Cosmeceutical Critique

More on the history of dermatologists and skin care


In this historical portrait, I am focusing mainly on dermatologists who have developed a skin care line, and I am loosely following a chronological order. Thanks to all the readers of Part 1 (The interesting history of dermatologist-developed skin care), who gave me interesting feedback on my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. There was so much interest that I will write Part 3 next month. Feel free to DM me your ideas on LinkedIn.

Dr. Leslie S. Baumann, a dermatologist, researcher, author, and entrepreneur who practices in Miami.

Dr. Leslie S. Baumann

The history of dermatologist-developed skin care continues as more dermatologists become interested in developing a skin care line or retailing skin care in their medical practice. A report in July 2020 showed that physician-dispensed skin care is the largest growing segment of the skin care business with a projected compound annual growth rate of 9.9% from 2020 to 2027. I have not seen national sales numbers since this July report, but we have noticed a large increase in online sales for the doctors using my Skin Type Solutions System. This is most likely because, in a national crisis, the self-care and beauty business segments often see growth. So as you can see, dermatologist-dispensed skin care is becoming a major player in national skin care sales. Let’s get back to the story of how this came to be the case.

Peter Elias, MD. Dr. Elias is professor in the department of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. In 1996, Dr. Elias published a landmark paper in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology demonstrating that a 1:1:1 ratio of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol is required to repair a damaged skin barrier. He filed multiple patents for using these lipids in moisturizers as early as 1992. His lipid research has stood the test of time, and this paper is still frequently cited. Dr. Elias has authored over 500 peer reviewed articles on the skin barrier, has edited or coauthored three books on skin barrier science, and developed EpiCeram, a product that utilizes ceramide, the fatty acid linoleic acid, and cholesterol. EpiCeram is the only barrier repair moisturizer approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is available by prescription only.

Kathy Fields, MD, and Katie Rodan, MD. Dr. Fields and Dr. Rodan met at Stanford (Calif.) University. In the 1980s, these entrepreneurial dermatologists realized that patients did not understand the role of preventing acne rather than just treating it. As dermatologists, they knew that a consistent daily routine to prevent acne was much more effective than waiting for an outbreak and spot-treating lesions. They took an already available OTC medication – benzoyl peroxide – and educated consumers through infomercials that they needed to stay ahead of acne instead of waiting for a breakout. Using infomercials to sell skin care, selling skin care kits, and educating patients about the need to prevent acne rather than spot treat it was very unusual at the time. As we all know, reeducating your patients is a huge challenge. Dr. Fields and Dr. Rodan changed consumers thinking in a genius way that continues to resonate today by choosing a brand name to make their point: Proactiv. Their simple 3-step acne kit encouraged patients to be proactive about their acne and encouraged compliance. (Patients love exact skin care steps as demonstrated again by the success of the skin care line from plastic surgeon Suzan Obagi, MD, which became available around 1988).


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