Tune In: Why A Product's Delivery Method Is Just As Important As The Ingredients
When we discuss skin care topicals and efficacy, we spend a lot of time on the ingredients themselves: what they can do for the skin, at what percentage they are formulated, and if they can remain stable throughout their shelf life. All worthy inquiries, no doubt.
We spend less time talking about how said ingredients actually get to where they need to go once on the epidermis. This is often referred to as the delivery method, and it's a problem that biotech companies have been trying to solve in the beauty industry for the last several years.
"I think the essence of what biotech brings to beauty is the analytical, comprehensive look at the root causes. What are the receptors in the skin? What are the pathways? Why is this happening, and how can we intervene? It requires a knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of what's going on in the skin," says biotech scientist Lauren Otsuki, who is joined by beauty vet Vimla Black-Gupta, co-founders of the subtopical and biotech skin care brand Ourself.
"One of the biggest fundamental differences between the way traditional skin care has approached using ingredients and the way biotech people approach things is that we want to be able to make sure that they can get to where they need to go in the skin," Otuski continues. "We evaluate whether the ingredient or compound can actually engage the target."
Why a product's delivery method is so important for topical skin care.
A delivery method or system is simply how a product gets distributed in the skin once on and how it makes it to the receptors, or cells, in the skin where it's able to perform its intended function.
If a product does not have an effective delivery system, it will sit atop the skin—rendering the active ingredients somewhat useless. Take, for example, the curious case of hyaluronic acid, says Otsuki.
"A really, really great example of this is all of the hype around hyaluronic acid products. We've been teaching consumers that HA is a great thing for your skin. But HA is also incredibly polar, which means it's repelled by your skin," she says. "So many of these HA products that are out there are great at creating surface hydration, but they aren't getting to the place in the skin where the problem is actually occurring, which is inside the layers of the skin."
There are a few types of delivery systems available, some more sophisticated than others. For example, microneedling is a type of delivery method, albeit a physical one.
As Otsuki explains, in the case of biotech options it can come down to the polarization of the ingredients and formula: "All molecules have a positive or negative charge to them, and we have to put the right charge balance with them in order to make a formula that will literally just melt into your skin," she says.
If this all sounds very technical, it is. But that's what makes these new advancements in biotechnology so exciting—they're bringing a level of efficacy to the beauty industry we've yet to see before.
For more intel on how biotechnology is shaking up the beauty space, tune in here.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.