Meet Dr Sigrún: MD At BIOEFFECT

Meet Dr Sigrún: MD At BIOEFFECT
Dr Sigrún Dögg Guðjónsdóttir is the Chief Research and Development Officer at BIOEFFECT – an Icelandic brand on a mission to use biotechnology to restore and maintain the skin’s health and vitality using ingredients that are pure, clean, safe, and proven to be truly effective. They embrace an approach that’s made by nature and enforced by science.


Branded Benefits

Could you tell us a little more about your background and how the world-first discovery of Barley EGF came about?

I am a medical doctor from the University of Copenhagen and have worked within the field of dermatology both as a clinician and in research and development of pharmacological treatments for dermatological diseases. I also have a degree in biochemistry. I developed an interest in the human skin and skin care very early on. Creating products that work for the consumer is extremely exciting and satisfying for me.

BIOEFFECT was born out of a true love for science and a dedication to ensuring that its implemented in the most effective way possible. The Icelandic founders developed a way to produce human-like EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) in barley plants. EGF is one of the most important growth factors found naturally in the skin, responsible for collagen and elastin production, as well as moisture retention. They pioneered a way for clean and effective skincare when they launched the EGF Serum in 2010 with only 7 ingredients and no preservatives. The product has become a cult favourite and a global bestseller ever since!


How is this different from other sources of EGF?

The production of EGF in barley plants utilising biotechnology produces an exceptionally pure, stable, and effective ingredient. BIOEFFECT barley plants are grown in a high-tech greenhouse nestled in the middle of the lava fields of a UNESCO Global Geopark in Iceland, powered by sustainable geothermal energy. We use volcanic pumice instead of soil to minimise contamination, and use a hydroponic cultivation to save water. The result is an extremely clean and sustainable product.

Furthermore, we pride ourselves in our formulations which ensure maximum growth factor efficacy, and only contain ingredients that our skin inherently understands and truly needs. EGF can also be produced by using bacteria, especially E. coli but one of the disadvantages of using bacteria to produce growth factors are the potentially harmful byproducts (bacterial endotoxins and contaminants) that follow. EGF can also be extracted from human and animal skin, but with this – ethical dilemmas follow.


What are the benefits of applying this biotechnology to skincare, and what other applications might it have?

At BIOEFFECT, our mission is to use biotechnology to restore and maintain the skin’s health and vitality using only high quality, necessary ingredients. The benefits of applying this biotechnology to skincare is that BIOEFFECT can utilise a very clean, stable, and active formula in each product. Also, this form of biotechnology-production is sustainable and does not dilute any natural resources or cause harm to the planet. Growth factors produced with plant biotechnology are also used in stem cell research and medical research.


How long do the effects of topical EGF application last, and how is it formulated to be bioactive / bioavailable?

The duration of the effects of topical EGF application is very individual, and most people who begin using BIOEFFECT products that contain EGF don’t like to stop using them, so the effects continue. When we formulate our products and develop new products that contain EGF and other growth factors, we choose ingredients that work well with the growth factors and keep them stable and effective in the formula. So, you can say that all our formulation work revolves around the growth factors because we want them to be active in our formulations throughout the lifetime of the product.


Tell us a little more about the sustainability of the Bioeffect range.

We strive to find more sustainable and ecological options for all aspects of production. Here, I mention a few of the most important ones:


  • Icelandic water: We believe in harnessing the natural resources Iceland has to offer as much as we responsibly can, which is why we utilise pure Icelandic water in production. Water is one of Iceland’s purest and most abundant resources. Over time, Icelandic water is geologically filtered through layers of inert volcanic lava. This natural purification process delivers clean water; unpolluted, unspoiled, and without need of any chemical purification. Icelandic water is soft, meaning it has a low concentration of hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium – making it less likely to dry or irritate skin. This is the water we use to water the barley plants at our hydroponic greenhouse, and as an ingredient in our products to ensure the purest formulation.
  • Eco-friendly greenhouse, powered by green Icelandic energy: our signature barley plants, in which we bioengineer our growth factors, are grown in a high-tech, eco-friendly greenhouse. The ecologically engineered greenhouse is located in a black lava field in the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark in Iceland. It features a hydroponic system with no soil. There, the barley plants are grown in inert volcanic pumice, minimising the risk of possible contamination, and watered with pure Icelandic water enriched with nutrients. In Iceland, most of the electricity is provided by local, renewable energy sources, primarily hydropower and geothermal power. This allows us to use sustainable and so-called green electricity throughout our production. Our very own greenhouse in Iceland is, of course, powered by Iceland’s geothermal and renewable energy.
  • Made by Iceland: we can proudly say that BIOEFFECT skincare is made in Iceland, and by Iceland. Most of our production takes place at our Reykjavik headquarters, located near BIOEFFECT’s greenhouse where the signature barley is grown. The two key production sites are separated by only 50km, minimising the environmental impact of transporting our key ingredient long distances.
  • Optimisation and up-cycling: We strive for optimisation. This goes for our resources and ingredients, as we have set out to fully utilise our barley plants; optimising our protein purification to harvest as must protein as possible as well as up-cycling unique proteins, vitamins, and other actives that are extracted from the barley plant itself. Another example of this is the fact that we “reuse” the barley seeds when formulating some of our products – after the proteins have been extracted, we process the seeds again to obtain even more actives and ingredients known to be beneficial to skin. This also goes for our production, which is partially mechanised to save energy and time. We make use of highly specialised robots and machines to promote time and energy efficiency.
  • Packaging and products: we are constantly looking for ways to use less materials or replace them with lower-impact alternatives. We are dedicated to finding more recycled, recyclable, and sustainably-sourced options for our packaging. Currently, most of our primary packaging and all our secondary packaging is recyclable. We have updated our sampling sachets, so they are now produced without aluminium and are fully recyclable. They have a lower manufacturing carbon footprint and a 10% reduction in package weight. In an effort to reduce waste we updated our hydrogel masks so that they are fully biodegradable and water soluble. We also added a refill option to our bestselling EGF Eye Serum, offering the consumer an option of buying the EGF Eye Serum with an additional refill with a value saving. Sustainability is an ongoing process, and we are committed to continue to find the best solutions available at each given time.


