Science in Skin: Conference Wrap-Up 2023

Innovations in biotechnology-driven skin care, coupled with new insights into skin microbiome function and the importance of sustainable solutions, have dominated conversations in the beauty and personal care space so far in 2023.

Scientists and experts in the B&PC industry, worth $527 billion in 2022 alone[1], presented important findings this March at the In-Cosmetics Conference in Barcelona.

The news and insights that emerged from this conference, plus exciting new data fresh from the Skin Microbiome & Cosmeceuticals Congress and IFSCC, paint a clear picture of the evidence-based approach to skin care science that is yielding new consumer products and furthering consensus understanding in the field.

A number of ingredient launches from the product booths at In-Cosmetics garnered attention, including the following:


PARSOL® DHHB is a UVA filter that also contributes SPF protection. It is compatible with UVB filters, and with zinc oxide and iron oxides and can be used in sunscreens, facial care and colour cosmetics.

– Vegan-friendly PEPHA®-TIGHT CB is an extract from vitamin-rich microalgae Nannochloropis oculata that helps to stimulate collagen formation and can be used in skin-tightening and anti-ageing products.

Croda promoted ingredient launches for Mel[o]stem™, PhytAura™ and Zanthocare™.

Mel[o]stem™ targets both dark and white facial spots for an even complexion. Sederma’s active adaptive ingredient cocoons the melanocyte to preserve skin function.

PhytAura™ provides hydration and calms and soothes sensitive skin.

Zanthocare™ reduces body odour via lipase inhibition and astringence, while respecting the skin microbiome. It also protects the skin from oxidative stress by providing defence against external aggressions.

LipoTrue introduced two new anti-aging ingredients: Poptide™ and V/WA™.   

– Poptide™ is a cyclic peptide that reduces morning and evening wrinkles, redefining the wrinkle’s daily fluctuation.

V/WA™ is an active ingredient obtained from the fermentation of an Alteromonas bacterium that lives on jellyfish in the Mediterranean. The ingredient relaxes expression wrinkles.

Ashland highlighted five of its ingredients during an in-booth event featuring live models.

Phyteq™ is a preservative used in formulations such as sunscreens or pigmented emulsions.

Liftyl™ is an alternative to retinol with similar efficacy, for sensitive skin.

Softhance™ mr is a conditioning agent for rinse-off cleansing formulations.

Styleze™ es-dura is a hair product that provides enhanced curl definition and durability.

Puraloe™ is an aloe vera product used for skin soothing, hydration, and after-sun care.

Lubrizol promoted Argireline® YOUth and Silsense™ Bio 5:

Argireline® YOUth, focuses on prejuvenation, addressing the anti-aging concerns of younger consumers by slowing the onset of the signs of aging in a way that mimics botulinum toxin.

Silsense™ Bio 5: is a silicone-alternative emollient used in hair colour and skin care.

Peptide applications

Elsewhere at the conference, peptide applications continued to gain traction. Peptides, the short chains of amino acids that comprise the building blocks of protein, have long been used in skin care,[1] for example in helping the skin benefit from larger collagen molecules. Market researchers anticipate 5% growth in peptide products in the next five years,[2] powering ahead of biotechnology and botanicals as active ingredients.

Scientists are looking at a potential role for senolytic peptides, which combat senescence, or the natural aging process of cells. Senolysis research has historically focused on cancer treatments and broader anti-aging tools, but the area of skin science has proven fertile ground for the protein-based “age-killing” treatments.

For example, ProVital presented its AltheostemTM product, which won In-cosmetics’ silver prize for best ingredient award in 2023. The biotechnological active is obtained from lab-grown stem cells of Althaea Rosae flowers, leveraging technology to create a tailored biological action on senescent skin cells.

Biotechnology advances

Second only to peptides in industry growth projections is the use of biotechnology as an active treatment in skin care, with market researchers expecting consumption to increase by almost 5%[1] over the next five years.

