Biomimetics and cosmetics, when ingredients are inspired by nature

  • May 8, 2024
  • 5 minutes of read time

Biomimetics and cosmetics, when ingredients are inspired by nature

Biomimetics is a field of research inspired by living that mimics solutions produced by nature, selected for their effectiveness among many others over the last 4 billion years. Biomimetic technologies are thus inspired by and mimic the organization, mechanism or structural composition of living things.


What is the biomimicry concept?

Combining bio-inspiration and eco-design, Janine Benyus created biomimicry in the early 1990s, an interdisciplinary philosophy and conceptual approach that uses nature as a model to address the challenges of sustainable development (social, environmental and economic). The term biomimicry is derived from two Greek words: "bios", meaning life, and "mimesis", meaning to imitate or reproduce.

Bio-inspiration has always been part of Seppic's DNA, thanks to the expertise of its collaborators at the Pontrieux site in Brittany, who study the behavior of plants, particularly marine plants and algae. Seppic's commitment to sustainable innovation led it to take an interest in the biomimicry methodology a few years ago and to work with CEEBIOS and the Institut des Futurs Souhaitables to experiment and train in biomimicry.

CEEBIOS (Centre d'Etudes et d'Expertise en Biomimétisme) is a recognised player in the field of biomimicry, with expertise in living organisms and biodiversity. This support has helped to identify new biological models of interest and to gain a good understanding of the mechanisms used by living organisms.

Based on this methodology, 2 lines of work have been identified:

  • Taking inspiration from existing biological models in nature
  • or starting from a technical problem and looking for parallels in the living world.

What is biomimicry in skincare?

Biomimicry in skin care and in the personal care industry is currently a beauty buzzword, referring to the creation of cosmetic ingredients that mimic natural compounds found in nature and in the body. The idea behind creating biomimetic compounds is to create identical or close to identical ingredients to those found in nature. When applied in a topical skin care product, these ingredients stimulate a natural response in the body

Imitate the natural composition of skin or hair

An active ingredient to reproduce the skin's ceramides

One of the pillars of biomimetism involves ingredients that mimic the natural composition of skin or hair. This is the approach taken with Ceramosides™ HP, a plant ceramide derived from wheat that has a similar structure to skin ceramides and therefore the same benefits. Synthesized by keratinocytes which are the majority of cells in the epidermis, ceramides play an essential role in the skin's barrier function and in maintaining hydration. A reduction in their quantity and/or quality leads to problems with dry skin and other skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, seborrhoeic dermatitis, etc.

Emulsifiers that mimic the organization of the skin

Biomimicry is not just about active ingredients. Functional ingredients such as emulsifiers from the Montanov™ range are also concerned. In fact, while trying to understand the very good compatibility and tolerance of Montanov™-based creams with the skin surface, we were able to establish a structural parallel. The amphiphilic molecules in Montanov™ emulsions are organized in lamellar layers called liquid crystals, just like the lipids found in the surface layers of the skin, between the cells.

This similarity in structure, achieved thanks to emulsifiers, improves both the stability and the skin compatibility of cosmetic formulations. In addition, emulsions based on Montanov™ 202 have shown that their biomimetic texture provides big benefits with a long-lasting moisturizing and smoothing effect on the skin.

Montanov, emulsions, liquid crystals Montanov™ emulsions are organized in lamellar phases, like the lipids present in the layers of the skin.

Imitating a biological mechanism found in nature

Another pillar of biomimetism is the way in which an ingredient mimics a biological mechanism found in nature, it is also called bioinspiration. Throughout the centuries and in all corners of the world, mankind has often sought to observe and understand nature in order to draw inspiration from it. By studying and developing the algae and marine plants of the Bréhat archipelago in Brittany, Seppic has drawn inspiration from this exceptionally diverse marine flora to develop its active ingredients.

Taking inspiration from the sea

For example, we studied the chemical defense system of the sea hare (Aplysia californica), which feeds on the algae Asparagopsis armata, rich in "mycosporin-like" amino acids, to communicate with its conspecifics. Bio-inspired by this method of chemical communication, Aspar'age™ is an anti-aging active derived from Asparagopsis armata. It contains mycosporin-like amino acids, which have been shown to regulate intracellular communication in the skin during the aging process of skin cells. A new in vitro evaluation model of this contagious aging, between old and young cells, has shown that Aspar'age™ inhibits the cellular "secretome messenger of senescence".

Asparagopsis armata algae Asparagopsis armata, the algae that inspired the Aspar'age™ active ingredient

Taking inspiration from the behavior of plants in space

Sagacious™ is a great example of a product mimicking a biological mechanism found in nature. It is an active ingredient inspired by the behavior of plants in space. Indeed, studies on the International Space Station have shown that plants synthesize specific molecules from the glycolipid family to maintain their integrity in absence of gravity. Using a patented, eco-designed extraction process called 'Cœur d’algue', this family of molecules has been extracted from the seaweed Himanthalia elongata. We were able to demonstrate the efficacy of this ingredient against sagging skin and improved firmness, 8 times greater than the results obtained with a placebo.

Himanthalia elongata algae Himanthalia elongata, the algae that inspired the Sagacious™ active ingredient

Biomimetics applied to cosmetics therefore opens up new perspectives and potential to offer both storytelling and functionality to ingredients and cosmetic products. It also offers an innovative approach inspired by nature for effective skin care that respects the skin.

To remember
  1. Biomimetics is defined as an interdisciplinary philosophy and conceptual approach that uses nature as a model to address the challenges of sustainable development (social, environmental and economic).
  2. One of the pillars of biomimicry involves ingredients that mimic the natural composition of the body such as skin or hair.
  3. Biomimetics can also refer to an ingredient that mimics a biological mechanism found in nature.