24 March 2022
The Future of Beauty: Eugene He of Invity On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Beauty Industry – a medium.com interview with Candice Georgiadis
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am the Chief Product Officer of Invity, a vertically-integrated longevity startup, the CEO of Qurio, a consumer biotech incubator, as well as the acting CTO of Quvo Lab. I started doing chemistry experiments when I was around 8 or 9 years old, and since then I had a thing for ‘reactions’. Whether it was acting in a play, investigating the medical history of my patients or developing a product, I found gratification in observing actions and predicting reactions.
I started my scientific education in Australia, where I trained as a clinical naturopath. A huge part of my focus was in formulation design and phytochemistry. While treating my patients, I discovered that our skin not only defines how we look, but is an accurate indicator of our underlying health. This fascinated me so much that I was already thinking about skin microbiome in 2006, when microbiome skincare wasn’t even a thing.
My approach to skincare research was inspired by the evolution of the human body and epigenetic changes. In my lab, I have created a vernix caseosa mimic, a prebiotic cream and most recently, an ATP broth. As cliche as this might sound, I am hunting for the fountain of youth, which I truly believe is finally possible in this lifetime.
In 2021, we decided to introduce Invity to the world. My personal research program grew into a vertically integrated set up, with a community of over 14 scientists, 9 pipelines and one common goal — to enable healthspan while extending lifespan.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I like to think that my story is still evolving, but there were definitely some memorable moments. Almost a decade ago, while I was still a budding entrepreneur, I was invited to Washington, D.C. where I met with various members of the Cabinet, and even had dinner with former President Obama. It was my first visit to the U.S., and let’s just say, I was overwhelmed with experiences.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
In the early days, I was hungry for success and tried to find it in metrics and numbers, and as Henry David Thoreau once said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” My “tipping point” came when I started focusing on my true passion and knowledge, rather than trying to build a profitable business. It kept me busy doing the right things, but it never burnt me out.
I am also a believer of the law of attraction. I began to see ‘success’ when I realized that I was attracting the right people, both in my personal life and professional career. My circle of influence changed, and so did my lifestyle and mindset. It was then when I finally understood what it feels like to be in the ‘zone’.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful to everyone I’ve come across as our lives are shaped by the people we meet, but aside from my family, I do have three people who were instrumental to me getting to where I am today. I’d like to thank my high school teacher, Mdm Quek, for unlocking my passion in biology and showing me that science is not boring. My mentor, Sue Holly, for getting me obsessed with phytochemistry, and August Lee, for believing in my vision to make longevity science research mainstream.
Ok, super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?
We want to use technology only when it makes sense as there’s no point trying to fix something that is not broken. When my scientists and I created Invity, we already had a good idea of what works to delay skin aging. Even simple ingredients like vitamin C can have profound effects on our skin. The challenge is getting those ingredients into the right depth in the skin so they can deliver scientifically validated results, consistently.
Our ‘cutting edge’ technology is in our delivery systems trials. We are working on emulsion and liposomal delivery technologies, to create bespoke solutions for individual activities. This ensures that clinically viable ingredients work not only in a petri dish, but also in your skin.
At the same time, a focus of my research is in metabolic pathways, specifically the impact of NAD+, sirtuins and AMPK on our skin. My team has been actively identifying candidates that can work transdermally, to induce cellular energy within skin cells.
Aging affects everyone and we hope that our research can not only regain youthful skin for everyone, but also inspire similar developments to eventually eliminate chronic diseases.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
By creating this free pass channel for active ingredients into the skin, it also means undesirable substances might potentially enter the skin too, if the technology is utilized by an inexperienced chemist or formulator. For this reason, we always ensure that we would only use this in formulas that contain safe, clean and tested ingredients.
I am currently working with my team to produce a compendium of ingredients that would qualify to be ‘clean’ from scientific viewpoints. This would not only streamline our formulation process, but also ensure safe handover of technology to our successors.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?
