The first thing I noticed about Dr. Obagi was how nice his skin is! I was able to sit down to talk to him and find out more about the Obagi system and women's skin issues. It was real eye-opening...
I was looking at your website and it says that you "create change at the cellular level", what exactly does that mean?
Dr. Obagi: It means that our skin is made of cells. Anything you see on the skin...our surface pigments, spots, wrinkles...is appearing on the surface because of our cells. So if you have the cells that make melanin or make more melanin in some locations, that will look like a spot. If you have cells that make melanin that die, you have white spots. If you have cells that [are] supposed to make elastic and collagen [and they] stop making elastic and collagen, you get wrinkles. So, all the existing skin care philosophies and actually all outdated treatments only focus on skin surface first. They don't care about the cells. That's why treatments fail and that's why many people keep going from doctor to doctor using creams...trying this cream and that cream...and nothing works.
So because I've proved in the last 25 years in the medical field that as a treatment we can make skin healthy, strong, beautiful, and all that by going to the cells and make them function. We created a system called Obagi Skin Health Systems. We have 7,000 plastic surgeons in the U.S.A. alone using my systems. For 25 years in the medical field - because we target the cells, because we activate the cells...we are clearing all the problems on the skin surface.
Now the time has come to go to the public and instead of wasting money - because women buy products based on advertising and marketing - they really don't know what their skin needs. They just spend the money because they heard about this cream or that cream. There really is no science here. Those creams are not going to work because what happens around age 30 - all the cells just hibernate and sleep - they don't function. That's why the skin becomes weak and wrinkles creep in. So if you feed those cells anything, they're not going to eat because they're sleeping. That's why most skin products don't work.
So Obagi is a system based on using retinol (Vitamin A) and retinol acid. In public we cannot use the medical-grade stuff, so we use retinol. But we figured out how to use the highest concentration possible of retinol - 20 times higher than anything that exists. Encapsulated spheres that you put on your skin...it goes to the cells. The cells wake up. When the cells wake up, the skin now is going to repair itself. The cells need to eat. See, now you've given them everything they need to function. You'll see the clarity and smoothness coming back. So without waking up the cells...no matter what you put doesn't work. The only agent that wakes up the cells is retinol and we have it in ZO. It's a breakthrough. It's 1% retinol to wake up the cells and restore vitality at the source...that's at the "cellular level".
When did you decide or know that you wanted to become a dermatologist? Is this something you always wanted to do?
Dr. Obagi: Long time ago I was a pathologist and now I'm a dermatologist. Dermatology is still a field where we need to do alot of research. We are in an imperfect stage. My experience in my life was when my sister had a second and third-degree burn and I knew how devastating that was and how bad the scars were. I saw the dermatologist not knowing what to do...That stimulated my interest. Skin is something I should tackle. Then when I was a pathologist I used to see alot of skin cancer and we know that all of this can be prevented. So I decided to go into dermatology with the objective to harbor the knowledge of skin.
So when I finished my dermatology, I went to practice. I established a research center for deformities, scars, burns, and skin cancer. One thing led to another and we found out that by improving the cells, we were also able to tackle aging and other problems, so all this fit together.
How did this line come about? How long did it take you to develop it?
Dr. Obagi: The idea of healthy skin is there. The problem is many women came to my office and complained that their skin is "sensitive" and that's not true! Either you are born with sensitive skin or a genetic disease or you have normal skin. Why don't men complain of sensitive skin, only women? Because women use all these products at an early age and we found out that the most damaging factor to the skin are the moisturizers. When you put the moisturizer on your skin, the cells immediately become lazy. "We are all fed. We don't want to work anymore!" This makes skin weaker, more sensitive, and age faster.
So the time came when I said, "Let me go out to the public with a skin care line that is based on the medical philosophy and prove that it is good. But the problem was how to tackle retinol. Retinol - if you use it in a high concentration - it burns, stings, makes you red, peel, itch, and dry. You cannot use it as is. That's why many companies use trace amounts.
It took years of research and we found out a way. Instead of delivering plain retinol on the skin surface, why don't we put it in envelopes. So we put it in microspheres. Those microspheres will carry the retinol when you put it on your skin. The microspheres deliver to the cells what they need and the cells wake up. So the gap that was missing 50-60 years ago was that nobody was addressing the cells and they were just giving cream after cream after cream with all the anti-aging products. The cells were just sleeping and not functioning - they would not take it. So we're introducing now for the first time a concept - the future of skin care. Wake up the skin! This will wake up your skin naturally and renew itself.
So, besides using your products, what do you recommend that women do to keep their skin looking health?
Dr. Obagi: Start at an early age. You have to know how to clean your skin properly. You have to prevent the pores from getting clogged. You have to use sunscreen. If you're skin is oily, you have to avoid hot baths or steam rooms. If you're skin is dry, you have to avoid irritating substances like excessive moisturizing. They will just weaken it more and make it addictive to the moisturizer. You have to eat healthy foods - foods with anti-oxidants. You have to know your skin types and if you have a medical problem, go early to the dermatologist so they can treat you early.
Putting nothing on your skin is better than putting everything on your skin. Notice men and children...they don't have skin sensitivities. Men have better skin than women because women are the only gender that think that by putting something on their skin they will look younger and more attractive. That's the wrong concept. We have to correct that. But in general, sun protection, healthy diet, and cleaning skin properly will be sufficient sometimes to keep skin in good shape.
But remember, by age 30, you have to use something that will awaken the cells and keep them active. There's no other program in the world like ZO to keep the skin active.