One on One With Dr. Neal Kitchen of HydroPeptide

The vice president of strategy and development dishes on the skin- and body-care company.

Most people are familiar with the concept of sibling rivalry, but how many of us have felt the pressure of competing with an identical twin? One such person is Dr. Neal Kitchen, who magnanimously describes his brother Dale, a research and development manager, as his “best friend and collaborator in all things mischievous” and chalks up their respective career successes to constant fraternal efforts to push each other academically.

Kitchen was born in Utah but grew up in Illinois near St. Louis. “I was raised a Midwesterner—go Cardinals!” he quips. Although Kitchen’s brother has been a major influence throughout his life, it was someone else who inadvertently spurred his interest in becoming a research scientist. As an undergraduate studying microbiology at Brigham Young University, Kitchen had a close friend who developed type 1 diabetes. His desire to understand his buddy’s disease kickstarted Kitchen’s fascination for cell and molecular biology. He transferred to the University of Illinois, where he completed his degree in the cell and structural biology program.

“From that moment I focused on understanding cellular function and what ultimately determines our long-term health and well-being,” he explains. Kitchen went on to receive his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 2010, then moved to Rockford, Illinois, to work in marketing and product management at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Little did he know it, but another big shift was on the horizon. Kitchen was happy in his position, and hadn’t planned on leaving the life science arena, but another sibling intervened. “My sister, Annette Rubin, cofounder of Belli skin care and a long-time influencer in the health and wellness industry, helped me get involved in the wonderful opportunities in this field,” he explains. Kitchen took on an advisory role with HydroPeptide in 2013, which turned into a full-time position the following year.

Today, Kitchen’s numerous responsibilities as the company’s vice president of strategy and development includes overseeing the company’s growth activities in product development, clinical studies, doctor and advisory boards, and sales and marketing. Somehow, he also finds time to be a family man: he and his wife Jackie are the proud parents of a nine-year-old boy and three girls, ages 10 months, and three and six years. It’s a dynamic that “makes for memorable challenges and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything!” he says.—Lesley McCave

How does HydroPeptide thrive in such a competitive industry?
Our unique selling point is the development of clinically proven products that customers love to use. Creating a luxurious experience while still getting results is a big deal because it encourages clients to comply with a daily regimen.
With so many new ingredients on the market, why should clients continue to use peptides?
Peptides are one of the most versatile active ingredients in skin care. Not only is each peptide unique in its capabilities, but they also blend well with other active ingredients and, if employed in the right formulations, they can synergistically amplify results.
What’s one thing we should all be doing with regard to our skin that we’re not?
I don’t think we appreciate the importance of daily maintenance. Our skin is continually exposed to pollutants, toxins and sun damage, yet most of us don’t focus on correcting or reversing that damage. Good cellular health requires a homeostatic balance, so we need to treat our skin every day with nourishing practices that can help offset any damage.
Tell us some of HydroPeptide’s imminent plans.
We’re really excited about our Body Therapeutics line. The face typically gets all the attention and glory when we think of skin care, but taking care of our body’s skin as we age is just as important! The new collection is launching at a great time because body care is currently one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry.
How do you find a work-life balance?
It’s a challenge, but coming home to my family’s smiling faces is super easy! We plan fun adventures on the weekends and sometimes take a random day off when everyone needs to re-charge. Disconnecting so you can focus on loved ones is great for your long-term work energy too!
Do you have any hobbies?
Adventures with my kids are my top hobby, but I also love to read. I’m a huge fan of audio books on my drive to and from work. I enjoy sports in general: I play fantasy football and basketball, but my favorite sport to play is Ultimate Frisbee. But most often I go out for a run, or jump onto the elliptical.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My identical twin is somehow three inches taller than me! I always tell people that he got the height and I got the looks, but I wouldn’t mind being on his eye level!
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be working in the life science industry in a management position. I had a great work experience at Thermo Fisher Scientific, but found the opportunity at HydroPeptide too exciting to pass up.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I enjoy singing and watching musicals, although now usually only my wife and kids get to ‘enjoy’ my random melodious outbursts!