Back in time? Symbiome targets ‘ancestral microbiome’ with proprietary postbiotic skin care range

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Symbiome's skin care range uses a collection of 'biologically intact' postbiotics sourced from the Brazilian Amazon - all Fair Trade-certified (Getty Images)
Symbiome's skin care range uses a collection of 'biologically intact' postbiotics sourced from the Brazilian Amazon - all Fair Trade-certified (Getty Images)

Related tags: skin microbiome, microbiome, Skin health, postbiotics, Skin care, skin science

Direct-to-consumer skin care brand Symbiome will debut a product range formulated with postbiotics sourced from plants from the Brazilian Amazon, aimed at restoring and rebuilding resilience in the modern microbiome.

Symbiome recently won $15m (€12.69m) in funding from a consortium of venture capitalists, including San Francisco-based True Ventures.

Founded in 2017 in San Francisco, the skin care startup would debut a range of six products at the end of October online, including a cleanser, face cream and collection of oils. Formulated with minimal ingredients, including postbiotics (probiotic extracts and metabolites) and plant-focused ingredients, the range aimed to improve the skin microbiome, or as the firm put it, move closer to an “ancestral microbiome”.

The company’s goal stemmed from the idea that ancient humans were largely free of modern conditions like Syndrome X and associated inflammation that could disturb the skin microbiome, manifesting as conditions like rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, dryness, redness or even acne.

‘Our modern microbiome has lost as much as 80% of its microbial diversity’

While that concept may sound a bit woolly, founder and chief scientific officer Larry Weiss – formerly involved in product development at probiotic skin care specialist MotherDirt – emphasised Symbiome was a science and ecology-driven operation.  

“The ancestral human microbiome was the microbiome of our ancestors, who lived deeply connected to each other and the earth by microbes. Compared to this ancestral microbiome, our modern microbiome has lost as much as 80% of its microbial diversity,”​ Weiss told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

“We have also lost many important postbiotics and biomolecules that these missing ancestral microbes made for us. This includes fatty acids, lipids, vitamins, and many others that we have yet to identify.”   

Ingredients to ‘restore and rebuild resilience’

The aim of the Symbiome range, therefore, was to restore skin health, he said.

“We believe that healthy skin has fewer problems. Restoring health is different from treating problems, although the outcome may be the same. Healthy skin is more resilient in response to stress and has fewer problems to fix.”

Weiss said Symbiome’s range was formulated with “biologically intact”​ postbiotics sourced sustainably from the Brazilian Amazon.

“The Brazilian Amazon is one of the few remaining ecosystems in which ancient relationships between humans, plants, and the microbiome are preserved. We chose these ingredients to restore and rebuild resilience that we have lost in the modern world,”​ he said.

Each product contained ten or fewer ingredients, he said, and were “self-stabilising and self-preserving”.

The company’s proprietary postbiotic active ingredients ‘postbiomics’ were fermented with microbes derived from the plant’s microbiome, he said, which therefore unlocked the “full spectrum of beneficial biomolecules”.

Skin care ‘capitalised to build on science’

Symbiome had a dedicated team of doctors, scientists and microbiologists engaged in ongoing basic science and clinical research that enabled the company to develop and validate products, Weiss said.

“As part of our product development program, all of our products undergo extensive safety and testing with our proprietary testing platform,”​ he said.  

“…We’re capitalised to build on science, to build on great products and to build on community and do all of this in a way that is deeply respectful of a long-term outcome,”​ he said.

Skin microbiome to ‘reach a critical mass’ within 3-10 years

True Ventures said the data driven, health and eco-focused operation appealed because it was in a sector with potential to “reach a critical mass within the next three to 10 years”.

The global market for skin microbiome modulators was estimated to be worth about €450m in 2019 and set to grow to around €2.5bn by 2030, according to BIS Research.

Other investors behind Symbiome included Bold Capital Partners, Mission Bay Capital and Gisev Family Office.

COVID concerns throw spotlight on skin microbiome

International Probiotics Association executive director George Paraskevakos said COVID-19 had driven health and sanitation concerns that had seen interest in the skin microbiome “come of age”.

“The Asian market and companies have always had this on their radar but only now are we starting to see interest and a conversation in North America and Europe,”​ Paraskevakos said.

“At the same time, consumers probably do not have knowledge regarding this, hence education is much needed.”

He said science in the area was much needed and noted some companies and other institutions were engaged in that.

Skin Microbiome webinar 2020

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CosmeticsDesign recently hosted an expert webinar panel to discuss the skin microbiome market, trends, opportunities and challenges in 2020. We heard from L’Oréal Research & Innovation, Gallinée, Cosmetics Europe, Lumina Intelligence and APC Microbiome Ireland about everything from regulatory hurdles through to consumer knowledge and upcoming product innovations.

If you missed joining us, you can still catch up on demand. Register for free​ to gain access now.

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