Jan 25, 2016
By Alex Kopelyan
Bringing Science to Beauty: an Interview with Evelyn Chen of Nerd Skincare
Bringing Science to Beauty: an Interview with Evelyn Chen of Nerd Skincare

The science of skincare hasn’t changed for 100 years. As we learn more about the skin, new opportunities for innovation are being uncovered that will shift the industry’s approach to beauty.

Nerd Skincare is leveraging these advancements in science to innovate safer and better skincare products. I talked to the company’s CEO, Evelyn Chen, to learn her story, how Nerd is shifting skincare perspectives, and plans for the future. Check out her pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

E: I studied molecular cellular biology and have a biomedical engineering degree from Columbia. I grew up in the beauty industry and have always been passionate about innovation and bringing science to the beauty industry and skincare products.

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Nerd Skincare?

E: We want to use the beneficial bacteria that live on us to better our skin. Before 2009 very few people were aware of how big a role bacteria play in our physiology. At Nerd, we design proprietary organic compounds that enhance certain desired bacterial metabolic pathways and, as a result, have beneficial effects on the skin. For example, there are bacteria that can reverse photo damage, promote fat tissue growth, and suppress pathogens. These are basically probiotics for the skin and can be used for cosmetic effects.

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

E: Happy customers who are getting safer and better products.

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

E: It will make the cosmetics industry more transparent. And people will start to look at their skin and their relationships with skin care products differently. We used to categorize the skin into four types – dry, oily, combination, and sensitive. We want to figure out what healthy skin microbiome types look like, which is way more broad than the current four types, and help everyone reach their best skin condition.

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

E: We are a very diverse team who come from aerospace science, biomedical engineering, molecular biology, bioinformatics, economics, and design. We share the same passion and goal to reinvent the beauty category.

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning from research to startup entrepreneurship?

E: There’s a huge gap between small scale research in the lab and scaling up in mass production.  It would definitely have saved us a lot of time if we had paid more attention to designing our manufacturing earlier.

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

E: Paid advertising can only do so much, especially when we don’t have a huge marketing budget. Figuring out how to engineer a viral loop is fun and challenging for us.

What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

We’re launching a closed beta test on our skin microbiome test kit in March. Our longer term goal is to be able to determine healthy skin microbiome types and help shift undesirable skin to healthier states.

Sign up for Nerd’s beta to get your skin microbiome type!

Get in touch with Evelyn at evelyn@nerdskincare.com