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Source of Innovation: The Story of Ingredients

By: Sara Mason
Posted: July 31, 2014, from the August 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Buriti fruit

Buriti fruit

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Partnerships between suppliers and beauty brands are quite important to continuous innovation. This collaborative approach has developed into open innovation, and it is now an integral part of the industry.

“Evonik has a unique innovation process because we introduce anywhere from 10–12 new products every year on the personal care side,” says Paul Washlock, vice president of personal care, North America, Evonik. Washlock explains that besides one-on-one conversations with clients to identify potential needs, Evonik uses a broader network to review trends and potential actives for the marketplace. “Very early in the development process, these scientists and consulting firms who are experts in their niches work with us in a mutually beneficial way to identify potential solutions for the marketplace,” he explains.

Once an active is considered, Evonik brings in additional scientific and academic colleagues and collaborators to do their own independent testing and ensure the data is on the right track. “It is once testing is completed that we start talking to customers, particularly those with whom we have a strong collaborative relationship and whose needs fit the solution we are developing,” says Washlock. Evonik provides a win-win situation in which brands get total access to the data, as well as potentially limited exclusivity for a particular active ingredient. “Meanwhile, we are still in the innovation mode, so we are able to work with the client to understand the trends or solutions they are looking for with the active, enabling us to personalize the solution for their product or brand.” It could be as fast as six months, Washlock says, but typically it may take 12–18 months.

When a beauty brand goes to Evonik with a specific question, such as how to improve skin elasticity, the supplier launches into research rather than simply providing a list of available products. “For [an inquiry on skin elasticity], we screened more than 100 different types of algae that could potentially assist in skin elasticity,” says Washlock. The three most promising options from this research were selected and cultivated by algae experts. Depending on growth properties and potential desired effects, some of these micro algae were further explored.

Finally, a unicellular red micro algae was extracted that had the results they were looking for, to protect stem cells to provide rejuvenation of skin cell activity in the skin. Cyanidium caldarium is available only in acidic hot springs and hot soils, such as the Grand Prismatic Spring of Yellowstone National Park, and the unicellular micro algae is able to survive under extreme conditions. The strain that is used for the production was isolated on the Sunda Islands in Southeast Asia from Mount Lawu fumaroles on the island of Java. Production of the bioactive algae extract is a natural and ecofriendly process from biorenewables. “We bring in the engineering, chemistry and technical expertise to make it naturally within the laboratory at high volume without an external carbon source,” says Washlock. After cultivation, the algae cells are processed by a proprietary mild extraction method followed by a filtration step, enriching the bioactive compounds.