I got the chance to speak to Catherine Gore — President of Biossance, about how the brand came into fruition, how other brands can approach sustainable practices, and what she anticipates for the industry in the coming years.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how Biossance came to fruition?
With over two decades in the beauty and lifestyle industry, I have launched and grown over 150 beauty products and 35 beauty brands during my career. Among Sephora USA’s first hires, I was instrumental in growing the organization into the beauty leader it is today.
I have always been obsessed with beauty, but what I don’t often tell people is my love and passion for the oceans. While I was working at Sephora, I would volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. Now leading Biossance through this incredible growth phase, it has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career. I am able to do what I love most and help create positive change for our oceans, our planet, and the future of the beauty industry. Biossance officially launched with Sephora in February 2017, and here in Canada in 2018. Since the beginning, Biossance has set out to prove that the client doesn’t need to compromise when it comes to their skincare. You can have the healthiest skin you’ve ever had, with the most efficacious formulas, and still, make a positive impact on the planet.
We are able to prove that through our leadership and roots in biotechnology – the power of our hero ingredient squalane, rigorous clinical testing, and our incredible team of scientists. For generations, beauty products were fortified with squalene, a substance that provided exceptional moisture – but at the cost of millions of sharks, harvested for their squalene-rich livers.
Biossance’s team of Berkeley scientists discovered how to engineer a similar substance – squalane – from sustainable sugarcane-derived sugarcane. Sugarcane is a naturally renewable resource, it grows in abundance in Brazil and our crops are irrigated only by natural rainfall, far away from the rainforests. This purer, ethically sourced, and vegan squalane is a molecular match for the moisture already found in our skin. Our squalane is more stable, effective, and sustainable than shark or olive derived. We can make as much as the world needs without negatively impacting the planet. Through this technology, we prevent more than 2M sharks from being killed each year.
Weightless, yet deeply hydrating and effective for even the most sensitive skin, this hero hydrator is so good, it’s at the heart of every Biossance formula. It’s incredible on its own, but a perfect conduit to make other ingredients – like Vitamin C or lactic acid, that you’ll see in our hero products – perform even better. We sell our squalane back to the industry so that we can move the entire beauty industry forward, encouraging other brands to use sustainable alternatives too.
What are some of Biossance’s core values?
As pioneers in science and biotechnology, we use our rich expertise to create groundbreaking, high-performance skincare powered by squalane. We do more than just make award-winning products, we’re shaping the future of clean beauty by reinventing ingredients, creating more sustainable processes, and upholding the highest standards for clinical safety and efficacy. We believe you should never have to choose between having products that give you your healthiest skin yet and consciously created, sustainable formulas.
Science-Driven Innovation: Our ingredients, formulas, and products are created with cutting-edge technology and science, making them the most effective and sustainable in the industry. We have access to over 250 industry-leading scientists and an in-house lab, and more than 50% of our scientists are women. Our labs are all Green Lab Certified, which is the gold standard for responsible usage of energy, waste, and water. We go above and beyond industry standards for skin, planet, and ingredient safety, do rigorous clinical testing, ingredient safety to deliver superior performance while using the highest quality.
Community of Changemakers: Biossance has cultivated a diverse and passionate community of celebrities, including Global Brand Ambassador Reese Witherspoon, Global Self Care Ambassador, Jonathan Van Ness, influencers, dermatologists, scientists, and our consumers. Through science-based education, we empower our community to make informed decisions when it comes to their skincare, clean beauty, and sustainability.
Ocean and Shark Conservation: Our squalane innovation saves 2 million sharks from poaching each year, and we partner with Oceana to keep oceans healthy, safe, and abundant. Last year, we launched the annual Clean Academy Impact Award in partnership with Oceana to discover and support future sustainability leaders through funding and mentorship.
What are some challenges or misconceptions of creating clean beauty? How did Biossance overcome them?
People often associate “synthetic” with “bad”, but it’s not that simple. Long-chain parabens, for example, are synthetic ingredients that are proven to be harmful to human health. However, with new technology we’ve created an amazing category of “Clean Synthetic” ingredients – innovative lab-created ingredients often proven to be safer, more sustainable, and more effective. A few of our favorites are hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and sugarcane-derived Squalane.
One challenge that I think is really interesting in changing the narrative around what true clean beauty actually is. The notion of “clean beauty” wasn’t always seen as effective. For Biossance, “clean” means leading consciously with the highest standards for skin, planet, and ingredient safety (all of our products are EWG-verified, going beyond industry requirements), while using science to deliver superior performance and sustainable practices across our business.
Our priority is to talk about what our products do – for skin health and for the health of the planet. We try to educate without oversimplifying, as it’s important to understand that formulation is a scientific art, and truly sustainable packaging is complex. By being transparent about our ingredients, why we use them, and our sustainability practices, we aim to continue moving the beauty industry forward. It’s why we are so passionate about education across our channels – from what we share on our social, to community masterclasses and our Clean Academy platform.
How does Biossance continue to exercise sustainable efforts? What advice do you have for brands trying to become more sustainable?
Sustainability is top of mind from beginning to end for us, from ingredient sourcing to formulations, packaging, supply chain, and community education. All our ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced; we lead consciously with the highest standards for skin (all formulas are fully EWG verified), planet and ingredient safety while using science to deliver superior performance in our formulas. Our labs are all Green Lab Certified, the gold standard for laboratory sustainability practices for responsible use of energy, waste, and water. We choose conscious packaging – tubes and bottles that are completely recyclable, and outer cartons made from renewable sugarcane paper without inks or dyes that could affect recyclability.
We invest heavily in education, such as our Clean Academy platform, to empower our community with the facts and provide actionable advice on how to make smart, sustainable beauty choices. We also partner with Oceana on policy-driven efforts to keep our oceans healthy, safe, and abundant. We encourage other brands to evaluate where their ingredients and packaging come from and ultimately, how they impact our planet. We recently joined forces with REN, Caudalie, Herbivore, and Youth to the People in #WeAreAllies — an alliance aimed at helping to tackle the environmental crisis regarding packaging waste. With more collaboration across the industry, a more sustainable beauty landscape is feasible and within reach.
What changes do you anticipate for the future of this industry in the next 5-10 years?
I feel extremely positive about what’s to come for our industry. By continuing to innovate, recreate sustainable ingredients with science, and pursuing more initiatives like #WeAreAllies, we can see a cleaner beauty industry that is fueled by sustainable formulas and practices. I’m energized and excited for what’s to come!
Image Credit: Biossance
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