#MensFolioMeets Yutaka Shimokawa, Founder of KINS - Men's Folio

#MensFolioMeets Yutaka Shimokawa, Founder of KINS

  • By Charmaine Tan

#MensFolioMeets Yutaka Shimokawa, Founder of KINSFor Yutaka Shimokawa, his entrepreneurial calling came after a long process of trial and error. Prior to founding well-rounded skincare brand KINS, Yutaka was on his way to become a dentist as a dentistry graduate of Okayama University, and was the President of a medical clinic association that treated patients with chronic diseases.

Until he got involved in the latest microbiome research with one of Japan’s top universities, discovering a gap in the education of the benefits of a microbiome-centred skincare. This is how KINS was born — a brand that uses the concept of “bacterial care” to create a world where it is natural to cherish bacteria, and to have various bodily functions be improved by adjusting that bacteria. We speak to Yutaka to learn more about entrepreneurship and what embracing the power of bacteria really means.

Hi Yutaka! How are you? Can you describe what you do for a living in 10 or less words?
Entrepreneur of microbiome innovation and founder of KINS.

You started off professional life as a dentist and a microbiome research director. What first drove you towards the health sector when choosing your career?
I was first exposed to dentistry during my childhood days, where my mom used to work as a dental hygienist. While I was in school, I heard a really inspiring speech from a dentist that made me think deeply about my future. That moment was when I began to realise that life sciences interest me so much more as compared to other subjects (such as IT). Thus, I was growing my interest in healthcare and took my first step into dentistry. 

After graduating from dentistry, I was involved in microbiome research held by various medical associations in collaboration with the University of Tokyo. As dentistry is part of oral health, I started becoming actively involved in the microbiome research, where I discovered the opportunity and huge potential between microbiome and chronic diseases. 

During my time in research, I attended to people’s general health concerns and realized that some of the health issues can possibly be prevented with good gut health practices. Gut health practices are often overlooked and the topic of microbiome products are relatively new in Japan.

There isn’t a microbiome doctor or similar that could address these skin problems in the non conventional way and thus, I decided to innovate my own product line to address the majority of concerns from the public health and that’s how I founded KINS to help people. 

Now, you are the founder of KINS, a Japanese beauty and skincare company that has found its way to Singapore. Why choose to expand into our sunny shores?
Singapore is a global hub in Asia with a high concentration of people from various countries and cultures gathered in one place and that’s why we decided to make Singapore our global HQ and the first market to enter. As we currently only have skin data from Japan, we want to move towards becoming a global company that can gather more types of skin data from people across the globe to continuously strive to create and innovate better products that can cater to the needs of global audiences across the globe. 

Did you ever foresee yourself becoming an entrepreneur in the beauty and wellness field? I imagine it must have not been an easy decision to transition out of such a prestigious and “safe” job. Were there perhaps any personal experiences or events that motivated you to pursue this?
Aside from personally experiencing the benefits microbiome treatment has on my gut health, as a researcher as a medical director, I met with a lot of patients and helped them resolve their concerns. The majority of concerns were around constipation, bloatedness, allergies, PMS, acne, IBS and more. That’s how I came up with the idea to create a supplement to resolve these problems that stems from the gut.

I was largely involved in this research where key organs such as our skin and stomach are connected and made up of microbiomes.

Taking care of our gut helps prevent chronic diseases from occurring. Hence, after realising that this is a major common problem for many people, it became my personal mission to resolve this problem. That’s how I came up with the idea to create the KINS supplement, to resolve these problems that stems from the gut. Many people then started asking me for skincare advice on what they can do to improve their complexion and whether or not they should change their current skincare products and routine. 

After listening to countless many brands of skincare products across countless individuals, there are simply too many possibilities on which skincare products do not work for them because everyone’s skin is different and products may not suit everyone equally. Thus, this has inspired me to create my very own skincare line, to create a simple and easy to follow skincare regimen as this is the fastest and safest way to ensure the effectiveness and result of using my products to address their skin concerns. 

If you could name one, what was the biggest challenge that you faced while building KINS and how did you manage to overcome it, if you have?
When I just started KINS, I left my highly regarded job and had 0 income for many months. I clearly remember the lowest point in my life, where at that time, i only had two months of savings remaining in my bank account and the thought of all the costs and expenses remaining that i still needed to cover was an extremely stressful experience for me, one that i will never forget how i felt during then. 

The situation turned after I held a 14 day continuous streaming on Instagram Live and continuously worked hand in hand with various KOLs and users. This really helped us to build trust and awareness in the market for KINS. 

