In The Era Of Science-Backed Beauty, What’s Becoming Table Stakes For Brands?

In recent years, the tenets of clean beauty such as avoidance of certain ingredients have become commonplace in the beauty industry. Now, science-backed beauty seems to be on the upswing in the industry, and it could bring new obligations for brands as they try to attract audiences in a crowded market.

Given the shifting dynamics, for the latest edition of our ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we asked 23 beauty entrepreneurs, executives, retailers, cosmetics chemists, manufacturers and doctors the following question: If science-backed beauty becomes table stakes, what do you think will become standard for brands to have to ensure their scientific credibility and convey it to consumers and retailers?


Elsa Jungman CEO and Founder, HelloBiome and Dr. Elsa Jungman

In the realm of science-backed beauty, building and upholding scientific credibility is of paramount importance for brands seeking to earn the trust of both consumers and retailers. To achieve this, several fundamental practices and standards must be embraced:

  1. Data-driven claims: Brands should anchor their claims in robust scientific evidence. Any assertions regarding a product's benefits, whether related to safety, efficacy or specific outcomes such as skin hydration or wrinkle reduction, should be underpinned by comprehensive data. This may involve conducting clinical trials, laboratory testing or employing other rigorous scientific methodologies to substantiate these claims. As it come at a cost looking for decentralized research platform can significantly reduce the cost. At HelloBiome, we offer at-home clinical testing for claim substantiation around microbiome impact and also support community engagement.
  2. Engagement with the scientific community:Active participation in conferences and scientific forums provides brand representatives with invaluable opportunities to connect with experts, scientists and researchers in the field. These platforms enable the brand to showcase their research, exchange ideas, and receive constructive feedback. Such engagement underscores the brand's commitment to staying abreast of the latest scientific advancements and invites scrutiny and validation from the scientific community.
  3. Peer review and validation: Publishing research findings in esteemed scientific journals subjects the brand's work to the rigorous process of peer review. Peer review entails independent experts critically evaluating the quality and validity of the research. Successfully navigating this peer review process confers significant credibility upon the brand's claims and products.

By diligently adhering to these practices and standards, science-backed beauty brands not only bolster their own credibility, but also contribute to the elevation of scientific rigor and integrity within the beauty industry. This, in turn, fosters trust and confidence among consumers and retailers alike.

Suveen Sahib Co-Founder and CEO, K18 Biomimetic Hairscience and Aquis

Today’s landscape shows that consumers crave more information about how their beauty products work. There's an especially significant gap that brands utilizing cutting-edge science or biotechnologies must close. We’re moving into an era where "science-backed beauty" is the standard. Simply listing ingredients doesn’t cut it anymore.

Brands harnessing the power of science and biotechnology owe consumers deeper educational context. So far, the education gap is being filled by science experts or self-professed experts/ platforms outside of the brands. This risks misinformation or confusion for the community.

We don’t need a science or biochemistry manual with every bottle of shampoo, but we do need more comprehensive, user-friendly ingredient breakdowns, information on their origins and functionalities. It would help to educate our communities on the risks of cocktailing ingredients or formulations that could be disruptive to the skin or scalp.

Upping the information game is more than just smart branding, it's a responsibility to make science accessible in beauty and personal care. The aim here isn't to make every user a chemist or a biotechnologist, but to elevate consumer understanding so they can both appreciate what true science and biotech can bring to beauty and personal care and make informed buying decisions as a result. Doing this will strengthen the bond between the brand and user.

The bar has been raised. It's time we all meet it.

