Dr. Leslie Baumann: “Check the science yourself and always follow any scientific statement with evidence-based research”

Whether you are a man or a woman, you will feel beautiful if you have healthy, radiant skin. Think of how self-conscious you feel when you have a pimple. I know I feel self-conscious, and I am a dermatologist! Multiple studies show that your self-esteem is affected when you have skin problems. The fewer “bad […]

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Whether you are a man or a woman, you will feel beautiful if you have healthy, radiant skin. Think of how self-conscious you feel when you have a pimple. I know I feel self-conscious, and I am a dermatologist! Multiple studies show that your self-esteem is affected when you have skin problems. The fewer “bad skin days” you have the more beautiful you will feel. The best way to have beautiful healthy skin is to use the correct products in the proper order every single day. Consistency is key.

Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Leslie Baumann, MD. She is a board-certified dermatologist, researcher and bestselling author of three books on dermatology and skincare. She is a practicing dermatologist and is the CEO of Skin Type Solutions; a company that independently tests skincare products from multiple brands and provides skincare regimen generating software to dermatologists to help them develop scientifically based skincare regimens for their patients.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. My mother always tells me the story of when I was very young, four years old, I think. She was brushing my blonde hair that was starting to change color and said. “Leslie- when you grow up, I think you are going to be a brunette.” I said “No I won’t! I’m going to be a doctor!”

Even though I wanted to be a doctor, I was always interested in business, as well. I was an avid reader and read biographies of entrepreneurial women such as Elizabeth Arden, Helen Rubinstein, Martha Stewart and Estee Lauder in addition to other cosmetic giants such as Charles Revson who started Revlon. In medical school, I realized that dermatology was perfect for me because it had so much variety which included pediatrics, surgery and skincare and had many entrepreneurial opportunities.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I came up with the idea to write a skincare book in 2005 in which I explained the Baumann Skin Typing System. I was very lucky to get two well known book agents from Inkwell management: Catherine Drayton and Richard Pine. They were able to get 13 different publishers interested in my book. I went to New York to interview with the various publishers and had planned to be there for one day, so I brought one outfit in my carry-on luggage. Catherine Drayton and I visited in person with at least five of the interested publishers. It was so exciting seeing the offices of Hyperion and Random House, among many others. Three of the publishers ended up getting in a bidding war over the book so I was stuck in New York in the same outfit for three days. It was so exciting. My agents would call after each bid and we would have to decide whether to take it. I was on an adrenalin rush for those three days. We ended up choosing Bantam Dell, a subsidiary of Random House, because the CEO Irwyn Applebaum really understood the scientific potential of the skin typing system and was the most likely publisher to market the book properly. I had lunch with the Barnes & Noble executives to discuss book marketing and it was fascinating to learn about the publishing world. Admittedly, I’m a book nerd and I love bookstores! I was on Good Morning America and many other live newscasts. It was a whirlwind that I will never forget. The book was on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2006 and was translated into multiple languages.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

In 2004, I had a very busy clinic at the University of Miami and was already a known expert on skincare in my field because I conducted all the research trials for the major cosmetic companies. I had written a bestselling textbook on Cosmetic Dermatology and a monthly column on Cosmeceuticals for dermatologists for years in a popular dermatology newspaper. Because of this, people from around the world would fly in for a consult to get skincare advice. We were short staffed at my dermatology clinic and the University would not let me hire more people. I needed a way to make my clinic more efficient and allow my staff to help me more. However, the science of customizing a scientific skincare regimen for a patient was difficult and I had no way to delegate this.

My mentor told me that I should spend one hour of “thinking time” a week to come up with research ideas. One day during a brainstorming session, I realized I could divide patients into 16 Baumann Skin Types® based on the presence or absence of four Barriers to Skin Health: Dehydration, Inflammation, Altered Pigmentation and Aging. I researched this and developed a key of which ingredients each skin type should use and avoid. I decided that it would be easier to write a book then have 16 different patient instruction sheets to keep up with. I published my book The Skin Type Solution (Bantam Del, 2006) and it became a New York Times Best Seller and lead to a 2010 PBS Special of the same name. The moment that I was on Good Morning America talking about my book, my life changed. S Suddenly, I had the resources I needed to expand my research of skin types and how they responded to different combinations of skincare products. Although I was also very active in researching injectables such as Botox and dermal fillers, I noticed that skincare — when prescribed properly –could greatly improve the outcome of these cosmetic procedures. I decided that I needed to find a way to allow more people to benefit from the correct skin care so they could also have healthier skin. I realized that not everyone had the resources to fly to Miami and see me or spend a lot of money on skincare, so I figured out how to design skincare regimens in the most cost effective way, using multiple brands, and how to educate people about how to properly use these products on their skin. At the time, SkinTypeSolutions.com had a very active forum where people discussed their skin type. This was before social media and we had millions of people coming to the website to discuss their skin issues. It was so gratifying to help so many people with the same skin type communicate about skincare products independent of skincare brand influence.

