This article is sponsored by Droplette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.
It’s no secret that the majority of mothers are feeling stretched too thin. In fact, according to the Motherly State of Motherhood Survey 2021, nearly two-thirds of the mothers surveyed reported having less than an hour to themselves in an average 24-hour period. The struggle doesn’t get any easier when you’re the co-founder of a life-changing medical technology. As a former medical diagnostics developer and MIT PhD turned co-founder and CTO of a skincare biotechnology company called Droplette, Rathi Srinivas knows a thing or two about providing support for those in need. She and her co-founder invented Droplette, a needle-free drug delivering device after attending a rare disease conference and learning about a debilitating skin disease that disproportionately affects pediatric patients. Applying a traditional ointment to treat the wounds of the disease was extremely painful, and Rathi and her co-founder wondered if there wasn’t a pain-free way to treat these patients. The Droplette device was born (and funded by NASA and the National Institutes of Health!), and it’s now also become a tool to help consumers get the most out of their topical skin care ingredients.
But just as Srinivas found her business meeting success, she became pregnant and experienced a devastating side effect. We sat down with her to learn more about her story and how a health complication has pushed her to prioritize self-care for mothers everywhere.
Motherly: Before becoming a mom, what did you anticipate would be the hardest part of being a mother—and what did it actually turn out to be?
Rathi Srinivas: Before becoming a mom, I kept worrying about potential health challenges my child might face. As a medical diagnostics/device developer, I’ve attended many conferences about pediatric diseases and I couldn’t help but let those thoughts creep into my brain.I feared that the hardest part about parenting would be keeping my child healthy and protected from life’s many risks, especially because I was pregnant during a pandemic.
So far, though, the hardest part has been something I didn’t see coming at all: taking care of myself. I encountered an unfortunate pregnancy complication called Bell’s Palsy. Pregnancy increases the risk of it, and so does stress. In Bell’s Palsy, the 7th cranial nerve in your face (which controls the function of everything from your eyebrows lifting to your blink to your smile) gets inflamed and stops sending signals to your brain. This results in a partial facial paralysis where one side of your face just basically stops working—you can’t smile or blink anymore, and you can’t do simple things like smile at your newborn. My face still hasn’t healed (though it’s started), and I don’t know if it’ll ever recover completely.
Motherly: How has this affected your view of self-care as a mother?
RS: Through my pregnancy, I did everything right: I exercised regularly, took my vitamins, ate healthy (minus the occasional sugar binge), my blood pressure was normal, and I had no other complications. I didn’t even get dry skin or acne (thanks Droplette!). But despite my efforts, this one thing still went wrong, and it has been difficult to focus on getting better. As all new moms know, self-care in the “fourth trimester” is nearly impossible when there is this whole new life who needs you all of the time—like, every hour of the day. I have to consciously carve out bits of time to do things like take a shower, heal from giving birth, get enough rest, eat well, and take care of my skin. I’m very lucky to have a supportive husband and my parents here helping, but the hours in the day still just fly by and there wasn’t really time to think about me and what I needed in the first few weeks.
Motherly: How did your experience with pregnancy/new motherhood impact your goals for your business, Droplette?
RS: Going through Bell’s Palsy during pregnancy really solidified my “why” for working on Droplette. I’m not someone who obsesses about my beauty routine or my looks, but I can say with 100% confidence that appearance matters. It doesn’t matter because of what other people think of you; it matters because of how it makes you feel. I don’t think I fully appreciated this fact until I underwent partial facial paralysis and couldn’t look happy in a photo with my new baby, but now I’m even more passionate about the power of Droplette as a skincare solution. My experience gave me renewed purpose about what we’re building, and so at a very complicated time for me personally, I’m deepening my goals for my business.
We want to solve real problems that people have with their skin, and we want everyone to look and feel their best. At Droplette, we’ve never been about making people feel bad about a problem they don’t really have or trying to sell them stuff for the sake of it. Instead, we’re mission-centric and really want to make a difference in people’s lives. Over the years, the beauty industry has been built on lots of hype and marketing, when the truth is that 90% of topical skincare never absorbs. It just sits on the surface before it’s wiped or perspired away. I’m proud that we have brought to market a science-based solution that gets ingredients in the skin, where they can do some good.
Motherly: Tell me more about Droplette—what is it and what problem does it solve?
RS: Thank you for asking! Droplette is a handheld skincare device I co-invented that gets ingredients into, not just onto, your skin without needles or pain. It transforms formulations into high-velocity micro-mists, so each droplet is 100x smaller than the width of a human hair, and since they are moving really fast, they are able to get through the skin barrier. We believe that ingredients work, but traditional topicals don’t. Droplette is a new “delivery system” for molecules to penetrate skin, and it has applications in everything from gene therapy to antibiotics to beauty routines.
It’s often forgotten that skin works really well at keeping things out, including the serums and lotions in your medicine cabinet. Droplette is a new tool that unlocks skin so doctor-approved ingredients can get in. Especially during pregnancy and postpartum, you need to be hyper-careful about what you put into your body so that it won’t affect the fetus or the baby if you’re breastfeeding. Our formulations are as clean as possible, and they feature only active ingredients and water with a minimal preservative system. When we get customer reviews about nothing else working until Droplette, I feel all the more motivated to keep at it, even though I’m a new mom. The past few months have been a great reminder of the significance of what we’re doing.
And of course, we’re also thrilled to be continuing our research and development on EB and wound-healing with the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Motherly: How did your experience impact your stance on your own self-care?
RS: I’m definitely guilty of putting my own self-care last just like a lot of women. I tend to prioritize work, family, friends, and everything else above finding the time for myself. Through my pregnancy and in the first couple of months of being a new mom, I’ve been trying very consciously to change this about myself. However, I know myself, and I will only stick to self-care routines when there is a relatively low barrier and the commitment doesn’t take too much time. At this time in your life after the baby comes out, you really don’t have the time to schedule intensive appointments and the efficiency and efficacy of a treatment or something you spend money on that works really matters.
Motherhood has put the way that I think about Droplette in a whole new light. I have always appreciated its efficacy, but now I sing the praises of its efficiency too. Because it takes less than a minute to use, it’s an achievable everyday goal—just like brushing my teeth or combing my hair. I feel good about being able to do this one thing every single day that I know is good for me. I may not be someone who will do a 20-minute mask, but a 1-minute treatment that works even better? Sold.
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