Manuela Marcheggiani Founder and Cosmetic Chemist, Isomers Skincare Laboratories

If science-backed beauty were to become the standard in the beauty industry, it would likely bring about a transformative shift in how brands operate and convey their scientific credibility to consumers and retailers. This shift would have several implications, including the rise of university-trained formulators and cosmetic chemists such those as Isomers Skincare who have traditionally played unsung roles behind the scenes. Here's an overview of how this transformation might unfold:

  1. Transparency in research and development: Brands would need to openly share their research and development processes and be open to peer reviews not just end user feedback. This includes detailing the scientific studies and methodologies used to formulate products. Transparency builds trust in the brand's commitment to science.
  2. Third-party testing and certification: Just as clean beauty brands often seek certifications, science-backed beauty brands might rely on third-party organizations to validate the efficacy and safety of their products. Certifications could indicate adherence to rigorous scientific standards and also highlight safety. Many clean beauty brands hide the fact that they can still have unsafe or toxic substances in the products. However with safety and toxicity standards and testing as requirements, science-based brands could be elevated and recognized for their safety.
  3. Clinical trials and data sharing: Conducting clinical trials to prove product effectiveness and safety would become a standard practice. Relying on clinical measurements versus subjective opinion would move the needle in highlighting the actual effects versus the perceived. Sharing the results of these trials with consumers and retailers through easily accessible channels would be crucial.
  4. Expert collaboration: Collaborating with not only dermatologists, but with hands-on manufacturers, formulators, chemists and other experts in the field would demonstrate the level of understanding and a commitment to science. Brands could prominently feature these collaborations to showcase their scientific credibility, actually going skin deep.
  5. Ingredient transparency: Detailed ingredient lists with scientific names and explanations of their functions would be essential. Brands might also provide information on the sourcing and sustainability of these ingredients.
  6. Consumer education: Brands would invest in educating consumers about the science behind their products. This could include informative content on their websites, social media and packaging to empower consumers to make informed choices. This has been a key pillar for Isomers Skincare since day one over 26 years ago when we first began broadcasting on TV shopping trying to educate and empower the consumer with news they could use.
  7. Sustainability and ethical practices: Sustainability in packaging and ethical sourcing of ingredients would be expected. Brands should be able to provide scientific evidence of their commitment to reducing environmental impact. Being science-based and professionally trained made it a no brainer that we at Isomers skincare embraced sustainability and ethical practices from day one: Small footprint, minimal packaging, glass versus plastic and just-in-time manufacturing. These steps were also a key pillar.
  8. Long-term studies: Beyond initial product claims, conducting long-term studies to assess the continued benefits and safety of products would enhance credibility. Sharing these findings in open discussions or round tables would be essential.
  9. Regulatory compliance: Complying with any regulations specific to science-backed beauty products would be nonnegotiable. Brands would need to demonstrate adherence to these standards.
  10. Consumer feedback and reviews: Actively seeking and responding to consumer feedback and reviews, especially from those with scientific expertise, would be important in maintaining credibility.
  11. Labeling and marketing claims: Beauty claims should be properly substantiated. No more vague, soft wording that implies something, but means nothing. Substantiation of beauty claims necessitates either the provision of peer-reviewed scientific studies confirming the specific ingredients and their associated concentrations, the presentation of peer-reviewed studies or laboratory results derived from validated methods in support of the final products.

The shift towards science-backed beauty could indeed elevate the role of formulators and cosmetic chemists. They would gain recognition as the true experts behind product development, and media outlets may start featuring interviews and profiles of these professionals. Brands could create educational platforms to showcase their work and collaboration opportunities between chemists and brands would increase.

This change could lead to a more informed and empowered consumer base and open new career opportunities and avenues for these industry professionals. As consumers become more interested in the science behind beauty products, the industry may also see a shift in marketing campaigns, with brands increasingly choosing to collaborate with chemists and experts instead of relying solely on celebrity endorsements and influencers.

Christine Staples CEO, Cohere Beauty

As science-backed beauty becomes the new norm, the key to ensuring credibility and connecting with consumers and retailers lies in transparency, education, and simplicity.  Ultimately what consumers want is clean beauty care that they can count on to also truly deliver the benefits they need and want.

In today's era of readily available information and reviews, brands should empower consumers with facts, figures and data to substantiate their claims. To convey this information, CEOs, founders and scientists should look for means to engage directly with the brand’s audience through educational vehicles and perhaps even social media, while also providing informative content via easy-to-read packaging and digestible explanations of what each ingredient does.

Consumers deserve to be well-informed before making any purchase decision, particularly in the skincare realm, where they are increasingly selective about their investments.