1. At this moment, we are seeing a lot of consumer facing beauty-tech developments. Much of this is based on a point of sale engagement to increase customer loyalty and conversion. While this can be interesting or important to businesses, I am more excited when AI goes behind the scenes, for example, in product formulation and development.
2. I am definitely excited about our delivery system research. Beauty has evolved tremendously, from the first modern basic cold creams from 1857 to intradermal injection fillers today. Skin care is no longer just personal care, it is health care.
3. I am also currently advising a startup developing a diagnostic kit to monitor our ‘youth’ in real time. While they are still in the early stages of development, their success would be a breakthrough and a paradigm shift for our attitude and understanding towards aging because this will clearly define what ‘youthfulness’ means.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
1. As the barrier of entry into the industry has become very low, almost anyone today can start a skincare brand. While I am all for entrepreneurship, skincare formulations are based on science and can still pose certain risks to consumers. I’ve always shared the analogy that if you are ill, would you go to a doctor or would you seek advice from an influencer?
2. As someone who is a clinician, but also an entrepreneur, there is a daily dilemma in balancing product efficacy with practicality. A miraculous serum that cost $1000 to produce with a shelf life of one week is not practical. Likewise, a $20 serum that is essentially water with no clinically validated results is against my ethos.
3. Beauty has always been an industry propelled by marketing. The clean beauty trend has increased awareness and demand for safer products for our body and the environment, but at the same time, it has also fueled misconceptions and bad science.
To deal with such issues, local and global associations and health agencies regulate the type of products or ingredients that can go into beauty products. However, with no global alignment or benchmarking, the disparity is huge between countries and sometimes even states. In some cases, overzealous agencies over regulate the usage of ingredients. If I can have it my way, the three things I would do would be to firstly create and align a global safety standard, make it compulsory for beauty manufacturers and brands to have internal regulators and implement a beauty tax on brands and manufacturers to fund non-profit research for the industry.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Start your beauty routine from within. Before investing in expensive skincare products, take a deeper dive into your health, lifestyle, diet and mental health. Beauty is being confident, and confidence comes from being healthy — both physically and mentally.
2. Set a daily self-care routine. This could be during the day or night, but what is important is that you go through this routine everyday. Just like how people feel happier and motivated after a workout, a self-care routine makes you feel better about yourself.
3. Use a sheet mask. Do not underestimate the power of a well formulated sheet mask. Asian celebrities can’t live without it, and it is for a reason. It floods your skin momentarily with moisture, giving you a fresh and dewy complexion. With our SuperNAD Youth Activating sheet mask, we utilized an ATP activating technology to recharge the skin beyond just moisturization.
4. Reduce consumption of sugar. While most people know that excessive sugar intake contributes to obesity, it also increases AGEs (advanced glycation end products) in your body, which accelerates skin aging. It also affects our mood, sleep and recovery.
5. Consume a NAD+ precursor such as NMN and supplement your diet with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These foods contain antioxidants that support metabolic pathways to preserve the integrity of your skin and health.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am an alumni of the Catalyst-AA innovation program where I developed an idea to bridge the scientific communities with the general population to engage in crowd research. The advancement of science is heavily dependent on funding and the participation of volunteers. By getting the public to be interested in science, and leveraging mobile technology, we can work together to speed up life-changing research to bring good to the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Life is a journey, not a destination.
I often get asked why I wear so many hats and am constantly working. I am not a workaholic, but a lifeaholic — I believe there is no singular destination in life, but instead, milestones that mark our success. I love what I do, so it never feels like work, but rather it is a purpose for me. Every journey will have its ups and downs and failing only means you get another chance to take the exhilarating ride up again.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow my personal instagram @itseugenehe and also Invity @myinvity
In April 2022, Invity’s Needle-Free Filler Alternatives placed 24th in Trendhunter’s top 100 cosmetic trends for April.
Invity’s SuperNAD Youth Activating Facial Sheet Mask emerged as a finalist in the Pure Beauty Global Awards 2022.