The Polymer Science Podcast, hosted by Dr. Alicia Botes and Jacob Schekman, discusses scientific studies with various researchers from around the world. In this episode, they interview Dr. Laura Frazier, Chief Scientist at TaikiUSA, and Dr. Megan Coates, Research and Development Manager at Stellenbosch Nanofiber Company. They go into detail about nanofiber technology and the cosmetic products they are developing thanks to their recent research ventures and discoveries.
Nanofiber technology is changing the skincare industry, and Dr. Laura Frazier and Dr. Megan Coates are at the forefront of these new developments.
About Dr. Laura Frazier & Dr. Megan Coates
Frazier received her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Akron in Ohio. Previously, she has worked as the director for SNS Nano Fiber Technology, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Malone University, and a program leader at Owens Corning. She is now Chief Scientist at TaikiUSA.
Coates received her PhD in Chemistry at Rhodes University in South Africa and has been working at the Stellenbosch Nanofiber Company (SNC) for over eight years as Research and Development Manager.
Both Frazier and Coates have taken a special interest in nanofiber technology and have made exceptional progress in using nanofibers in the medical and cosmetic industries. Frazier’s interest in nanofibers began years ago when she was a student at the University of Akron and her doctoral adviser, Dr. Dan Smith, was experimenting with electrospun nanofibers.
“I found it so fascinating that I would be able to actually create these very fine fibers that could be used in so many different ways. I decided to join Dr. Smith’s group, and I ended up doing my dissertation research on superabsorbents in polyurethane nanofibers,” says Frazier. After graduation, Frazier started working at SNS Nano Fiber Technology as the company’s first employee, and she spent the next eleven years scaling up the process of electrospinning and investigating potential nanofiber applications in a variety of industries from medical to filtration to cosmetics.
Coates’ interest in nanotechnology began when she was a student at Rhodes University, where she was inspired by one of her professors.
“I was fortunate enough to get a position in my professor’s research group, and our group was focusing on nanotechnology and innovation,” says Coates. After finishing up her PhD, her professor sent her information about the job at SNC, and she has been there ever since.
So, where have the two scientists taken their passion for innovation and nanofiber research?
Nanofibers & Healthcare Applications
In the height of the pandemic, Coates and her team at SNC focused on developing reusable nanofibers for face masks. At the time, there was a global shortage of PPE, and it was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to get surgical masks. Coates and her team did their research and within 100 days, they went from researching to full-scale manufacturing nanofibers as filters for fabric masks.
Today, SNC is involved with creating nanofiber scaffolds for the National Eye Institute, which has been in Phase I of human clinical trials for over eight years. SNC also makes second degree burn wound dressings, relying on the benefits of nanofibers for this product to work. The structure of nanofibers allows burn wounds to breathe while still protecting against bacteria and viruses.
The elimination of dressing changes is quite critical from a patient’s perspective, as removing a burn wound dressing can be extremely painful — but the nanofiber dressing can be left in place much longer than traditional dressings.
The opportunity for nanofiber applications in the medical community is a clear path that is worth continuing, but Frazier and Coates have found that the same technology can be translated to a surprisingly parallel industry: beauty.
Nanofibers & Cosmetics
In 2020, Jim Perry, CEO at TaikiUSA, and Eugene Smit, CEO at SNC, began discussing the potential for a product collaboration. With the combination of Perry’s experience in cosmetics and Smit’s experience in nanofibers, Bōshi Beauty was born — a company completely focused on the cosmetic applications of nanofibers. Coates began researching cosmetic applications with her team at SNC. Perry and Smit reached out to Frazier in 2021 and asked her to join the team, as she had worked previously on cosmetic applications of nanofibers and understood the intricacies of nanofiber production.
“The rise in the popularity of Korean skincare and sheet masks is what made us realize there is a space for nanofibers in cosmetics,” says Coates. “Smit had the idea to combine the first three steps of the Korean skincare routine – oil cleanser, foam cleanser, and exfoliant. So when you apply the nanofiber patch to your skin, the oil cleanser starts to work, lifting off impurities. Then, you spray that with water, dissolving the water soluble fibers and releasing the exfoliant.”
But what makes Bōshi Beauty so special?
The Bōshi Beauty Difference
Both Coates and Frazier want to make a difference with their research and scientific innovations. In the beauty industry, it’s about addressing the environmental footprint – and doing one’s part to get ahead of the water shortage.
That said, both scientists agree on the importance of going waterless. With most skincare products, a high percentage of water is used. This not only contributes to the environmental problem but also creates the need for unnecessary ingredients and emulsifiers that aren’t benefiting the user in any way but must remain in the product to ensure shelf stability.
With Bōshi’s nanofiber skincare products, the percentage of water used is so low that preservatives aren’t required, and since the final product is a dry nanofiber and not an emulsion, many other ingredients that are typically required can be eliminated as well. This provides customers with a much more concentrated active in the product and a very reduced environmental footprint.
“Without the water, you have a much lighter product, which means less energy is required for shipping” says Frazier. “All those ingredients you have eliminated from the product each have an environmental footprint. Whether they are natural or synthetic, there was water and energy used in the growing, processing and shipping of the products. Now all of that can be eliminated.”
Click here to listen to the full podcast episode and to learn more about Dr. Frazier and Dr. Coates’ work in nanofiber technology, including their work at TaikiUSA, SNC and Bōshi Beauty.