This Skin Care Brand Wants To Make Cow Bone Peptides The Next Retinol

It’s not as weird as it sounds.

Originally Published: 
We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

Once Alec Batis decided to pull down his pants in the Zoom meeting, the outcome could only go one of two ways. The board of Xylyx, the Brooklyn-based regenerative biomaterials developer on the other side of the screen, could either hit “end meeting” and block him for life, or be so impressed with his chutzpah that they decide to bring him into their business. Luckily for Batis (and the world of skin care), they chose the second — and thus, Sweet Chemistry was born.

Years before this fateful Zoom (more on that later), Xylyx’s chief scientific officer Dr. John O’Neill was deep into researching methods to aid tissue regeneration in transplantable organs. It was throughout this process that O’Neill — a biomedical engineer who worked previously at Columbia’s Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering — and his team discovered regenerative peptides derived from cow bone, which they’ve trademarked as “matrikynes.” When they saw its tissue-regenerating powers, they realized it could be applied to skin care, too, and began looking for a beauty industry expert to partner with — someone who could turn the ingredient into a cosmetically-elegant product people would actually want to use.

Enter: Batis. A former cosmetic chemist and marketing executive who had previously held positions at Nars and L’Oréal, he started in the industry back in 1990 and self-describes as “jaded.” “Nothing surprises me, so it was just really exciting at this point to actually see and learn something new,” he says. After initial meetings with Xylyx, Batis obtained a 0.2% solution of matrikynes in a plain cream base and decided to use it on one side of the keloidal scars on his abdomen, left behind from a series of gastrointestinal surgeries.

Fast forward to the fateful Zoom, where Batis lowered his pants to show the Xylyx team his first-hand experience with the healing powers of the proprietary peptides: after a few weeks of using the cream, he had already seen remarkable improvements in his abdominal scar. “It's one thing in theory, and it's another thing when [you see it for yourself],” he says.

Sweet Chemistry Max Repair System

Sweet Chemistry

Sweet Chemistry currently offers two products (more are on the way), dubbed the Max Repair System. The Elasticity Reinforcing Cream is a water-based emulsion made with THD ascorbate, a vitamin C derivative that brightens and increases collagen synthesis; colloidal oatmeal to soothe; and an array of antioxidant-rich superfood seed oils, including kakadu plum, pomegranate, rosehip, raspberry, cranberry, jojoba and sea buckthorn.

The Reparative Oil-Serum Infusion is a blend of the organic botanical oils above, and is also charged with THD ascorbate, squalane and CoQ10 to fight environmental damage. Both products contain 3% Matrikynes.

The two different products exist because Batis wanted to house each active ingredient in its most efficacious environment. “When used together, we get the benefits of functional concentrations of active ingredients without compromising any activity, but both are highly efficacious on their own,” he says. Our recommendation: use the cream in the summer and in humid climates, and layer with the oil in winter months, or in dry conditions.

One of Batis’ goals was to do away with a lot of the filler ingredients that are in traditional skin care, so that he could make more room to pack in actives. For the moisturizer, that meant reducing the water content from 80% (which is considered normal) to 50%; meanwhile, the oil has a very small percentage of carrier oils. “I put all the ingredients in at ‘functional levels,’ which are the percentages that the raw material suppliers have clinically tested the ingredients at and deemed them to be efficacious,” he says. He’s contrasting that with “marketing levels,” which is what beauty brands more commonly use: lower percentages that allow them to highlight the ingredient in their marketing, but might not be as effective in showing results.

Cow Bones & Collagen Production

Sweet Chemistry’s mission is to help everyone’s skin produce more collagen and elastin — the two things that give babies plump, chubby cheeks and decrease over time as we age, leading to sagging and wrinkles. There are treatments out there like lasers and microneedling that do the same thing, but they cause injury to the skin first.

“Our approach here is that we are enzymatically able to extract ECM [extracellular matrix] from sustainable, upcycled cow bone, break it down in similar way to how tissue is damaged in the body, and then to deliver those reparative signals [via our products],” O’Neill says. “The advantage is that you don't have to do the damage to your [skin] in order to generate these reparative signals.”

According to the brand, Matrikynes can boost the skin’s health in several ways, including rebuilding skin tissue strength, speeding up cell turnover, restoring skin elasticity, and even brightening skin tone and reducing hyperpigmentation. For what it’s worth: The brand conducted did an an eight-week clinical efficacy study with 56 women of different skin tones, testing skin barrier repair, skin hydration, barrier function, fine lines and wrinkles, and more. At week eight, 89% of subjects had significant improvement in skin hydration, and 70% had an improvement in skin density, with fine lines and wrinkles improved 68%.

Matrikynes are so unique, they were recently given their own International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients — otherwise known as INCI. These are systematic names internationally recognized to identify cosmetic ingredients, and were devised to simplify often-complex chemical molecular names for ingredients to make it easier for consumers to read product packaging. New INCIs are approved and assigned their names by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an independent, non-profit body, and brands cannot choose to the nomenclature themselves — that’s why you’ll see matrikynes actually listed as “hydrolyzed cow bone extract.”

Sweet Chemistry: My Review

I took a two-week break from my regular routine to exclusively test the brand on my sensitive skin. In terms of texture and experience, Sweet Chemistry has been a pleasure to use. The Cream’s elegant formulation gives it enough heft to moisturize, and make it feel like your skin is cocooned, without excessive greasiness that ends up being uncomfortable. I think of the Infusion as a puffer coat, providing an additional cushion, especially with the arrival of the drier months. Since I use only two drops at a time, it feels like a dry oil, providing a barrier and protecting the skin without unnecessary slip and slide. Both products are fragrance-free, which makes them great for anyone with sensitive skin.

At the start of my Sweet Chemistry journey, I saw absolutely no difference. After a few days of disillusionment, the needle moved, albeit at a snail’s pace. My skin just seemed clearer and brighter, but most notably, the ever-present pinpoints of redness on my cheeks started receding. I took two steps back when I had a particularly intense facial, but I was quickly able to build back up and regain the progress I had made.

As we head into winter, I’ll start layering the products with hydrating essences and serums on damp skin, as I prefer that supple bounce that comes with wearing several thin layers of hydration. Batis has given me the green light to do that, and only advised that thinner, water-based products should go on first.

After six to seven weeks of continuously using Sweet Chemistry, I feel my skin is more resilient. That might not be the most glowing of adjectives, but it is high praise from someone who's notoriously reactive-skinned. I’ve noticed less itchy flare-ups and redness, two of my main skin concerns. I’ve used it long enough to be hopeful that the change will be sustained and I won’t go back to my ruddy-cheeked baseline. My C-section scar will be getting the Sweet Chemistry treatment next — just don’t expect me to pull down my pants in any upcoming Zooms.

This story has been updated from a previous version.

This article was originally published on