These days, it feels like there are so many beauty terms to keep up with on the internet. Remember skinimalism? How about slugging? Or maybe skin-cycling rings a bell? While you might still be getting yourself acquainted with those aforementioned phrases, there’s now another beauty buzzword bubbling up onto the skincare scene that you may also want to add to your dictionary: biomimetics.
In layman’s terms, biomimetics is a science-backed technique that involves emulating aspects of nature to create better solutions. In the context of skin, the term refers to synthetic ingredients or formulations that mimic our bodies’ own naturally-produced compounds to deliver skincare benefits.
The subject can understandably get pretty complex. Fortunately, we tapped three board-certified dermatologists—Dr. Dendy Engelman, Dr. Corey L. Hartman, and Dr. Luke Maxfield—to break down what to know about biomimetic skincare, plus the best products to incorporate into your daily routine.
What is biomimetic skincare?
In order to fully understand the skincare trend, it’s important to look at its etymology first. According to Dr. Engelman, biomimetics is a portmanteau: “The term itself is made up of the words “bio,” which describes life, and “mimetic,” which describes mimicking—thus, imitating life, or in this case, imitating what naturally occurs in our bodies and skin.”
Dr. Hartman further explains that biomimetics in skincare involves “creating synthetic compounds that mimic natural compounds” found in nature and the body. “The goal of creating biomimetic compounds is to make identical, or nearly identical ingredients to those found naturally, so that when applied in a topical skincare product, they trigger a natural response in the body,” says Dr. Hartman.
Biomimetic compounds are created in scientific labs. As Dr. Hartman explains, “Scientists take the natural ingredient and break down the structure of the ingredient at a molecular level, and then work to recreate that ingredient in the laboratory using synthetic materials.”
Dr. Maxfield also notes that while biomimetics may sound like a new thing, the concept has been around for years. Ceramides and peptides are examples of common biomimetic ingredients.
What are the benefits of biomimetic skincare?
One of the biggest benefits of using biomimetic skincare is how it can dramatically improve the overall look and feel of skin. Dr. Hartman uses the example of collagen: “Our body naturally slows down collagen production as we age, which leads to droopier, sagging skin,” says Dr. Hartman. “By using a product that has a biomimetic formula designed to stimulate collagen production, your body is more likely to successfully accept the formula, triggering the natural response in the body to stimulate collagen production.”
Another major benefit of biomimetic skincare is the fact that it’s safe for all skin types. “It uses ingredients that are identical to those naturally produced by the body, meaning that most people will not experience irritation or other unwanted side effects since their bodies are already familiar with the compounds,” says Dr. Engelman. “Certain skin types, such as those with sensitive skin, may find biomimetic skincare to be more tolerable since it utilizes compounds already found within the body, thus reducing the potential for negative reactivity.”
Dr. Maxfield adds, “Because biomimetic skincare is an umbrella term that can include benefits for everything from restoring the skin barrier to wrinkles to dark spots, most people will find some ingredients from this category will help their unique skincare goals.”
It’s also important to note that the technique is proving to be so effective in skincare that now brands are even incorporating biomimetic ingredients in hair products since they can replenish moisture and repair and prevent damage. “We are only seeing the ripples of the incoming waves of this revolutionizing haircare,” says Dr. Maxfield, noting it’s most prominent in the form of hair and scalp serums. “More brands and products will quickly come out over the coming years.”
What are typical ingredients in biomimetic skincare products?
“Perhaps the most cutting edge and expansive field of biomimetic skincare is in the world of peptides,” says Dr. Maxfield. “Peptides are beginning to revolutionize skincare with their versatility, gentleness, and numerous benefits.” (As a refresher, peptides are crucial in anti-aging skincare routines since they help repair damaged cells and produce collagen.)
Squalane, a molecule derived from sugarcane to mimic naturally-produced squalene, is another ingredient found in biomimetic skincare products. “Squalane is being found more and more frequently in skincare due to its benefits for the skin barrier, oil nature for unique solubility combinations, and exclusive non-greasy aesthetic,” adds Dr. Maxfield.
Dr. Engelman also calls out synthetic growth factors, such as epidermal growth factor (EGF), as a beneficial biomimetic ingredient. “EGF is a great example of an ingredient that is produced in a lab and used prevalently in skincare to increase collagen and elastin production, repair cellular damage, and more,” she says.
Are there any risks of biomimetic skincare?
While biomimetic skincare is completely safe for all skin types, Dr. Engelman and Dr. Hartman both note that there smaller advocacy groups that fear certain biomimetic skincare ingredients may accelerate the growth of dangerous or unwanted cells, but there is no evidence to support that there is a true risk to human health.
Dr. Maxfield also points out that many biomimetic ingredients still need large-scale studies to determine whether it delivers consistent results as tried-and-true ingredients, such as tretinoin (a popular acne medication).
Meet the experts
- Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at NYC’s Shafer Clinic.
- Dr. Corey L. Hartman, MD, FAAD, is a board certified dermatologist and Founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL.
- Dr. Luke Maxfield, DO, FAAD, is a board certified dermatologist based in North Carolina.