Brand to Know | SEEN a New Dermatologist Formulated Haircare Brand
Oftentimes a business idea strikes when you are trying to solve your own personal dilemma, such was the case with SEEN founder Iris Rubin, a Harvard-trained dermatologist was trying to find the source of her own breakouts. It wasn’t until she realized that the products she was lathering on the shower was the culprit that she decided to take a leap and start a new hair care brand that addressed this issue. After four years of formulation, they landed on the perfect formula that leaves your strands very soft, without clogging the pores. We met Iris at their New York launch event and found out more.
Can you share with us your professional background before starting SEEN?
I am a Harvard-trained dermatologist, I went to Harvard Medical School, where I also completed my dermatology residency, and a laser and cosmetic fellowship. I spent much of my career at Children’s Hospital in the Washington DC area, performing laser surgery to treat babies and children with disfiguring birthmarks and scars. So it felt natural that our give back mission for SEEN is to support laser treatment for kids with disfiguring birthmarks and scars in developing countries.
Were you at all nervous to take the leap to start a new career, let alone your own company?
It was an incredibly hard decision to leave Children’s to work full time to develop SEEN hair care products. With 3 kids, I just did not have the time to do both and show up in the way I wanted for my family. In a way I see my work at Children’s and SEEN as related, helping people feel comfortable in their skin and empowering them to feel SEEN. I was surprisingly not nervous to start my own company, I think because I believe so much in what SEEN does, and hope our products help many people feel more confident.
Tell us about the relation to scalp health and breakouts—something that many may not correlate?
You literally can’t put something on your hair without it getting on your skin - and not just your scalp. Try it! I think most people would not knowingly put many of the ingredients in hair care products on their skin, though they do so every day. Many hair care ingredients can clog pores and lead to breakouts. They rinse down your face, chest, neck, and back in the shower, and can leave a residue that can transfer to your skin from a towel or pillow case. On top of that, if you have long hair, that residue might be brushing against your neck, shoulders, and back all day. Why choose between beautiful hair and beautiful skin when you can have both?
You said it took four years to formulate—in a day and age of ‘slap a label on it,’ that’s very refreshing. What were your non-negotiables and how did you land upon the perfect formula?
It did take us 4 years to formulate our products. Unfortunately, there is no magic list of what ingredients clog pores and which don’t. There is some data from animal studies, though those results don’t always translate to humans. I created a spreadsheet with 400 ingredients to better understand their characteristics, though for many ingredients there is no information on comedogenicity. To add further complexity, some ingredients may be “safe” and not clog pores on their own, but when combined with other ingredients they can become problematic and lead to clogged pores. I actually put our hair care products on my face (and my twin sister's face!) for years, as a first screen to make sure our products were skin-caring. While we focused on developing a skin-caring hair care line, it was equally important to us that the products deliver a fantastic hair experience. Our non-negotiable is no compromises, we had to have products that deliver amazing hair care and are good for skin.
Can you share what the products are designed to do?
Our products are designed to deliver luxury hair care results and to respect the skin, so you can have beautiful hair and beautiful skin. Many hair care brands have ingredients that can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Hair care products affect the skin, though are not typically formulated with the skin in mind. SEEN products are skin-caring, and clinically proven to be non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and non-irritating.
What’s the meaning behind the brand’s name?
We selected the name SEEN because, if you are like me and many people I know, you want to hide or cover up if your hair or skin doesn't look good. When I have a breakout I feel like I can’t be my best self. For me, my hair care products were a big contributor to breakouts. Creating a hair care line that is skin caring and won’t clog pores just makes sense. We want to empower people to be SEEN and shine their brightest light. We want to take away the wasted mental energy from focusing on a bad hair or skin day, so people can feel confident and focus on the things that are important to them.
Your twin sister’s husband is your CEO. What advice can you offer about launching a new venture with a family member?
My business partner Greg is married to my identical twin sister, Sharon! Thankfully, Greg and I have always had a supportive relationship. I liked him from go, and told Sharon when I met him he was the one for her! Greg has done so many nice things to support me, from paying off my car loan when I was a medical student, to encouraging me to develop SEEN. We are lucky to be so synergistic in our relationship. Sometimes we do have to say, ok now it’s family time, no talking business. The only advice I would offer other people about starting a business with a family member is to make sure that your skills are truly complementary and that your relationship is built on a strong foundation of trust and respect.
What have you learned so far since being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur has been great. I love coming up with new things that help people and seeing our products come to life has been incredible. Sure, there is risk, though my feeling is if you believe in something as much as I believe in SEEN it is so worth it. I could not think of not doing SEEN.
What’s next for your brand?
What’s next for us is to develop a full line of hair care products. We will be launching new styling products, fragrance free versions of many of our products, and travel size. People have also suggested that we consider introducing skin products given our singular focus on skin-caring but we haven't made any decisions yet. We are listening closely to our customers. We want to meet their needs and deliver products that they want and that help them feel confident.
To learn more visit helloseen.com