Looking ahead, I believe new technologies will emerge that are safer for the environment and also deliver performance in beauty. That’s why the beauty industry with continual evolution and advancements in science and technology continues to be an exciting and dynamic field to be a part of.

Sophie Bai Founder and CEO, Pavise and B.A.I. Biosciences

B.A.I. Biosciences is a biotech company with the R&D team coming from pharma drug discovery and development. Here is what we think the future holds for science-led products:

  • True innovations on ingredient level and/or formulation level. We do not create products that are the same or similar to what already exists on the market.
    • We invent and manufacture our own molecules, patent-protected ingredients and technologies. Then, we hand off the molecules to the formulation team to create the final products. So, it is a multistep R&D approach, which is very new in the beauty/personal care industry.
  • Efficacy on ingredient level, concentration level and formula level with in vitro and in vivo clinical studies either conducted by your own R&D team or collaborations with hospitals and institutions.
    • We spend the majority of our capital on R&D at B.A.I. Biosciences.
  • Safety on an ingredient level, concentration level and formula level, with in vitro and in vivo clinical studies.
  • Publications in high-impact peer-reviewed academic journals. At Pavise, we already published two papers in one of the highest impact dermatology journals, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology to showcase the strongest scientific rigor we have.
  • Buy-in from the true leaders from academia, healthcare and science/clinical communities.
Sarah Brown Executive Director, Violet Lab at Violet Grey

I always think “science-backed” is a funny term since, really, anything that has to do with basic chemistry and a modern, lab-created formulation—which is pretty much everything all of us sell, from the simplest, most straightforward products to the most ambitiously “high-tech”—is backed by science, if you want to get literal about it.

Is “science-backed” going to be table stakes? I think it always has been, we just haven’t articulated it as clearly. I think it is the latest buzzword. I think it makes people feel smart and proactive about their regimens and like they are investing in something that will work. And this is how absolutely every one of us wants to feel—are we making the right investment?

This is what Violet Grey was created to enable: confident purchase decisions, so we understand this deeply. For me, a more compelling, and perhaps more appropriate word here is “clinical.” Clinical skincare (or haircare), for me, suggests something that is the result of a rigorous scientific study and insight, something born in a clinical environment.

This is how we see many of the doctor and expert-led brands we carry, which are advanced formulations inspired by work with patients and with scientific research and innovation. They make claims and have data—third-party clinicals in the best cases, peer-reviewed scientific journal entries as well—to back up those claims.

Is this where everything is headed? I don’t think it can be. Not everything is a clinical brand, and every consumer is not looking for a clinical brand. It’s a big pond.

I think the significant thing here is that a good portion of the population is looking for transformative results they can measure from brands they trust, and this terminology certainly has the air of “we are serious!” I don’t think it’s a term that every brand can simply drape upon itself, though. So, the customer and curators like us have a lot of work to do to cut through the noise.

Rita Sellers Director and Chief Cosmetic Chemist, pH Factor

Beauty by science I do believe is becoming increasingly popular. The credibility of doctors or dermatologists releasing brands sends a sense of security message to retailers and consumers.

As a formulation chemist, I believe that, if science-backed beauty is to become a standard, it would necessitate brands to incorporate stringent and transparent scientific validation of their products. This may not be a loved practice by many brands as speed to market may not be achieved as previously done.

This may involve having peer-reviewed studies, conducting extensive clinical trials and ensuring robust and reproducible results to validate the efficacy and safety of the product. It’s not good enough to use an ingredient that has claimable data and use that data for a formula that is completely different. This is the biggest misinformation we see every day! A product with that ingredient needs to be tested to substantiate the claims of that specific ingredient.

We do see this currently with a few multinationals, for example, claiming 72% reduction in wrinkles. However, it’s not so popular with smaller, indie brands mainly due to the cost of substantiation via clinical trials.

Consumers are increasingly discerning and knowledgeable, and they will want product excellence. The science-backed products much like “clean beauty” demand a higher price point as the ingredients used are more expensive and the testing involved to substantiate is more involved.

