Introduction to Recombinant Collagen
In the cosmetics industry, innovation is largely driven by breakthroughs in ingredients. Over the history of cosmetic, it's not uncommon for a brand or company to make a big success based on exclusive ingredients. Examples include Pro-Xylane for L'Oréal, nicotinamide for Olay, etc. Currently, recombinant collagen is the rising star in the cosmetics industry. Collagen widely exists in tissues such as skin, bones, and muscles. Its supportive, reparative, and protective properties make it a vital substance in maintaining skin elasticity and moisture. As Dr. J. Brandt—the father of collagen, stated, the skin aging process is the process of collagen breakdown and loss. Therefore, how to supplement the continuous loss of collagen has long been a focus of dermatological research.
Based on extraction methods, collagen available in the market can be categorized into two types: animal-derived collagen and recombinant collagen. Animal-derived collagen is extracted from animal tissues, while recombinant collagen is produced through genetic engineering techniques. The latter offers superior performance, greater flexibility, and enhanced safety. Moreover, the denaturation temperature of recombinant collagen exceeds 72°C, significantly higher than that of animal-derived collagen which is around 40°C, thereby making the transportation and storage easier. While animal-derived collagen currently dominates the market with a share of around 60%, recombinant collagen is rapidly advancing with the fast development of synthetic biology in recent years.
Suitable for low-cost and large-scale industrial production
Higher safety and stability;
Risk of pathogenic residue;
There are doubts about the biological activity of recombinant collagen
As recombinant collagen production and commercialization receive increasing attention, the prospect is promising. According to Frost & Sullivan, the market size of recombinant collagen has grown from 1.5 billion yuan in 2017 to 10.8 billion yuan in 2021, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63.0%. It is expected to reach 108.3 billion yuan in 2027, with a CAGR of 42.4% from 2022 to 2027. Correspondingly, the penetration rate of recombinant collagen products in the entire collagen market has increased from 15.9% in 2017 to 37.7% in 2021, and is expected to further increase from estimated 46.6% in 2022 to 62.3% in 2027.
Currently, recombinant collagen is mainly applied in professional skincare—functional skincare and medical dressing. In 2021, functional skincare and medical dressing accounted for 42.6% and 44.4% in all types of applications of recombinant collagen.
In the field of functional skincare, China saw its market reach 30.8 billion yuan in 2021, with a CAGR of 23% from 2017 to 2021. Within this market, recombinant-collagen-based functional skincare products had a scale of 4.6 billion yuan in 2021, with a CAGR of 52.8% over the same period. This segment is projected to expand to 64.5 billion yuan by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 55% from 2022 to 2027. The market penetration rate of recombinant-collagen-based functional skincare products is anticipated to rise from 14.9% in 2021 to 30.5% in 2027.
In the medical dressing field, the market hit 25.9 billion yuan in 2021 with a CAGR of 40% from 2017 to 2021, representing a rapid growth trend. Within the market, medical dressings based on recombinant collagen accounted for 4.8 billion yuan, with a penetration rate of 18.5% in 2021, and a CAGR of 92.2% from 2017 to 2021. From 2022 to 2027, this segment is expected to continue growing at a rate of 18.5%, surpassing the entire medical dressing market, and leading to an improved penetration rate of 26.1% in 2027.
Currently, China is at the forefront of research, manufacturing, and industrialization of recombinant collagen worldwide. As the pioneering player in the industry, Giant Biogene is world's first enterprise to achieve mass production of recombinant collagen skincare products, and is also one of the enterprises with the most diverse range of recombinant- collagen-based products globally. Following the footsteps of Giant Biogene, enterprises such as Jinbo Biopharmaceutical and Trautec Medical Technology have entered the market and built their early-mover advantages. Jinbo has developed a new recombinant Type III human-like collagen ingredient—MicoreCol.III, with a small molecular weight of only 3 kDa, which can penetrate the skin at a rate of 33% in 4 hours and up to 86% in 12 hours. Trautec has received investment from Shiseido, and its independently developed recombinant Type XVII collagen has obtained the INCI name.
As the field of recombinant collagen continues to heat up, more enterprises, including Bloomage Biotech, Marubi, Wuzhong Pharmaceutical, etc., have quickly entered the sector through self-research projects, purchase of patented technologies, as well as mergers and acquisitions.
Main layout in recombinant collagen
Particular technological advantage
Functional skincare, medical dressing
Giant Biogene is the pioneering player in the industry;
Giant Biogene is one of the world's largest producers of recombinant collagen with the most varieties of recombinant collagen;
Giant Biogene is world's first enterprise to achieve mass production of recombinant collagen skincare products.
Medical dressing, injectable cosmetic treatment
Jinbo has developed a new recombinant collagen ingredient—MicoreCol.III, with a small molecular weight of only 3 kDa;
Jinbo is the only enterprise with the class III medical device certification.
Trautec Medical Technology
Trautec's recombinant Type XVII collagen ingredient has obtained the INCI name.
Functional skincare, medical dressing
Jland Biotech's 20-ton recombinant collagen production line has successfully completed trial production.
Raw material, Functional food
Bloomage Biotech is the global leader in hyaluronic acid raw materials with an integrated industrial chain;
Bloomage Biotech has been upgrading to a diversified active ingredient platform with the "HA + collagen + other bioactive ingredients" framework
Wuzhong has acquired the global exclusive intellectual property rights to the biocynthesis technology of recombinant type III human collagen, which features a triple helix and trimeric structure.
