Career Profile: Dr Andrew Birnie, Co-Founder of Altruist

by Jul 17, 2022

What inspired you to start Altruist

It was born out of a desire to reduce the incidents of skin cancer and to offer people the highest quality skincare at the lowest possible price, showing them that they don’t have to spend a fortune to get good quality products.  Also it’s wanting to do something positive in life and leave a positive legacy, not just for myself but for the people with albinism in Africa too.

Have you always wanted to work in this area?

No, I probably only discovered I wanted to be a dermatologist after I finished my physician specialist training and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians. Then I realised that dermatology was, without doubt, the best specialty to work in.  Once I was working in dermatology I developed a special interest in skin cancer.  I enjoyed the procedural aspect of skin cancer surgery hence going into that area.  Subsequently that led me to understand more about sunscreen and that led to me wanting to do something more.  Then of course my meeting and friendship with David (Westerbeek Van Eerten, a Dutch Economist and co-founder of Altruist) led to the development of Altruist.

What’s your top piece of skincare advice? 

Use good quality sunscreen, of SPF 30 or above, everyday on your face, neck and ears from March to October

What advice would you have to someone keen to try Altruist products but unsure where to start?

It really depends what they are looking for.  If they are looking for a sunscreen for their body then the SPF 30 or SPF 50 cream would be the ideal product.  It’s nicely moisturising and affordable.  Once they’ve realised how good that is they will probably branch out into other products!  If someone is looking specifically for a face product then the SPF 50 Face Fluid would be perfect.  If looking for a moisturiser then they should be going for the moisturing fluid for their face or the Dry Skin Repair cream for their body, there’s really something for everyone now.

Who is one of your biggest inspirations – either professionally or personally?

There isn’t one person that would fulfil that role, I’ve had lots of great teachers and mentors over my career.  I would probably try and take the good bits from each and emulate those.

If you could attribute your success to anyone who gave you your big break?

The sunscreen thing is very much down to my friendship with David and his enthusiasm to do something that would change the world.  He has very much been the driving force behind Altruist.  It’s also really important to know when to say yes to something.  Saying no to things means you have time to say yes to the things that matter and I think that’s key.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

Fitting everything in to the space of the week.  I’m frequently working well into the evenings to get things done.

Which part of your job do you most enjoy?

Seeing patients back after removing a skin cancer on their face where they really can’t believe just how I’ve managed to do it.  That’s always really nice, knowing you’ve done a good job.

Do you find it easy to balance work and play?

It’s a constant battle.  I do my best to try and enjoy every moment, I certainly don’t spend much time in front of the TV. I’m always doing something positive and I think if I didn’t have my family to keep my feet on the ground I would immerse myself even more in work so I’m delighted to have them.

Talk us through your typical day – from waking up to going to bed. 

After breakfast with the kids I take my older daughter to school on my way to work.  It’s great to have ten minutes to have a chat and it has been a great way to bond. A typical day will then start with a clinic from about 8.30am until 1pm or an operating list that will last all day.  While I’m in a clinic I’m often interrupted by colleagues asking for my opinion – that will happen at least five or six times in a day easily!  Driving home I may have a conversation with David to update on things to do with Altruist, then I will either be picking my daughter up from something or going to the gym.  When I get home, put my younger daughter to bed, have dinner and then hopefully have a little bit of time to talk to my wife.  Sometimes I do some more Altruist work in the evenings before going to bed at about 10.30.

About Emily Eaves

Co Founder and Editor at To Work or Play, Emily has been Freelance Copywriting for over 10 years. She is passionate about food, drink, travel, design and finding ways to keep her two children out of trouble.

With a background in Luxury Restaurant and Hotel PR, Emily moved from London to Dorset in 2019. She now spends weekends at the beach and daydreams about her vegetable garden.