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How 70-Year-Old Biotherm Is Harnessing Sustainability to Innovate

The skin care brand is mining its heritage for future growth.

PARIS — As Biotherm turns 70 this year, the skin care brand is diving deep into its past to springboard forward.

“Everything we’re doing right now, to prepare for the future of this brand, is linked with our roots, our DNA,” said Gregory Benoit, global brand president of Biotherm.

In 1952, a young female biologist, Jeanine Marissal, launched Biotherm. The brand’s name is an amalgam of “bio” for “biology” and “therm” for “thermal plankton.” The brand’s iconic patented active ingredient, Life Plankton, has a high bio-affinity with skin, according to Benoit.

“We really want to offer the best of our skin care expertise to all,” he said.

The brand, which was acquired by L’Oréal in 1970, is powered by the science of living microorganisms. Sustainability is at the core of everything Biotherm does.

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“Our sustainable journey is not something new,” said Benoit. In 2012, it launched the Water Lovers program.

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“Because Biotherm comes from water, we want to give back to it,” he said.

The brand’s future growth is being built on various pillars, including using ever more bioscience-based formulas, with renewable ingredients.

“Beyond that, we want to develop more and more biodegradable formulas,” said Benoit.

There will be an increase of eco-designed packaging and retail environments, too. “We’re exploring what could be the solutions,” he said.

One was sealed last year, when Biotherm partnered with Carbios. Together, they created the first cosmetics bottle made from plastic entirely recycled using the biochemistry company’s enzymatic technology allowing for infinite recycling. (With traditional methods, most plastics can be mechanically recycled only a few times before starting to break down.)

Another part of Biotherm’s strategy is to put in place more concrete programs to protect oceans. The brand has already teamed with numerous NGOs. For instance, in 2012, it began a long-term collaboration with Mission Blue, which scientifically identifies “Hope Spots” critical to the oceans’ survival.

“Even if oceans represent more than 70 percent of earth, only 6 percent of these maritime areas are protected,” said Benoit.

A Biotherm bestseller.
A Biotherm bestseller. Courtesy of Biotherm

Biotherm also partnered in 2017 with Terra Ocean Foundation, which studies the impact of climate change on oceans, and in 2020 with Surfrider Foundation Europe, which raises awareness of plastic pollution and helps carry out beach cleanups.

On June 8, World Ocean Day, Biotherm’s Paris-based team cleaned a beach in Normandy. Altogether, such Biotherm-driven cleanups took place in more than 15 countries that day — the largest turnout ever for the brand.

“We aim to increase the participation, the waste we collect year after year,” said Benoit.

Still on the seas, 40 years after Biotherm supported a woman skipper, the brand is going back to its offshore racing heritage by collaborating with renowned skipper Paul Meilhat. Together, they’re building an IMOCA-class sailing yacht, called The Biotherm, and working with Terra Ocean Foundation to integrate sensors into the boat to collect data about plankton and overall ocean health.

The Biotherm sets sail in September and is slated to continue the offshore program through 2025, including taking part in the Route du Rhum this year, The Ocean Race in 2023 and the Vendée Globe in 2024.

“Beyond sailing, beyond performance, it’s very important for us, because it will be our way also to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability and the commitment to protect the oceans,” said Benoit.

“It’s super healthy and important to have these completely independent third parties, these NGOs, to challenge us on a daily basis on the way we plan to create new skin care products in the future,” he added.

Biotherm has committed to doing all it can to become ocean-positive by 2030. “It’s a strong commitment for our consumers, for the community,” said Benoit.

The brand in July released its Blue Report, which outlines Biotherm’s sustainability push over the past 10 years and was audited by Deloitte.

“On some items, we’ve improved a lot,” said Benoit. “On others, it’s still a challenge. Then we explain how we’ll be able to go even further to improve.

“We’re all obsessed here by doing better before doing more,” he said. “We need to walk the talk — to make sure that our full portfolio respects our commitments.”

Biotherm teams with researchers on studies, as well. In 2006, the brand and Stanford University scientists announced they had discovered that pure thermal plankton would strengthen skin cells and stimulate their natural defenses. Last year, Biotherm became the major executive partner of the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco.

“We continue to do external research,” said Benoit. “There are still a lot of discoveries to [make] with Life Plankton.”

New innovation is in the pipe. In two months in Europe, Biotherm will launch Blue Retinol Night Serum, with a vegan formula combining pure retinol with Life Plankton for amplified efficacy that is billed to resurface and repair skin. That product’s bottle is made of 40 percent recycled glass.

For Biotherm, sensoriality has always been key. In 1972 it launched Lait Corporel, an antidrying body milk. Fifty years hence, the product remains the best-selling body care product in Europe today.

Benoit said Biotherm sets out to offer the most complete consumer experience beyond product formula. That includes, for example, beauty tech bringing skin-related diagnoses, predictions or education.

The brand looks to reconnect more with younger generations, as it had in the past, when Biotherm often was a person’s first step into skin care. This could be through product formulas and also Biotherm faces — such as the Paralympic athlete Théo Curin.

Biotherm is a three-axis brand with women’s face and body care, and men’s face care. The latter was launched in 1985, with Biotherm Homme, marking the first men’s skin care line in the prestige retail channel. It currently ranks number one in the markets where the brand trades — namely Europe and Asia.

For men, the Aquapower hydrating and Force Supreme antiaging franchise are Biotherm’s best-selling. Its top-selling products overall are Force Supreme Blue Serum, Life Plankton Elixir and Lait Corporel.

Benoit would not discuss sales, but industry sources estimate Biotherm generates about 650 million euros annually.

It’s back to the future for the brand in 2022, its big anniversary year. Benoit underlines Biotherm is not readying a revolution, but instead the “smartest evolution” looking ahead.