What are your some of your favourite products from the range right now, and what’s yet to come?

My favourite products depend on the season, but the EGF Essence is a staple in my routine; I use it morning and night on clean skin all year round, and I also love the eye serum. In fall or winter, I feel the need to use something richer and then I turn to the EGF Power Cream, it’s very moisturising and nourishing. In spring or summer I turn to lighter products, this summer it was the EGF Power Serum and EGF Day Serum. Here at BIOEFFECT we are constantly pushing ourselves to develop efficacious products that the customer is looking for, so stay tuned to find out more!


What are some of your top holistic skincare tips or myth busters?

Tips would be: shielding our skin from the sun with clothing, shade, and sunscreen; Having a good sleep routine – get at least 7-9 hours of sleep if you can; Make your mental health a priority and find what suits you – a hike in nature or quality time with a good friend; And finally, good nourishment for your body shows on the skin. So, plenty of water and healthy and nourishing food is very important.


Many sources report that cases of skincare problems such as acne are on the rise, why do you think this is?

First, I think that we are getting better at diagnosing and initiating treatment for skincare problems. Second, people do not suffer in silence, they seek help and guidance, which is a great. There have been such advancements in different treatment options for skin care problems and many of the treatments, either pharmaceuticals or skincare products, are very effective and easy to use.


What are some interesting emerging insights from the field of epigenetics in relation to skincare?

There are many exciting things happening in skincare, and the first topic that springs to mind is biotechnology which BIOEFFECT is very much a part of. Biotechnology is a field of science that combines biology and technology to develop or improve products or processes. It involves the application of scientific and engineering principles to living organisms, cells, or their components to produce new products, processes, and technologies that can benefit human beings, animals, and the environment.

In skincare, biotechnology is used to create skincare ingredients that are produced in a controlled environment, for example a greenhouse or a lab, but are identical to what is found in nature and in the human body, and with a lower environmental impact.

The beauty industry has been evolving in this direction for some time. With the growing knowledge in this field and a consumer that is becoming increasingly informed, it has been inevitable for biotech to become a valuable tool in the production of ingredients. The consumer is now more interested in science than ever, and goes to great lengths to understand the technology behind the products that they use.


The Business of BIOEFFECT

What unforeseen challenges and opportunities have arisen in your role at BIOEFFECT?

In my department, Research and Development, formulation is the most challenging part, and finding good and versatile ingredients that support and work well with the growth factors challenging. But when that happens, the opportunities are endless, and what is exceptionally good here at BIOEFFECT is the cross-communication between different departments. In R&D we work very closely with Project Management, Marketing, Sales and Production, so reaction time and decision making along the value chain is agile and exhilarating.


In your experience since working at BIOEFFECT, what has brought the most traction and momentum?

We had a very successful product launch in February earlier this year, The EGF Power Serum. That was a great experience and immensely successful. The different departments really put their heart and soul into this product and the launch, and everything was magnificent.


Do any customers use or benefit from the products in ways you didn’t expect?

Well people are so resilient; they always find a way to benefit optimally. Perhaps the most surprising is a young handball player that has hand eczema – he cannot live without our EGF serum and uses it regularly. Also what we are seeing now is an emerging older male category, they are starting to use BIOEFFECT and are extremely pleased and not afraid to let us know.


Researcher Reflections

What motivates you?

Improvements and optimisation, gaining knowledge and skills. That is what drives me the most and what I hope motivate others to do. Also joy and purpose, for me taking pride and joy in my work is very important.


What has been your biggest lesson, fear, or failure?

My biggest lesion is that failure is not a negative thing, failure is a renewed chance to find a new path and gain more knowledge to reach the original goal. And that kindness and courtesy can move mountains and pave your way to new possibilities.


Do you have a mentor or people you ask for advice?

I have always been so extremely lucky with both managers and coworkers that I have been able to go to them for advice and guidance, and BIOEFFECT is no different. We are a tight team that support and help each other in any way that we can.


If you were not working in science and research, what would you be doing?

I hope that it would be something that brings me as much fulfilment and joy as science and research. But I think it would be something creative, perhaps architecture or something in that direction.


What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I am a fast-learner and hardworking, I am a team-player and can be creative and driven in finding the optimal solution or reaching an end-goal. But I can also be impatient and impulsive, and sometimes a little too optimistic.


How has what you do changed you as a person?

I don’t think that it has changed me, rather that I have evolved as a person through what I do. I believe that people are constantly evolving and maturing until we die, we are never fully formed.


What is your opinion on plant medicines such as cannabis and psilocybin as tools for living in alignment?

I think that this is an extremely interesting field and is evolving quite fast. As a medical doctor and a scientist, I am looking forward to seeing more structured and controlled research studies on these medicines if they are bought for regular use and as a treatment. Because the results from those studies could give us necessary and valuable answers.


What does spirituality mean to you?

Spirituality to me means a force or power that is bigger than oneself or any living organism, it means letting go of control believing that the core power of yourself can enlighten and guide you.


If time and money were no object – what would be on your to do and to see list?

I would love to travel around the world with my family and experience new and different cultures. I would love to spend more time on charity work around the world and get to learn more about societies in faraway areas of the world and with that grow and mature as a person.