At present, I don’t believe retailers really check on the claims and substantiation as they will assume this is all done before being presented to them. If retailers have a partnership with a validation or certification/regulating industry body, this is where I really see a cemented credibility for the consumer. Otherwise, it will be just another “clean” movement, many different definitions, many different “no” ingredients, so much misinformation!

In Australia, as an example, there are no specific regulations or certifications that brands or companies need to be able to sell their skincare or haircare products online or at retailers.

For science-backed beauty, I would foresee that brands would need to obtain some type of certification or validation by scientific or regulatory bodies. I am currently working with a few key scientists and formulators here in Australia on a specific type of validation for this exact reason. We see that brands need some credibility and certification to validate their claims. This would mean products need to live up to things like shelf life, preservative efficacy testing (for the life of the product!) and compatibility in packaging.

Brands will need to convey scientific credibility to consumers and retailers and a validation stamp is one such way. Transparency within the marketing of the brand would extend to not only disclosing the ingredients used, but also the sourcing, formulating processes and scientific methodologies employed. Much like nutraceuticals where ingredients are listed as “nutritional information,” I see skincare and haircare moving to that direction. It will become very challenging to ensure product excellence and ethical and environmental responsibility all at a reasonable cost to the consumer.

Joyce De Lemos Co-Founder and Cosmetic Chemist, Dieux

I think eventually brands will be expected to substantiate the claims that they're making by conducting their own testing. Unfortunately, clinical testing and customer perception testing is expensive. Many brands will have to rely on the claims testing completed by their ingredient suppliers or maybe claims testing that was proven in academia or via another type of scientifically sound environment.

The bottom line is that brands will have to be more explicit and transparent about how they ended up making certain claims. They'll have to explain why they used certain percentages of active ingredients in their formulations and how these percentages line up with the percentages that were tested.

Rachel Johnson Founder and Cosmetic Chemist, The Charismatic Chemist

Most products on the market are science-backed because there is a cosmetic scientist somewhere in the supply chain of product development. Consumers can get bored at times when flooded with a lot of science. However, based on your audience, the depth of information expected may vary.

A few things that will be the standard for brands who proclaim science-backed: Fast-to-market beauty will be scrutinized, so being transparent upfront about your product development timeline and milestones is of high priority; conducting intentional clinical testing to showcase product uniqueness instead of a board panel of tests; and hiring sci-comm influencers, specifically cosmetic chemists to help explain the science without the pitch to buy can help build credibility.

Cosmetic science is the science behind all cosmetic and personal care products. I predict a call to action for beauty brands to showcase how they embrace and support cosmetic science and scientists. With MoCRA implementation happening over the next few years, the inclusion of a standardized regulatory system for product safety and clinical testing would be an upcoming request I foresee.

Mary Berry Founder and CEO, Cosmos Labs

If science-backed beauty becomes the new standard in the beauty industry, brands will need to prioritize materials that offer specific benefits. As manufacturers, we love being able to rely on raw material suppliers who provide us with scientific literature and ensure the correct dosage of each ingredient in every batch. The identification and clinical testing of these materials will be essential and depend on the physical and chemical properties of each substance.

Various tools like gas chromatography, UV mass spectrophotometry and infrared spectroscopy can be used for this purpose. For example, when developing a product targeting fine lines and wrinkles, it's crucial to use materials that have solid scientific backing and are proven to visibly reduce wrinkles, supported by clinical evidence.

David Hjalmarsson Founder and Co-Founder, Tiny Associates and Kind to Biome

We should be very careful in the way we perceive science when it comes to the beauty industry, and we should not allow science to be just one more parameter in a marketing campaign. Scientific advances in ingredients, well-designed and executed studies, proper toxicological assessment of ingredients, all of these are examples of science-backed beauty, and most of them are mandatory within the cosmetic regulation.

However, one way or another, companies tend to push more and more the scientific storytelling of their ingredients, their claims, their products, and sooner or later this will create a level playing field were differentiating yourself from your competitor is not easy. In our opinion, from that point onwards, the differentiating factor will be for companies that can somehow add proof points to their claims.

