Expert's Opinion

The New Beauty Standard: Potency, Purity & Performance

Skincare expert sheds light on biotechnology and ingredients.

The New Beauty Standard: Potency, Purity & Performance

These are exciting times in beauty. Biotechnology is transforming product formulations by developing bio-identical and novel ingredients that are inherently more sustainable than their cultivation and petrochemical-based counterparts. What’s more, biotech’s cutting-edge processes are defining a new beauty standard, based on the 3 P’s – potency, purity, performance – that are elevating the industry to new heights of innovation.


When it comes to potency, more is not always better in skincare. In fact, the reverse is true. Take vitamin C and retinol, until now the default ingredients for skin brightening and hyperpigmentation. These ingredients need to be at high concentrations to obtain visible results. But as anyone with sensitive or dry skin will attest, high concentrations are associated with irritation and reactivity (redness, stinging, burning, peeling, even acne). That’s why dermatologists recommend starting on these ingredients at low concentrations, then working up to the effective dosage, as tolerated. Many ingredients like vitamin C are also unstable and vary from batch to batch, contributing to skin sensitivity and reactivity.

Biotech ingredients, by contrast, can be so potent that they can be used at low concentrations. Naringenin, the biotech active that is used to treat inflammaging, is potent enough to treat chronic, low-grade inflammation at a concentration below 0.5%. Compare that with ascorbic acid, aka vitamin C, which is frequently sold at 20% (if not greater).

No wonder biotech beauty is closely aligned with the precision of pharma, where the dosage is highly targeted and defined. Traditional skincare ingredients have broad effects, but biotech’s potency lies in carefully targeting pathways within the skin to be highly focused and specific. Too much ibuprofen is very bad for you, but a scientifically- determined amount can be very beneficial. Likewise, bioactive formulations optimize the dosage of biotech ingredients by keeping concentrations as low as possible. Ingredients are targeted on pathways in the skin that are understood by science. So instead of vitamin C’s “spray and pray” method, skin benefits from the biotech ingredient’s precision and potency, without being exposed to unnecessary molecular activity that leads to ailments.


The purity achieved by biotech’s processes is unrivaled, in the realm of 98% purity or more. Indeed, biotech-derived ingredients achieve an even higher standard of purity than their organic counterparts. Here again, biotech beauty’s processes are more in line with the pharma industry than the cosmetic industry because biotech’s controlled manufacturing conditions create ingredients of consistently high purity, quality, reproducibility, and precision. There is zero variability based on the seasons, global warming, and extraction efficiencies. Biotech ingredients are not at the mercy of environmental contaminants that may expose natural extracts to heavy metals in the soil, air pollution and pesticides. Organic ingredients are not necessarily pesticide- free.

Biotech’s end-to-end control also enables brands to target highly specific outputs. Thanks to computational power and our advanced understanding of skin and hair biology, it is possible to screen the effect that compounds have on cells at the molecular level. For example, instead of starting from the premise that vitamin C is brightening, biotech can pinpoint how vitamin C is brightening and then activate molecular paths differently to create results that outperform existing actives. The process takes a leaf out of pharma’s handbook to deliver optimal cosmetic ingredient profiles.


Beyond bio-based ingredients, biotechnology is defining beauty’s new standard by creating novel bioactive ingredients that deliver dramatically enhanced performance. Sustainability, purity, quality assurance, and safety are rapidly becoming table-stakes in beauty, and ingredient and product performance will come to fore like never before. Biotechnology is enabling scientists to deliver new heights of hyper-personalization to address aging and skin and hair health with precision medicine-level approaches. As a result, the likes of retinol, vitamin C and niacinamide as hero ingredients are rapidly receding in favor of bioactive ingredients that deliver a tailored biological response and feature novel claims married to clinically-superior performance. Biotechnology matches scientific excellence with clinical outcomes, previously not possible with age-old ingredients.

The beauty industry is just beginning to transition to this new generation of ingredients and products based on an ever-accelerating understanding of skin science. No longer will we see reformulations of the same traditional ingredients. In ten years, the beauty landscape will be forever changed and we will be all the better for it.

About the Expert
Joshua Briton is Founder and CEO of Debut located in San Diego. Debut uses biotechnology to bring novel, high-performing and sustainable ingredients to the industry.

Prior to this role, Joshua was trained as a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he gained a Post-Doc in Chemistry. Joshua also gained a PhD in Organic Chemistry from University of California, Irvine (UCI), and a Master’s Degree in Organic Chemistry from Nottingham University in the UK.

Joshua is also an advisor to Cantos Ventures, a venture capital and private equity company that specializes in technology.

To date, Joshua has raised $70 million for Debut from leading funds including BOLD, the venture capital fund of L’Oréal.

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