In Conversation With: Kristin Chen, Founder Of IRÉN Skin

Japanese culture combined with care and attention to detail. These are the words Rebecca Morter, CEO of Lone Design Club, uses to describe the latest skincare brand to launch in LDC stores.

“Having lived in Japan for a year, I fell in love with the culture, tradition and attention to detail.

IRÉN Skin certainly embodies this spirit, merging together the traditional, vegan ingredients with the innovation of science to create the perfect products. Instilling this in everything from their packaging and their company ethos to the products themselves, which are incredible!”

More than that Rebecca champions IRÉN because of it’s ability to create skincare that fits everyone’s skin. “Each of us has such individual skin that requires unique attention and IRÉN’s model of being able to mix to your preference and skin type is genius! It allows us to get exactly what our skin needs and to be considered, sustainable in our approach.”

In today’s interview the founder of IRÉN Skin, Kristin Chen, is here to tell us more about why and how she developed her very own skincare line after years of working in the beauty industry.

Most importantly, she gives us a detailed insight into her ziplock encapsulation technology which has the potential to transform skincare forever and is now exclusively available at Lone Design Club.

How long have you been working in the beauty industry? 

I’ve worked in the beauty industry for as long as I could remember. 13 years now full time to be exact.

And 20 years if counting my part time jobs as beauty sales assistants when I was still studying. I’ve worked in various countries like Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK and France, in beauty brands like Estee Lauder, Paul and Joe and also cosmeceutical brands.

When did you decide you should start your own brand and how did you get the process started? 

I used to travel a lot during my work. My skin went through turbulent changes when exposed to different climates, stress, age and hormonal changes. The market was swamped with many generic products that overpromise and under-deliver and basically did not do much for my everchanging skin conditions.

In that era, the industry was certainly not as transparent and there wasn’t as much information on product or ingredients. Frustrated with the lack of information, I began to do my own research; on ingredients and the correlation it had on different skin issues. And how humidity, even hardness of water (of different regions), environmental factors, stress and hormones may cause changes to the skin.

Working in both eastern and western countries, I was blessed to be introduced to the different cultures in beauty. I was very intrigued with the Japanese beauty rituals: the discipline, diligence and unwavering focus in achieving perfect skin. The technology and innovation in J-Beauty is undoubtedly one of the most ground-breaking. I was also impressed by the ethics of Western beauty brands; Europe has one of the most stringent regulations when it comes to cosmetic safety and testing. It had always been my dream to create a brand that would transcend cultures, and bring out the best of both cultures.

When I decided to create my own beauty brand a few years ago, I know that I do not want another generic brand. Like all consumers, at the end of the day, we simply want visible results, products that work for the skin. Through my research, I know that all skin can be different, and skin is changing because of many factors. It became apparent to me; the future of beauty is customization. We need products adapted to different skin types and different skin concerns. And in order to ensure visible results, we need to turn to science. 

Taking my research, I approached several scientists, and convinced them my plan of creating customizable skincare products, that is clean, vegan and most importantly, products that would produce visible results that are backed by science. We eventually formed our own R&D team and began our IRÉN Skin journey to create products that are customizable, ethical and science-focused.

Where does the name IRÉN come from?

The name IRÉN is inspired by Irène Juliot-Curie, the second woman in history to win a Noble Prize in Chemistry, who was less well known than her mother, Marie Curie – the first female Noble Prize winner.

Even though Marie Curie was much more famous, but I wanted to pay tribute to the less celebrated Irène as she was not only a notable woman in science, but was also very active in promoting women’s education, and an advocate in fighting for gender equality, which was very impressive and very inspiring to me.

IRÉN Skin is a brand that aims to empower women, celebrate science and elevate beauty. We have rolled out scholarship programs for women who want to pursue science, and we are proud that many of them are currently on our R&D team. We have also started flexible working hours for working mothers in our effort to support and motivate women to succeed with a good work-life balance.

Can you explain how your Ziplock Encapsulation technology works?

Ziplock Encapsulation is our patented technology that works in three functions:

  1. Each active ingredient is encapsulated in one tiny nano-molecule compared to other brands, where by many active ingredients are usually encapsulated into a bigger molecule. With nano-encapsulation, we can ensure the freshness of active ingredients, and prevent contradiction of active ingredients when they are mixed together.
  2. The nano-molecules of the active ingredients are smaller than the pore size, making it easy to penetrate into the skin in order to ensure visible results. The absorption rate of active ingredients are optimized and efficacy of products are maximized.
  3. The Ziplock Encapsulation technology has a time-release effect. The nano-molecules of active ingredients will take some time to travel deeper into the epidermis before breaking and releasing its nutrients. Most other brands would find their active ingredients stay on the surface or near the surface of the skin which would be less effective than when the nutrients are released in the deeper epidermis. The results are improved and faster efficacy.