This can be done through structures like one Provenance is offering, where, for example, any claims made by a product are linked to a specific study report that is accessible and outlines the examined parameters. Another example will be products marks that indicate a function which has been verified by a third party. At Kind to Biome, we offer such a mark for microbiome gentle products, and we believe very much in this approach because it adds credibility and helps distinguishing the noise from the science.

Sheila Kassir Co-Founder and Plastic Surgeon, Inside Beauty

When we take a look at the changes in the beauty industry, there has been a significant shift in consumer preferences and brands in recent years. Initially, "clean beauty" became a major trend, driven by growing consumer concerns about the safety of ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.

Today more than ever, patients and consumers are educating themselves about ingredients and what is in their products. However, as consumers became more educated and discerning about beauty products, the concept of "clean beauty" evolved. Many consumers realized that just because a product was labeled as "clean" didn't necessarily mean it was effective or scientifically backed. This led to the emergence of "science-backed beauty" as a new trend in the industry.

The difference between "clean beauty" and medical-grade skincare (science-backed beauty):

Clean Beauty

Clean beauty initially gained popularity due to concerns about harmful chemicals, animal testing and environmental sustainability. Consumers started looking for products free from ingredients like parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances and phthalates. Many clean beauty brands also adopted eco-friendly packaging and cruelty-free practices. The clean beauty movement encouraged transparency in ingredient sourcing and labeling.

Science-Backed Beauty

Our Inside Beauty skincare line is truly backed by science with the formulation, studies and clinical data. Formulated and founded by myself and my husband, renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Ramtin Kassir, with specialized knowledge of the skin anatomy, expertise in surgical and non-surgical procedures for skin rejuvenation and enhancement - it gives us insight into using quality-based ingredients that are effective with results.

Science-backed beauty prioritizes ingredients supported by clinical studies and scientific evidence, often incorporating advanced technologies and formulations. Dr. Ramtin Kassir is a triple board-certified plastic surgeon, and I’m a plastic surgeon from Germany. We both focus on creating skincare that is clean and backed by science. We stress the importance of being strict with toxic ingredients in skincare and combine an American and European approach.

Medical-grade beauty products are formulated with a focus on active, clinically proven ingredients. These products often contain higher potent concentrations of active compounds such as retinoids, peptides and antioxidants, which are known to have specific skincare benefits. This approach appeals to consumers who want products that can address specific skin concerns or deliver anti-aging benefits.

In summary, clean beauty was initially about ingredient safety and ethical practices, but it has since evolved to incorporate a scientific approach to product development. Brands now recognize that people want both safety and efficacy in their beauty products.

As a result, science-backed beauty has become table stakes for many brands as they strive to deliver products that are both clean and capable of delivering the promised results. This evolution reflects the growing sophistication of consumers and their desire for products that are not only safe but also effective in addressing their beauty and skincare needs.

If science-backed beauty becomes a standard expectation in the beauty industry, brands will need to take several measures to ensure their scientific credibility and effectively convey it to consumers and retailers.

Here are some key considerations:

-Clear and honest labeling. People want to know exactly what the list of ingredients and concentrations include.

-Scientific studies or clinical data on the product actually working on the skin.

-Collaborations with dermatologists, plastic surgeons, skincare professionals or scientists can lend credibility to a brand.

Regulation of ingredients also stems from which country these products are being made. The U.S. may take an approach in restricting more toxic ingredients in skincare. For example, the EU also requires a safety assessment (toxicological evaluation) for all cosmetic ingredients.

In the U.S., the FDA has a less extensive list of prohibited and restricted cosmetic ingredients. However, the agency generally relies on voluntary reporting by manufacturers and can only take action if safety concerns are substantiated.

Melissa Christensen Co-Founder and Cosmetic Chemist, Hume Supernatural

While there are certainly many individual ingredients we look to avoid when formulating to “clean beauty” standards, there are also many new advancements in plant-based and nontoxic ingredients, which are now readily available as replacements. Given this low barrier to adopting a nontoxic formulation approach, it’s no surprise that “clean beauty” has become table stakes. Is “science-backed” becoming table stakes as well?

