Velvety to the touch but physically tough as nails, moss has thrived in harsh and unforgiving climates and environments for an estimated 470 million years. Classified as a eukaryotic plant because it’s non-flowering and has no roots or vascular system, moss gets around; covering patches of land in such diverse locales as broiling-hot deserts and arctic tundra.
Its ability to flourish in virtually any setting is a key reason cosmetic scientists have long been fascinated by moss. Surely, if they could extract the key ingredients behind its longevity, or bottle its imperviousness to temperature extremes, they’d be well on their way to creating products that could help skin cope with the very real effects of 21st century climate change.
Citing its impact as a “novel biotechnological concept,” he envisions his labor of love adding an entirely new, cell-centric angle to the anti-aging skincare conversation.
There’s just one slight problem with gathering enough moss to make a real dent in the skincare market, says Fred Zülli, PhD, founder of Switzerland-based Mibelle Biochemistry: it isn’t a sustainable practice. That’s why Zülli and his team labored for years to perfect the technology behind MossCellTec No. 1, the first-ever lab-grown moss.
Well, maybe “almost-moss” is a better descriptor. While MossCellTec No. 1 literally shares moss’s DNA, it’s based on a protonema culture of the plant, and bares little resemblance to moss as we know it. “The protonema tissue we grow in our reactors is an intermediate state in the moss plant’s life cycle,” says Zülli. “Therefore it’s a bit different from the moss you would know from the forest or a tree.”
But thankfully, all the skin benefits Zülli was attempting to harness from moss are very much in play with MossCellTec No. 1. In replicating moss’s cell nucleus, which contains the cell’s DNA, Mibelle is able to ensure that MossCellTec No. 1 boosts skin’s resilience and its ability to adapt to environmental changes, all while consistently maintaining optimal hydration levels.
Already, a handful of forward-thinking spa skincare brands, including South Africa’s La Paix, Baden Baden-based Biodroga, and California-based Pour Moi, are hopping on the MossCellTec No. 1 bandwagon, incorporating the trending technology into products with which it’s the best fit.
As arguably the first climate-specific skincare line, Pour Moi is a slam dunk for MossCellTec No. 1, says brand founder Ulli Haslacher, “I was first made aware of moss technology by our lead R&D formulator, who proposed it as a perfect fit for our Climate-Smart® skincare,” Haslacher recalls. “Our R&D team in France is constantly on the search for innovative, safe ingredients backed by real science and clinical studies to further evolve our unique concept of climate-based solutions to harmonize and balance skin with its environment, and strengthen its ability to adapt, repair, and renew.”
The first Pour Moi products with MossCellTec No. 1 is a line of Climate-Smart® boosters targeting various skin concerns that will debut in the US in January 2020. “We’re implementing moss in all types of formulations at different concentration levels,” Haslacher notes. “We decided to launch it first at a higher concentration in our targeted boosters to really focus on the unique capabilities of moss technology, especially when applied together with our day creams. Eventually you’ll see moss as a key ingredient in all Pour Moi products.”
While Haslacher was immediately impressed with Mibelle’s clinical studies on MossCellTec No. 1, she’s even more intrigued by moss’s incomparable longevity. “Just imagine the extreme climate changes this plant was able to adapt to and survive throughout hundreds of millions of years—including major UV radiation,” she marvels. “It’s amazing.”
Although he refuses—at least for now—to put MossCellTec No. 1 in the same rock star ingredient category as retinol or hyaluronic acid, Zülli is bullish on its long-term prospects. Citing its impact as a “novel biotechnological concept,” he envisions his labor of love adding an entirely new, cell-centric angle to the anti-aging skincare conversation. “MossCellTec No. 1 could become famous as the first ingredient to address cell nucleus health as a new, important anti-aging target in skincare,” he says.
Nearly 500 million years old, moss is clearly beauty’s next big thing.
Dana Wood is the Contributing Beauty Editor at InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She has been writing about beauty and wellness for decades, and no matter how many times she taps the words “hyaluronic acid” or “healing modalities” into her keyboard, it never gets old. Dana spent a total of 20 years at Condé Nast, serving as Beauty Director for W, Cookie, and Brides. A transplanted New Yorker, Dana now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her peak spa experience? Dana says it’s impossible to decide between the Coco-Mango Body Buff at the Driftwood Spa at Jakes in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, The Land of Beautiful Waters Anti-Aging Facial at Four Seasons Nevis, and the 80-minute 5 Senses massage at the Spa by JW in Marco Island, Florida.