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The New Cosmeceutical Entrepreneurs

By: Amy Kamin
Posted: June 24, 2008, from the February 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Physicians have access to the latest information on ingredients, technology and the efficacy of both. Due to their medical training and license, they have the ability to use higher concentrations of ingredients. Doctors’ practices allow them to have direct access to consumers on a daily basis through their patients. This provides them with instantaneous feedback that major companies often spend millions of dollars on market research to receive. Following the lead of their patients, physicians believe that they can provide them with the products that they want and have them conveniently available in their offices.

The pioneering physician

When Norman Orentreich, MD, started seeing patients in his own practice in the 1950s for conditions such as eczema, acne and dandruff, he realized that what he wanted to prescribe wasn’t available. Orentreich also was concerned that his patients might not fill the prescriptions that he prescribed, or that the pharmacists would inaccurately compound the products he wanted. He decided to form The Orentreich Medical Group with pharmacist Abe Rubin and an innovative cosmetic chemist, George Feebler, to monitor the products they developed for their patients and tweak them as necessary. According to spokesperson Anna-Sophia Leone, following their patients’ care enabled the physicians to see any results from the prescribed regimens. Product modification could include changing the percentage of an active ingredient in a compound.

In the early to mid-1960s, there were more companies that focused on color cosmetics and perfume rather than skin care products. Leonard Lauder, chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., believed that the time was right for a skin care line. He charged Carol Phillips, beauty editor of Vogue at the time, to start a new company with a completely different approach. Phillips enlisted Orentreich for the task, and they created a three-step system that delivered basic skin care to consumers with multiple skin types. The rest, of course, is history; today the line is known as Clinique. David Orentreich, MD, who has since followed in his father’s footsteps, says that “the goal is to sell dreams in skin care, but not to promise anything that we can’t deliver or that doesn’t perform.” This certainly explains the cosmetic companies’ continued and increased intrigue in what physicians can offer, as well as accounts for the basis of the lucrative relationships that are being conceived today.

Celebrity doctors

The next dermatologist to gain notoriety for a namesake line was Howard Murad, MD, who founded his company in 1989 and opened a medically supervised day spa. Murad began by using alpha hydroxy acids in professional products. Today, he is the proud owner of 16 patents and is a major authority on skin care.

Tina Alster, MD, director of The Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, is the dermatologic consultant for Lancôme, a division of L’Oréal. Alster is featured prominently in prime advertising space in top fashion and beauty magazines as an expert, model and spokesperson for Lancôme. In addition to being glamorized in this beauty industry role, she is one of the most noted laser surgeons in the country.