First, I would point out the nuance between “science-backed” and “science-led” beauty brands. As a cosmetic chemist, I know that there’s real science behind the development of every product, from the ingredients to the formulations to the testing, processing and manufacturing. Researchers, formulators, microbiologists, toxicologists, processing gngineers, packaging engineers and many others each play important roles in creating the products we use every day. So, in my mind, any product could legitimately be considered rooted in science.

But what I think we need to highlight are the brands that are truly “science-led” or “science-driven,” brands that are able to innovate based on their unique competencies, partnerships and/or exclusive technologies. Delivering true innovation takes investment in research and development, and access not just to novel new ingredients, but to product inventors or applications specialists who can translate technologies into new products that create value for stakeholders and consumers alike. These brands/founders are rare and will get credit not just because they are credible scientists, but because their innovations are game changing.

Oliver Worsley Co-Founder and CEO, Sequential

Science-backed beauty will become a mainstay. We’ve found in our own market research (3,500-plus participants in the U.S.) that consumers are demanding more evidence that products are efficacious, not just from a blog post, but evaluated on a relevant demographic population and showing results. From our own Southeast Asian clients, it appears this is even more the case in Asia, where both men and women are scrutinizing products data first.

Testing on people or in vivo is critical in companies being able to claim that their products have been tested in or own human biology and the results/improvements are XYZ. This is especially true of emerging science in the personal care industry, for example, with the human microbiome that we have sufficient clinical in vivo data to claim that these products are “microbiome friendly” or better “maintains the microbiome—in vivo-certified.”

The industry is, at present, highly unregulated with companies testing products in vitro in the lab, but we know this is far removed from the biology at play and the complexities are ignored, especially in certain diverse populations. So, we will need to come together as an industry and agree on in vivo reference ranges.

Just like internal medicine has done for primary care, we too as an industry will establish healthy ranges for these types of molecular tests (microbiome, host genetics/gene expression/epigenetics) that will be a significant tool for scientific and marketing claims for the industry. By publishing our scientific work and methods and being transparent as an industry, these aren’t unreasonable asks!

Brent Ridge Physician and Co-Founder, Beekman 1802

First, I would like to applaud all of the pioneers of the "clean beauty" era. It was an important pivot moment for the consumer to become more knowledgeable about ingredients. Education is always a good thing.

Unfortunately, "clean beauty" has become problematic as a marketing term because there is no factual definition of "clean,” and there's certainly no definition of "beauty.” At Beekman 1802, we are a skin health company focused on the science of the skin microbiome and how our two key ingredients, goat milk and kindness, can improve the health of the skin.

Social media and e-commerce made it very easy for consumers to try many new products. What they learned is that "clean" didn't necessarily mean healthier skin. In fact, there's only been an increase in patient reports of skin sensitivity in the past decade, possibly related to the impact of the use of too many skincare products on the skin microbiome.

We started talking about skin barrier health 15 years ago when we made our first bar of goat milk soap.  Since then, we have sold over 30 million bars of that soap and have used those proceeds to do over 300 clinical studies on goat milk and how it influences skin health. In fact, just this year, we identified 31 different chemical elements in goat milk (peptides, prebiotics, postbiotics, lipids, vitamins and minerals) that may influence the skin microbiome.

In the marketplace, we definitely see an evolution of "clean" into "cleanical.” The customer is overburdened with too many products, and whether it is for efficacy reasons, skin health reasons or financial reasons, we are seeing that the customer wants something that is scientifically proven to work and minimizes the need to buy and use so many different products.

Julie Longyear Founder, Blissoma

Blissoma is completely plant science-based, so an industry focus on science is quite exciting. I do think that there are some very different considerations when comparing the idea of "clean" marketing and science-based marketing. First is the fact that "clean" claims are extremely vague and rely on consumer confusion and lack of knowledge. The actual practice of safety was completely obscure to shoppers. Brands never demonstrated long-term toxicity trials or any kind of real proof for clean claims.

Most shoppers lack science knowledge and rely on marketing claims in making their purchases. Clean was only a marketing claim. Real science becoming the norm would require a lot deeper engagement by shoppers. I welcome that as those are the conversations I love to have!  My top-ranked, 2,000-plus word, research-based blog posts are a testament to that fact, but I do think it's a tall order to think this could become commonplace.

