Parallel Stories: The Familiar Feeling of Isolation

Parallel Stories: The Familiar Feeling of Isolation

by Natalise Kalea Robinson

Hello everyone! My name is Sunhu and I am one of the newest team members at Parallel Health. I've been in a rotating internship across Product, R&D, and Community. Thus far, I’ve been amazed at the progression we’ve made as a team and excited how our product will change the skincare industry and how people think about their own approach to skincare.

Just to give you some background, I am a recent UCSD graduate originally from the Seoul province of Itaewon in South Korea and moved to Los Angeles when I was little. As a 7-year-old immigrant who knew no English and no understanding of American culture, I faced many challenges academically and socially. When I first started attending school, I felt different: I felt alone in my experiences, which made it hard for me to relate to others and, likely, vice versa. This early experience in my life encouraged me, over time, to be more outgoing and interested in other cultures because even if people didn’t understand me, maybe I could understand them, and maybe there were others who might also be experiencing silent isolation. At the time, there were various people of different backgrounds in my neighborhood. Befriending people in my community opened my view of cultures because in South Korea there is not a lot of diversity when it comes to ethnicity and culture.

This initial social experience forced me to grow as a person, but this same feeling of isolation re-emerged in my pre-teen and teen years when I had issues with acne and inflammation. Again, I felt as though I could not relate with anyone. Either my friends didn’t have issues or, if they did, they used a certain subset of acne products, which I tried with no success. These products irritated my skin and created more problems for me. I did not know how to take care of my skin, nor did I have access to a dermatologist. Therefore, I sought out remedies from different cultures and experimented with numerous products – I tried everything from Neutrogena acne products to all natural African black soap to herbal remedies. And then, I found k-beauty products. When I started to use various Korean skincare products, my skin had significant results. Some ingredients that stood out to me were water hyacinth and soybean seed extract. Water hyacinth has antimicrobial and antibacterial elements that is proven to help in skincare (Sharma), while soybean seed extract has anti-inflammatory and collagen-stimulating properties (Waqas). At that time, I did not know why these ingredients were more suitable for me, but I assumed, perhaps naively, that maybe these Korean skincare brands formulated products for “Korean skin types.” Nonetheless, it is interesting to see how new R&D is experimenting with unique ingredients to combat skin health and it will be exciting to see more R&D in new skincare methods.  

Later on, during my studies at UCSD, I learned about the human microbiome and how individualized it is even if someone might come from the same background/culture. I realized that, of course, there is no “Korean skin type” per se, but that your skin is really defined by the ecosystem of microbes that you have on your skin, which are then shaped and/or perturbed by your diet, environment, hormones, etc. My curiosity drove me to look further into other research going on at UCSD regarding correlations between disturbed microbiomes and health issues. And then I heard about phages, microbes that infect bacteria, which caught my interest because they have been used to save lives, and of course, have other benefits when using to optimize the skin or gut microbiomes.

By the time I was going to graduate, I had plans to go into Physician Assistant (PA) school, but something tugged at me to do something different and maybe something I was passionate about. That’s when I found Parallel. One of the things that immediately caught my eye about Parallel was the concept of using phages to treat breakouts and blemishes and personalizing each formula to meet people’s skin microbiome. Most acne products in our current market have common ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide which can disturb our microbiome because it can kill other beneficial bacteria as well (Del Rosso). However at Parallel, we are utilizing DNA sequencing and metagenomics to identify and target bacteria that contribute to acne growth, while keeping the beneficial bacteria that keep our skin healthy. We want to cater to everyone because we know everyone is unique, has their own subset of problems with their skin, and come from all walks of life.

More importantly, one of the biggest reasons I joined Parallel was the people and culture within the company. From the first zoom call I attended with our founders, Natalise and Nathan, I was greeted with warm hospitality and given the opportunity to learn. As I spent more time with them, I continuously saw their passion and dedication for our product which created an environment that drives others to be motivated as well. They are truly one of the hardest working people I have met and I continue to learn from them everyday.

If you’re still reading this, thank you for taking your time to get to know me and my journey to Parallel! Also, if you are struggling with skin issues, know that though you are unique, you are not alone. What I love about Parallel is its mission – we want to help everyone improve their skin health and self-confidence by empowering them with real science and understanding, as well as personalized skincare. I invite you to join our community and be a part of skin science innovation. Simply sign up for early access at

And if you have any questions for me, please feel free to reach out and keep in touch: Talk soon.

About Parallel

A parallel world lives amongst us: the microbial world. This world impacts not only our lifespan, but also our healthspan.

Our mission is to empower people with real science to make meaningful skincare decisions to improve their healthspan, mental well-being, and self-confidence.

Parallel is a next-generation skin health company providing effective, personalized skincare and testing, powered by genomics, skin microbiome science, and machine learning.

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