SEEN is tackling haircare-induced acne one shampoo at a time.
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BEAUTY BOSS: SEEN Haircare/Iris Rubin Interview
Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Rubin

Haircare products can be just as guilty of clogging the pores on your face as skincare products, according to SEEN, a haircare brand founded by Harvard-trained dermatologist Dr. Iris Rubin.

When formulating products, SEEN keeps the connection between hair and skin health top of mind and eliminates potential pore-clogging ingredients and other potential irritants from its formulas. In fact, it's gone one step further by offering a fragrance-free option for every product in the line so people who have skin conditions like eczema or allergies to scents can use them. These products have gone through rigorous testing to get the National Eczema Association's seal of approval.

"We're called SEEN because when you're breaking out you want to cover it up. The whole idea that people are investing so much in skincare and seeing the dermatologist, and then basically undoing some of that with pore-clogging haircare products seemed crazy to me," Dr. Rubin says. "You should know what your haircare products are doing to your skin."

Dr. Rubin noticed that she got breakouts after visiting the salon and, after doing her own research, finally landed on her haircare products being the cause of her acne. While developing SEEN, she strived not only to create non-comedogenic haircare products, she wanted the formulas to be luxurious, too.

Mission accomplished.

Ahead, Dr. Rubin shares her tips on how to identify whether your haircare products are causing your skin issues, the importance of treating haircare like skincare, and more.

What inspired you to create SEEN?

I was getting breakouts whenever I got my hair done, so I tried not using styling products and it would still happen. Dermatologists have always known that hair products can affect the skin, but it's only been thought to cause comedonal acne. It's was also believed to be caused by thick styling products and certain hair types, but not broadly affect people with shampoo and conditioner. So we did a study that found that rinse-off hair products actually leave a residue on the skin that can last for hours. We published the study in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, and it compelled me to develop a haircare line that didn't make you compromise a luxurious experience for one that doesn't contribute to dry scalp, eczema, and fragrance sensitivity, which can cause a whole host of issues. 

What are some signs that your haircare products are negatively impacting your skin?

One major clue is if you're getting acne on your hairline or scalp a week or so after trying a new product. The back is another common area because if you think about it, shampoo and conditioner run down your back when you rinse it off. Most shampoos and conditioners are designed to bind to the keratin in your hair, but they can also bind to your skin and leave behind a film. The tricky thing is that if you're acne-prone, the only way to find out if your hair products are what's contributing to your breakouts is to stop using them and try something else. That said, there aren't a lot of hair products that are non-comedogenic. That's why SEEN was developed and tested like a luxury skincare product. 

All of SEEN's fragrance-free products have the Nation Eczema Association's seal of approval. Why was this important to you?

Fragrance is a pretty significant and growing issue in terms of people having skin reactions, migraines, or other reactions. With COVID, a number of people who recover have a distorted sense of smell and really can't tolerate some smells. It's really unique to have a luxury hair product that delivers results and is also fragrance-free. All of the fragrance-free products have the National Eczema Association's seal of approval because fragrance can be an irritant or allergen for some people. 

We test our products like skin products because they can leave residue on the skin for hours, but most haircare products are not developed like skincare products. When you apply for the NEA seal, they do skin allergy testing and look at the ingredients — it's a pretty rigorous process. 

The "skinification" of haircare products has increasingly become popular among haircare brands in the past year. What's it like to see this shift in haircare and how do you hope it impacts the category in the future?

I think all haircare is going to go in this direction. People are starting to use skincare ingredients in products, but I think SEEN is really the leader in the "skinification" of hair because while the scalp is skin and it makes sense to treat it as skin. I think once people realize that haircare can clog your pores or irritate your skin, no one is going to want that. It's like going from a flip phone to a smartphone — there's no going back. I hope people realize that hair products not only affect the skin on your scalp, but also your face and body too, so they have to be optimized for [the] scalp, face, and body.  

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