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A beauty industry trend favoring plant-based products is gaining traction within the industry — reflecting broader consumer trends focused on health, wellbeing and natural ingredients. Today’s consumers are interested in beauty products and services which reflect and enhance wellbeing and youthfulness, rather than products which cover up blemishes and chemically correct visible symptoms of stress and poor health. A number of natural food ingredients, such as spices, oils and minerals, are currently high on the list of top beauty trends; including turmeric, coconut oil, moringa, and probiotics.
For this reason, beauty brands are turning to different companies and manufacturers to source their ingredients. No longer the domain of the laboratory alone, the contents of modern beauty products are produced by the agriculture industry; so beauty and food production are becoming increasingly intertwined. As well as causing a shift in the sourcing and buying practices of beauty industry players, this also means that aspects of the natural world now affect the availability of key ingredients for beauty products — the weather, soil type, and wind speed can all affect the growth and quality of crops. Several popular beauty ingredients have recently been affected by global crop shortages — including jojoba oil and rosehip oil — and this can directly affect the stability and success of beauty brands which rely on crop production.
Agricultural technology, or agtech, is developing a solid relationship with its surprising new partner: the beauty industry. Next-gen farms function independently of weather, with innovative irrigation and artificial sunlight systems; and it is thought that with further development they will be able to provide sustainable produce sources to beauty companies without concern of supply chain shocks. And farm robotics, as well as farm management software, are expected to streamline sustainable ingredient sourcing and speed up the flow of produce from farm to market.
In addition, biotechnologies could have a significant impact on beauty product ingredients over the coming years. Lab-grown meat is coming closer to acceptance in the mainstream, and as it does so, it is expected that biologically engineered beauty ingredients will also be developed to the point of introduction to the market. Some companies which are bio-engineering food sources using cell cultures, genetic editing and fermentation have already begun to expand into ingredients for cosmetics; such as Ginkgo BioWorks. Based in Boston, Gingko creates microbes for use in a number of different industries, and has genetically engineered the fermentation of yeasts to produce rose oil with different scents that do not rely on the growth and sourcing of expensive rose petals.
CRISPR technology for genetic editing may be utilized to great impact within the beauty industry later down the line. CRISPR is shorthand for a molecular toolkit that allows scientists to make very precise changes to the genetic code of living organisms — so it could provide the means for farmers to grow pathogen-resistant crops, or even create completely new species of plants. Although this technology is not yet in use in the beauty industry, the USDA has approved the first CRISPR-edited plants which may mark the beginning of a rise in food — and beauty — ingredients produced in this way. Caribou Biosciences is a startup which focuses on research into the potential uses of CRISPR technology, and has noted future opportunities “from fragrances and flavors to industrial cleaning and transportation”.
A number of beauty brands which use natural ingredients in their products are already exploring new ways of creating and sourcing ingredients to maximize productivity and minimize overheads. Farms can serve a dual function — with the space and facilities to serve as laboratories for testing ingredients and experimenting with new natural technologies, as well as producing ingredients. Juice Beauty is a skincare and makeup brand based in northern California, which bought its own farm to produce and test ingredients on-site. This gives them the freedom to grow the ingredients they need at the quality required; and it may also be a clever marketing move. They are able to promote their products as 100% organic and sustainable, and draw in an audience of socially conscious consumers by emphasizing their products close proximity to nature; “At Juice Beauty, we go beyond ‘natural’, ‘transparent’ and ‘conventional’”.
Other beauty companies which rent or own their own farms — a trend now known as biodynamic beauty — include Tata Harper and Beekman 1802. It is expected that this trend will upwardly influence the industry standards for organic beauty products. Independent brands are embracing a closer connection with ingredient production by working directly with farms and agricultural research bodies to develop ingredients. The skincare line Ogee donates a percentage of its sales to the Organic Farm Research Foundation with the intention of increasing the variety and quantity of organic crops available to the beauty industry. And Te Mana Skincare, based in New Zealand, is collaborating with Agresearch to develop a merino wool collagen protein — which will add exfoliating and skin softening properties to the brand’s products. Te Mana claims that the wool proteins are “almost identical to the proteins present in the skin”.
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This convergence of beauty brands and agricultural production reflects the overarching desire with the consumer market for heightened transparency and authenticity. People want to know where their products come from — and that means knowing where each ingredient is sourced. Lily Morgan, founder of Lily Farm Fresh Skincare, says “we really want to engage with our customers and promote agriculture. We hope to be a major agri-tourist destination in Colorado”. It is a new aspiration for a beauty brand to rank as a destination for agri-tourism — but it is an aspiration that may be this brand’s key to continued success and customer loyalty. Lily Farm Fresh Skincare recently announced that its farm centre and USDA-approved skincare laboratory will open up for public viewing in order to give customers insider insight into the production and quality of ingredients.
Big name beauty companies are slower than independent brands to partner directly with agricultural firms, but it’s not unheard of. L’Oreal’s new haircare brand Seed Phytonutrients, for example, vocally supports independent American organic farmers and sources sustainable packaging. It it likely that companies will cultivate closer collaborations with farms and agricultural research companies as the trend for transparency continues.
It is interesting to observe that the market movement towards organic and natural beauty is also sparking changes within the industry. Some of these changes directly answer the call for transparency and clarity of sourcing — such as beauty brands buying or renting their own farms. And some of these changes take a different approach to sustainable sourcing, embracing new technological advancements to develop new sources of production. The demand for organic and plant based ingredients will continue to drive industry development and biotechnology research — as beauty brands concentrate on enhancing the nutrient density of their products.