If $28 — including the cost of shipping — seems like a suspiciously low price to pay for a serum that comes out of the finest luxury laboratories in the beauty business, that's because it is. But that's exactly what Maelove CEO Jackie Kim wants you to think when you're first introduced to The Glow Maker, the new serum from her "radically affordable" skin-care startup. "I didn't see a great balance of quality and value anywhere," Kim says. "So, I decided to make it on my own."
With proven ingredients like vitamin C, aloe, hyaluronic acid, grape-seed extract, ferulic acid, and glycerin, the Glow Maker formula is everything you've come to expect from a high-end serum, right down to the minimalist packaging... at a fraction of the price. And no disrespect to farm-to-face beauty, but Kim's products aren't coming out of her kitchen, with simple organic plant oils sourced from the local health-food store. Rather, Maelove's origin story involves MIT graduates, artificial intelligence, and total strangers to the industry who set out to make really great, really affordable, really accessible skin care.
"I had a specific vision for my skin-care line, and I wanted to partner with people that I thought would make a great team," Kim says. "My friends and co-founders, Brad and Rishi, were looking for ways to utilize artificial-intelligence techniques in unusual industries, and took interest in my skin-care idea." They were able to scan the web to find publicly-available product reviews self-reported by millions of women, and used that information as a starting point to figure out what ingredients have been shown to or irritate the skin. Then, the team of three recruited more friends from their network, mainly from their time at MIT, to help hammer out the specifics on formulation research and testing.
Of the group, Kim says she's the "chief product obsessor," the longtime skin-care fanatic who's tried everything from drugstore brands to the 10-step K-beauty routine to the priciest crèmes on the market; the rest have zero experience in the skin-care industry. "We're cancer and brain researchers, chemical engineers, lawyers, and medical doctors," Kim says. "Ironically, this turned out to be an advantage for us because as total outsiders we had no preconceived mindset of what this business was supposed to look like."
But how did she manage to get the world's best, most in-demand cosmetics labs on board with her utopian vision of no-nonsense, high-quality beauty essentials sold through a direct-to-consumer structure? Kim chalks it up to research (she scoured online to round up 297 names of individuals who'd worked at luxury brands she liked and reached out to all of them, received 37 replies, and eventually found 12 who were willing to share specific insight about which labs were worth targeting), persistence, and, ultimately, offering to pre-pay for the first three batches of production. "I truly believe in my company and what we can offer, and I wanted others to know that as well," she says.
There's one other variable that Kim says she thinks is missing from the market, one that she hopes to capitalize on with Maelove: trust. "I invest a lot into customer service, because even if my product doesn't work out for a customer I still want them to know that they can always trust me and Maelove to take care of them," Kim explains. "I never really embraced the cutthroat nature of the business world. In a way, I'd like to prove with Maelove that just doing the right thing for customers is all you need to become successful."
And the proof is in the product — which, by the way, is currently sold out, and has received unanimously positive reviews from the hundreds of customers who have found their way to it despite zero marketing efforts. To think that all it took was AI, several degrees from the most prestigious school in the country, and one chief product obsessor just to create the ultimate serum.
Maelove The Glow Maker Antioxidant Serum, $28, available at Maelove.