or natural materials that can mimic our own skin’s natural function,” explains Ginger King, cosmetic chemist. “Biomimetic materials [are] triggers for our own natural production of collagen, elastin, sebum, etc., instead of applying materials like collagen on skin, which is useless.”

Biomimetic skincare examples

Nature has been the inspiration for many inventions throughout history: the Wright brothers studied birds before building the world’s first airplane, and the tiny hooks on bur fruits inspired the invention of Velcro tape. 

As it relates to skincare, biomimicry has been the catalyst for the discovery of powerful anti-aging peptides, how to reignite slowed collagen production, and superior moisturizing ingredients. 

According to Cosmetics Design, the peptide named acetyl hexapeptide-8 is a chemical replica of a portion of SNAP-25, a protein naturally found in your body involved in muscle contractions. When this peptide is introduced in a topical application, like a moisturizer, muscle contractions are greatly reduced, resulting in “a Botox-like effect,” explains King.

Another great example of biomimetic innovation relates to collagen production. Collagen is what gives skin its plumpness, but production starts to diminish about one percent each year following the age of 21, which leads to a loss in firmness and elasticity of the skin. 

According to Dr. Jessica Krant, M.D., MPH at Art of Dermatology in New York City, applying collagen directly to the skin via a topical product is essentially worthless because it doesn’t stimulate actual collagen production. Instead, “peptides or vitamin C can turn on the key to generate collagen synthesis,” explains King, even after natural production has slowed. 

In addition to anti-aging skincare, biomimetics has also been crucial in creating better moisturizing products for people who suffer from chronic dry skin. “Watermelon contains filaggrin, which can trigger the production of normal moisturization factor in our skin and achieve moisturization rather than being a topical hydrator,” says King. 

Biomimetic skincare benefits

Biomimetic skincare doesn’t refer to specific ingredients so much as it refers to a framework from which ingredients and formulas are derived. 

King calls biomimetic skincare, “[the] most effective and natural way of skincare.” In a time when “clean” ingredients are taking over the shelves, biomimetics is a perfect union of nature and science. What’s more natural than triggering your own collagen production?  

It’s also more sustainable. Natural ingredients aren’t always the most sustainable, and scientists can use biomimetics to formulate new alternatives that are more sustainable with less environmental impact. 

“The way we have been taught to think about synthetic chemicals or lab-made things is that they are somehow ok for medical devices, but for everything else, it must be bad or suspicious,” Mia Davis, Director of Mission at clean beauty retailer Credo, tells Byrdie. “But, a lot of lab-made products are inspired by nature and biomimicry.” 

The future of beauty lies in the past – millions of years of evolution across all species. 

Nature has always been the cure – biomimetics just harnesses that cure and distills that knowledge into practical applications that solve real, human problems. That’s pretty powerful (heavy emphasis on the pretty). 

Best biomimetic skincare products 

Kate Somerville Kx Active Concentrates Bio‐Mimicking Peptides Serum  ($98)

A blend of five peptides helps improve firmness and elasticity in the skin. Chicory leaf, banana, and mango extract work together to reduce the appearance of wrinkles while improving radiance for an all-over glow. 

Dr. Zenovia Skincare Peptide + Ceramide Repairing Moisturizer ($79)

Bio-equivalent ceramides dramatically boost hydration, while a peptide complex functions to support collagen production. This rich cream puts in work to hydrate and reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. 

 Biologique Recherche Creme Iso-Placenta (price upon request)

Holy-grail French skincare brand Biologique Recherche really performed some kind of witchcraft to make this product. This heavy cream is designed to biomimic the properties of the human placenta, which makes it deeply nourishing and regenerative. Just trust us on this one. 

Hanacure Nano Emulsion ($47)

Acetyl hexapeptide is the star of this formulation, which we know from our chemistry lesson above creates a “Botox-like” effect, effectively stopping wrinkles in their tracks. Squalane, sodium hyaluronate, and patented “ruby of the forest” mushroom extract keep the skin hydrated for hours. 

Glo Skin Beauty Bio-Renew EGF Drops ($125)

Formulated with 100% vegan EGF and a bio-active peptide recovery complex, these drops help restore, strengthen, and firm the skin. It works in synergy with the skin’s natural system to activate and accelerate epidermal cell regeneration for softer, brighter skin and a strong skin barrier.