How Russian scientists gave cosmetic proteins to the world

The truth that is not beneficial to think about

In recent years, words “collagen, elastin, and keratin” sound like a spell of eternal youth. Cosmetologists in beauty salons as well as sellers of cosmetics use these words for conjuring their clients. Marketers fulfilled with professional joy and actresses in commercials pronounce these three words. They are also echoed by the ‘savvy’ ladies who are far from being young and who have tried a lot of ‘magic remedies’ for their skin and hair.

As usual, an aggressive advertising company reinforces the phenomenon of these cosmetic proteins: “Super fish skin collagen! Unsurpassed keratin from the wool of New Zealand sheep!” The origin of elastin is reasonably kept quiet because probably only veterinarians can understand the mysterious phrase “nuchal ligament of cattle”.

Day by day unsophisticated consumers can hear ongoing and baseless or even incompetent persuasions on “deep penetration into the skin” and “nourishing the hair and repairing split ends”. Fashionable “gurus” are trying to persuade that any sane person must have cosmetics with collagen, keratin, and elastin once the puberty has finished. “Wow, are you already 20 and you still do not use our creams, masks, and shampoos? – So, we are coming to you!”

Where did these so popular cosmetic proteins come from? Oh, this is a brilliant invention of Western scientists – Polish, American, French (depending on the brand that is advertised); this is a revolutionary technology, a unique scientific development, just from the laboratory…and so on. But, is it true?

The truth is that production of cosmetic proteins – collagen, keratin and elastin – started in Russia using the technologies patented by Russian scientists. Moreover, the production process had happened to start much earlier than many of today’s fashionable women who are ‘competently’ trying to discuss the benefits of these proteins were born.

If you only knew the origin of these products…

The studies that formed the basis of today’s ‘protein boom’ began in the 60ies of the last century, and were held in parallel in many countries. These studies were aimed not at developing products for the beauty industry but at recycling of wastes of leather, wool and meat processing industries. Indeed, this was a serious environmental concern; in fact, less than a half of the raw materials were recycled and the rest sent to waste.

In the Soviet Union, a group of scientists from the Moscow state Academy of Veterinary Medicine and Biotechnology (MVA by K.I. Skryabin) headed by Professor Sergey Kaspar’yants worked to resolve this problem. Inspired by the slogan “Turn waste into income”, experts have found many ways to get profit from scraps of leather, wool, cartilage, veins, and bones. Scientists started using these materials to produce feed additives, gelatin, biomineral fertilizers, glue, and even building materials. However, natural biopolymers: collagen, elastin and keratin, the most valuable raw materials containing in this waste, were destroyed in the process of production. The head of the group of scientists set a task to extract natural biopolymers without breaking the molecular structure, and therefore, preserving biological activity. Finally, this task was solved.

In the 80-90-ies of the last century, Russian scientists created and patented technologies for obtaining highly purified collagen, elastin, and keratin with almost the same structure and chemical composition as proteins produced by the human body. Based on these biopolymers, many new drugs have been created for veterinary medicine, biotechnology, and of course, cosmetology. However, the path from a laboratory test tube to an elegant bottle with a ‘youth elixir’ has not been easy.

Bad luck often brings good luck

The real misfortune for Russian science was the collapse of the Soviet economy and the country’s hasty transition to a wild marketplace. The consequences of this collapse have not been overcome so far. Lack of government funding resulted in the cut of expensive fundamental research and prospective scientific projects, as well as disintegration of creative teams. Many scientists left the country, taking advanced Soviet technologies with them. Even now, you can meet a large number of analogues, however, the real authors of the technology for producing native biopolymers, which is now referred to as breakthrough and revolutionary, stayed in Russia. Today, the largest manufacturers of cosmetics around the world do not hesitate to copy this technology.

Left without state funding for research, the scientists – authors of this unique technology decided to launch the production of protein raw materials and to continue research.

In 1991, SINAP company was created. Without loud statements and advertising hype, it began to produce highly purified bioactive proteins – collagen, elastin, and keratin. After thorough check for safety and hypoallergenicity, the largest cosmetics companies in Russia and the CIS including the cosmetic factory “Svoboda”, “Samara Perfume Plant” (later transformed into the Vesna Company), Moldavian Company “Viorica Cosmetic” and others started using these products in their own production.