Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Western Washington University Sign License Agreement for Upwell Cosmetics to Make and Market a Marine Microalga-Derived Wax
WOODS HOLE, Mass., April 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A wax that is derived from a commonly grown marine microalga could be the next big thing in cosmetics and personal care products, thanks to a recent license agreement between the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Western Washington University (WWU)—which jointly own the patents—and Upwell Cosmetics, a start-up materials company founded in Woods Hole, Mass.
While a cosmetics product might seem unusual for an oceanographic institution to be involved with, this license agreement allows practical research to reach the market for broad benefit to society. The patented product is poised to disrupt the beauty industry.
Microalgae are a valuable and innovative source of natural nutrients and bioactive compounds. The novel ingredient has the ability to replace petroleum-based waxes and other waxes in products like lipstick and lip balm, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and deodorant. Notably, it creates new potential for the formulation of reef-safe sunscreen as studies also showed the algae wax boosted SPF and improved the quality of mineral sunscreen formulations on the skin.
“We believe this groundbreaking, microalgal wax has great potential to replace petroleum and animal-based wax in personal care products. The commercialization opportunity is overwhelming as brands race to reformulate using sustainable ingredients to meet consumer demand. Upwell Cosmetics is creating new possibilities for brands to eliminate concerning ingredients.” says Daniella Zakon, Co-Founder of Upwell Cosmetics.
Upwell Cosmetics was founded by Daniella Zakon and Alexandra Dowling Lari. Zakon holds degrees in Marine Biology and Environmental Science plus Business. Zakon spent six years working abroad as an environmental entrepreneur in the international start-up space before moving back to the United States. Dowling Lari’s career spans the luxury beauty sector, with a pivot to sustainability in recent years, including roles at LVMH, Moda Operandi, and most recently Captain Blankenship.
Following consumer demand for ingredient transparency in their cosmetics, cosmetic brands and retailers are creating strict guidelines around ingredients that have been deemed unsafe, or “dirty”, leading to a push for ingredients that are ethically sourced, “clean”, “green”, or “blue”. Studies have found that the cosmetics industry will lead the environmental transition away from industry-wide fossil fuel use because it is the first oil-based sector that will get rid of petroleum oil in ingredients and packaging. Upwell Cosmetics will be one of the first ingredient suppliers to offer sustainability metrics on CO2 and water usage per batch of material.
“Algae are the true lungs of the planet and anything we can do to grow more of it can have huge environmental impact. If we get to make sustainable products alongside it, that’s even better,” says Zakon. Research shows microalgae in the ocean generates 50% of the oxygen humans need, absorbs roughly 25% of CO2 emissions and captures about 90% of excess heat. Growing the algae terrestrially in bioreactors takes only 10% of the land area of comparable crops.
In addition to the wax’s stacked environmental benefits, the ingredient has been consumer tested in studies with Gabriella Baki, director of the BSPS Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program and Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics at the University of Toledo, Ohio. Baki formulated lipsticks and organic sunscreens using alkenone waxes supplied by Christopher Reddy, a senior scientist at WHOI, and Gregory O’Neil, a professor of chemistry at WWU, who initiated and conceptualized the project. Testing validated the algae wax as a promising sustainable alternative for the cosmetic industry, biobase for organic sunscreens and an excellent structuring agent in lipsticks. Consumers preferred the lipstick formulated with the algae wax over the controls made with beeswax, plant wax, and petroleum wax. All findings were published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.
Zakon said “my biggest goal is that 10 years from now everyone will know what this wax is and that petroleum wax won’t be used for personal care products anymore.” Upwell Cosmetics is excited to commercialize this new ingredient and bring it to brands big and small. “We see this ingredient being used in everything from reef-safe sunscreen, hair care, salves, balms, skin care, deodorants, and beyond,” says Dowling Lari.
ABOUT UPWELL COSMETICS
Upwell Cosmetics is an ingredients and materials company, supplying the world’s first algae-derived wax to the cosmetics and personal care industry. The algae wax is a sustainable structural alternative for cosmetics such as lipstick, sunscreen and deodorant. Upwell Cosmetics was founded in 2019 by Daniella Zakon and Alexandra Dowling Lari.
ABOUT THE FOUNDERS
Daniella Zakon holds a master’s degree in Environmental Studies with Business Management as well as a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. She has worked across Asia and the Middle East as an environmental entrepreneur, with career research spanning coral reef ecosystems and water technologies, as well as launching a start up in the sustainable fashion space. She grew up in and currently resides in Woods Hole, MA, where Upwell Cosmetics is based.
Alexandra Dowling Lari holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a graduate degree from Parsons School of Design in Marketing and Brand Management. She worked in directorial roles across the luxury beauty sector at Fresh, LVMH, Moda Operandi and plant-based haircare brand Captain Blankenship. She grew up in Woods Hole and currently resides in Manhattan.
ABOUT THE WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in basic and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge and possibility. For more information, please visit www.whoi.edu.
Abbey Blakeman, Brandsway Creative
SOURCE Upwell Cosmetics