Real science has a lot of nuance. I try to educate my customers with a pragmatic viewpoint and that often means we have to ask very specific questions and understand that details really, really matter, things like how ingredients are handled, the levels they are used at, how herbs were extracted, the solubility of the actives, heat sensitivity, etc., all matter for results.

These are conversations that it's really difficult to have on product packaging or store signage. This is why I love emails blogs, and deeper formats so we can talk about all that! Relationships matter if we're going to go deep, so a focus on real science would have to mean deeper relationships between brands and shoppers.

It also depends on what we're considering science-backed. Does science-backed mean that relying on existing research is enough? Or does it mean using claims generated by ingredient suppliers? Or does it mean commissioning your own study? Studies are very costly and small, independent brands are unlikely to be able to afford them.

What people really want to know at the end of the day is that they are buying safe products that give the results they are looking for. Those safe results inherently come from science, and ultimately that will be the most important part to get right for brands and customers.

Emmanuel Rey Global Head of Consumer Brands, Visolis

As the consumer becomes more technically savvy, it is a natural evolution for brands to continue to be clean, plant-based, sustainable, but also to clarify the science behind their formulas. The issue for small indie brands will be to remain innovative in their field while being science-backed.

A lot of skincare ingredients, for example, have been around for decades (vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, AHAs, retinol, etc.), and hence have been studied and tested multiple times, but they don’t provide a point of difference anymore. In the case of a novel ingredient, the testing required can have a prohibitive cost.

That is why in our case, we have launched Ameva Bio, a new skincare brand conceived around mevalonic acid, a very unique ingredient issued from upcycling and precision fermentation with anti-aging properties.

This project is essentially a collaboration between an ingredient manufacturer (a biotech company called Visolis) and an R&D company (Bria Labs), which is the only formulator with mevalonic acid and the brand. This partnership allowed us to test the key ingredients and the formulas extensively for sensitive skin (dermatologically approved). As a result, Ameva Bio is the only skincare line that uses mevalonic acid at this stage on the market.

Because of its complexity, the science behind a formula is potentially difficult to communicate to consumers and will require to invest in education. In some cases, certifications can offer helpful short cuts, but are likely incomplete. So, they will need to expand in the near future.

Lucy Goff Founder, Lyma

The movement of both clean beauty and now science-backed beauty shows that consumers have less time and capacity for overpromising and cryptic ingredients lists. At the very foundation of the Lyma brand is a mission to only ever offer customers products that are proven to work. Consumers investing in luxury skincare like Lyma Skincare or devices like the Lyma Laser don’t want to hope the product is going to work, they want to know it will.

Science-backed as a trend is growing, but it needs to be more than marketing fluff, more than a private clinical study and more than a token gesture doctor fronting an ad campaign.  The reality is I believe it will always be incredibly difficult to put benchmarks in place for scientific credibility across the whole sector. The sector is too broad, the uses area too large and the history to unwind is too long.

At Lyma, we always start with science and work with a team of doctors, geneticists and longevity scientists to create our medical-grade solutions. When we formulated Lyma Skincare, we didn’t look to the beauty industry for a measure of efficacy. We looked at the peer-reviewed medical papers and decades of research into the behavior of skin, that’s how we identified the eight mechanisms of aging. We then created a formula to address those concerns.

Jose Luis Palacios CEO, Virtue

Science-backed beauty has already emerged as table stakes for specific brands positioned in this arena. Retailers are requesting regulatory signoffs on brand claims to support their data and testing before even vetting products for the shelves. They no longer assume consumer perception is enough.

The main difference is that the hair category has gone beyond just what the consumer perceives. Retailers and consumers want to see proof that the formulas are working and how the science affects the end result. Hair has become a science-backed category. Consumers realize the importance of treating their hair like they treat their skin. Hair ages, and they want result-oriented products that give them healthier hair.

Virtue’s patented and proprietary Alpha Keratin 60ku is not only born from biotech, but was bioengineered in-house to maintain the highest efficacy and purity of the keratin and cannot be used by any other brand. Virtue is steeped in clinical testing and based on true clinicals with our patented Alpha Keratin 60ku alone before it was even mixed with cosmetic ingredients.

