American Chemistry Society (ACS) - Industry Matters, Innovation Zone Feature
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Rebecca (Bexi) Lobo is the founder and owner of Bexi’s Bespoke Revitalisation, offering a different approach to personal care that is both scientific and truly natural. Her established skin care line and bespoke skin and hair care formulations are made using her proprietary blends of whole foods and essential oils. Bexi is driven by creativity, passions for food and biochemistry, and a profound desire to develop holistic solutions to problems at the intersection of human health, nutrition and the environment.
Rebecca earned her BS in Chemistry from the University of Virginia and her PhD in Nutritional Biology from the University of California, Davis. She applied her knowledge of chemistry variously to help develop automated cell culture solutions and an early detection method for citrus greening disease, to research the different effects of folic acid and folate on breast cancer progression, and, beyond Bexi’s, Rebecca is currently focused on the etiology and progression of Sjogren’s, a common but rarely diagnosed systemic autoimmune disease.
How did your studies at the University of Virginia (UVA) Department of Chemistry lead to your role at the cell culture automation company Global Cell Solutions (GCS)?
I am interested in synergies, intersections, and frontiers, which is why I majored in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry, and I minored in physics. The opportunity to be the first intern and employee at GCS, a start-up company developing a novel automated method for 3D cell culture, was too good to let pass.
What did you learn at GCS and how did it inspire the founding of Bexi’s Bespoke Revitalisation?
I learned one of my most important lessons at GCS from my mentor, John Gildea, and it precipitated my journey into molecular nutrition and holistic personal care. John introduced me to holistic medicine and the power and chemistry of nutrition, both in the context of cancer cells growing on synthetic surfaces and in the human body. He inspired me to earn a PhD in Nutritional Biology studying the effects of folic acid and folate on breast cancer progression.
What I learned from John and subsequently from my PhD and post-doctoral research, and my own personal health experiences is that what we put into and onto our bodies, though seemingly innocuous, has a deep and lasting impact on our health, whether or not we can measure and describe it. These lessons led to the creation of Bexi’s Bespoke Revitalisation.
Tell me about Bexi’s and your product line.
Bexi’s Bespoke Revitalisation is my skin and hair care business offering personally formulated solutions. The Bexi’s skin care line is simple and multi-functional, a set of tools to address the dynamic needs of your skin. There’s only one rule for using Bexi’s products: do what works for you.
My products are densely packed with active ingredients in their natural matrices and contain no fillers or pre-made bases. Every ingredient has a specific function. I only use minimally processed whole foods, sourced appropriately locally, as vehicles to create multi-active formulae that deliver holistic ranges of nutrients in the forms Mother Nature intended to revitalise and maintain healthy skin.
Why and how did you invent the Bexi’s product line?
I invented the line because I needed it. As an East African Goan, and even as an immigrant American, and a Sjogren’s patient with dry, sensitive skin, there were no products that adequately catered to my skin needs. Enthralled by what I was learning about the effects of folic acid on 1-C metabolism from my dissertation research and frustrated with the lack of truly natural skin care products on the market, I chose to make my own skin and hair care products using whole foods. Within a couple of weeks of using them I noticed an improvement in the overall health of my skin and hair. Friends and family started noticing, too, and began asking me to help them decipher ingredient labels and formulate products for their skin and lifestyle needs. The product line grew from there.
What is Sjogren’s?
Sjogren’s is a common but rarely studied or diagnosed systemic autoimmune condition, in which the immune system attacks moisture-producing glands in the body. Left untreated, the condition is severely debilitating and can be fatal. My dry, sensitive skin was one of the biggest symptoms of my condition. It took me 10 years to piece together the seemingly disparate symptoms and then diagnose myself. My doctors were focused on a microscopic view of whatever my current symptom happened to be, rather than taking a holistic, macroscopic approach to arrive at a more accurate diagnosis.
How did starting a business in the beauty industry change you?
As an immigrant, I wrestled long and hard with self-loathing and identity. My insecurities were closely entwined with the beauty industry’s messaging on what is considered beautiful. It wasn’t until I studied how beauty products are marketed to prey on insecurity and vanity that I realized how widely yet subtly destructive the beauty industry’s messaging has been to me and to society as a whole. To me, true beauty encompasses and is characterized by any attribute that provides an experience of pleasure or satisfaction. Aspiring to an illusion of beauty narrowly defined as looking young and flawless pits you against your own inevitable biological processes; you’re fighting a losing battle, feeding your insecurities, creating addictions, and wasting money. Not only is it a waste of money, it’s an investment in self-hatred, anxiety, and illusions, rather than self-love and acceptance of reality.
Now my idea of beauty embraces a great deal more than a superficial and limiting definition of appearing young and flawless. And now you don’t have to be white and blonde, which is great for me because I’m always going to be brown with black hair.
What was most surprising to you when you transitioned into the beauty industry?
That’s unfortunately easy, the blatant misinformation and misrepresentation in the skin care industry and the lack of protection for the consumer. Quick-acting, age-reversing skincare products promise instantaneous, time-defying results, and frequently, artificially, transitorily and unsustainably, some deliver on that promise, but at what cost? This temporary glamour is achieved because active ingredients in the products, most often in chemical forms and at concentrations far higher than would be found anywhere in nature, make structural and functional changes to your skin cells, as do drugs.
Metabolic pathways are interconnected and complex. In science, we reduce and simplify metabolic pathways in order to understand them and, in so doing, we risk seeing only a part or parts of the picture, instead of the whole. Our knowledge of the world around us is only as good as the technology and tools we use to analyze it; what we know is determined mainly by what we can detect and measure, which, when it comes to metabolism, is not that much. We are limited by the technology we are able to develop to detect biology and chemistry in action. Sometimes imbalances in metabolic pathways take decades to reveal themselves. At other times their impact is too subtle to detect; a slight shift in a pathway may make you more susceptible to the effects of UV light or exposure to a carcinogen or virus that may trigger uncontrollable cell growth or cancer. So, today's scientific discovery that keeps your skin looking young very well may be the same discovery that kills you years later. We need more and better regulation around personal care products to educate and protect consumers.