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Biossance Propels Biotech Innovation at Sephora

The Bay Area renewable products firm Amyris is bringing scientific advancements to bear in skin care with the emerging squalane-fueled brand.

Biossance, a natural skin-care brand harnessing bioengineered microbes to magnify moisturization, is the latest scientific breakthrough hitting the shelves at Sephora.

The brand’s roots are in the cutting-edge labs of Amyris, a Bay Area renewable products firm that’s mastered using yeast to convert sugar into the emollient squalane, a coveted ingredient in beauty merchandise often harvested from deep-sea shark livers or olives. Priced from $30 to $72, five of its offerings — 100% Squalane Oil, Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil, Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel, Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil and Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer — are launching on Sephora’s web site and rolling out to stores this month.

“Squalane is great because it’s really versatile, and it can address so many problems from acne to rosacea,” said Carley Klekas, sustainability and marketing manager at Amyris, a supplier of high-octane squalane to such brands as Clarins, Ole Henriksen, Annemarie Borlind, Shiseido and Bulgari. “It’s very stable, and it really locks moisture into the skin. It also feels very light. It’s not like argan oil or jojoba oil that sits on the skin.”

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Priya Venkatesh, vice president of skin and hair care for Sephora, was ebullient about Biossance’s debut at the beauty specialty retailer. “As pioneers in sustainable beauty backed by biotechnology expertise, Biossance brings a unique collection based [upon] their 100 percent plant-derived Squalane complex to provide ultimate and immediate hydration for all skin types,” she said.

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Amyris originally unveiled Biossance in 2015, and HSN introduced it in February of last year. In the months since its premiere on HSN, Biossance was revamped with the help of Bartlett Brands, a boutique branding agency with a client roster that includes Sephora, Rodan + Fields, Williams-Sonoma, Ipsy and Marriott. The revamp focused the brand’s messaging on its hero ingredient squalane, simplified product names, toned down complex jargon, adjusted the packaging color palette to sage, copper and soft pink and put the products in eco-friendly boxes made from sugarcane.

“Squalane is actually produced in the body, and we love the human element of the story,” said Bartlett Brands principal and creative director Rebecca Bartlett. “The fact that your body produces squalane is something that’s easy to understand, and it hasn’t been told. Your body produces it, it depletes over time and Biossance is giving it back.”

The molecular formula of squalane — C30H62 — is present on Biossance labels, and is reflected on the skin of a luminous woman in display and marketing materials to draw the connection between the human body and the ingredient. The brand’s number-one selling product to date is Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil followed by Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel and 100% Squalane Oil.

Although Klekas detailed the ages of Biossance’s customers range widely from Twenty to almost Sixty, she narrowed the sweet spot for the brand down to skin-care shoppers in their the late Twenties to early Thirties. “For Millennial customers, single-ingredient stories are very compelling,” said Bartlett Brands director of strategy and editorial Kimberly Brizzolara. “This brand is very straightforward. It’s no nonsense and approachable. I don’t think it’s a brand that’s sassy or trendy. In an age in which we are so overwhelmed by information, it cuts through the fluff, and has an authenticity that resonates with Millennials.”

Caroline Hadfield, senior vice president of personal care at Amyris, a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq, estimated Biossance’s entrance into Sephora would contribute to the company’s revenues more than doubling in 2017. Amyris’ net sales for 2015 were $34.15 million, compared to $43.27 million the prior year. Revenues for 2016 have yet to be released.