These days, emerging beauty brands are a dime in a dozen. But one such brand that has caught our attention is Codex Beauty Labs, a bioscience-led beauty company originating from Silicon Valley, California, that carries with it a global team of technologists, scientists, botanists, cosmetic chemists and more to harness the potent powers of nature to our skincare regime.
Leading the charge is founder Barbara Paldus, PhD. Interestingly, she comes from an unconventional beauty background. Not an ex-editor, marketer, or even from the beauty industry, she was a scientist, investor and engineer who spent two decades leading innovation in spectroscopy, telecommunications, and biotechnology, and was awarded 40 U.S. patents, and numerous prizes in science.
What sets Codex beauty apart from other beauty brands?
Our exceptionally effective and sustainable skincare. I started Codex to demonstrate to the beauty industry that not only is quantitative data about all aspects of the products relevant, but it is essential for customers to make the best purchasing decisions and obtain truly functional products at the best possible price. Codex to me is less about finding and exploiting a gap in the market, than a movement to bring transparency and sustainability to fundamentally change beauty as well as to educate and empower the consumer.
We are data-driven first, and perform all safety testing like preservative efficacy testing and irritation testing. We use state-of-the-art measurements to perform clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of our products. We are also not afraid to innovate: we already have two issued patents, and we are filing more. One is on our BiaComplex (Bia collection) and one is on our food-grade preservation system, PreservX.
We are obsessed with sustainability. All of our packaging materials are based on plants as well!
You're a biotechnology-based skincare provider. How efficacious would you say biotechnology is in skincare?
Plants have always been a primary source for active cosmetic ingredients (e.g., anti-aging, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, UV-protective, anti-wrinkle, skin soothing, moisturizing, etc.) Natural extracts from plants using classical methods (oil infusion, water infusion, CO2 extraction, etc.) have been widely used in in skincare products for topical application.
Over the last decade, however, there has been an increasing interest in biotech-based, plant cell active ingredients. These are the “next generation” of “natural” products, but manufactured with modern biotechnology methods, called cell culture in a bioreactor, which usually achieve stronger activities than the plant extracts obtained by the classical methods. Simply put, biotechnology can provide more highly concentrated bio-actives into a formulation thereby increasing the efficacy of a skincare product. This concentration can be up to 100X times from a typical natural extract.
You’ve spent your years in biotech and VC before venturing into beauty. How did this help shape the growth of Codex Beauty?
I like to make things and ended up becoming an engineer. I have a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, and I have been a serial entrepreneur for over 20 years. To me - nothing is more rewarding than innovation, and seeing it work, especially when it can improve the human condition. Prior to launching Codex Beauty and Sekhmet Ventures, I spent two decades leading innovation in spectroscopy, telecommunications, and biotechnology. By 34, I had founded two Silicon Valley companies that, among many breakthroughs, paved the way for carbon cycle/natural gas pipeline monitoring, and accessible vaccine/cancer therapeutic manufacturing.
I started Codex Beauty in 2018, with a mission to bring data, science, and transparency to skincare. The “clean” movement has all but destroyed science. I discovered that many practices in the skincare industry do not yield the most potent ingredients, or do not follow the quality practices of regulated industries. Plant-based ingredients hold so much potential, but the extraction techniques, stabilizing methods, delivery systems and analytical tools are not on the same level as biotechnology. We can leverage biotech fermentation to produce concentrated ingredients in a highly sustainable way.
All of my prior experience is now being leveraged between the innovation, clinical studies, biotech sourcing and sustainability at Codex Beauty. All the pieces have finally come together!
Have you noticed other exciting sustainable innovations in beauty?
I see advances coming in molecular farming to cell culture for production of recombinant proteins for next generation skincare products. I would expect these technology platforms to emerge in the next 5 years and for biotech production to become dominant within the next decade. The key challenge will be for the public to accept GMO (genetically modified organisms).
Last but not least, who are your female role models?
As a little girl, I was a huge fan of Marie Curie. To me, she was a symbol of brilliance, passion, science, and self-sacrifice (driving mobile x-ray machines around the battlefield hospitals of WW1 knowing the consequences of radiation exposure). And, she broke the Nobel Prize glass ceiling.