Balancing the Grind with Belal Chami, Founder & Head of R&D at RE-DOX SKIN LAB

Belal Chami is the founder of RE-DOX SKIN LAB, an Australian-owned and based science-led skincare company which produces a premium skincare range inspired of cutting-edge research, sustainability, minimalism and customisation.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to? 

In my early career as a medical researcher, I dedicated my life’s work to research on antioxidants, drug discovery and disease process in inflammatory disorders. I led my own research team and published articles in journals to advance our scientific understanding of disease processes in the field. 

My passion for biology manifested most deeply in Year 10 (inspired by my biology teacher) and only grew. It paved my way from school straight into a Science degree then into postgraduate studies leading to my PhD. 

Being a scientist shapes you in many ways – it teaches you how to manage multiple projects and teams at a time, how to shift your language rapidly to different audiences, and probably more importantly – it burns resilience and the process of re-iteration. 

The other aspect which is fundamentally important as a scientist is the ability to pivot. I can’t recall how many times my initial hypothesis was wrong, scratching my head with data that made no sense or re-telling a story that better fit the new but unexpected. 

I would summarise scientific rigour as a process of re-iteration, pivoting, storytelling, resilience, time and project management. 

Those are fundamentally entrepreneurial skills and so the startup space came naturally to me as a scientist. This brings me where I am now. 

Re-Dox Skin Lab is a company I never thought I would create. The journey began during covid lockdown and was organically born from a conversation with my sister over her collection of skincare products. 

That conversation evolved and we set upon seeking to solve a problem in the skincare industry – the overcomplicated routines, stream of new ‘hot’ ingredients (often with poor scientific backing) and endless ‘must have’ products which leave users in a daze of confusion. 

Our concept was Time Management for your Skin. We created effective yet efficient skincare for the time poor – a product to replace 2-3 others, and simplify the skincare routine. Unlike other skincare companies, we are passionate about changing our relationship with our skin as we get older and promote healthy vibrant skin, inclusive of those well-earnt wrinkles. 

While I am engrossed in my scientific research and teaching, I am also empowered by my new passion for skin health, and bouncing between the two is an exercise I quite enjoy even though it comes with its challenges. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday? 

I am a creature of habit – at least for my morning routine which is very regimented. I work best with a well-structured morning as it’s the very mindlessness of routine that brews a space for creativity. 

I’m an early bird so I am up by 6:30am. Then, it’s an immediate shower, strong coffee, and breakfast (if I am not fasting that day). Finally, I do a little light reading and from 8am-9 am is where I crawl through emails. 

I typically schedule my meetings between 9-12pm and take a mental break from it all between 12-1pm – this is either my midday gym routine or where I venture to a park (sufficiently far enough away from my office!) where I journal with a coffee. 

The remainder of my day is now open to explore new opportunities with grants, preparing a manuscript, presentation/lecture or just to touch-base with my students or staff and do what I love, research. 

‘You will never regret the time you spend with people you love’ – a corny Instagram self-help post I couldn’t resist but share. I do try to reserve my evenings for family and friends, though admittedly, I sneak in an email here and there. 

Weekends are where I tend to be a little more adventurous and, in the summer/spring, you might find me exploring a hiking trail somewhere around Sydney. 

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it? 

Admittedly, I am still working on this, and it is a constant balancing act as priorities shift – I deeply suspect the work-life balance is a journey that evolves over time. What worked previously may no longer work now, and while I used to thrive with a 9-10 pm gym session, these days I just need to sleep at 10 pm, pronto! 

Exercise is key, though. I am quite an active individual, and a 1 hour-long strenuous resistance gym session allows me to shake off that bureaucracy-induced stress. I try to do this at least 4-5 times a week. 

I am very lucky to enjoy the perks of an academic working schedule and that flexibility affords me to sneak away for that midday gym session close to my office or sit at a nearby park to soak in some ambience while I journal away. 

If you struggle with motivation, I highly recommend journaling. It is essential for me to brain dump and set my action plan to focus on a strategy of execution. It also keeps me accountable, and I enjoy revisiting old thoughts, examining them with fresh eyes to test their soundness (you can hear the scientist in me.) 

The combination of exercise, sipping a piccolo in a park or embarking on a short hiking expedition, and spending quality time with those I love, works mentally as well as physically. It chips away at the built-up tension and reminds me of the need to practise mindfulness – living in the present at least once or twice a day. 

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Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance? 

Change is uncomfortable and the trick is to get used to that feeling – almost leaning into it. 

Learning to feel uncomfortable and being OK with that usually means you’re doing something right – that’s new and has the potential to bring on personal growth. 

I do find that during times of change, my schedule and routine is completely out of whack, and this is where it’s most important to practise self-care and maintenance. 

Not too long ago, you would never have seen me outside my office – let alone sitting in a nearby park, soaking in the sunlight and fresh air. Now, this is probably where you will find me at midday. 

I am still getting my work done and engaged in some work process, but I am away from my office/lab and the endless ‘ding’ of pop-up email notifications. 

As I mentioned earlier, an activity I have embraced is hiking – I thrive off exploring new places. It is exciting, refreshing and meditative. 

Adding this to my lifestyle has done wonders – it forces you to leave the world behind for a short time and focus on the new landscape that stretches out before you. 

I am constantly on the look-out for new places to visit but do still find myself taking walks along old and familiar trails. Hermitage Foreshore track is still my favourite nearby short walk in Sydney. I almost always bring my camera too (Oh – that’s another thing, I geek out on film cameras). 

With some exercise, this would be my self-care routine which is especially important during periods of stressful change. 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

The challenge is staying creative and managing time. What changed the game for me was a book written by Price Pritchett called You2. It is a suitably short book (only 35 pages) and, in my opinion, one of the most instructive books on the point of maximising personal effectiveness. 

The author, Dr Pritchett, is equally impressive and delivers phenomenally in this book. I find myself re-reading this book on occasion and it has been transformative when applied – a must for any inspiring entrepreneur. 

I resonated most with a particular point in the book – a part most entrepreneurs would likely experience. There is an enormous amount of legwork required in startups, for often lengthy periods of time, before any result can be appreciated. 

You question your sanity when you’ve exhausted time, effort and resources for a distant goal that may not be realised. Pritchett reaffirms this process with a strong but beautifully simplified quote ‘The absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence’. In other words, trust the process. 

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers? 

The work-life balance is an ever-evolving dance and what works today, may not work tomorrow. For me, it’s important to keep a peripheral eye monitoring that balance and the inner state as time goes on and recognise the early signs of burnout – most CEOs and entrepreneurs will suffer from this at some point and the best safeguard is rebalancing your life when those early signs appear. 

Don’t be afraid to put yourself first every now and again. Ask yourself, ‘what good am I to anyone if I am not the most optimal version of myself?’ There is nothing wrong with taking some solo time to refocus your mental energy on factors that are not related to work. 

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.