How difficult was it to create your Ziplock Encapsulation technology? 

The Ziplock Encapsulation was a solution developed to overcome one of the biggest obstacles we had. Creating customizable products, which can be mixed freely was not as straightforward as we thought. There was an issue with contradiction, some ingredients when mixed will negate the effects or may not even be compatible. To combat that, we tried to source for only compatible active ingredients but there was a huge constraint on the ingredients we could use resulting in less than satisfactory results on the skin. I am very thankful to my R&D team who did many experiments and eventually came up with the Ziplock Encapsulation technology which not only solved the issue of contradiction, but also enhanced the effects of active ingredients resulting in much faster and very good results on the skin.

Do you think nanoscience is utilized well enough in the skincare industry? 

Nanoscience is very powerful in achieving high-performing results, unfortunately it is not as well utilized in the skincare industry.

Nanoscience is more apparent in the cosmeceutical industry (a hybrid of pharmaceutical and skincare), and the aesthetic medicine industry. This is due to the fact that most beauty brands will not have the resources to have their own laboratory, or their own R&D team. We are lucky to have the support of scientists and our own R&D team.

With nanoscience, it is important to perform many clinical tests and trials, in order to ensure the formulation is safe and effective, in order to eliminate ingredients that we would not desire to penetrate the skin. We go through stringent tests and clinical trials to ensure the formulation passed all standards of stability, safety, dermatological and sensoriality before we place them on the market. We are the first Japanese beauty brand to have banned more than 2000 ingredients that may be toxic, allergenic or comedogenic.

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IRÉN skincare believes that three serums is the maximum that anyone should combine at any one time – why is that? 

We performed many experiments and tests to find the optimal content of active ingredients that would work well on the skin to see results. Three serums would be the most ideal in our case, as the content of each serum would still work well to ensure results on the skin. Anything more would mean the content of each serum is too little to have good results.

Our serums can be used alone, or mixed up to three for a customized and adapted treatment. We have modernized the Japanese art of layering by allowing serums to be mixed and used in one single step without any contradiction, made possible with our Ziplock Encapsulation.

Why is it important for consumers not to mix too many of the acidic serums together? 

We do not recommend mixing too many acids on the skin. Acids can be great ingredients to help improve skin texture but using too many acids at one time can be very harsh and would result in damage of the skin barrier.

When the skin barrier is damaged, the skin would be subjected to irritation, and easily inflamed by exterior factors like bacteria or environmental attacks. Examples of acids are retinol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid and Vitamin C. For very sensitive skin, try using acids only at night, and/or on alternate nights. It is important to always use sunscreen when using acid on the skin.

How does vaporizing the serum affect its efficacy? 

The Skin Vaporizer is a beauty device that can nebulize and shrink any liquid formulations even those with high viscosity, like sunscreen or liquid foundation. By using the serums with our Skin Vaporizer, the active ingredients are further shrunk to achieve an air sprayed effect on the skin.

The tiny molecules can penetrate the skin even faster, almost immediately, so there is a very light feeling on the skin. There is also less risk of contamination and exposure to bacteria. The serums can be mixed with liquid foundation and sprayed on using the Skin Vaporizer for a natural, glowy look.

IRÉN skincare bans 2000 ingredients from its formulations. How did you decide which ones to ban? 

We have analysed more than 10,000 ingredients with clinical tests and scientific results in order to determine if the ingredient is safe or worthy to be placed in our formulation. We do not believe in fear-mongering and do not base our decision of using or eliminating an ingredient because of trends or hypes, but rather with scientific basis. We also do not use animal-derived ingredients or test on animals.

What are your goals with IRÉN skincare?

My goal has always been to empower consumers. I would like to help them understand their skin better, in order for them to make informed choices so that they do not waste money on products that they do not need.

By developing products that adapted to specific skin concerns, I hope that it would help minimize unnecessary spending on products that are generic and do not work. We are still in the midst of developing our complete line of products. Eventually, I want to bring customization of skincare to the next level with the use of technology, innovation, and even AI.

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