Biotech company Nanospun showcased its unique face mask treatment at In-Cosmetics. The company creates face masks infused with live, active probiotic tissues, using a spinning process to construct the substrate, allowing encapsulation of live-active biological cells and organisms — including bacteria, yeast, algae, plant cells, and mammalian cells — within hollow, porous, and fibrous 2D and 3D structures. Although consumer interest in the novel technology is unpredictable, the live mask concept could be an interesting one.

Another interesting biotech company, Cambrium, showcased NovaColl™ a micro-molecular and skin-identical collagen. The company examined billions of collagen sequences to search for molecules with strong efficiency and bio-compatibility for skin care, and developed a collagen derived from a fermentation process that eliminates the need for animal extraction.

Focus on Sustainability

Sustainable solutions were front and centre at In-Cosmetics, as various companies highlighted synthetics produced following green chemistry principles, particularly natural alternatives sourced via upcycling or biotechnology. Consumers are looking for sustainable products based on scientific truths, and brands are increasingly being held accountable to be trustworthy and transparent.

German chemicals giant BASF showcased a plant alternative to keratin, Kerasylium. The peptide-rich hair care formulation, meant to repair damage and protect the hair, is made by upcycling milk thistle seed cake, which is a by-product of milk thistle oil production.

Another sustainable example showcased at the event, RetiLife™, is a 100% natural-origin retinol crafted through biotech, produced by Givaudan.

Skinification of Hair

In addition to its sustainability, ReviScalp™, like BASF’s Kerasylium, is also another example of the “skinification of hair” trend seen at the conference, with consumers paying increased attention to hair care in the same way they have historically treated hair care products. ReviScalp, produced by Lucas Meyer, uses a sustainable extract from Australian aniseed myrtle plant to reduce inflammation and help brighten hair.

A focus on sustainability, whether by up cycling waste products, turning to technology-based solutions, or reducing reliance on animal-based products, plus a renewed focus on well-aging and minimalist, natural care for all skin types all were part of the innovative, thought-provoking discussions at In-Cosmetics.

Skin Microbiome & Cosmeceuticals Congress in Rotterdam

Science-based solutions to the challenges posed at In-Cosmetics also drove the conversations at the 5th Skin Microbiome & Cosmeceuticals Congress in Rotterdam. The congress explored the field of skin microbiome research and included case studies focusing on a range of skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, acne, allergy, wounds, beauty, scalp, immune system and anti-aging. Presenters also updated attendees on the progress of clinical trials of microbiome-based products being developed  as cosmetic solutions for these skin conditions.

The trend toward natural, multifunctional ingredients that offer a holistic personal care approach for both sensitive and normal skin types is clear, and cosmetic ingredient suppliers are turning to microbiome research as a promising solution. Increased awareness of the delicate balance of the biome that populates our skin is borne out in the product launches — companies are addressing the microbiome friendliness of their products and focusing on respecting the natural balance of our skin, including the microorganisms that live there.

Skin Microbiome Diversity: Good, Bad, or It Depends?

The keynote speaker at the Rotterdam congress zeroed in on microbial diversity in her address to attendees.  Audrey Guéniche from L’Oréal discussed the significance of microbial diversity on the skin and pondered the consequences for skin health when the microbial population is out of balance.

While high diversity in the gut has been shown to be important to human health, and protective against chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, frailty, inflammation and neurodegenerative disorders, the picture becomes a little more complicated when looking at skin and scalp health.[1]

The skin is an incredibly complex habitat, performing different functions for the body at different sites, and so may have a more complicated relationship with our microbial friends compared to those in the gut environment. For example skin on the scalp is generally covered in hair, and is thus protected from the external environment, while skin on our face is much more exposed to the elements. In some cases, e.g., on the scalp, a higher diversity of microbes is linked to atopic dermatitis and dandruff.[2] In her talk Guéniche discussed as a counter example the link between lower microbiome diversity levels for people living in urban environments with heavy air pollution a potentially higher incidence of skin disorders.

