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How Synthetic Biology Works Better for Hair Repair + the Environment

Dive into how synthetic biology makes K18 more effective for damage repair, and better for the planet.

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Short on time? Here’s the scientific gist of it: Synthetic biology involves editing DNA to produce natural or novel compounds. In the beauty industry, synthetic biology offers vegan, sustainable and efficient production alternatives (like squalane, with an a) to environmentally harmful ingredients (like shark-derived squalene, with an e). Synthetic biology also allows us to create eco-friendly, high-performance ingredients that are compatible with human biology. The K18 biomimetic peptide for hair repair is an example of synthetic biology in action, delivering long-term hair repair with the least possible footprint on the environment.

Got time for a deeper dive? 

In this Science Sunday, we’re breaking down what biotechnology and synthetic biology are, and how we use these technologies to create our revolutionary molecular repair technologies. 

what is biotechnology and synthetic biology? 

Biotechnology (or biotech as we like to refer to it), uses biology as technology. It harnesses the power of living cells to produce products to improve our health, our environment, and the things we use every day—according to the Basic and Applied Aspects of Biotechnology.

the difference between engineering, synthetic biology, and biology

Synthetic biology, or synbio, is a subset of biotechnology that focuses on engineering the genetic code of organisms and living systems. Synthetic biology leverages multiple scientific disciplines, including molecular biology, bioinformatics, computer science, chemistry, and microbiology, and takes a comprehensive engineering approach to make biotech processes more precise and predictable. You can get a deeper dive here.

Biotechnology and synthetic biology have been used throughout history to produce natural products with greater efficiency, or even new products that hadn’t previously existed in nature to solve complex problems, as detailed in this published paper. Like how fermentation produces cheese, beer, wine, and fermented foods using bacteria, or how we solved hair damage with our patented repairing K18PEPTIDE.

how synthetic biology powers our K18PEPTIDE

Synthetic biology creates opportunities to produce new ingredients that don’t exist in nature, or are difficult to procure from natural sources like our K18PEPTIDE. These technologies have allowed us to create products that mimic the natural biology of hair and repair it in a way that is most compatible with its biology, meaning you get lasting damage repair. 

K18’s patented K18PEPTIDE™ was developed in the biotech lab by mimicking the natural biology of hair and repairing it in a way that is most compatible with its biology, meaning you get lasting damage repair.

K18 scientists spent a decade mapping and testing all of the peptides produced by the human hair proteome, or the genetic instructions that code for all the proteins (keratins and keratin-associated proteins, or KAPs) that form your hair. The culmination of this extensive research is the K18PEPTIDE™: the ultimate reconnector for the broken bonds in damaged hair.

Our biomimetic peptide has the perfect composition and shape to fit into your hair like a puzzle piece. It reconnects the keratin chains in your hair’s structure to restore strength and elasticity, connecting multiple types of bonds (including disulfides) to deliver true, holistic molecular repair from the inside out.

That’s the power of biotechnology and synthetic biology: we can use these technologies to produce high-performance ingredients that work with your hair’s biology.

the sustainable path forward

For a long time, the beauty and personal care industry has relied on traditional cosmetic chemistry approaches to formulate products, create new ingredients, and mimic natural ones. But historic practices employed by cosmetic chemistry are limited; it is an ongoing challenge to consistently produce large quantities of pure ingredients identical to those in nature.

Many naturally derived cosmetic ingredients are derived from plants or animals; the practice of extracting ingredients from nature may end up hurting our environment and depleting natural resources. Common ingredients like squalene, a softening and smoothing ingredient commonly found in skincare products, were once derived from the livers of deep-sea sharks, causing overfishing of shark populations.

Thankfully, synthetic biology gives the beauty industry the power to overcome these hurdles by producing the natural ingredients we know and love without many of the unwanted environmental impact. Today, companies are “brewing” squalane—with an a, not an e—without the sharks, and we’re delivering lasting damage repair for all hair types.

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