By SALLY FRIEDMAN
It began, as so many inspired ideas do, with just a casual conversation and a fleeting notion.
Several years ago, Lindy Snider was talking with her good friend, singer Lauren Hart, who was being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As they talked, Ms. Snider realized that while a cancer diagnosis was tough enough — while cancer treatment could be terribly grueling — there was yet another issue that was going unaddressed.
Ms. Hart had shared with her friend how cancer treatment often ravaged a patient’s skin, and how she herself had searched in vain for products specifically targeted to help. It was then that Ms. Snider began processing an idea that would become her driving mission: She would try to create such products, and make a difference in the lives of cancer patients who had enough to deal with without the added burden of painful, even dangerous, skin problems, an unfortunate byproduct of life-saving treatment.
“I thought about how incredible it would be to offer help, especially when I talked to other cancer patients about it and got the same response as Lauren’s,” Ms. Snider said. “There were wigs for hair loss, support groups, alternative and complementary approaches to cancer. But skin is so basic, and there was evidently nothing out there to help soothe it during treatment.”
Not a predictable mission for someone who had graduated from Friends Central, then delved into theater and Oriental studies at Ithaca College and the University of Pennsylvania. The only hint of her destiny may have been Ms. Snider’s penchant, as a child, for whipping up “concoctions” in the family kitchen.
Decades later, Ms. Snider, now a Bryn Mawr mother of four, has turned that experimental bent into a company called Lindi Skin, which has developed products specifically geared to help ease painful skin problems in cancer patients whose needs had somehow been ignored by major companies. A determined sort, Ms. Snider believes that she has inherited her entrepreneurial genes from her father, Flyers Hockey Team owner Ed Snider.
Even back at college at Penn, she once teamed up with her brother Jay in an antique business at an art center in Ardmore.
Later in her professional life, Ms. Snider worked in marketing and then in special projects at the Wachovia Center. But she left all that behind to launch Lindi Skin, initially setting out to learn all she could about the challenge of treating skin affected by chemotherapy and radiation. “I took my father’s advice about concentrating on your own strengths, but also surrounding yourself with the best experts around.”
As she sought information, Ms. Snider became aware that a common side effect of radiation therapy can be “radiation dermatitis,” a type of burn that can range from a mild reaction to open, weeping sores. Chemotherapy, she came to know, could lead to rashes that were mild, or could take the form of painful, debilitating pustules. “I also realized that oncologists were dealing with survival issues, so the issue of skin damage wasn’t their primary concern.”
For several years, Ms. Snider gathered information, ran focus groups with patients and turned to her husband, Dr. Larry Kaiser, an oncologist and chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, for his insights.
Ms. Snider’s team of scientific advisors included oncologists, pharmacologists, dermatologists and even psychologists, to ensure that whatever products Lindi Skin developed would be safe and effective. “We are not a drug company, and I am not a doctor,” Ms. Snider said. “There were lots of limitations in what we could produce — we’re always aware not only of what should be in our products, but also what shouldn’t be.”
Ultimately, the company ended up using plant oils, botanicals, glycerins and silicones to create soothing benefits.
Even packaging became a critical issue. “In focus groups, patients let us know that they wanted something pleasant but not frivolous, classically elegant but not too frou-frou. And we also wanted something that looked gender-neutral because men need these products, too.”
Scent became an issue, too. People in treatment for cancer are often sensitive to certain common smells, so the challenge was to find fresh scents that would be pleasing and acceptable.
In her search for the right logo, Ms. Snider ended up with one in the form of a shield, the ancient symbol of protection and defense, with elements including an oak leaf to symbolize great age, and a star as the enduring symbol of hope, worked into the shield.
By May 2004, Lindi Skin had sold its first products on its Web site. Since then, the company has grown exponentially, and has several dozen products that are being used in hospitals and cancer centers around the country, and are being sold in about 100 stores.
Lindi Skin also has distributed a product starter kit for women being treated with the new targeted therapies for breast cancer. As Ms. Snider explained, some of these new breakthrough targeted therapies, which represent a great advance in treatment, do result in some painful skin disturbances.
Products include skin coolers, sunscreen, a soothing balm for dehydrated areas of the skin, a bath soak, lotions, washes, a face tint for brightening and reviving skin tones and a lip balm, among other products for face, body and eyes. The cost of the products ranges from about $8 to $40.
Lindi Skin products are also wonderful for general use, particularly for people with sensitive skin and/or allergies.The company has been gratified by a recent survey on skin-related side effects of cancer treatment conducted by CancerCare, a national non-profit organization that provides free professional support services to anyone affected by cancer. (www.cancercare.org)
The survey reports that skin concerns are indeed a problem for most cancer patients, and have affected their quality of life. “Many people starting cancer treatment are unprepared for the effects on the skin,” noted Diane Blum, executive director of CancerCare. “These findings show the need to better inform and educate people about what to expect with possible skin problems, and to help them find remedies that can treat these uncomfortable symptoms.”
A New York Times article from July 2008, prominently mentioned Main Line-based Lindi Skin in a piece that addressed the skin side effects of cancer treatment, and noted that with increased awareness, some oncologists are even recommending products like Lindi Skin’s as a pre-emptive strike, to be used as soon as treatment begins.
Ms. Snider’s company supports doctors, researchers and caregivers by donating to cancer organizations, including Alex’s Lemonade Stand, one of Lindi Skin’s major beneficiaries. Ms. Snider and the company also have funded a fellowship at Northwestern University that will add knowledge to the new field of dermato-oncology, with an emphasis on skin care as part of cancer care.
Ms. Snider herself answers every letter the company gets — and they almost always move her. “So many of them are enormously touching,” she said. “People have stories of such struggle and courage.”
As exciting as the company’s growth is, Ms. Snider would rather focus on its deeper meaning to her.
“I’ve never been involved in anything that had this kind of direct impact. I have a much deeper sense of mission and purpose now because I’m actually having a tangible effect on people’s lives. And it feels absolutely wonderful,” she said. “If I can help people to feel some control in their lives, and feel like human beings, not just patients, as they battle cancer, I’ll certainly feel that I’ve done something worthwhile in my life.”
Lindi Skin products can be found locally at Salon Jade Plum in Bryn Mawr, Gladwyne Pharmacy in Gladwyne, Babis Pharmacy in Merion, Tapper Pharmacy in Wynnewood and Dennis James Hair & Body in Haddonfield, N.J.
For complete information, please contact (1-800) 380-4704 or visit the Web site, www.lindiskin.com
Sally Friedman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org