We utilize an extensive in-house instrumental testing lab that arguably rivals that of the leading global haircare brands. This furnishes Virtue the ability to test/screen formula iterations for efficacy and SEM (scanning electron microscope) repair imagery as well as conduct dose response testing on each individual formula to determine the optimal Alpha Keratin 60ku level included in each product.

Biomimetic is also a word being used often when referring to this category because innovation in ingredients is “mimicking” science.  We proudly take science to the next level. Virtue is not “like” science, Virtue is science, and we are the only bioidentical protein that comes from hair, therefore is received by hair as its own.

Alec Batis Co-Founder and CEO, Sweet Chemistry

The concepts of “science-backed” and “clean beauty” are essentially terms that refer to quality and safety and are characteristics that should be a part of anything that people put on their bodies every day.

Quite literally, “science-backed” should be backed up by science, and typically the way that works is the technology or mechanism basis behind the brand or product should be developed by scientists in a recognized scientific setting or institution and described in one or more peer-reviewed publications by the inventors and ideally others validating the basis of the technology.

Additionally, when the “science-backed” technology is tested, it should be done by adhering to the scientific method with typical scientific and statistical rigor by testing a hypothesis through experimentation and data and reporting the results in published peer-reviewed work. Currently, it seems like many brands do something more like a nod to science rather than actually using the scientific method.

If “science-backed” becomes table stakes, we could possibly envision a way that this claim is verified through a panel of independent or unbiased experts who would assess the level of scientific rigor in the brand instead of a scientific “yes/no.” This way consumers, who may not be able to distinguish the difference, would be educated.

Natanel Bigger Founder and CEO, Monpure

In the era of science-backed beauty, credibility rests in the hands of industry and clinical experts. As the world's first dedicated hair and scalp health brand, Monpure’s resident trichologists, medical doctors and chemists have crafted solutions grounded in real clinic experience.

The haircare industry in particular has been mainly about styling to date. Prioritizing a high percentage of concentrated active ingredients for scalp and hair as Monpure has pioneered forms the foundation of these science-backed solutions, resonating with consumers seeking tangible results.

Moreover, a holistic approach entails conducting trials, case studies and even venturing into clinical settings, ensures not only credibility, but also the efficacy of products, thus meeting the needs of more sophisticated consumers and retailers alike.

Angela Caglia Founder and Aesthetician, Angela Caglia

We’re first to market with a once-in-a-generation product innovation built around real exosomes derived from human honors, not plant stem cells or synthetics.

At a bare minimum, here are some of the questions that every brand should be able to answer: What cell type and source do you use to derive the exosomes? How are those donors tested? How are the exosomes produced? If they are made in bioreactors, how do you know the health and quality of the cells excreting the exosomes? Is there lot-to-lot variability? If not, how are you measuring the consistency in each lot? How is the final product tested?

Furthermore, any brand should be able to provide a sample testing report to ensure testing is of the highest possible industry standard. The current marketplace is already flooded with misinformation around terms such as “stem cells” and “exosomes.”

Take “stem cell” products, for example. Most “stem cell” products in the marketplace are derived from plants. Plant stem cells can become different types of specialized cells, but their purpose is to regenerate plants. Humans are not plants. The same goes for “exosomes,” there’s a difference between “synthetic exosomes” versus “real human-derived exosomes.” The consumer has a right to transparency.

Dhaval Bhanusali Dermatologist and Founder, Hudson Dermatology & Laser Center, AIRE Health and Skin Medicinals

Utilizing expert dermatologists and chemists will become more prevalent and studies around claims will increase. While it’s important to note that some SKUs don’t need studies and the specific ones vary product to product, I think better transparency will go a long way.

With AIRE Health, we’ll have a clear understanding of which brands are “derm-recommended,” and we’ll also be able to evaluate studies as brands submit for the platform.

In general, with clean beauty, there was no expert consensus. Standards varied from retailer to retailer, brand to brand, manufacturing facility to facility. We need more cohesion across the board.

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