Biofuel company stumbles onto cosmetics discovery

January 10, 2012 7:14:02 PM PST
Sometimes the best discoveries coming out of research are the ones you don't expect. Solazyme, a company that focuses on biofuels, recently made an interesting cosmetics discovery.

Algae is turning out to be a very versatile product. Solazyme can turn it into jet fuel. And now, algae can help aging baby boomers restore their youthful appearance.

"We didn't ever intend to really to get into skin care, but while researching microalgae for renewable energy purposes, we stumbled upon an incredible compound," product development manager Riva Barak said.

That compound is alguronic acid. While algae turn green from chlorophyll absorbing artificial or natural daylight, alguronic acid acts to protect or shield the algae from hostile environment.

Solazyme, which makes biofuels from algae, discovered it also firms up and enhances aging skin.

"This is a complex that I put together of three very powerful proteins and very powerful peptides that really go to work at addressing those losses in skin proteins as we age that lead to a loss of firmness and elasticity in the skin," Barak said.

Solazyme's new line of Algenist skin care products has created an unexpected revenue stream to complement its biofuel research work.

They are prominently displayed at over 600 Sephora shops with prices ranging from $56-$94.

While Solazyme isn't disclosing what skin care will deliver to its ledger, makeup is a $170 billion industry with huge mark-ups.

Algenist will be sold in 11 countries besides the U.S.

"When we can make oils and make things like a unique compound of alguronic acid, that comes out of our process; we can work with partners to commercialize those," CFO Tyler Painter said.

Solazyme is working on incorporating algae in food as well and expects to have another commercial product announcement this spring.

Solazyme sees itself as a technology company, but it already is demonstrating that its research can result in surprising new uses for algae.

Solazyme says its new skin care products aren't just for women; men here have been using it too.