SkinData Research & Innovation
There is no argument that inner beauty makes us glow. However, if there are skincare and beauty solutions that enhance our appearance, with no adverse impact on our health or the environment, then all the better.
SkinData Research & Innovation, an incubatee of HKSTP’s Incu-Bio programme, is a cosmetics science research company that formulates precision skincare solutions for the prevention of skin pigmentation, photo-ageing and inflammation, as well as anti-glycation.
Company founder Dr Shuting Hu received her PhD from the School of Biological Science at the University of Hong Kong. She was planning to continue in research but was encouraged by her mentor Dr Mingfu Wang to take her research results to the market. This marked the beginning of her entrepreneurship.
Extracting highly effective skin whitening ingredients from plants
Dr Hu has dedicated years to the research of skin whitening natural polyphenols in plants. The active ingredient is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps to reduce pigmentation, keep skin clear and delay ageing. The natural polyphenols of different plants have a differentiated structure, trace quantity and efficacy. It takes extensive and sustained testing to extract the active ingredients for mass production.
Internationally acclaimed research
Dr Hu says that there haven’t been any new active ingredients for cosmetics emerging in recent years. Most formulas from international brands use similar ingredients to deliver similar effects. They compete mostly on packaging and marketing alone, which is why her thesis, published in 2013, was applauded for offering a new perspective. She won two awards from the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC), including the 2013 Henry Maso Award for her thesis, awarded to researchers aged under 40, and the Maison G De Navarre Prize for young cosmetic scientists. She was instantly approached by international cosmetics groups for collaboration, reflecting the potential and value of her research.
Overcoming hurdles to bring products to market
There are however many hurdles and restrictions to negotiate when introducing new ideas in the entrenched international cosmetics market. Multi-national cosmetics giants own many research projects and development proposals. It takes a long time for a product created by a university to become a commercial product as it is subject to different sets of rules and regulations in different countries. It is a minefield to navigate, so she decided to take the matter in her own hands. “I ventured into the commercial world because I wanted to share good things with lots of people and benefit more people,” she says.
Building a plant database of active ingredients
Dr Hu says her research is not a shot in the dark based on testing random plant species. Rather she carefully identified plants from long experience. For example, skin whitening polyphenols can be derived from a range of plants in the Moraceae species. The company has already built a data pool of more than a dozen plants that can provide the active ingredients. Sustainably grown plants from Southeast Asia and Africa provide a steady supply.
Science Park is an excellent base for international expansion
SkinData is continuing to refine its technology by testing the formulas and conducting trials on synthetic skins and clinical analyses in Science Park labs. Dr Hu says that Science Park offers an excellent mid-stream research environment to let the company build a solid foundation for future product development. As Hong Kong offers good international connections, she can make it the epicenter from which the company can explore commercial opportunities around the world. Already, SkinData has become the business partner of some international cosmetics companies.