Both upstream raw material suppliers and downstream beauty companies are strategically investing in the recombinant collagen sector, launching their own product lines in this area. Moreover, as recombinant collagen has biological properties of providing structural support, promoting hemostasis and cell adhesion, stimulating cell regeneration and proliferation, repairing damaged skin barrier, and supplying nutrition for aging and problematic skin, recombinant-collagen-based professional skincare products primarily focus on barrier repair and anti aging. Examples include the widely recognized Confime and Collgene brands under Giant Biogene, as well as new recombinant collagen products launched by leading Chinese functional skincare brands such as Marubi and Winona.
Recombinant collagen dressing
Skin barrier repairing, hydrating
Human-like recombinant collagen lift-active tightening mask
Anti-aging, tightening, hydrating
Lyophilized fiber of recombinant type III human-like collagen
Anti-aging, anti-wrinkling, hydrating
Recombinant human-like collagen dressing
Skin barrier repairing, moisturizing
Recombinant collagen facial essence
Revitalizing, smoothing, moisturizing
Recombinant collagen firming elastic cream
Recombinant collagen skin repair dressing
Skin barrier repairing
Marubi (part of products)
Recombinant collagen BFS-packaged essence
Eye skin anti-aging, anti-wrinkling
WINONA (part of products)
Recombinant collagen dressing
Skin barrier repairing, hydrating
Thanks to their first-mover advantage and consistent product innovation, Confime and Collgene have established themselves as the top players in the recombinant-collagen-based skincare category. In 2022, the two brands dominated the market, capturing an impressive 72% share of the category on Ali platforms. Confime, in particular, took the lead with 470 million yuan in sales. In the current landscape where Confime and Collgene have established a robust presence and firmly secured the consumers' loyalty, other brands must strive for differentiation and offer unique features to distinguish themselves and gain a foothold.
According to BeautyData, recombinant collagen protein skincare brands on Ali platforms are developing extra features in addition to the standard repairing and anti-aging effects. Among these differentiated effects, the "pore tightening" effect ranks as the13th popular effects with an upsurge of 1,904% YoY in sales value and 1,143% YoY in sales volume. The "oil control" effect, ranking 14th, has also experienced a significant growth of 1,118% YoY in sales value and 951.54% YoY in sales volume.
For every rapidly developing industry, a “wild growth” period is inevitable before standardization. The rapidly expanding recombinant collagen industry is no exception. To guide the healthy, standardized, and regulated development of recombinant collagen industry, the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) released the Recombinant Collagen Industry Standard (hereafter referred to as Standard) (YY/T 1849-2022) on Jan. 13th 2022, which officially came into effect on Aug. 1st 2022. Jointly drafted by multiple professional research institutions and industry-leading players, this Standard stipulates requirements for the industry from eight aspects including definition, quality control, testing methods, stability, biological evaluation, packaging, transportation, and storage.
Additionally, the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation released the White Paper on the High-Quality Development of China's Collagen Industry, which analyzed the challenges and prospects for China's collagen industry, calls on the authority, enterprises, and consumers to pay attention to the high-quality development of China's collagen industry.
Although the recombinant collagen industry is growing vigorously, it is still in its early stages. The types, quantity, performance, and extraction technology of products still need to be further expanded, improved, and standardized. A more scientific regulatory framework will facilitate a healthier and more orderly development of the industry.
Beyond the above-mentioned fields, the potential applications of recombinant collagen in the following areas of cosmetic industry are also noteworthy:
1. Scalp care
As consumers' personal care needs become increasingly refined, scalp health issues are receiving more attention than ever before. As a result, high-efficacy ingredients have become the focus of scalp care products. Currently, Trautec has validated the efficacy of recombinant XVII collagen in repairing skin tissue and promoting hair growth through in vitro cell and animal experiments. In addition, Jland Biotech has launched a new material, "Anti-Hair Loss and Scalp Nourishing Transdermal Recombinant Collagen," which has been demonstrated to effectively permeate the basal layer of the scalp, providing long-term anti-hair loss, hair care, and scalp anti-aging effects.
2. Injectable cosmetic treatments
As a convenient and exceptionally safe option, injectable cosmetic treatments have emerged as a popular means of enhancing one's appearance. Compared to other ingredients, collagen has the advantage of naturalness, strong adhesion, and whitening effect, making it a highly suitable bioactive ingredient of injectable cosmetic treatments. However, in the past, due to the high cost and safety concerns of collagen injection products, their application in injectable cosmetic treatments was limited. A turning point came in 2021, when Jinbo Biopharmaceutical launched the recombinant type III human-like collagen implant under the brand WYE-MOR, which is also the only compliant recombinant collagen implant in the market. In Q1-Q3 2022, WYE-MOR's sales reached 73.948 million yuan remarkably. With continuous technological advancements, recombinant collagen will be applied to more scenarios in injectable cosmetic treatments.
3. Oral beauty
With the upgrading of beauty economy, the concept of "internal plus external beauty" has become increasingly popular, leading to a surge in the demand for oral beauty supplements. Collagen, a typical ingredient in the field of oral beauty supplements, has become a trendy product among young people who seek to fight against aging by supplementing their daily intake. Today, China’s oral beauty market has evolved from the collagen era 1.0 to the collagen peptide era 2.0, where products are featured with better efficacy through higher absorption rates. With the maturation of recombinant collagen technology, there is great market potential for collagen supplements with higher absorption rates and improved solubility.
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