Back to KINS. Just to provide some more context, in layman terms, how do bacteria-based solutions promote optimal gut and skin health? How else does having a balanced microbiome help health?
Microbiome is an ecosystem of bacteria inside of our body which exists mainly in five areas consisting of skin, stomach, mouth, gut and vagina health. The largest microbiome ecosystem is in the skin and gut and what’s most important here is that it is interconnected, meaning that a healthy gut will reflect a healthy, glowy skin and vice versa. 

Many chronic diseases (such as acne, eczema, atopic skin conditions, bowel issues and more) are caused by an imbalanced microbiome ecosystem due to an unhealthy gut health. Unhealthy skin microbiome can lead to breakout, sensitivity, redness, damaged moisture barrier. And often, an imbalanced microbiome can also lead to various types of skin diseases. That is why our KINS supplement is designed to help the ecosystem in our body to repair and rebalance itself, by providing essential nutrients to support daily activities and build immunity.

A bacteria based solution works by helping the ecosystem in our body rebalance itself, and is essential for human development, immunity and nutrition. Microbiome in skincare brings your skin back to a healthy bacteria balance and acts as a natural antibiotic to strengthen skin barrier and prevent harmful bacteria from entering the skin. 

Three key benefits of microbiome in skincare are:

  1. Moisturizing 
  2. Strengthens skin barrier for better absorption and prevention of bad bacteria from entering skin
  3. Good fatty acids to prevent dehydration of skin
  4. Brings skin back to a healthy PH balance 

With KINS unique beauty bacteria and formulation across our products, it promotes cellular renewal activities to help you achieve youthful and glowy skin while bringing back the skin’s microbiome ecosystem to its natural healthy balance. This is highly recommended for people that have skin concerns such as acne, uneven skin, sensitive skin, eczema and more as it helps to soothe and improve the condition of the skin if used consistently over time. 

What is the development process like?
For starters, we conducted interviews and surveys to customers to understand their problems (such as skin ailments, type of products customers are looking for, what customers are currently using etc.) and gather information from them. 

Thereafter we gathered over 10,000 skin data samples, to ensure a good sample size representative of the population, and analysed its data. This is to find out what are the common problems and how we can innovate a product that can resolve customer skin concerns and cater to their needs. 

After the sample product has been created, we send it to the users who interviewed and shared their skin data with us to let them try out our products to get feedback and reviews from them on how the product can be improved. Only customer approved products will then be officially launched in the market. 

Beyond cosmetic treatments, how do you think the skincare or wellness industry is going to change now that more are equipped with a better understanding and access to how our body works?
For KINS, we are looking forward to innovating new products that are able to holistically cover all aspects of microbiome in the body, in areas such as gut, vaginal health, mouth and stomach. 

Beyond microbiome on our skin, and beyond human microbiome, we will also be expanding our microbiome care into animal products as well. As the microbiome covers all aspects of the body, our skin, health and beauty are all interconnected and they represent a holistic overview of our body’s condition. Similarly, the treatment of skin diseases, our health condition and our facial complexion will tell us the truth about our body’s health. 

We want to create a future where everyone can resolve skin concerns by using KINS Microbiome. We will continue to innovate products to address and resolve skin concerns and issues, providing a holistic solution for both health and beauty moving forward. We believe that will also be the direction for our industry moving forward.

I read that you also have KINS WITH, which is a microbiome care service developed in collaboration with veterinarians for pets. How did the idea for extending your expertise in microbiomes lead to this?
Similar to humans, animals and pets also have similar organs and thus, they their own unique microbiome ecosystem in their body too.

Just like humans, animals can be affected by skin issues, bad breath from bad oral health or constipation due to bad gut health and so on. And although these problems can be treated at the veterinary clinic, what is more important is how we can prevent such problems from occurring from the very beginning. 

So what’s next for KINS?
We are opening a skin clinic that focuses on the concept of microbiome health, offering dermatology and aesthetic solutions in Singapore and currently we are in the midst of preparation. This is our first step towards globalisation and it’s crucial that we learn and understand how people in other parts of Asia may have different skin concerns as compared to people in Japan.

Our aim is to help Asian patients to resolve their skin problems faster and better with our newly innovated products. With our dermatology clinic, we will be able to learn and analyse skin and microbiome data from our patients and analyse these data in KINS laboratory to research new ways to resolve skin concerns, innovate our very own dermatological product line, or even find new strains of bacteria that could be used to speed up the effectiveness of curing skin issues and so on, to resolve and cater to the needs of people in global markets. 

With Singapore as our global hub, we intend to further expand into Southeast Asia in the next few years. We aim to become the No.1 microbiome Innovation company in Asia. In the long run, we aim to be Global’s No.1 but for the next five years, we will be focusing on Asia.

Once you’re done with this story, click here to catch up with the rest of our March 2023 issue.