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From science to skincare and beyond: an unexpected journey

If you had told me five years ago that I’d end up in charge of a skincare company, I wouldn’t have believed you. But as a scientist, you always need to prepare for a surprising result.

I was a graduate researcher at Tufts University when I met Beck, a Mechanical Engineering student. With a shared passion for silk science, we went on to earn our PhDs (in Biotechnology Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, respectively) before collaborating professionally for more than a decade. Our work centered on the biomedical applications of natural silk fiber within the human body – until life took our careers in an entirely unexpected direction.

My young son’s severe eczema and hyper-reactive immune system meant that he required intensive daily skincare treatments but finding suitable treatment options proved to be a challenge. Most of today’s skincare products contain 50+ ingredients, many of them synthetic fillers, preservatives and incidentals (the ingredients used to make ingredients, often undisclosed preservatives that can be endocrine disruptors). And the lack of transparency in the industry muddled things even further, with words like “natural” and “organic” bandied around without any clear definition on what these terms reallymeant in the context of skincare.

It was a struggle that Beck was all too familiar with. As a cancer survivor at the age of 27, she was intimately aware of the needs of those with ultra-sensitive skin and had even been advised by her doctor to seek clean skincare free from ingredients of concern. But the lack of regulation and clarity around ingredients left many patients overwhelmed – with some even resorting to making their own skincare formulations themselves in an attempt to wrest back control. It was apparent that the system was broken, and something had to change.

Beck and I reflected on what “clean” meant to us. We felt it needed to be a clearly defined promise and standard – one that transcended buzzwords like “natural” or “green.” It had to be biocompatible (suitable for contact with all skin types, even highly sensitive), non-toxic and produced under good manufacturing practices. And it had to be free of ingredients that could cause irritation, persistent body burden or environmental pollution. Our medical work had left us closely attuned to silk’s remarkable biocompatiblility with human skin and its natural affinity for the skin’s primary protein, collagen. And while we didn’t have a background in the skincare industry, we suspected that these benefits could be harnessed for the topical treatment of skin.

So I dove into the natural chemistry behind silk in an effort to reimagine skincare from the ground up. Beck joined me, leveraging her engineering background to develop the custom manufacturing processes needed to bring these ideas to life. And following a year of intense development, trial and error, and learning from our failures, we landed on what would become our core technology: pure Liquid Silk. Simply made from natural silk protein and water in a sustainable, environmentally friendly process, this powerhouse ingredient eliminates the need for synthetic fillers and harsh preservatives, enabling highly concentrated skincare made with just a handful of clean, active ingredients.

The career twists haven’t stopped, either. Beyond skincare, we’re partnering with leading fashion brands to help create a more sustainable apparel industry by replacing synthetic finishing chemicals with natural, biodegradable Liquid Silk. And we’re continuing to explore further medical applications, too. The long-term possibilities for this clean ingredient have far surpassed our initial expectations, and we now hope to use it to replace petrochemicals across a wide range of industries.

Since the day we started this unexpected journey, we’ve been committed to creating products that are biocompatible, sustainable and safe, both for people and for the environment. Transparently defining these terms for ourselves was essential – allowing us to establish the clarity we needed – but it also meant that we had to commit to doing everything from scratch. We continue to produce our Liquid Silk on-site at our Boston headquarters, using natural cocoons that have been sustainably and organically farmed. And thanks to Beck’s expertise, we’re able to maintain full control of our manufacturing processes, ensuring quality and safety while still operating economically at commercial scale.

Whether you’re a scientist with a hypothesis or an entrepreneur with a novel concept, a brand-new idea can permanently alter the trajectory of your career. But by embracing the journey, and the inevitable failures along the way, you guarantee yourself the maximum number of opportunities to succeed – and that’s really all you can ask for. That simple philosophy led us to where we are today, and while it was never meant to be easy, we relish each and every opportunity to bring peace of mind into the lives of those who rely on our technology. The return for a day committed to improving health is a peaceful night’s sleep and satisfaction. And knowing that we’re doing what we can to create a positive global impact is what motivates us to continue.

My advice? Ditch the five-year plan and embrace the unknown – and all the failure, success and everything in between. That attitude has provided us with the experience of a lifetime, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds. 

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