Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead: The Amyris Impact
Today marks the first-ever International Squalane Day, a celebration of scientific innovation, sustainability, and efficacy that is based on our game-changing sugarcane-based squalane. Global President of Biossance Catherine Gore shares why sugar-cane derived squalane is changing the future of beauty.
As President of Biossance, I’m proud of all the work we’ve done with our parent company Amyris to bring this groundbreaking innovation to the forefront of the industry-wide conversation. In the past, clinical results versus environmental consciousness was an either/or equation, but squalane proves that the beauty industry can lean into both efficacy and sustainability.
Efficacy without compromise is the heart of everything we do. Biossance has set out to prove that consumers don’t need to compromise when it comes to their skincare. You can have the healthiest skin you’ve ever had, and still make a positive impact on the planet.
I’m thrilled that the industry has followed our lead and recognized that consumers want and need best in class products that are created in ways that do not harm animals or the planet and don’t contain petrochemicals. We believe so much in our sugarcane derived squalane that we give our competitors access to it as well. And due to the incredible efforts of the B2B team at Amyris, an increasing number of beauty companies are now prioritizing sustainability and efficacy equally. I believe this is the key to creating better products for tomorrow’s consumers, and protecting the planet at large.
The Story of Squalane
Biossance and Amyris have a rich history of science and sustainability. In 2003, our scientists began a project that would change the world. Inside our UC Berkeley labs, they developed patented technology that allowed us to create an accessible cure for malaria. Today, over 120 million royalty-free treatments have been successfully given thanks to this technology.
Inspired to continue using our innovative biotechnology to make a positive impact on the world and believing that the best way to help people recognize the value of synthetic biology was by making it part of their everyday lives, we turned to skincare and Biossance (“biotechnology” + “renaissance”) was born.
For generations, beauty products were fortified with squalane – an exceptional moisturizer naturally found in human skin – at the cost of millions of sharks, harvested for their squalene-rich livers. Biossance’s team of scientists discovered how to engineer a similar substance – squalane – from fermenting sustainable sugarcane and yeast, similar to how beer and wine have been made for hundreds of years.
This new, ethically-sourced and vegan squalane is a molecular match for the moisture found in our skin. Our squalane is purer, more stable, effective, and sustainable than shark squalane and it doesn’t have the environmental impact of the other traditional alternative, olive-derived squalane. Compared to olive-derived squalane, sugarcane squalane reduces land use 600-fold and minimizes environmental impact and water usage.
We can make as much as the world needs without negatively impacting the planet. It would take three adult sharks to provide the equivalent amount of squalene needed for ten bottles of 100% Squalane Oil. Biossance eliminated reliance on sharks and can produce the world’s yearly supply of squalane using only 1 sq km of land without requiring irrigation – addressing the world’s needs without depleting the planet, and saving 2 million sharks from slaughter every year.
Sugarcane-derived squalane is weightlessly absorbed into the skin and deeply hydrates, making it an incredible moisturizer on its own. It’s also a perfect conduit to make other ingredients – like vitamin C or lactic acid – perform even better. It is nature’s best moisturizer and is suitable even for the most sensitive skin, which is why we put this hero hydrator at the heart of every Biossance formula.
Why Sugarcane-Derived Squalane
Plant-derived ingredients recently have come under a lot of scrutiny for their impact on the environment, and with good reason. Palm oil, bisabalol, and vanilla are just a few examples where sourcing ingredients from plants has been detrimental to the environment.
Our sugarcane source is a perennial crop, grown year round in the rainforests of Brazil, requiring no extra water due to the abundant rainfall. Our Bonsucro-certified sugarcane field is located far from the Amazon Rainforest, so there’s no deforestation or adverse environmental changes introduced, nor does it interfere with land use for food production.
In terms of squalane production and manufacturing, we’re striving to create as close to a closed process as possible. Since more than two-thirds of sugarcane’s weight comes from water, we’re able to use a significant amount of water from the cane itself within our processing.
In addition, we use bagasse – the fibrous pulp that remains after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice – to create our outer cartons. The bagasse is also used to generate electricity to fuel the manufacturing plant. Any excess electricity not used by the sugarcane mill or fermentation plant is released free of charge to power local Brazilian communities.
Our sugarcane-derived squalane is traceable, and has 20 times fewer volatile impurities than olive-sourced squalane. It is more consistent than olive-sourced squalane and it is unaffected by environmental fluctuations. It also outperforms other emollients in hydrating and anti-aging benefits and is extremely stable with a long shelf life.
How Squalane is Changing the Beauty Industry
Sustainability isn’t a competition; it’s a common goal. This is why we share our squalane with other brands, giving them access to an ingredient that will ultimately make their formulas perform better while also benefiting the health of our planet – specifically our oceans.
Today, nine out of the top ten beauty companies use our sugarcane-derived squalane in their products, representing over 50 percent share of the global squalane market. As more brands adopt our squalane, we continue to advance Amyris’ mission of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable consumption. We are now focused on converting remaining olive oil squalane users to our sugarcane squalane as a superior-performing, more sustainable solution.
I believe the best way to enact change within the industry is to work with other brands as one team. At Biossance, I have also spearheaded partnerships aimed at transitioning the beauty industry towards more sustainable business practices. Through our #WeAreAllies partnership, we have forged a coalition of top beauty brands in which we’ve all pledged to be zero waste by 2025. It’s a lofty goal, but an attainable and important one, as almost 70 percent of packaging waste currently ends up in our landfills.
Synthetic biology has the power to change the beauty industry and be the most sustainable solution for the future. We want both consumers and the industry to be aware of the power of their choice – together we can make a difference.
I’m incredibly proud of the impact we’ve already had on the beauty industry, but it’s just the beginning. I’m energized and excited for what’s to come!