Beauty That's Skin Deep
Beverly Hills--based dermatologist and skin-care pioneer Dr. Zein Obagi brings his latest products and treatments to Pasadena’s new ZO Skin Health Center.
A LOT OF Plastic surgeons will tell you privately that their wives are their calling cards — living examples of the doctors’ standards of beauty and Pygmalion perfection. With celebrity dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi, one need look no farther than the physician himself.
Except for a few crow’s feet, his face is as wrinkle-free as a baby’s bum — even though he’s a mature 69.
It sounds almost incredible, and yet there he is, the prime beneficiary of his 35 years as a skin-care innovator, known around the world — and now in Pasadena, where Dr. Obagi and his medical esthetician daughter, Sandra, recently opened his latest clinic, ZO Skin Health Center. (Based in Beverly Hills, he also has what he calls “skin health institutes” in San Gabriel and Laguna Beach.)
Celebrity dermatologists who produce their own skin-care lines are fairly common these days, but Dr. Obagi was in the vanguard of that trend. With a focus on improving skin health and preventing skin problems, he launched the Obaji NuDerm System in 1988; the prescription-strength products, which include hydroquinone and tretinoin, went on to be sold in doctors’ offices worldwide, from Bahrain and Cambodia to Russia and Sudan. He sold a controlling interest in Obagi Medical Products in 1997 and is no longer associated with NuDerm. He reformulated his skincare line to reflect discoveries about skin inflammation and antioxidants that sprang up in the intervening years.
Obagi’s current company is ZO Skin Health, and it produces two lines — prescription-strength Medical and over-the-counter Skin Health products. Instead of cleanse, tone and moisturize regimes typical of department store lines, ZO focuses on accelerating cell turnover with targeted cleansers, serums, creams and peels.
The tab for all this is not for the financially faint of heart. Dr. Obagi’s prices — Skin Health products range in cost from $35 for the Offects Hydrating Cleanser to $145 for the Ossential Radical Night Repair Plus, and a range of products is generally recommended — have ruffled the feathers of a number of Yelpers. But he is utterly convinced of the correctness of his approach, and enough doctors around the world apparently agree to pack his schedule with speaking invitations. Indeed, a skin-care symposium Dr. Obagi organized in November at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills drew 180 physicians.
The ZO Skin Health Center in Pasadena offers a wide range of skincare services, from LED therapy and a stimulation peel designed by Dr. Obagi to microdermabrasion, injectables and facials. The doctor sat down with Arroyo Monthly to talk about his skin-care philosophy. Here are some highlights:
On the importance of starting skin care at a young age: Young people should do preventive measures to prevent acne and scarring, to prevent pigmentation problems, sun damage and cancer, and slow down aging changes produced by the sun... Most kids eat a lot of sugar, a lot of ice cream and cereals full of sugar, and that causes constant inflammation in the skin; the bad effects will show years later.
On prevention of skin problems: Prevention is a concept that medically was not really supported in the past effectively. We can prevent aging, sun damage, acne, pigmentation. Many of the problems people suffer from are preventable if they follow a skin care [regimen] that addresses the skin’s activity and cellular function.
On moisturizers: Existing skin care is not helpful to a lot of people. Most products on the market are competing on who makes a better moisturizer. They really aren’t competing on science, they are competing to sell products — who makes the product that feels good, smells good and the effect lasts longer. So you pay tons of money to get a [department store] brand, and there are also smaller companies that make similar products that are much cheaper and do the same thing.
For most people, when you pay a lot of money, you’re paying for the brand. But we have found out that continuous usage of moisturizer leads to skin sensitivity and dependency on the moisturizer. When you apply moisturizer, you do two things — first, the body responds by shutting off the normal delivery [of moisture and nutrients]. If you put your hands in water for half an hour and take them out, you don’t see natural hydration. What you see is white wrinkled skin that shows you how, when water sits on the surface, it sucks the natural moisture away. By continuous usage of a moisturizer, you will have dry skin. Baby skin looks wonderful because natural hydration is coming from within.
On what he calls “the circle of skin health”: We want people to activate, stimulate and strengthen the skin. So we’re trying to take skin care from just feeling good to really making skin good. That’s what we call skin-health restoration, skin-health prevention and maintenance. So we have a circle. If you have a problem, treat it early. If you don’t have a problem, we will give you the means to prevent one.
The ZO Skin Health Center is located at 120 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment Sunday and Monday. Call (626) 795-0067 or visit obagiskin.com.