A Buzzy New Skincare Line

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Black soldier flies help reduce food waste and then become a key ingredient in Insekt, a new Canadian skincare line.

Insect oil in face cream? Absolutely, says Thomas Clark, creator of Insekt, a Canadian skincare company that relies on black soldier fly oil as a vital component. There are many products that include insect ingredients, Clark says; “We just decided to put it right out there [by calling it Insekt].” 

When Clark was a high school student with a part-time job at a grocery store, he was shocked by how much produce was thrown out and wasted at his workplace. He began digging and learned that an average of one-third of food produced for human consumption ends up in landfills, where it produces close to 10 percent of the carbon and methane released into the air. A decade and an engineering degree later, Clark came across an article about a company that used black soldier flies to devour food waste, simultaneously reducing emissions from the waste’s decomposition. “So then,” Clark says, “it became, ‘how do we find a use for these black soldier flies when they’ve performed their task?’”

Clark got his answer when he learned that the oil inside the bodies of these flies contains many of the same chemical compositions and fatty acids used in skincare products. Together with his wife, Clark created a formula based around fly oil and benefiting from its Omega 3s, 6s, and 9s, and its lauric acid, considered to be the number one anti-bacterial and anti-microbial fatty acid. The couple wanted products that were anti-aging and hydrating, and that produced smoother skin. For their facial oil, they added bacuri oil, a plant-based alternative to retinol that is typically less irritating and, unlike retinol, can be exposed to sunlight after application. The husband-and-wife team experimented at their kitchen table until they felt confident that they’d created a skincare formula that performed well and was safe enough for Clark’s wife to use even when pregnant (she recently gave birth to the couple’s first child). 

Insekt sources its black soldier flies  — the backbone of its productsfrom a farm in Quebec, where they eat food waste that would typically be headed to a landfill. At the end of their useful lives, their oil is extracted by a hydraulic press (cold press), ensuring that no additives or chemicals are added. Any remaining insect matter goes back into the ground as fertilizer.

Insekt sources its black soldier flies  — the backbone of its productsfrom a farm in Quebec, where they eat food waste that would typically be headed to a landfill. At the end of their useful lives, their oil is extracted by a hydraulic press (cold press), ensuring that no additives or chemicals are added. Any remaining insect matter goes back into the ground as fertilizer. 

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Thomas Clark, creator of Insekt.
Thomas Clark, co-creator of Insekt. — Photo Courtesy of Insekt.

By November 2022, after testing their products on themselves and on friends and family members, the Clarks were ready to release a product line, which included a cleanser, moisturizer, and facial oil. They received a few small business grants that allowed them to outsource manufacturing. “It was extremely important that we have a quality process in place and ensure the same results over and over again,” Clark says. He’s quick to point out that black soldier fly oil, as well as all the other ingredients in Insekt, are approved on the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) Database and meet FDA, CFSAN, and Health Canada Regulations.The pair had hoped to use sulapac (a biodegradable wood pulp product) for packaging, but they don’t yet have the volume to make it affordable. They opted instead for glass — “fully recyclable and good for maintaining shelf life,” Clark says. “Baby steps!” 

So far, response is positive, people’s discomfort with bugs notwithstanding. (Bluedot’s digital projects manager Julia Cooper, an admitted bug lover, tested Insekt products for a few weeks, and reported, “I am loving the products! I have fairly sensitive skin and have not experienced any kind of irritation. The moisturizer in particular is smooth, light, and noticeably hydrating overnight.”)

Clark hopes to add soaps, body washes, hand creams, and hair products to Insekt’s product line over the next five years. “Insects have an important role to play in the next several decades,” Clark says, noting that as our global population continues to grow, “there need to be more sources of alternative proteins outside of plant-based ingredients.” He’s staking his company on the hope that people will “be bold” and try their products — that they’ll get past the “Ew!” factor of insects and remember that besides being full of ingredients that are good for the skin, those bugs are also good for the environment. Insekt’s products are available online. 

Read more dispatches from around our pale blue dot:

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Catherine Zita Dias
Catherine Zita Dias
Catherine Zita Dias is an undergraduate student at the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) where she studies Media Production. She is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of The Continuist at TMU and a social media creator for Webseries Canada. Catherine envisions a career in film and/or publication industries after graduation.
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