People that know me are surprised to learn that I'm a co-founder of Cyantific Skin Care. "You don't seem the type," is what I often hear. Though I sometimes wonder…"what type?" I understand what they mean. I've always been a tomboy and a lab rat. Most people associate skincare with makeup, and since I don't wear much makeup, some assume that I don't pay attention to skincare products. Further, I'm a career-focused scientist that became an entrepreneur to make biochemicals for algae research. So, Cyantific Skin Care is what I ended up launching? Really?
As I pondered this question and my path to Cyantific Skin Care, I realized that in its simplest form the answer could be found in two watershed moments in my life: 1.) My accidental discovery that blue-green algae make amazing UV-protectant compounds, and 2.) turning 40 years old.
I love algae and I love science. I especially love blue-green algae, a group of single-celled organisms that are foundational in ecosystems across the planet. Blue-green algae have earned a bad reputation because some species are associated with toxic harmful algal blooms that threaten water sources across the globe. However, other species don't make toxins, and some are even consumed as nutritional supplements.
Almost accidentally I came to realize another potentially good use of blue-green algae. I was in the field working on harmful algal blooms (another story for another day), and started to wonder why some of these algae could rest on the surface of a lake and bake in the sun all day without dying. Shouldn't the UV rays from the sun that burn and age my skin also hurt the algae?
I turned to the scientific literature for an answer to my question, and learned that since the 1980's scientists have known that some blue-green algae contain the most powerful UVA-absorbing compounds known to exist in nature. UVA rays are the deep-penetrating rays from the sun that damage skin at the cellular level, leading to the features we associate with aging (like wrinkles and dark spots), as well as dangerous melanomas (skin cancer).
Some blue-green algae appear to be partially protected from UVA rays because of these UVA-absorbing compounds they make naturally. Why they make these compounds is still not clear, but as far back as 30 years ago it was speculated that these compounds might be able to protect human skin from UVA rays. Over 30 years of interest, nobody had figured out how to get those compounds out of algae and into products. That's what I turned my attention to, and it took my algae biochemical business down a completely different path than I'd originally intended.
Possibly more relevant is the second reason that I became a skincare entrepreneur: I'm a woman in her 40's. I turned 40 on December 12, 2010. At my next pelvic exam I was informed by my doctor that I was perimenopausal. I was perplexed how on December 11, 2010 I was not perimenopausal, but by definition, according to my doctor, I was perimenopausal when I turned 40 on December 12, 2010. I was even more perplexed by what perimenopausal meant, or why I should care.
Ends up I don't really care about being perimenopausal, but I must concede that by the time I was 43 or 44 my body and my skin were noticeably changing. Like a lot of 40-something women, that motivated me to start taking better care of both. The exercise and nutritional changes I made were life-changing and benefited by body. I felt better, looked more fit, and had a ton more energy.
Those same lifestyle changes had a noticeable positive impact on my skin, but I wanted more arrows in my quiver to fight dryness and fine lines.
Committing myself to eating well and exercising were easy compared to my entry into the realm of finding non-drugstore, high-quality, use-for-the-rest-of-my-life skincare products. That was utter chaos! In between the snake oil and the unaffordable products ($350 an ounce…seriously?) were some really interesting and good products, but it was hard to differentiate them and make a choice.
These two events—discovering that blue-green algae make potentially beneficial compounds for my skin, and being a 40-something woman searching for reliable skincare products—just happened to converge at the same point in my life.
That's what led to Cyantific Skin Care. I wanted to create something new and exciting, easy and fuss-free, and beneficial for women who are paying attention to their health and skin care, even if they came to it a little later in life like I did.
Thus my journey as a skincare entrepreneur, and Cyantific Skin Care, had just begun.