A marine natural wax may be a suitable alternative to petroleum products in cosmetics.
The wax, made from alkenones harvested from the marine microalga isochrysis, is showing potential to be the waxy base in many cosmetic products like deodorants, sunscreen and lipstick.
The new endeavor is a collaboration between the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Western Washington University, who hold the patents together, and a cosmetic startup called Upwell Cosmetics.
According to Greg O’Neil, a professor of organic chemistry at Western Washington University:
“There is obviously a big push, and big incentives, across many industries to replace petroleum products with alternatives from renewable sources, whether we’re talking about fuel or cosmetics. There is a mandate at many companies, not just cosmetic companies, to move away from using petroleum products.”
While Chris Reddy, a senior scientist in WHOI’s Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department who has worked on these compounds for over 20 years, added:
“It wasn’t like I was waking up in the morning thinking I can save the world. The soup du jour in the late 2000s and early 2010s was making biofuels. We were trying, but we failed…Then, we just pivoted and got lucky with the cosmetics idea.”
Discussing the partnership with Upwell, the WHOI’s director of technology transfer Allison Markova stated:
“This is a great example of WHOI’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship, and it’s also a great example of the breadth of innovation coming out of the institution’s work in the ocean. The more we can move technologies and innovations that were developed as part of the work at WHOI out into the marketplace — especially for applications that we may not traditionally think about for WHOI technology — the more we are going to broaden the impact of the institution and the impact of our research. This is really important for advancing the mission of the institution.”