Vegan collagen, one of the biggest trends in ingredients manufactured for cosmetic and personal care product formulations in 2023, is taking the industries by storm. The protein, which is either produced through genetically modified bacteria or yeast, or bioengineered through an alternative process, is a more renewable and sustainable option for manufacturers and suppliers to utilize during the product formulation process than animal-derived collagen alternatives.
During the In-Cosmetics Global Conference earlier this year, CosmeticsDesign met with Erin Turner, Associate Director, Marketing and Communications at Geltor, Inc. to learn more about its newest protein for product formulation, a vegan collagen ingredient called NuColl. In her interview, Turner explained more about the NuColl development and formulation process, its potential applications for hair care products, and how Geltor is working to challenge the status quo in terms of the production of environmentally sustainable ingredients for end-stage product formulation.
CDU: Can you share some information about the development and formulation process behind the vegan collagen?
Erin Turner (ET): Our vegan collagens, including NuColl and other vegan proteins like elastin, are designed and produced using advanced biotechnology. Specifically tailored for the beauty industry, these vegan proteins are 100% animal-free and created using precision fermentation—a natural and sustainable process.
The development process begins with expert biodesign, which taps into computational databases of known protein sequences from various sources, including living and extinct animals, humans, and more. Using this information, we select the sequence(s) that best fulfill the desired needs.
Once we have the sequence we incorporate it into our microorganism, enabling it to produce the desired proteins through natural fermentation processes. In our approach, these microorganism cells are placed in bioreactors, where they act as tiny, eco-friendly factories to produce our protein ingredients through precision fermentation.
We target new protein molecules for various reasons, such as replacing an existing animal-derived ingredient on the market (like marine collagen) or creating a novel protein like biomimetic human collagen.
Once produced and purified, our protein ingredients are tested for purity, safety, performance, stability, and ease of formulation. Our protein ingredients undergo a thorough purification process ensuring the highest quality and safety standards.
Utilizing our in-house Consumer Innovation and Application lab, we develop formulation guidelines for our customers and partners, providing formulation support throughout their development cycles. We also test our new proteins in real beauty formulations to ensure optimal performance and results, while prioritizing sustainability and natural processes without compromising quality or safety.
CDU: What studies have been conducted on the vegan collagen’s performance with textured hair? What were the results of those studies?
ET: NuColl is our newest protein, biodesigned for hair manageability and styling. We tested the protein on multiple hair types including type II bleached hair and type VI virgin hair. NuColl, like other collagens, is a film former. For Type VI virgin hair, the protein showed significant benefits on frizz and volume control, and curl definition, tested at 85% humidity.
Additional benefits include significantly improving hair smoothness on both type II bleached hair and type VI virgin hair, and split end mending, tested only on type II bleached hair.
CDU: How is Geltor’s vegan collagen different than other vegan collagen ingredients currently available to manufacturers of cosmetics and personal beauty care products?
NuColl is a vegan collagen polypeptide, designed to and substantiated to perform on hair. NuColl is made with no animal input, no synthetic petrochemically derived process, made by a controlled and sustainable precision fermentation process proven at commercial scale. It is certified vegan and cruelty free by The Vegan Society and PETA, Halal, USDA BioPreferred, Readily Biodegradable, while also meeting strict clean beauty standards.
Structurally, NuColl is the same sequence of collagen as a hydrozoan species, but 100% animal free. Functionally, it helps promote styling and manageability across a variety of hair types. While we are continuously building and adding new data to our data packages, we have substantiated the benefit of NuColl that bring functional benefits to our customers and consumers.
In skin care, “vegan collagen” claims can be confusing for consumers. Indeed, synthetic products or plant extract products are sometimes labelled as “vegan collagen” while they are not “collagens” per say, but rather aim at boosting Collagen or have amino acid content that could be found in collagens.
CDU: Were there any challenges that had to be overcome to formulate the vegan collagen? If so, how were they overcome?
ET: With our integrated platform we have the capability to create countless proteins; one of the biggest challenges is selecting just which protein to create. As collagen is a film former, we knew it would be a good candidate for hair styling, especially for textured and curly hair products.
Additionally, with vegan and animal -free claims on the rise, we knew the industry would be looking for a robust alternative to replace marine collagen, which is commonly used in beauty.
We designed NuColl with water solubility and stability across a range of pHs in mind. Therefore, NuColl is very easy to formulate with in a variety of hair care formulations.
With the rise of waterless cosmetics, the incorporation of water-soluble actives can be a challenge to formulators. Our Consumer Innovation and Applications team has been working on micro emulsification strategies to unlock the use of vegan collagens in anhydrous systems.
CDU: What is the potential impact of Geltor’s vegan collagen ingredient on manufacturers of cosmetic and personal beauty care products?
The beauty and personal care industry has always been pushing sustainability – greener practices, animal-free alternatives, transparent and traceable supply chains, and more. This was again a clear theme at in-cosmetics global this year. At Geltor we are reimagining ingredients, like proteins, through the lens of biotechnology to unlock new innovations and horizons.
Our vision and biodesign platform aim to lead progress with and for our customers and partners by delivering superior efficacy and sustainability. Geltor is on a mission to create better proteins in a better way- always animal free, made by environmentally friendly precision fermentation process, driven by performance benefits and unmet needs in the beauty and wellness markets.
With proven scalability, biodesigned proteins are viable alternative to conventional, animal-derived proteins that have been used in beauty and personal care products for centuries. NuColl, and Geltor’s portfolio of biodesigned proteins, are challenging the status quo and proving you can make better ingredients that not only deliver on performance but are designed for people and better for the planet.
CDU: Would you consider vegan collagen to be a trending ingredient in the cosmetics and personal care product industries? Why or why not?
Collagen is more than a trend; it’s becoming a staple and hero ingredient for beauty and personal care products. Popular in skin care, we see the migration to hair care, further supported by movements like the skinification of hair.
Consumers are more educated than ever about the science of their skin and hair. Collagen is a protein created naturally by the human body and plays a vital role in skin health. As we age, our ability to produce proteins like collagen and elastin significantly declines.
Drawing parallels to the rise of Hyaluronic acid, collagen is a familiar and consumer friendly ingredient. With vegan collagen created by biotech, we unlock a wealth of opportunity for innovation.
We no longer must rely solely on animal-derived proteins, now we can design and produce proteins – collagen, elastin, keratin- for a specific purpose, made in a more sustainable way.
CDU: Anything else to add?
NuColl is our first biodesigned protein targeted for global hair care. It joins a suite of vegan proteins biodesigned for skin care including the world’s first and only vegan biomimetic human type 21 collagen, HumaColl21 and human elastin, Elastapure.
Geltor is continually innovating in the world of proteins, with a pipeline of proteins launching in beauty, wellness, and beyond.