Indie Beauty Profile

Ming Zhao, PROVEN Skincare

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Ming Zhao, Co-Founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare
Ming Zhao, Co-Founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare

Related tags Indie beauty profile beauty tech customisation AI big data

In her Indie Beauty Profile, Ming Zhao, co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare, describes how she and Amy Yuan have leveraged AI to formulate skin care and build a beauty brand that’s delivering evermore carefully customized product.

Beauty technology is big business in its own right. And sophisticated skin analysis and color correcting devices will soon be in consumer hands, as P&G is set to launch its opté device in 2020​ and Cutitronics software and device pairings​ are on track to reach consumers next year​ as well.

But PROVEN Skincare is a different sort of beauty tech; it’s skin care that’s informed by technology. PROVEN Skincare products look a lot like skin care (there's no device except for an online interface). The current line is only 3 products deep. And PROVEN’s cleanser, SPF moisturizer, and night cream all come in conventional bottles and jars. What’s techy here is that PROVEN uses artificial intelligence and big data to develop individualized skin care product formulas. With that said, CEO Ming Zhao shares a profile of herself and the brand.

Name: ​Ming Zhao, Co-Founder, CEO

Indie Beauty Company: ​PROVEN Skincare

Launched: ​November 2019

Headquarters: ​San Francisco, California

Cashflow: ​My cofounder Amy Yuan and I own the vast majority of the business. We were a part of the Y-Combinator accelerator, Sephora’s Beauty Innovation program​, and Stanford’s StartX program. And we’ve raised venture funding.

Indie how? ​An indie beauty brand is one that has a new story to tell, that has a new angle or innovation that can benefit beauty consumers. Indie brands are not only fueled by a need to create but also by a love for those they create products for.

In PROVEN’s case, I was inspired to create personalized skin care products after becoming frustrated with how the generic products on the market were not solving my needs and not providing results I wanted to see. And it wasn’t until I went to a skin specialist, who first took time to understand my skin before creating products specifically for me, did I really see a difference. I wanted to bring this level of experience and results to everyone.

For my cofounder Amy too, who is a computational physicist from Stanford, she couldn’t find products to help alleviate her atopic dermatitis, so she built for herself an AI-powered database that gathered all the scientific research, clinical studies, and consumer reviews on the topic, then used algorithms to understand and make correlations among ingredients that actually benefited someone with her condition.

PROVEN is the combination of our two skin epiphanies - personalization for me, and data for her.

Team work: ​PROVEN has 8 full-time employees.

Distribution: ​PROVEN sells direct-to-consumer through our website at​. This ensures that we understand our customers well and can provide them with the most accurate, personalized skincare products and services through talking directly with them.

Years in beauty: ​We are newcomers and outsiders to the beauty industry. Amy has a science and research background, I have a strategy and operations background. Our outsider status to beauty means that we can bring a much more in-depth technologically-rooted view into this industry which hasn’t seen as much technological innovation.

Years at PROVEN Skincare: ​We have been working on the AI and data platform for PROVEN for more than 3 years now.

Entrepreneurial experience: ​PROVEN is Amy’s third company, and my first company.

I am a third-generation entrepreneur. My grandfather, at the age of 19, walked 1,500km to escape a famine in his home village, and opened a bakery that bored the full financial burden of raising his 6 younger siblings. My father, similarly, was one of the first wave of entrepreneurs in China after the opening of the Chinese economy. I bring this same level of ingenuity, audacity, and determination to founding and making PROVEN a success.

The business: ​PROVEN is a technology-first CPG company built on the understanding that everybody’s skin and life is unique and therefore, their skincare solutions should be too. PROVEN uses artificial intelligence and data to create hyper-personalized personal care products that serve the unique and specific needs of individuals. PROVEN's core product is a custom, 3-step skincare system that uses AI to precisely match exact ingredients for a customer based on over 47 skin, lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors.

The wow-factor: ​First, PROVEN’s products are based on the largest body of research in all of beauty, which we’ve nicknamed the Skin Genome Project. This knowledgebase contains more than 20 million consumer datasets and 4,000 scientific journal articles, and the sophistication of the platform won us MIT’s AI Technology of the year award​. There’s truly nothing like it, and the scientific nature of PROVEN’s products make us unique in the market.

Second, PROVEN’s products are personalized to individuals based on more than 47 factors about them. Once we know which ingredients work and which do not work for different individuals, we can provide customers with just the ingredients that will benefit them. And that’s what makes PROVEN unconventional.

The consumer: ​Our customers are beauties with brains. They’re smart women and men who have tasted the frustration of generic skincare products and want something better. They’re achievers who have sought the best in every other area in their lives and want their skin to be taken care of in the most considerate way possible as well.

Milestone moment: ​We were recently named by Allure as one of the top beauty innovations of 2019​. This confirms our view of ourselves and motivates us to continue to innovate and delight our customers.

Advice for fellow beauty entrepreneurs:​ As someone who’s in the midst of the journey, my advice would be to keep going. Keep believing that what you’re doing will bring unique value to consumers and don’t stop until you reach your goal.

Just one: ​I love lip balm, and my favorite one is the NUXE lip balm tub​. I travel with it and even sleep better when I know it’s next to me.



Deanna Utroske launched the weekly Indie Beauty Profile Column in 2017 to bring attention to the innovation and insight that entrepreneurs bring to the cosmetics and personal care industry.​ Beyond that, as Editor Deanna covers beauty business news from the Americas region.

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