Ann Marie Simpson-Einziger and her husband Mike Eizenger have many shared passions. One is music, the other is science.
On the music front, both Ann Marie and Mike have achieved more than a moderate amount of success. Ann Marie is a renowned violinist who’s worked as a composer and performer with famed Academy Award-winning film composer Hans Zimmer on numerous film scores including Sherlock Holmes, Interstellar, 12 Years a Slave, and The Lone Ranger. Guitar-playing Mike founded the band Incubus in high school, which has reached multi-platinum success as a metal band with more than 23 million albums sold worldwide.
But it wasn’t until Ann Marie suffered from a skin disorder while on tour with Mike six years ago that the two put their shared science education to create a brand to help solve it: Ann Marie majored in biology at the University of Virginia before teaching high school physics and chemistry; Mike studied the history of physics at Harvard University.
From there, the two say they became obsessed. “We nerded out, we didn’t sleep. Mike would wake me up in the middle of the night with a scientific paper he found and ask, ‘Is this helpful?’ Although we both have scientific backgrounds, we’re not Ph.D. formulation chemists. So we put a scientific proposal together as citizen scientists,” Ann Marie explains.
This month they’re launching the fruit of their labor, Mother Science, a brand that harnesses the power of a first-to-market novel molecule the company founded called malassezin, which effectively improves the appearance of skin discoloration, provides 10 times the antioxidant power of vitamin C, and reinforces the skin barrier.
“Everyone knows who Mother Nature is, and that she is an ancient, healing entity that we all need to respect and take care of. Yet there’s a synergy between Mother Nature and ‘Mother Science’ that is rarely mentioned,” Ann Marie shares. More than mere inspiration for the brand name, the ethos of the company supports Mother Science’s moniker as well. “Our women-led team is all about pursuing a new space, changing the landscape, trying to disrupt the beauty ecosystem, and taking control of knowledge for the good of ourselves and our planet.”
Why did it take six years to bring Mother Science’s Molecular Hero Serum to market? “Because we brought real scientists into the fold,” the couple says with a laugh. “The pace of science is slow by nature, especially when you’re bringing a new molecule into development. You have to characterize it and synthesize it, and testing takes time,” she explains.
Molecular Hero Serum doesn’t feature a new derivative of an existing skin care ingredient, and it isn’t just serving up a new delivery system. This multi-tasking serum is a byproduct of a species of yeast called malassezia that’s found naturally on the surface of human skin. When this fungus goes awry, it can cause a host of undesirable skin effects — but with Molecular Hero Serum’s malassezin, “You’re going to target dark spots and hyperpigmentation while seeing smoother, brighter skin. It’s also going to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Ann Marie explains.
Fueled mainly by a seed round led by Female Founders Fund in November 2022 (to-date Mother Science has raised a total of $6.2 million), the brand has been able to conduct an extensive amount of research, including in-vitro and in-vivo testing, genomic panels, and 3D MelanoDerm models that are the gold standard for skin testing. It also allowed Mike and Ann Marie to bring on Jessica Goldin as Mother Science’s CEO to build the brand and shepherd its go-to-market strategy. Jessica is a 20-year beauty industry veteran who previously served as the founding CEO of Shani Darden Skin Care and held various leadership and executive marketing roles at Beautycounter, Murad, Clinique, and Victoria’s Secret Beauty. Mother Science’s team also includes Dr. Pearl Grimes, the brand’s Chief Dermatologist, a globally recognized expert and leading authority in hyperpigmentation. Dr. Grimes has spent the past six years leading extensive scientific studies on Malassezin.
“Consumers are becoming more and more interested in science-based skin care, ” said Jessica. “As a biotech beauty brand with a proprietary, novel ingredient, we are excited to introduce a highly efficacious serum based on a new approach to treating dark spots and sun damage.”
In addition to establishing its safety profile, research shows malassezin’s ability to prevent the development of unwanted skin pigment and decrease existing discoloration associated with mild, moderate, and severe sun damage and hormonally-induced discoloration. Results were assessed via instrumentation measures, dermatologist grading, and VISIA imaging technology — and confirmed with consumer perception assessments.
According to Ann Marie, malassezin is not a tyrosinase inhibitor, which is the mechanism behind many anti-discoloration ingredients. Instead, malassezin acts on a skin receptor that regulates skin balance. “To target hyperpigmentation, malassezin decreases the production of excess melanin and interferes with the transfer of pigment to the upper layers of the skin.” At the same time, this unique ingredient also improves barrier function by supporting the skin’s production of natural moisturizing factors while helping to minimize irritation, which is also a trigger for the formation of dark spots.
Ann Marie’s takeaway: “It’s really rare to find an actual new molecule that is clinically effective and developed with this rigor, and bring it into the cosmetic space. We had to write the playbook on how to introduce something that is clinically and scientifically tested into an ecosystem that doesn’t really support this kind of disruption.”
Molecular Hero Serum was formulated to meet the EU’s stringent ingredient standards, and easily integrates into any morning and evening skin care regimen as the serum step. Ann Marie says it can be used in place of vitamin C in the morning (thanks to 10 times the antioxidant power and enhanced stability), and that “malassezin plays well with other active ingredients you may use in the morning or evening without causing dryness, irritation or sun sensitivity.”
Ann Marie adds, “I feel like ‘clean’ and ‘sustainable’ are just table stakes now. That’s what it takes to future-proof anything you’re creating. Our ingredient-synthesis process is extremely sustainable as compared to the natural process of growing a raw material, fermenting it, and extracting the active.” The Molecular Hero Serum formula is also vegan, cruelty-free, and Leaping Bunny-certified, and housed in a glass bottle.
When a brand launches with one SKU, we’re left to wonder whether it can maintain loyalty to its initial hero ingredient, and cement its status as a disrupter. But Ann Marie is optimistic.
“Right now we’re focusing on malassezin for the short-term because this ingredient has so much potential, but our pipeline is driven by intentional innovation and may include other molecules in the future.”
To engage consumers, Mother Science is using media outreach and an aggressive seeding approach to get the product into the hands of influencers, dermatologists, and thought leaders in the world of hyperpigmentation and skin care-ingredient science. The brand’s social media strategy is driven heavily by educational content and the goal of building a community of fellow “citizen scientists” that has a shared desire to read, learn and share knowledge.
Although the brand is launching direct-to-consumer, Ann Marie and Mike hope to enter retail at some point in time.
Mother Science Hero Molecular Serum retails for $89 and is available at MotherScience.com.