The fact remains that the face is special, with different skin microbial populations than other parts of the body, and the design of skin care products must take the unique specifities of facial skin into account.

Yeast and Skin

The Malassezia family of yeast species, long considered one of the main representatives of the skin myco-biome, or fungal biome, was mentioned frequently at Rotterdam.

It is an important component of scalp biology, with anti-fungal treatments against dandruff and psoriasis prescribed as basic standard of care, and is now gaining more attention as a key player in overall skin health and not just on the scalp.

New DNA analysis methods discussed at the conference, incorporating ITS and qPCR methods in addition to the 16S rRNA DNA sequencing for species and strain-level microbiome analysis, will assist in identifying the composition of Malassezia species and their impact, according to presenters at the conference.

The Impact of Menopause

Associations between menopause and the skin microbiome were discussed in several presentations, including another presentation from L’Oréal, which highlights interest in the field for skin care products that directly address menopause.

Stefanie Tang from Bayer also presented large-cohort correlational analyses of skin microbial compositions with age, implicating the impact of menopausal statuses in the study. This suggests that the skin microbiome in post-menopausal women may be the target for development of novel prebiotics.


Peter Lersch from Evonik presented a high-throughput approach to testing the impact of certain ingredients on skin microbes.

The project, a potentially ambitious one, hopes to identify anti-microbial interactions between different bioactive ingredients.

Potential for Human Milk Oligosaccharides?

Adjacent to the cosmetic track, human milk oligosaccharides had their own dedicated track at the Congress, showing the importance of those ingredients.

Human milk oligosaccharides are short polymers of simple sugars found in human breast milk. HMOs, which serve as food for intestinal bacteria, promote development of the immune system, can reduce infection risk and improve brain development.[1]

There may be opportunities here in the personal care and beauty space as well. The beneficial impact of HMO could translate well to the skin microbiome.


Cécile Clavaud, also from L’Oréal, presented newly published results of a PhD project dedicated to reveal correlations between three interrelated aspects of skin science: the metabolite, the metagenome and the proteome. The metabolome includes all of the metabolites in a biological cell, tissue or organism, that constitute the end result of cellular processes, while proteomics are the large-scale study of proteins. Metagenomics, meanwhile, is the study of genetic material captured with gene sequencing.

The study looked at the skin proteomic, skin metabolomic and skin metagenomic profiles of a Chinese population exposed to severe air pollution, and in the course of the discussion it came about that a public skin metabolite database does not currently exist, but would be of immense benefit to this research on the interaction among metabolites, proteins and their genes.

A cross-industry collaborative effort to create a skin microbiome metabolite database could prove fruitful and could potentially be worth pursuing in earnest.


Separately, IFSCC, the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Scientists, now in its 33rd year, also yielded productive discussions in Barcelona this September.

Skin Barrier Insights

Mageline Biology’s Yang Fan presented a study on skin aging in Asian volunteers that investigated skin parameters, metabolites, and microbiomes at different ages. Their analysis revealed significant differences in key metabolites between age groups, and that microbiome diversity increased with age.

Cross-domain correlations showed that mutual influence exists between skin parameters, metabolites, and microbiomes. This research deepens our understanding of skin aging and barrier mechanisms.

Separately, a talk by Evonik’s Veronika Solotoff focused on the epidermis, which contains antimicrobial peptides, or AMPs, that are crucial for fighting pathogens. Dysfunctional AMPs are linked to skin diseases like atopic dermatitis.

Evonik’s scientists found that a specific Ceramide can enhance LL-37 protein expression, vital for immune response. Skin samples treated with this Ceramide showed significant LL-37 gene and protein increase, indicating its potential to rebalance the skin microbiome, especially in conditions like dry or sensitive skin.

