L’Oréal-Backed Biotech Startup Debut Showcases Niacinamide Alternative With New Brand Deinde

For its first beauty brand, L’Oréal-backed biotechnology startup Debut is spotlighting its lab-brewed alternative to niacinamide in products formulated to combat the effects of inflammaging or low-grade inflammation that immunologist Claudio Franceschi identified nearly a quarter a century ago as degrading the body and increasing its susceptibility to health risks.

The new brand, Deinde, is launching with three products—$88 Skin-Strengthening Serum, $36 Moisture-Locking Face Stick and $32 Purifying Whipped Cleanser—containing 95% to 98% bio-based ingredients. Hero product Skin-Strengthening Serum and Moisture-Locking Face Stick feature naringenin, a polyphenol typically found in citrus fruit that Debut creates through fermentation and has clinically verified via in vitro testing to be 15 times more effective than niacinamide in tackling five signs of inflammaging in the skin, which it pinpoints as fine lines, dullness, dryness, and uneven tone and texture.

“What was really important to me was developing a brand that can outperform consumers’ expectations and deliver the latest science and technology to them and change the game in terms of what they can do in their vanity,” says Dominique Gagnon, VP of consumer brands at Debut. “We spend a lot of time in the industry talking about repairing things once damage has occurred. I think what is more exciting is the conversation on longevity. How do you sustain your current health and promote health as long as possible?”

From biotech startup Debut, Deinde is launching with three products: $88 Skin-Strengthening Serum, $36 Moisture-Locking Face Stick and $32 Purifying Whipped Cleanser. The new brand showcases Debut’s lab-brewed naringenin, an alternative to niacinamide that the company touts as being 15 times more effective than it in combatting the signs of inflammaging on the skin.

Deinde’s core consumer targets are women aged 25 to 35 years old. It envisions them to be both skintellectuals familiar with the ins and outs of skincare ingredients, and skincare newbies beginning to get interested in prevention. Deinde is wooing them with the potential to help stave off the signs of inflammaging on the skin before they’ve set in. To reach consumers, the brand is engaging lifestyle, beauty and dermatologist influencers and embarking on what Gagnon calls “an experiential roadshow” with activations dedicated to education on inflammaging.

While the concept of inflammaging isn’t novel in the skincare arena (dermatologist and skincare brand founder Nicholas Perricone was an early proponent of an anti-inflammatory diet to fight chronic inflammation), Gagnon suggests the spread of anti-inflammatory diets signals it’s poised for broader recognition. “From an innovation perspective, food trends often trickle down to beauty. Farmacy brought the farm-to-table trend from food into beauty. Youth To The People brought the superfood trend into beauty,” says Gagnon. “We have been tracking the anti-inflammatory diet movement that’s happening in holistic health and food and want to tap into that as we bring Deinde to market”

“What was really important to me was developing a brand that can outperform consumers’ expectations.”

In 2024, Debut anticipates Deinde being sold primarily in direct-to-consumer distribution. The goal is for the brand to generate between $3 million and $5 million in revenues in its initial year of availability. Its assortment is due to grow later in the year with a skin barrier-supporting moisturizer. Gagnon explains Deinde has a minimalist mindset when it comes to its assortment and doesn’t believe people need 20 products to address their skin concerns.

Deinde, a word meaning “next, then or thereafter” in Latin, describes itself as “biotech-powered.” Gagnon acknowledges not every person shopping for beauty products understands biotech’s role in beauty, but says a rising number of plugged-in beauty consumers do and are drawn to its sustainability benefits. She mentions naringenin is climate intensive to extract from fruit, specifically grapefruit. Producing a kilogram of it outside of a lab requires 3,356 grapefruits, .37 acres and 38,575 liters of water.

For its initial year on the market, Deinde is expected to primarily sell via direct-to-consumer distribution. The brand’s goal is to reach $3 million to $5 million in first-year sales.

Gagnon characterizes biotech as a panacea for switching to non-extractive, non-petroleum-derived ingredients in beauty products and reducing the environmental footprint of beauty ingredient cultivation. In beauty formulations, she says, “There are often 20 to 30 ingredients, and one ingredient could be manufactured in three continents with how many people, how much water and land…Biotech to me is the answer to the formulation-based issue, but, of course, more work on packaging needs to be done.”

Debut turned to Case, an agency that counts E.l.f. Beauty, Clinique and Summer Fridays on its client roster, for its straightforward design. Teal is its signature brand color. Gagnon says its core target consumers appear to be tired of in-your-face colors and “the classic gen Z bold mix,” but the brand didn’t desire to look overly science-y either. Deinde’s packaging prioritizes glass, bioresin and post-consumer recycled materials. It estimates it uses 10% virgin plastic in the packaging.

“We have been tracking the anti-inflammatory diet movement that’s happening in holistic health and food and want to tap into that.”

In illuminating one of its focus ingredients in a brand, Deinde is taking a page out of the playbooks of biotech companies that preceded it, including now-defunct Solazyme, which spun out algae-centered brand Algenist, and Amyris, which declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and offloaded its flotilla of beauty brands, notably Biossance, its vehicle for squalane, a replacement for squalene, an ingredient originally sourced from shark liver oil. Amyris offers a cautionary tale of the challenges of erecting brands that can sap resources and distract from a biotech company’s larger ingredient supply endeavors.

Brand incubation has been Debut’s objective from the start. The company was founded in 2019 by chemist and investor Joshua Britton and chemist Greg Weiss. Britton serves as CEO. Gagnon joined Debut about two years ago. Previously head of innovation at men’s brand Caldera + Lab and founder of sex and relationship therapy provider Isbel & Co., she also worked at Omnicom, Nestle and Unilever. Debut has raised more than $70 million in funding, with BOLD, L’Oréal’s venture capital fund, its lead investor.

Deinde, which envisions its core customers as women aged 25 to 35 years old, is focused on the five signs of inflammaging in the skin: fine lines, dullness, dryness, and uneven tone and texture.

“We see a lot of value in developing in-house brands with our proprietary actives, especially at this stage of business in terms of introducing our ingredient portfolio and the promise of what our bioactives can deliver. It’s a great awareness-building and education platform, let alone steady revenue driver as we’re an early-stage company out of the gate,” says Gagnon. “Over time, if we’re talking five to 10 years out, I think we see a lot of value in diversifying our revenue streams and not relying only on in-house brands once our ingredient pipeline is really up and running in full.”

Although Debut is showcasing naringenin with Deinde, its ingredient portfolio extends much further than that to over 7,000 compounds, and it holds about 65 patents. In the beauty industry, it’s partnered with an undisclosed natural beauty contract manufacturer to put the compounds in products from a multitude of brands. Debut notes it can create a compound and incorporate it in a finished beauty product in less than six weeks.