Jasmina Aganovic Innovates Beauty Through Microbiology

Infinite Innovation: Can Microbiology help make beauty sustainable?

In the ever-evolving world of beauty, science has now set its sights on a realm that was once invisible–the microbiome. There’s now a growing movement advocating for the understanding of these unseen ecosystems, which consist of living organisms that coexist with us, and how they hold the key to unlocking healthy skin. Leading the charge is Jasmina Aganovic, a beauty entrepreneur and expressive biology advocate.

Aganovic, who struggled with her skin as a teenager, grew up with an interest in beauty. “I became fascinated by the ingredients and the formulas and how they all worked together to make the claims that you would see on the packaging,” she narrates. This interest led to a degree in chemical and biological engineering that proved helpful in doing research and development for the beauty industry.

Dr. Jasmina Aganovic at the Arcaea Lab. Portrait courtesy of Arcaea

She founded Mother Dirt which produced groundbreaking probiotic skincare. Between Mother Dirt and putting up Arcaea, she also worked for Gingko Bioworks, which focused on building a biology-based platform for many different industries. “My experience showed me how much is already possible with many of these new technologies,” she shares. “And it also showed me what could be possible in the future.”

At Arcaea, Aganovic says they are creating new ingredients with the help of biology, aligning them with our natural makeup instead of working against it.

Making Strides

One such ingredient they recently developed is ScentARC–Arcaea’s answer to the deodorant debacle that has plagued the beauty industry and consumers for far too long. “It is now 2023 and deodorants still rely on blocking sweat, masking smells, and killing microbes,” Aganovic says, adding that, thanks to technology, there’s now a better understanding of the biology of body odor. “With this premise, our team asked ourselves is there a way we can use a new mechanism, biology, to solve the issue of body odor?”

“To shape future effectively we need to create high performing products, but also show people that sustainability is not a design constraint that it is in fact an enabler.”

What they came up with is ScentARC, which they describe as being born from technologies like DNA sequencing and skin microbiome research. It is a blend of prebiotics that precisely shifts the armpit microbiome to a direction that produces less undesirable odors, and according to Aganovic, a lot of brands are already formulating with this product.
It took around USD78 million to fund this apparent breakthrough, with Arcaea’s investors including industry players like Chanel and Givaudan. “I do believe there is a shift happening across the industry,” Aganovic opines. “There are many companies doing great work and it will take all of us working together to create the type of future for this industry that we want to see.”

At Arcaea, Aganovic envisions a future where biological engineering and fermentation play a crucial role in creating innovation in the beauty industry. She sees these emerging technologies as new, creative tools that can unlock a realm ofpossibilities. It’s a vast undertaking which is why huge importance is placed on making sure their efforts are sustainable.
By focusing on creating entirely new ingredients and functionalities through biology rather than just mere ingredient swaps, Arcaea is able to harness the potential of biology better. By doing so, they also aim to shift the supply chain away from depleting natural resources, offering a sustainable solution.

Aganovic shares that Arcaea is proceeding to launch their own brand before 2023 ends. “It will be a brand focused on fragrances that have been uniquely made possible because of biology,” Aganovic reveals. “We are hoping that the industry and consumers will see science showing up in an unexpected and emotional way that will really break down the barriers between consumers and biology and also open their minds to possibilities that they were not able to imagine before.”
There’s more to be done but Aganovic welcomes the beauty industry’s moves to be more eco-conscious as sustainable beauty gains traction. Although it’s not happening fast enough, consumers demanding better from brands has already made a huge impact in recent years. “My main recommendation is for consumers to keep demanding what they need, which is high performing products that do what they say they’re going to do, that are good for them, and good for the environment,” she says. While we must all take part in sustainability efforts, Aganovic doesn’t want consumers to feel the full burden of solving the sustainability issue. “That is really on the industry to create solutions that make this easy for them,” she emphasizes.

Amid ongoing scientific studies on the skin’s microbiome, Aganovic remains resolute in her belief of expressive biology. To her, Microbiology is a guiding light in the beauty industry’s sustainability journey, forging new paths for innovation and harmonious coexistence with nature.

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