Is Lobster Blood the Key to Better Skin?

Marin Skincare is harnessing the crustacean’s regenerative power to treat eczema, psoriasis, and beyond.

Amber Boutiette remembers the day at Robert Bayer’s house that changed everything. In 2017 Bayer, then director of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, handed her a jar of cream he had made with fluid from lobsters. Boutiette had suffered from eczema most of her teenage and adult life, cycling through every prescription steroid and over-the-counter lotion she could get her hands on with no success. Two days after she started to use Bayer’s cream, the flaking skin around her eyes was starting to clear. Two weeks later, all traces of redness—which she’d assumed was scar tissue—had vanished, and, other than an occasional flare-up, her skin stayed soft and smooth, even after she stopped using the product.

Years back, Bayer had a hunch that because lobsters could regrow claws, their regenerative abilities could be used for other applications. Building off existing research on hemocyanin in other sea creatures, he found that the blue-hued blood-like fluid of Maine’s prized crustaceans, called hemocyanin, has potential to fight off viruses, kill cancer cells, and act as an antigen carrier for vaccines (and there’s early evidence it can reduce the viral load in COVID-19). After Bayer discovered the cream made with the lobster protein could restore skin, just like it does lobsters’ shells, he enlisted Boutiette and another UMaine biomedical engineering graduate student, Patrick Breeding, to experiment with skincare applications. From Bayer’s discovery, Boutiette and Breeding, who has filed a patent with Bayer, developed Marin Skincare and launched a skin cream last November. Breeding says the anti-inflammatory properties of the product, Soothing Hydration Cream, has been used by customers to help relieve and calm dry skin associated with eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, sunburns, and even rashes from browntail moth caterpillars. “I missed out on so many things in life because of eczema, so it was really incredible, not only to find something that worked for me, but to get through that struggle and to give back to people something that helped me,” says Boutiette.

To source the hemocyanin, Marin Skincare teamed up with Luke’s Lobster, which added four jobs at its Saco processing plant to collect the fluid from about one percent of its lobsters. The goal is to eventually collect hemocyanin from all the lobsters Luke’s processes. After starting Marin Skincare alongside other sustainability-focused marine businesses at the New England Ocean Cluster on Portland’s Commercial Street, Boutiette and Breeding recently moved the company to a new processing plant on Riverside Street and are on target for seven-figure revenue in their first year. For Bayer, whose research launched the company, the skincare product is another way his work is supporting Maine’s hardworking lobstermen, who are facing tightening regulations and the looming effects of global warming. “I got into medicinals made from lobster byproducts as a means to add value to lobster,” says Bayer, “with the idea that this would put more money into the pockets of lobster-fishing families.”

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