This month, ingredients and materials company Upwell Cosmetics announced the launch of an innovative new ingredient for cosmetics and personal beauty care product formulation. The first-ever algae-derived cosmetic wax can be used in lipsticks, sunscreens, hair care products, and more.
This novel ingredient is a versatile and sustainably sourced option for manufacturers and suppliers to the cosmetics and personal beauty care industries seeking to replace petroleum-based waxes to better meet the growing consumer demand for more environmentally friendly ingredients in product options. To learn more about the development of Upwell’s algae-derived cosmetic wax and its potential impact on the beauty and personal care product industries, CosmeticsDesign spoke with Alexandra Dowling Lari and Daniella Zakon, Co-Founders of Upwell Cosmetics, for their insights.
Development & formulation
The development and formulation process for Upwell’s algae-derived cosmetic wax began when “scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, MA, were trying to make algae-based bio/jet fuel and came across this wax instead,” shared Zakon. Rather than discounting the discovery, the team decided to do “some initial formulary work with the University of Toledo to see how the wax would work in cosmetics,” she said.
From there, the University of Toledo scientists performed some initial consumer panels using the algae-derived wax. They learned that “consumers preferred lipsticks formulated with the algae wax over those formulated with the other industry standard waxes,” Zakon stated. Recognizing this early success with consumer testing, Zakon partnered with Lari and “founded Upwell Cosmetics to commercialize this novel and sustainable wax for the cosmetic industry.”
The Upwell team needed to streamline the process to create a sustainable source of algae-derived cosmetic wax. As Zakon explained, “the algae is grown in tubular photobioreactors,” in a renewable procedure that requires “1/10th of the land that terrestrial crops require and a fraction of the water usage land based plants use.” Additionally, “growing the algae absorbs 10%-50% more CO2 than land-based plants like trees, which many people assume absorbs the most CO2,” she elaborated.
Further, the system is intelligent and intuitive, as “the bioreactors also use AI to make sure the process is as efficient as possible and tracks all the inputs and outputs, so we have the footprint metrics per batch of algae,” Zakon explained.
Other considerations in the formulation and development process were crucial to the company’s mission of creating a sustainable and renewable ingredient for product formulation, notably that the twelve principles of green chemistry remained adhered to. For example, “we did not want to use harmful chemicals like hexane which are often used in extractions,” said Zakon. Instead, the Upwell team “wanted to use nontoxic solvents instead, which had never been done on our algae before.”
The team’s commitment to finding a solution was successful, and it was “exciting to be the first to remove hexane from the processes to extract this wax from the algae,” while also increasing “yields and finding ways to monetize all of the algae material so we would have no waste.”
The potential impact of this ingredient innovation is very promising. The Upwell team’s ultimate goal with the launch of algae-derived cosmetic wax is “to replace harmful petroleum based waxes such as microcrystalline and ozocerite in personal care,” shared Lari. Further, the team hopes “that this innovation will be widely used as sustainability rapidly comes to the forefront of the cosmetic industry,” and has had “significant interest from brands, contract manufacturers and distributors,” she added.