Two University of Maine graduates have started a cosmetics skincare company that aims to help people treat their dry skin with lobster fluid.
The company, Marin Skincare, uses a protein from lobster hemolymph — a circulatory fluid that functions like blood — as the active ingredient in its hydration cream, which it says can soothe skin irritated by eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and other ailments.
The product is the latest item whose genesis can be traced to efforts at UMaine to find commercial applications for byproducts of Maine’s commercial lobster industry.
Over the years, researchers with UMaine’s Lobster Institute have sought to find ways to boost the value of Maine’s $485 million lobster fishery by finding uses for lobster shells and other byproducts that seafood processors discard. Other lobster-based products that have shown potential over the years (but have not necessarily made it to market) include dog biscuits, golf balls and another kind of skin cream aimed at treating viruses.
Marin Skincare’s lotion was not developed at UMaine but by two former UMaine graduate students who, while earning their master’s degrees, learned about the potential for non-seafood, lobster-based products from Bob Bayer, a UMaine professor and the former head of the Lobster Institute.
CEO Patrick Breeding and co-founder Amber Boutiette have spent countless hours over the past year or so establishing the company and developing the product, often testing it out on Boutiette’s eczema, Breeding said. Grants totaling $30,000 from the Maine Technology Institute and the Portland-based Libra Foundation helped the company get off the ground.
Based in South Portland, Marin Skincare now is working with Luke’s Lobster to collect hemolymph at the seafood firm’s processing plant in Saco, Breeding said.
Breeding and Boutiette process proteins from the hemolymph to develop the active ingredient in Maine, and then drive it to a processing facility in New Jersey, where it is blended with shea butter, coconut oil, Vitamin E and other ingredients, and then packaged for sale.
Marin Skincare’s Soothing Hydration Cream went on the market in early October. As of Friday, Breeding said, it had been on the market 38 days.
“I’m not counting or anything,” he said, poking fun at his own enthusiasm.
Breeding said the cream has been clinically tested and has been approved for retail sale. He said there are other cosmetic skincare products made with naturally occurring proteins found in plants and animals, but that Marin Skincare’s cream is the only product made with lobster hemocyanin, the active protein in lobster hemolymph.
“It’s pretty rare that [researchers] find a new ingredient” to use in cosmetic products, he said. “We know that this works.”
The company primarily sells the cream through its website, but has been getting inquiries from spas that want to offer the cream to their customers, Breeding said. It also is exploring opportunities to sell the cream through a few small retailers in Portland.
Breeding said he and Boutiette hope to develop other products that will catch on in the cosmetics industry. When it comes to skin care, there are a variety of products designed to treat common ailments, he said, and others meant to maintain good skin conditions.
“We’re developing them right now,” Breeding said about products the small company hopes to bring to market next. “But we’re not going to reveal what they are yet.”