BIO Market News
Beauty—as the saying goes—is in the eye of the beholder, though this relativistic insight has not stopped humans from spending more than 6,000 years striving to artificially enhance their looks. From Ancient Egypt and Sumer until today, the quest for beauty is recorded in our literature, music and art. Even today, many women and men devote considerable amounts of time and money to selecting and applying the right combination of cosmetic products, and thus drive a huge—and still growing—cosmetics industry. In turn, cosmetics companies, in bids to outdo their competitors, are increasingly using the results of basic research in the biological and chemical sciences to create more sophisticated products that promise little less than everlasting beauty.
The latest wave of cosmetics are based on advanced research that includes the use of biotechnology-derived ingredients, genetic profiling for individual skin-care or nutritional regimes, stem-cell-based products and therapies to regenerate ageing tissues, or cell and tissue engineering for cosmetic purposes. “Cosmetics will take advantage from those technologies that will allow one to achieve observable results upon topical application,” commented Paolo Giacomoni, the head of research at a large cosmetics company. “Stabilized enzymes used in topical applications will help to repair [damage] after exposure to solar radiation, or to digest pigments in age spots. Appropriate polymers will tighten the skin and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, or prolong moisturization.”
As a consequence of this increasing application of science to beauty, the line between cosmetic and medical research is becoming blurred; the laboratories of major cosmetic companies perform cutting-edge research in areas such as matrix biology, antioxidants and ageing processes. In addition to the goal of making women and men look younger, this research also benefits the development of therapies against a range of serious disorders. Vice versa, various biotechnology companies—such as those that are investigating methods to boost DNA repair or wound healing—have licensed some of their molecules to the cosmetic industry, or have even entered the market with a proprietary line of beauty products themselves (Nasto, 2007). Helix Biomedix, for example, a biotechnology company based in Bothell (WA, USA) has recently patented more than 80 proprietary peptides for use in cosmetic and skin-care applications and products. According to the company, there are now more than 20 products on the market that contain Helix's peptides (www.helixbiomedix.com).
…cosmetics companies […] are increasingly using the results of basic research in the biological and chemical sciences to create more sophisticated products…
One of the main impetuses for researching cosmetics is that they are not required to undergo the clinical trials for efficacy to which drugs are subject. In the case of biotechnology companies, this provides a new source of income to finance their basic research; however, the blurred line between drugs and cosmetics creates a complex regulatory situation. Many beauty products—which often sell at a high retail price—come with claims that the product is based on advanced scientific research, giving consumers the impression that they are as effective—and as tested—as drugs. Conversely, the cosmetics industry does not want its products to be regulated in a similar manner to drugs as this would involve extensive, lengthy and costly clinical trials for efficacy. It therefore falls to the regulatory agencies to decide whether a product—despite its claims—is a cosmetic, or whether it should be classed as a drug because it has a therapeutic effect.