Check out our exclusive #IAMABLE interview with Dr. Iris Rubin, founder of the new skin-caring hair company SEEN and Dana Rae, founder of ABLE Cosmetics. Scroll on to learn how Iris applied her career in dermatology to create a patented new approach to hair care, exposing the little known fact that what’s on your hair is inevitably on your skin (so it better be good)!
Dana Rae: What were you doing before SEEN?
Iris: I was treating babies and children with disfiguring birthmarks and scars as medical director of the dermatologic and vascular laser surgery program at Children’s National Medical Center in MD/DC. Our give back mission at SEEN is to support international vascular anomalies clinics that treat children in the developing world.
Dana Rae: It’s not everyday that a Harvard grad decides to launch a hair care line. How did what you studied in school help prepare you to launch a brand?
Iris: Actually it really did not prepare me! Even in dermatology residency there was almost no discussion about the connection between hair products and acne, except for thick pomades contributing to acne on the forehead. And as a physician developing SEEN, I had to learn how to formulate products and build a business. I realized I needed to find people who had experience in these areas to help me. Getting my brother-in-law Greg (married to my twin sister!) on board was key, he is a Wharton MBA and seasoned business executive.
Dana Rae: What was your AHA moment when you first thought of SEEN?
Iris: I kept breaking out after I would go to the salon to get my hair done. It clicked for me, what’s on your hair is on your skin and hair care products can cause breakouts. It was really gratifying when we proved that hair care products leave a residue on the skin.
Dana Rae: To me, SEEN is filling a void in the marketplace similar to ABLE's approach of filling a gap and being purpose driven. Can you speak a little bit to this?
Iris: Acne and breakouts are not just a teenage issue, many adult women have acne and breakouts. I am still breakout prone in my 40’s. And hair care products can cause acne and breakouts! If your hair care is causing you to breakout, why not fix your hair care rather than throw prescriptions at the problem? That’s why we created SEEN. When your hair and skin look good you can focus on the things that are important to you and may feel more comfortable being SEEN for your best self.
Dana Rae: Can you tell us about how hair care affects your skin?
Iris: Many people don’t realize that what’s on your hair is on your skin. For hair care products to work they bind to the hair, and that same residue gets on your skin, can clog pores, and cause breakouts. And not just on your scalp, but also on your face, back, and body too!
Dana Rae: What is SEEN talking about when they refer to "good residue?"
Iris: Hair care products leave a residue on the skin as they rinse down your face, chest, back, and body in the shower, or transfer directly from the hair to the skin (think long hair sitting on the back all day!), or from a towel/pillowcase. Choose wisely. You don’t want a residue on your skin that clogs your pores, and leads to breakouts, or irritates your skin. SEEN’s products are clinically proven to be non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and non-irritating, so you don’t have to compromise your skin for beautiful hair.
Dana Rae: How long did you spend testing ingredients and formulas before taking the SEEN products we now know and love to market?
Iris: It took 4+ years to develop SEEN! The formulations took time because we were optimizing around two objectives: delivering a beautiful hair experience AND respecting the skin. We learned that while individual ingredient selection is important, how those ingredients blend together is also important. I tested many of our formulations directly on my face to be sure they would not cause breakouts, before we put our formulas through third party clinical testing.
Dana Rae: How did you come up with the name SEEN?
Iris: When I have a breakout - even one pimple - I feel like I want to hide. The same is true when my hair is frizzy and does not look good. SEEN is about empowering people to feel seen for their best self.
Dana Rae: What are SEEN’s core values as a brand?
Iris: Our core values are pretty simple. To create products that make people feel better about themselves and improve the quality of their lives. And we don’t believe in compromises, you can have beautiful hair and beautiful skin.
Dana Rae: Will SEEN stay in haircare or do you imagine expanding into other categories?
Iris: As a dermatologist it’s a natural extension to go into skin care. We're actually working on a body wash now that we're close to finalizing.
Dana Rae: What has been the greatest lesson learned from launching SEEN?
Iris: Perseverance and confidence. If you believe in something and your mission is good, if you stick with it you can do anything. Don’t let the challenges (and naysayers) stop you, find another way to get what you need to done.
Dana Rae: Here at ABLE - we LOVE to share founder stories about inspirational women. A commonly asked question is “how do you do it all” and so I have to know - how do you? You have a Harvard education, a booming start up, and kids. Walk us through a day in the life of Iris. And what are some everyday practices you can share that help you get through a busy day?
Iris: I feel really grateful for everything in my life. It’s also a full life and I don’t think balancing a career and kids is always easy. I meditate which helps for sure. And I am super fortunate to have my own business which gives me flexibility. Some days are more SEEN focused, some more kid focused. I also have help and an amazingly supportive and involved husband which are key.
Dana Rae: Aside from SEEN - what are some of your personal skincare favorites?
Iris: I love skin ceuticals CE Ferulic serum and their physical fusion sunscreen.
Dana Rae: We are beginning to transition into fall and people often times change up their grooming routines by season. Any tips for everyone heading into the colder winter months on how to better take care of their hair and skin?
Iris: The transition to colder months can be tricky! Using a mild soap and a good moisturizer are important to keeping your skin well hydrated. And your hair can get drier too in the winter months. I like to leave my conditioner in a little longer for a few minutes in the wintertime to keep my hair hydrated. And a periodic deep conditioner treatment can help as well.
Dana Rae: Lastly, can you complete the following sentence? My name is Iris and I am ABLE to…
Iris: My name is Iris and I am ABLE to be myself, a mom, wife, physician, and businesswoman!