Why I Ended My Relationship with Obagi Medical Products, Inc.

Dr. Zein Obagi’s journey into skin health began over 35 years ago, and today, as the Medical Director of ZO Skin Health, Inc., his energy and enthusiasm for healthy skin is as strong as it was then.

Explain the beginning of Obagi Medical Products, Inc. (OMP). What was your vision for the company when you launched it in 1988?

Dr. Obagi OMP’s forerunner — WorldWide Products, Inc. — was launched to provide prescription-based skincare products for doctors to dispense to patients in their offices. I conceived and brought to market prescription-strength products like the original Obagi Nu-Derm® System and the Obagi Blue Peel® kit. Aggressive, prescription-strength skincare products are an important part of my philosophy, and my goal was to provide these products to physicians. In addition, I continued my direct contact with physicians around the country regarding treatment protocols. Skin health restoration cannot be accomplished by products alone; the physician needs to know how to use them in the most effective way, through step-by-step treatment protocols. Communicating this was a big part of my vision.


What was your role at Obagi Medical Products?

Dr. Obagi In 1997, I sold WorldWide Products, Inc., which was renamed Obagi Medical Products by the new owners, and I became the Medical Director. I remained an OMP shareholder and board member, but was not involved in the day-to-day business operations. The original products remained the economic foundation of the company, while my role began to diminish over time.

What happened to Obagi Medical Products when it went public?

Dr. Obagi The focus shifted to making shareholders happy. The company began creating products that were not based on my philosophy of skin health restoration. I became very uncomfortable with that because the products were a deviation from my philosophy. I was hoping to continue to evolve my products so they would be relevant to what we were learning about skin health, since skin health science is continuously evolving, and we owe it to our patients to improve our products based on what we are learning. I was committed to skin health, but once the company went public it became clear that my philosophy were not in line with OMP’s bottom line.

Do you have any connection to Obagi Medical Products now?

Dr. Obagi Today, I have absolutely no connection with Obagi Medical Products. Looking back, I wish I would have never sold my original company, WorldWide Products, Inc. I learned that business tactics and science do not always go hand-in-hand. I had a vested interest in skin health while the business executives had an interest in profit. It became clear that OMP and I had different visions for the future of skincare products and the direction in which they should evolve, so I decided to found a new company based on the newest skin health science: ZO Skin Health, Inc.

There are so many treatments and products in the market - what is different about ZO®?

Dr. Obagi What makes ZO Skin Health, Inc. different is our universal approach to skin health. We stand by the original principles I identified 35 years ago when I started — Correction, Stimulation, and Bleaching/Blending — and use newly found principles, such as anti-inflammatory agents, DNA repair, barrier function enhancement, and non-hydroquinone pigment control. We also offer expanded benefits, improved treatment protocol results, broadened margins of safety, economical products, and increased patient compliance by offering the concept of prevention.

Skin health science, like any other science, is not static. Therefore, the need for improvement, expansion and continuous adjustment is not only essential, but also necessary in obtaining optimal treatment results. For example, we’ve recently learned about some drawbacks to hydroquinone. We found that your skin builds resistance when hydroquinone is used continuously for more than three to five months, making skin photosensitive, which results in some pigmentation problems due to loss of melanin. Hydroquinone helps with the general repair of certain medical problems, but is limited as it does not provide the expanded benefits found in my new principles, and does not eliminate the inflammation generated by many factors, including internal, external and certain topical agents.

We’ve also discovered that there are some circumstances when tretinoin should not be used. In these situations, the skin may make use of only a portion of the tretinoin that is applied, leaving the unused portion to possibly cause irritation and inflammation. For that reason, many patients should only use tretinoin for three to five months, followed by an appropriate retinol concentration and formulation for maintenance and prevention.

What are the differences between the ZO® products and what Obagi Medical Products offer?

Dr. Obagi The OMP products were great products for their time, but today I believe they are outdated. I conceived and brought to market the original Obagi Nu-Derm® System more than 35 years ago based on the then-current skincare principles — Correction, Stimulation, and Bleaching/Blending. These principles served physicians and patients very well for many years but are no longer sufficient or suitable for everyone. We have discovered within the last 10 years the negative effects of inflammation and glycation, the need to enhance skin strength and increase the skin’s ability to resist negative effects of many internal and external factors, and the need to enhance our skin’s ability to repair damaged skin DNA.

OMP produces the Obagi Nu-Derm® System and disease-specific system of products (Obagi CLENZIderm® and Obagi Rosaclear®) and anti-aging products (Obagi ELASTIderm®). But with our ZO® Medical products, I have incorporated all of the agents and ingredients necessary to achieve the same results as the disease-specific systems through well-defined and easy-to-follow protocols while restoring skin health at the same time. The result: a more flexible product line, better treatment and happier patients.

What do you get the most satisfaction from in your current role at ZO Skin Health, Inc.?

Dr. Obagi I really enjoy interacting with fellow skincare enthusiasts. I feel very fortunate to be able to travel the world and meet with physicians, surgeons and scientists who are as passionate about skin health as I am. I provide training for physicians, speak at medical meetings and related events. We talk about skin health science, treatment and protocols, and the latest medical findings. Skin health is my passion and I want to share it with others. I want to share everything I have learned and want to continue to learn so that I can help people look younger indefinitely.

Where can consumers, doctors and other interested parties purchase ZO® Skin Health and ZO® Medical products?

Dr. Obagi ZO® Skin Health and ZO® Medical products are available in physicians’ offices and the ZO Skin Health, Inc. website: Medical-strength components are only available in physicians’ offices. Physicians interested in carrying ZO Skin Health, Inc. products are encouraged to contact one of our sales reps at 949.888.7524. A sales rep, along with a training specialist, will then meet with the physician and guide them on how to use the products, and keep them informed regarding future physician training dates, courses and lectures. I am also available for direct conversations with physicians regarding my treatments, protocols and products.