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I wanted to build a company where we could talk with our customer about skin and skincare in an open and honest way. Now, with the launch of The Lab, it's time to start talking.
A lifelong skincare enthusiast with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, our Chief Science Officer, Lindsay Wray, is developing the next generation of skincare products. In our first edition of Meet Lindsay, Lindsay tells us how she fell in love with the material that started it all: silk.
Most people don’t spend much time thinking about silk. My world, on the other hand, is totally wrapped up in silk. It’s a fascination that goes down to the molecular level, but do not fear! I won’t get too technical on you (at least not all at once). Here’s my little love letter to silk, and the story of how this incredible molecule launched Eighteen B.
I’m a biomedical scientist, which means I’m trained to study a range of technologies – from robots to prosthetics to pharmaceuticals – to find beneficial ways to use them in medical applications. My specialty is in biologically-derived material technologies and their potential use in tissue regeneration. While I was in grad school, I was working on silk’s applications in regenerative medicine, which seeks safe and reliable ways to repair or replace damaged tissues or organs.
And before I tell you why I love the science behind silk, you might be wondering how I became a scientist in the first place. Ultimately, my mom was my inspiration. Science is still not a common career path for women, unfortunately, but it definitely wasn’t 40 years ago, when my mom got her degree in Geology. She was a trailblazer, working to clean up contaminated groundwater in California. I have vivid, joyful memories of visiting her at work and being dazzled by her technical work. I loved watching her solve problems using data and technology!
When it became clear that I had an interest in science, she supported and encouraged me 100%. (Though she likes to remind me that she never pushed me down this path. According to her, I was born a nerd.) Eventually I asked my parents for a microscope for Christmas and I’ve been doing experiments ever since.
So, back to silk. The most common consumer use of silk is in textiles, but silk has a wide range of medical, surgical, and optical applications. I came to understand the incredible powers of silk while studying this material for regenerative medicine applications. Not only are silk fibers stretchy and strong – one of the strongest materials on earth – they’re biocompatible.
After all those hours at the bench, the idea took hold. If silk can do great things for regenerating the body in medicine, why not apply these qualities to enhancing skin and hair? That became my hypothesis. I started digging into it with some of my colleagues in the lab.
I quickly discovered that plenty of hair and skincare products already contained silk. Upon closer inspection – and here’s the molecular part – I noticed that the silk was in a hydrolyzed form. As a materials scientist, I knew that natural silk’s properties are largely due to its intact structure. Silk is smooth, strong, and lustrous because it exists as a long chain protein. Hydrolyzed silk means that the silk protein has been chopped up into little pieces. This makes the protein easier to handle, but it also means that the beautiful qualities of silk are degraded. (Read more in our Silk 101 here.)
That meant there was an unmet need for full-length silk in the cosmetic industry. I like to say that I made an “adorable attempt” in my mid-twenties to start my own skincare company with two girlfriends from grad school. I whipped up some formulations in my kitchen, sealed them into packets, and sent them to family and friends for feedback.
Spoiler alert: We didn’t start a company then. We were using silkworm silk at the time. We had found a way to incorporate full length silk into our formulations, but the source wasn’t scalable – and not vegan, to boot! (Bolt Threads eventually solved that problem, but more on that later.)
The last thing worth mentioning is this: with the skincare industry flooded with so many brands, why would we pursue this endeavor? The motivation behind Eighteen B is more than the incredible powers of silk. The motivation is to build a skincare company that values science, curiosity, transparency, and, of course, fun. I wanted to build a company where we could talk with our customer about skin and skincare in an open and honest way. Now, with the launch of The Lab, it’s time to start talking. It’s nice to meet you.
– Lindsay Wray
Do you have questions for Lindsay Wray? Comments? Topics you want us to cover? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.