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In The News: cosmetic emulsifiers from seaweed, AI quantifying the feel of cosmetics, alkenone wax

Carbonwave secures funding for cosmetics emulsifier production facilities, Cosmax develops AI texture tech, Upwell Cosmetics brings microalgae-derived waxes to beauty ingredient marketplace

Photo by Hans Ripa on Unsplash

💋Can Beauty Solve a Seaweed Crisis❓

Late last week, Carbonwave shared news of Series A funding that “will be used to build large-scale cosmetics emulsifier production facilities in Puerto Rico.”

Founded in 2020, Carbonwave—formerly C-Combinator—gathers Sargassum seaweed bloom from Mexico’s Caribbean coast and turns it into high-value biomaterials for use in industries spanning agriculture, textiles, cosmetics, and skincare.

In recent years, the Sargassum seaweed bloom in the Caribbean has become so large that “it clogs bays and beaches, threatens tourism, harms the local ecology,” and as it decomposes “on beaches and in landfills…[releases] vast amounts of methane, which increases the pace of global warming,” according to a media release circulated by the company.

And Carbonwave’s emulsifier, SeaBalance2000, shows great promise not only in terms of eco-responsibility but also for its formulation and performance attributes. When it won Best Functional Ingredient at in-cosmetics Korea last year, the show’s press release announcing the award winners highlighted that the SeaBalance2000 emulsifier works well with a wide range of pH and provides a “silky sensory feel.”

Carbonwave is also seeing success with its Sarga Ag products and PET plastic production technology. And now with $5 million in Series A funding and a total of $12 million in this latest investment round, the company is moving to scale production of its cosmetic emulsifier. “Support from our investors and partners has allowed us to catalyze our proprietary technology and manufacturing process to turn the Caribbean's seaweed crisis into an economic opportunity and a climate solution,” says Geoff Chapin, Co-Founder and CEO of Carbonwave, in his remarks to the media, adding that, “We are producing viable alternatives that redirect demand from fossil fuel-based products by cost-effectively developing a wide range of regenerative, low-carbon, and plant-based alternatives…”

🚫✋🧴Touchless Texture

The beauty R&D and contract manufacturer Cosmax has developed AI tech that promises to quantifiably determine the texture of a product—no human touch needed.

As Byung-man Lee, CEO of the South Korea – based company, explains it in a recent press release announcing the new technology, “We have shifted the paradigm from relying on subjective judgments to objectively quantifying the feel of cosmetics.”

He also noted that, "in the future, [Cosmax] will expand the range to various formulations and sensory characteristics and apply it to the development of customized cosmetics.”

All told, the new AI technology is the result of 3 years of research and a partnership with Prof. Jun-dong Park of Sookmyung Women's University. And it is expected to not only measure product texture without involving human touch but to also shorten product development time and speed up quality verification.

The team began by working with hundreds of essence formulas and established criteria for various tactile properties, and then partnered with Sookmyung Women's University (employing the Large Amplitude Oscillatory Shear, or LAOS, technique) to further establish what the company now calls The Standard Technology for Measuring Sensory Texture. And you can find published data in the peer-reviewed journal Physics of Fluid, linked below.

In short: “This technology clarifies the relationship between the spreadability and rheological properties (viscosity, elasticity, etc.) of cosmetics, and automatically quantifies spreadability using machine learning algorithms.”

🌊💋Microalgae’s Moment

This week, Upwell Cosmetics announced signing a deal that will bring alkenone waxes—as an alternative to petrochemical and non-vegan waxes—to the cosmetic and personal care ingredient marketplace.

The startup, based in the US, has licensed a patented migroalgae-derived-wax technology from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Western Washington University (WWU) and, by doing so, hopes to advance the beauty industry’s shift away from petroleum ingredients.

“The commercialization opportunity is overwhelming as brands race to reformulate using sustainable ingredients to meet consumer demand,” says Daniella Zakon, Co-Founder of Upwell Cosmetics, who has a background in marine biology, environmental science, and business. And, in her remarks to the press this week, she adds that, “Upwell Cosmetics is creating new possibilities for brands to eliminate concerning ingredients.”

The forthcoming migroalgae-derived wax ingredients promise to function well as a replacement to conventional waxes in lip products, sun care, shampoos and hair conditioners, body lotions, and deodorants. They also deliver SPF boosting benefits.

And alkenone waxes have been shown to perform as effective structuring agents in lipsticks as well as a biobase for sun care product formulations, according to research conducted and published by Gabriella Baki, Director of the BSPS Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program at the University of Toledo, Ohio. (Find a link to her findings below.)

Upwell Cosmetics founders, Daniella Zakon and Alexandra Dowling Lari, are confident that ingredients made using microalgae cultivation are a smart path to industry sustainability and will provide beauty makers with both CO2 metrics and water usage data on every batch of ingredients sold.

🌊💋🔗Dr. Baki’s research on alkenone waxes published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science:


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