Sophie Bai Creates Scientific Breakthroughs for Her Skincare Brand, Pavise


Sophie Bai is a scientist, founder of biotech company B.A.I. Biosciences—and a beauty and skincare wunderkind. The 33-year-old uses her background in the biomedical sciences to make groundbreaking skincare inventions through her brand, Pavise, which features products that harness the fruits of her medical research (the line was recently honored with an IMCAS World Congress Prize, and Jay Z is an investor in the company).

Bai’s connection to skincare is a personal one: at the age of 11 in her birth country China, she was removed from the stage during an academic competition because the instructor deemed her appearance unacceptable due to her eczema. This experience fueled her obsession with finding solutions for skin ailments of all kinds. Bai holed up in labs, experimenting with chemical formulations and compounds to combat issues like inflammation and arthritis. By 14, Bai had won the International Science and Engineering Fair top prize in her province (population: 200 million). She received a full scholarship to MIT, learned English, and dove straight into laboratory work, carrying out experiments on transdermal drug alternatives. Years later, Bai has played a pivotal role in the development of treatments for lung cancer, prostate cancer, and Type I diabetes, and leads two labs of her own at MIT.

Below, Bai discusses the biggest beauty mistakes she sees—and provides a glimpse of what the future holds for scientists and skincare consumers alike.

What are the distinctions between your roles as the head of your biotech company and the founder of Pavise?

B.A.I. is the bioscience company I founded; it’s mainly a research and development biotech company. It’s here that my team and I invent new molecules to come up antiaging treatments, as well as solutions to treat diseases focused around dermatological elements. We research and find treatments for dermatitis, skin cancer and even hair loss treatments. B.A.I is, for a lack of better word, pure R&D work. Pavise is a subsidiary of B.A.I Biosciences, where we commercialize our mature molecules that came out of B.A.I.’s R&D phase. For instance, we created the Diamond Core UV filter technology at B.A.I., then commercialized it through Pavise.

Tell me more about this Diamond Core UV filter technology.

The Diamond Core technology was created right after the FDA announced in December 2019 that chemical UV filters are not safe to their standards. When it comes to sunscreen, there are UV filters, there are mineral sunscreens, and there are chemical UV filtered sunscreens. Chemical filters are not great, for the most part. Why? The FDA conducted an extensive human trial to determine the effects on the body in terms of absorption. They found out that after one application of a chemical UV filtered sunscreen, it gets absorbed into your blood, urine, and one’s breast milk at a higher concentration than what the FDA wanted to see.

Since sunscreen has become more of a daily product for myself and many others, I wanted to find a chemical sunscreen that does not absorb into the skin—because I can’t wear mineral sunscreen. I will look like a ghost, and no one wants to look like a ghost. We worked hard to create something here with a good filter and no white cast. Plus, this sunscreen blocks 95 percent of the particles generated by your environment: sun exposure, smoke pollution, all can generate ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species, a culprit of aging) and cause inflammation and collagen degradation.

What do you think of all of these skincare products that exfoliate or peel the skin? Could that method cause long-term harm? It seems like, with each and every daily peel, you are disintegrating the microbiome of the skin—so effectively, you are disintegrating.

I agree with that. I think people are also irritating their skin when they gravitate toward high-percentage active ingredients. Your skin doesn’t necessarily need more of a trendy product that is super popular. You don’t need 20 percent of niacinamide or vitamin C—it’s going to be very irritating for your skin.

With peels and exfoliants, people are looking for this immediate effect. That high AHA exfoliant percentage will peel your skin and make it baby soft, but over time if you do it too much you might destroy or disrupt your skin barrier. We need to keep in mind what the primary function of your skin barrier is: to act as a physical barrier to protect your body and shield your organs from being exposed. Unfortunately, too many people are overdoing it unintentionally. This causes easier ways to get rashes, as well as thinner skin that gets destroyed and then is more prone to sun damage and hyperpigmentation brown spots.

Is there a specific scientific breakthrough you wish to see emerge in the beauty and skincare industry?

There are many breakthroughs I would like to see happen, but especially one for me because it is personal: I am an eczema patient, and I had very bad eczema. I never want any children to feel the way I did. That humiliation, you never forget that. Yet it propelled me to keep working hard, keep trying work harder. Eczema impacts people mentally and psychology, and we still do not have a good solution—certainly not on the OTC side and not on the prescription drug side.

What are some common mistakes you see women making with their skincare and products?

It’s exactly what we touched upon earlier: the high-percentage overuse of high percentages of actives and exfoliants regarding skin barrier. Skin marketing is also often wrong—take collagen creams, for instance. Come on! Collagen is so large as a molecule it does not penetrate your skin at all, so you are just making your skin a petri dish, growing bacteria.

What about ingesting it? I like that and think that method works.

People in the beginning did not believe ingesting worked because through consumption, it has to go through systematic circulation, which takes a lot of time to get to your face. Your stomach acid also breaks down the collagen into small pieces, another kind of old-school, academia view on collagen. There are newer, very interesting trials suggesting there’s been an improvement, but again, those trials are sponsored by collagen-supplying companies. So we just don’t know.

What are you working on next?

At Pavise, we’ve created more technology utilizing the diamond core for wound healing specifically. Once this is perfected, it will be in the consumer pipeline. B.A.I. is also working on hair greying and hair loss. I feel we still have a long way to go in terms of acne solutions, psoriasis, and skin cancer. But science is always evolving—we also learn from oncologists, and we apply that knowledge to dermatology. We are here to cure diseases, ultimately, more than just bringing a glow for the complexion.

Can you figure out how to address hair changes that come with hormone shifts?

We are actively working on some exciting R&D especially tied to reversing scalp aging tied to hair. Think about it this way: if you don’t see a problem with your hair until your 50s and 60s, it is age-related, and we are figuring out what are the root causes are.

Is there a certain motto or mantra that guides your work?

I think sometimes, you need to focus on one thing to excel at it and value the opportunity you were given. I know a a very successful female entrepreneur who says you can have it all—but not at the same time. And that is my M.O.



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