It was natural that an astrophysicist would understand how the sun’s rays work

Juan Naya, Isdin

An astrophysicist by profession, Naya worked at the North American Space Agency (NASA) between 1995 and 1998, focusing on gamma-ray astronomy – energetic waves that can cross any material and cause skin cancer. After four years as a consultant at McKinsey, Naya joined Spanish skincare specialist Isdin in 2004, first as COO, then general manager, and has been CEO since 2015.


Naya explains this slightly unusual career trajectory by stating that, “For Isdin, being a skincare company focused on sun protection, it was natural that an astrophysicist would understand how the sun’s rays work.” He adds, “Furthermore, working at NASA gives you another perspective and allows you to look outside the box.”


Though not a purveyor of prescription medicines, Isdin is centring its strategy around R&D. However, as Naya explains, this R&D must result in functional and useful final products. He notes that “People are living longer and want to look better. In the past, aesthetic products were not looked at in the positive way they are today. Our products are focused less on people that are sick and more people that want to look and feel better. Therefore, we must have a functional product and our R&D is based around this.”


He continues, “Nevertheless, we also must realize that efficacy is not enough and even if your science proves results, people must like to use it. We call it REC: Results equals efficacy times compliance. The aim is to find an optimum balance between the two – efficacy and compliance.”


With this R&D-focused strategy firmly in place in Spain, Isdin has moved to create a greater international footprint in recent years. Naya reminisces, “We started out in Latin America due to its linguistic, cultural and structural similarities to Spain. This has positioned us as the leader in sun protection in Mexico, and we are doing very well in Argentina and Chile, with encouraging results in Brazil. We are now looking towards the large markets of Germany, China and the US, though this will be challenging.”


To face these challenges, Naya foreground the importance of innovation and adaptability. He states, “it is important to have innovation and bring something new to the market. Also, you must be flexible in your approach as no two markets are exactly the same.”


As an example of this adaptability, Naya highlights how “Isdin set up a partnership with an online leader in China, Tmall. They have been amazing acting as our voice there, and last year we were the second-highest selling sun protection brand globally for Tmall. This year we hope to be number one!”


Read the full interview with Isdin’s Juan Naya here