Enlisting Bacteriophages in the Fight

The skincare industry has been exploring microbiome modulatory platforms, due to the increasing resistance to anti-microbials seen in many populations. Biocogent’s Paul Lawrence discussed their exploration of bacteriophage therapy as a promising alternative to anti-microbials.

The group studied bacteriophages, which are specific to individual bacterial species, in relation to their ability to mitigate skin conditions caused by Staphylococcus aureus.

Three bacteriophages were found to either inhibit or kill S. aureus cells. They were applied to different epidermal models, and were found to effectively reduce targeted bacteria without affecting the beneficial species that live alongside the targeted ones.

Acne Under Scrutiny

Presentations by Givaudan’s Catherine Zanchetta and BASF’s Nicolas Pelletier both focused on acne at IFSCC.

Zanchetta’s study focused on Cutibacterium acnes. Variations in its populations and the bacteria’s pro-inflammatory porphyrin production are linked to skin disorders. The group of scientists cultured C. acnes strains, and high porphyrin levels were observed in the strains associated with acneic skin.

One botanical extract was found to significantly reduce porphyrin production in these strains. In a clinical study, this extract decreased porphyrin production without affecting healthy skin microbiota.

This method offers a way to screen for porphyrin production inhibitors, providing new avenues for precise targeting of C. acnes metabolism in acne treatment.

Looking at another aspect of C. acnes’ biology, BASF’s Nicolas Pelletier presented their examination of an antioxidant protein called RoxP.

C. acnes, the dominant bacterium on healthy skin, secretes RoxP to survive on the skin’s surface and protect human cells from oxidative damage. The study aimed to understand RoxP expression in different C. acnes types and stimulate its production for skin protection. It isolated RoxP-secreting strains to create a representative skin profile, and it found that oxidative stress enhanced RoxP secretion.

The researchers then identified new cosmetic ingredients promoting RoxP secretion, potentially aiding skin protection against oxidative damage.

Metabolomics Revealing Skin Secrets

Rounding things out at IFSCC, a study presented by Celine Laperdrix at Codif discussed metabolomics and its ability to help reveal chemical profile differences in skin surface samples through the detection and quantification of metabolites.

Previous work assessed the impacts of cosmetic products on the skin metabolome. This study went further and explored skin chemical profiles in active ingredient development but considered both skin and microbiota interactions, focusing on vitamin B5. The proposed mechanism suggests microbiota produce vitamin B5 from extracts, aiding skin cells naturally and continuously.


The solutions to the challenges posed at In-Cosmetics, IFSCC and the Skin Microbiome & Cosmeceuticals Congress will require creative thinking and collaborative efforts from scientists, product developers and the companies themselves as they put our recent technological advances and know-how to work to improve scientific knowledge and discovery.

Skin science has come a long way, and the path ahead shows all signs of it being a fruitful endeavour.

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  1. Euromonitor International
  2. Schagen, S. K. Topical peptide treatments with effective anti-aging results. Cosmetics 4, 16 (2017)
  3. Kline – In-Cosmetics conference materials, 2023.
  4. ibid.
  5. Johnson KV, Burnet PW. Microbiome: Should we diversify from diversity? Gut microbes. 2016;7(6):455-8.
  6. Saxena R, Mittal P, Clavaud C, Dhakan DB, Hegde P, Veeranagaiah MM, et al. Comparison of Healthy and Dandruff Scalp Microbiome Reveals the Role of Commensals in Scalp Health. Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology. 2018;8:346. Choi JY, Kim H, Koo HY, You J, Yu DS, Lee YB, et al. Severe Scalp Psoriasis Microbiome Has Increased Biodiversity and Relative Abundance of Pseudomonas Compared to Mild Scalp Psoriasis. Journal of clinical medicine. 2022;11(23).
  7. Bode, L. (2012). “Human milk oligosaccharides: every baby needs a sugar mama”. Glycobiology. 22 (9): 1147–1162.

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