PORTLAND — Two University of Maine graduates have built a skincare brand around the regenerative benefits of lobsters, and their product offers a solution to a problem faced by many Mainers.
Amber Boutiette and Patrick Breeding were bioengineering students at a UMaine graduate program when they began researching lobsters under the direction of Dr. Bob Bayer, who was studying the crustaceans for their regenerative properties.
“He was researching the protein that allowed lobsters to pop off and regenerate their limbs,” said Breeding. “In the same way the protein could help lobsters regenerate limbs, it can repair and regenerate our skin barriers.”
The students noticed that these regenerative properties were useful to humans, and although it could not cause people to regrow limbs as it does for lobsters, it repaired skin in a similar way. The path from researching lobster proteins to applying them to skincare came from Boutiette’s struggle with eczema, and largely happened by chance.
“Amber had terrible eczema, she tried everything and nothing worked for her,” said Breeding, who encouraged her to try this protein on her dry skin.
“Within a few days of her using it, it had started to clear up big patches, and, within a couple of weeks it was gone. “That was our aha moment,” said Breeding.
Breeding and Boutiette launched their company Marin Skincare early in 2020, and by the fall of that year they were generating revenue. Their product became more popular with people who suffer from skin irritation.
However, it was a more recent discovery – that the cream could also be used to treat the irritation caused by browntail moth caterpillars – that has propelled the company into a wider market.
Some customers began using Marin’s lobster protein skin cream on the rashes caused by the caterpillars and found that it provided relief for their skin.
“We never really paid attention to the rash, but last year we started to get a bunch of reviews from people who had this rash,” said Breeding.
This was something that Breeding and Boutiette did not anticipate when they launched their product.
“We looked into the rash and started to read dermatology publications, and found out it was contact dermatitis,” said Breeding.
Since the rash caused by the caterpillars is actually a form of contact dermatitis and is closely linked to eczema, the regenerative lobster proteins had the same effect in treating the condition.
Now that word has gotten out about this broader use of Marin Skincare’s product, the company is seeing a boost in sales outside of their regular peak season.
“In just the last week, sales are quadrupled from this time last year,” said Breeding. “Our usual peak season is during the winter for dry skin.”
Sales boosts have allowed Breeding and Boutiette to reinvest funds in their company to expand, and they hope to add to their line of products in the near future.
Plans for the company’s future includes adding products such as lip balm, SPF face cream, shampoo and scalp serum to their lineup.
“Our plan is not to be a small business,” said Breeding.
Marin has already started to work out deals with larger stores to carry their product, with names such as L.L. Bean, Target, Whole Foods and Ulta on their list of potential carriers.
“We want to make this a nationally recognized brand for dry, damaged skin,” Breeding said.