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Buzzword Breakdown 02: biomimetics

Buzzword Breakdown 02: biomimetics

You know how we roll, we like to challenge, myth bust, and break down every type of buzzword in the hair world—because we found through our research a lot of what the haircare industry has been telling us isn’t always the most, well, factual.

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Sometimes the buzz hits close to home. Today’s word is one we hold near and dear to our science-loving selves because we built our entire brand around it.

The word of the day is: biomimetics. It’s that word you see in our brand name and on all our bottles—and may or may not know how to pronounce it (it’s bi-o-mi-me-tics, but we’ll get into that). 

When we came onto the scene, not many people had heard of the word biomimetics. Now? We’re seeing it everywhere. Which is amazing! Biomimetics is looking to nature as the ultimate scientist, designer, and advisor—which we think can do a lot for our planet + our products. But we’ve also noticed some questionable usage of the word, so we want to break it down—scientifically of course. 

Let’s dive in. 

Buzzword Breakdown 02: biomimetics

Essentially, biomimetics is taking inspiration from nature and its designs to model new technologies after them. In its truest sense, it is creating something man-made that imitates the structure and function of something natural. This of course can take many forms. Did you know that Velcro was actually created via biomimetic thinking? The engineer who invented it noticed the particular loops of burrs made them especially good at attaching to animal hair. After studying those loop structures, he was able to replicate burr-like hooks to link to looped strips, and voila, Velcro as we know and love it. Nature is cool like that. 

biomimetic beauty

In the beauty world, biomimetics usually means mimicking substances, structures, or biological functions found in nature and harnessing those properties to create a more effective ingredient or formula. 

Take K18 for example, our peptide is biomimetic—it was born from studying the proteins that make up hair. By scanning and testing ALL amino acid sequences that make up human hair (and it was a lot), we were able to find the exact sequence best able to recover hair’s strength + elasticity. By using this knowledge to recreate a peptide that mimics that sequence or structure, we created our biology-optimized peptide to restore hair health with lasting results. Our research process and our solution employed biomimetics, resulting in a biomimetic peptide that seamlessly fits in and matches the molecular makeup of hair proteins. 

myth: all biomimetic forms are the same

Since nature is the ultimate designer, many things are in some way biomimetic. You can think of it as a sliding scale from “inspired by” nature to “mimicking” nature—which is where it can get tricky in brand speak. Sometimes brands may say an ingredient or technology is “biomimetic,” implying the most robust form when the technology is only loosely so.

Why does it matter? Biomimetic technology can impact product performance in many ways—how it’s used in the research and development process (i.e. the source of inspiration), how or what it is applied to (the target + for what purpose), and the solution’s final structure and function. Understanding this can help you spot the products vaguely inspired by nature from the innovative solutions that truly imitate nature. 

Let’s use a face moisturizer to showcase the various forms of biomimetics, and if it’s biomimetic to the target here—the skin. 

inspired by nature

An ingredient could be inspired by something found in nature like olives, whose oil protects the fruit + seed and also acts as a good emollient on the skin. By being inspired by a natural ingredient like olives, applying its protective oil to skin may be considered loosely biomimetic. That’s because olive oil isn’t mimicking anything in skin biology, so it’s not biomimetic to skin itself. Thus, it represents the loosely biomimetic end of the scale.  

similar to nature

An ingredient could be biomimetic as it works similarly to what it’s intended for, but it’s taken from somewhere else. This is like formulating with phospholipids in sunflowers, which are similar in structure to the phospholipids found naturally in skin. In this case, the biomimetic technology is inspired by sunflowers and functions similarly to skin biology, so it could deliver a similar effect as the real thing. Think of this as the middle of the biomimetic scale.

mimicking nature

An example of the most relevant + compelling form of biomimetics in moisturizers would be synthetic ceramides, ingredients that directly imitate the natural ceramide molecules found in the skin. By mimicking the structure + functionality of ceramides in skin to create a biomimetic molecule, we can expect it to function most closely to skin’s natural moisturizers for the most effective formula. This is the other end of the scale. 

See how these are all forms of biomimetics, but some are more meaningful to the overall results than others? Here at K18, we strive to follow nature’s blueprint wherever possible. So when we use the term biomimetic, you know we mean it with the highest integrity. 

the bottom line?

This buzzword is worth the hype when used correctly.

Don’t be afraid to ask how something is biomimetic (or what it is mimicking), why that matters, and if the solution actually lives up to its biomimetic claims. If it is, you’re in for a real treat. 

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