We talked to Maria Semykoz of What’s In My Jar on how to make effective evidence-based skincare accessible to everyone and this is what she had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Maria Semykoz: So far, so good! We are doing our best to focus on the positive, find a way to stay connected, and even enjoy Christmas time!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded What’s In My Jar.
Maria Semykoz: Before founding What’s In My Jar, I worked as a management consultant. Long hours, and always on the road. I looked tired – so I started trying different skincare products to help me look better. I have quickly discovered, though, that many claims that cosmetic products make are not valid. I was shocked to learn that most ingredients advertised on the product packaging do not have any reliable research behind them and are simply unable to deliver skin benefits.
I ended up spending a lot of time reading dermatology journals and digging through research to figure out what cosmetic skincare is right for me and what products are worth the money. Then, an “ha” “moment came: people want transparency around the skincare they are buying. They need to understand what is inside skincare products and what skincare routine is right for them – without being fooled by overblown beauty marketing promises, and, on the other hand, – without needing a Ph.D. in chemistry to decode product ingredient lists. That is how WWhat’sIn My Jar was born.
How does WWhat’sIn My Jar innovate?
Maria Semykoz: Our most significant innovation is not even in tech. We dare to put the interest of a skincare consumer first – and it is surprisingly a radical stance in the beauty industry. Product brands focus on selling more products, estheticians focus on selling more facials – but consumers do not want more products or facials. They want better skin and a skincare routine that is right for them. Sometimes it means using more products, sometimes actually less. At WWhat’sIn My Jar, we start with the question: “What’s right for the person’s skin?”
The vision for WWhat’sIn My Jar is to make sound, evidence-based cosmetic skincare advice accessible to millions of people worldwide as if they were best friends with a top dermatologist. Tech helps us to crack this accessibility aspect: making high-quality skincare advice scalable. It is where our unique skincare product evaluation algorithm comes into play. It indexes skincare products based on their ingredients and product descriptions, assessing the formulation’s quality and enabling highly personalized searches. In some aspects, we are building Google for skincare.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Maria Semykoz: I would not say that we have been affected much. Of course, we had to adjust, and we miss face-to-face collaboration in the team and with our partners, but overall the work is routine. We are braced for a stricter fundraising environment and are very frugal, trying to maximize our runway as much as possible. I am sure this approach serves us well regardless of the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Maria Semykoz: We have learned that the most challenging part of running a startup is prioritizing. If you do A, you will not be able to do B. This reality is very harsh if you are more or less starting from scratch. Everything seems crucial. You have lots of enjoyable, and maybe even great ideas. But you can execute only as much. In short, our lesson learned is that execution and focus is king.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Maria Semykoz: I think physical activity is the best tool to manage stress, and you have to take the time for it no matter what. No matter how busy things are, if you eat well, sleep well, and move, you can accomplish more.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Maria Semykoz: We are in a highly competitive market. Many companies explore the personalized skincare space, coming up with face-scanning tools and various skin diagnostics apps. We believe that these solutions miss the point: the focus needs to help consumers address their skin concerns, giving practical personalized advice rather than benchmarking a person’s wrinkles, or using AI to count their blemishes. The feedback we receive from What’sIn My Jar users confirms that we are on the right path. It is the competitive advantage we are betting on: creating skincare advice solutions that genuinely help the customer and give them confidence in their skin. Today, big industry players struggle to imagine how this approach is monetizing within their existing business models, and this gives us a space for innovation and growth.
Your final thoughts?
Maria Semykoz: We are excited about the future of skincare. Skin is so central to how we feel about ourselves, how confident we feel, and how willing we are to connect with others. With What’s In My Jar, we want to contribute to society’s broader shift from the focus on superficial beauty standards towards self-respect, well-being, and self-care. It is suitable for our skin, but it is also good for our soul.
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