If you’re a skincare aficionado, you’ve no doubt seen the buzzword “biomimetic” on many beauty products lately—but what exactly does this term mean? “‘Biomimetics’ refers to the products and techniques that reproduce the body’s natural functions,” explains Dr. Renée A. Beach, dermatologist and founder of DermAtelier on Avenue Road in Toronto. In simple terms, biomimetic compounds are forged from natural or synthetic ingredients and are identical—or almost identical—to what the human body itself produces, which allows products that contain them to function in the same way. “By copying a compound that the body naturally makes itself—or by simulating the structure of hair and skin—we get better results,” says Lionel Ripoll, professor of cosmetology at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. 

Hyaluronic acid, which is present in hair, skin and nails, is a great example, as skincare science has been able to harness synthetic and marine ingredients that replicate the naturally occurring acid’s biological characteristics. “With these kinds of products, the concentration of the biomimetic ingredients is equal to that of our body’s own proteins and acids,” says Beach. “So a 1 to 2 percent hyaluronic-acid serum would facilitate the compound’s absorption in the dermal layer, where it will combine with the similarly present hyaluronic acid and boost hydration.”

But biomimicry is nothing new to the cosmetics industry, which has been exploring this area for a long time. Back in the 1980s, Lancôme’s Niosome line and Dior’s Capture line were already embracing the technology. “These brands were the first to bring liposomes—in creams manufactured using the skin’s own structure to boost compatibility—to market,” says Ripoll. Next, liposome technology was applied to hair care, most notably in 2017, when the brand René Furterer launched an active biomimetic called “intercellular cement,” which promotes hair-fibre cohesion and prevents locks from drying out. But it wouldn’t be until 2020 that biomimetics appeared on everyone’s radar thanks to K18 and its famous molecular-hair-repair mask, which uses a peptide that has a similar size and structure to natural keratin. Turning back the clock on damaged hair, K18 went viral on TikTok and was touted by celebrities and beautistas alike as nothing less than a lifesaver. 

Since then, biomimicry has found its way into all kinds of marketing campaigns, which is a genius strategy, says Ripoll, given the innovation’s big benefits. “For scientists, copying nature guarantees a certain success rate since higher efficacy goes hand in hand with compounds that mimic a biological process rather than some randomly selected chemicals,” he explains. “For manufacturers, it’s a narrative that’s natural to promote. And for consumers, it’s a concept that’s easy to grasp and a great tool for gauging quality.” Plus, biomimetic beauty products are potentially more sustainable than their traditional counterparts, especially entirely synthetic ones that are derived from non-renewable natural resources and lack the energy efficiency found in nature.

For Katia Ravard, head of biomimicry at Pierre Fabre Group, the field of biomimetic cosmetics is just getting started. “Pretty much every area—actives, ingredients, textures, the science itself and industrial processes, to name a few—is ripe for innovation,” she says. The next step? More expertise, research and knowledge sharing between professionals from the various fields studying biomimicry and applying those learnings to beauty. “We need more cross-functional col- laboration—between scientists, engineers, urban planners, ecologists, sociologists, public institutions—to collectively learn what biology has to teach us,” says Ravard. “Nothing occurs in a vacuum; everything is interconnected, and life exists in a state of equilibrium that is beneficial to our greater ecosystem as a whole.” 

Natural Inspiration

Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask, K18

Unlike a band-aid solution that superficially smooths over damaged hair with nourishing ingredients, the K18 peptide works its magic by actually repairing hair that’s suffering the consequences of colour and heat.

Price: $89


Natural Inspiration

The Scalp Serum, Nécessaire

This hair serum boasts a biomimetic peptide called acetyl tetrapeptide-3, which tells skin to rev up collagen production and make more of the proteins that keep hair follicles healthy.

Price: $78

Natural Inspiration

Tolerance Hydra-10 Hydrating Cream, Avène

Made entirely from naturally sourced biomimetic ingredients, this hydrating cream replicates the structure of the cutaneous barrier, making it easier for skin to absorb the product’s moisture-intense compounds.

Price: $38.50