Based on my experience, I would echo my mentor with this advice: “Spend one hour of thinking time a week. It could change your life!”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Growing up, I was always interested in skincare and treatment. When I finished my dermatology residency in 1997, William Eaglstein, M.D., chairman of the University of Miami Department of Dermatology, asked me to join the faculty at the University of Miami Department of Dermatology and develop a Department of Cosmetic Dermatology. I was an avid reader of business books and I told him I would do it if he created a separate division of Cosmetic Dermatology, let me run it, and made me the “Director of Cosmetic Dermatology.” He smiled and said ironically “OK, but you realize you will be the “Director” of yourself .“ It was a humorous moment I will never forget. When I left the University of Miami in 2009, we had 25 people employed in the Division of Cosmetic Dermatology. It had turned into the University of Miami Cosmetic treatment and Research Institute that had oculoplastic surgeons, facial plastics and plastic surgeons in addition to cosmetic dermatologists. We trained 60 dermatologists from around the world in addition to many University of Miami dermatologists and surgeons.

In 1998, when the first anti-aging Botox trials were performed, I was asked to perform the FDA approval trial because our division was the only university-based research center dedicated to cosmetic dermatology. I was in the right place at the right time because of the foresight of my mentor! The Botox trial obviously was a big deal and led to my involvement in the development of almost all of the botulinum toxins and dermal fillers including Dysport, Juvederm, Restylane, Sculptra and many others. My research team became very well-known and I was thrilled when skincare companies started hire us to research their products. I have worked for Loreal (Skinceuticals, Vichy, La Roche Posay), Unilever (Ponds and Dove), Avon, Mary Kay, LVMH (Dior), Burt’s Bees, Johnson and Johnson (Aveeno and Neutrogena) and many others. It has been so gratifying that I can merge my medical research experience with skincare science and bring my two passions together.

My advice to others is surround yourself with good mentors and LISTEN TO THEM! If it had not been for Dr. Eaglstein, I might have done routine dermatology and missed being involved in all of this innovation.

The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion-dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?

Most people are using the wrong skincare products for their skin type. My goal is to change that using a scientific process based on decades of research combined with education about how to use skincare products properly. The Skin Type Solutions research team independently tests skincare brands on the Baumann Skin Types. The fact that the system is independent and brand agnostic allows doctors to give ethical and scientific recommendations to their patients that will improve their skin health.

I am providing a scientific way for people to properly identify their Baumann Skin Type and receive medical advice on skincare including a customized skincare regimen and instructions on how to properly use the products (Which brand?, Which products?, How much?, How often?, Which step in the regimen?). This validated methodology is included in most of the major dermatology and plastic surgery textbooks and is “brand agnostic” (meaning it works with all skincare brands whether inexpensive or expensive). More than 200 doctors now use this system called “Skin Type Solutions” in their medical practices.

More than 200,000 people have participated in the research trials that validated the questionnaire that diagnoses the Baumann Skin Type. We found that more than 70-percent of people are wrong about their skin type and are using the wrong skincare products for their skin. There is NO OTHER skin type identification questionnaire that has been scientifically validated, published in multiple medical journals and textbooks and is used by dermatologists. I am passionate about making sure that EVERY person spends their money on skincare products that will improve skin health and will avoid the wrong skincare products that can damage the skin (and waste money).

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

  1. People are starting to realize the importance of having a customized skincare regimen that scientifically targets their skin’s specific issues. In the past, people tended to believe that one miracle product worked for everyone. Now people realize that each person has different needs based on their underlying skin issues, lifestyle habits and budget.
  2. So much money is going into the industry that many new efficacious products are entering the market.
  3. We now have over 200 doctors working together to test new products on their patients around the world on all genders, ethnic groups and in all climates.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?

  1. Most marketing claims are “pseudoscience” and mislead doctors and consumers who do not understand the complicated subtleties, if they are not constantly reading the latest medical journals and are not trained on skin science. Skin Type Solutions aims to solve this by independently researching the products without any influence from the brands in a “brand agnostic” manner.
  2. People are wrong about their skin type most of the time and use the wrong skincare products. This wastes time and money and can reduce skin health and increase aging. Skin Type Solutions provides an accurate diagnostic tool to help people accurately diagnose their skin type and choose the correct products in the correct order to improve skin health.
  3. Many people claim to be experts about skincare who have no background in science. Although skincare is luxurious, and many people purchase it for the packaging or the celebrity endorsement, it is important to remember that skincare is not fragrance, clothing or shoes. It is something you put on your skin that AFFECTS SKIN HEALTH. Every single ingredient in the product affects the skin’s biology. Combining ingredients changes the chemistry of the ingredients. For this reason, the order that products are applied on the skin is almost as important as which ingredients are best for your skin. If I could encourage everyone to find out their Baumann Skin type and learn about what ingredients to use and which to avoid, it would empower them to make better skincare choices.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?

Whether you are a man or a woman, you will feel beautiful if you have healthy, radiant skin. Think of how self-conscious you feel when you have a pimple. I know I feel self-conscious, and I am a dermatologist! Multiple studies show that your self-esteem is affected when you have skin problems. The fewer “bad skin days” you have the more beautiful you will feel. The best way to have beautiful healthy skin is to use the correct products in the proper order every single day. Consistency is key.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five Things You Need to Know to Succeed in The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

For more than 20 years I have written a monthly column on skincare ingredients for dermatologists called “Cosmeceutical Critique.” I spend most of my time testing skincare products from around the world and have found that many of these products are not effective or are harmful when used on the wrong skin type. The goal of my company Skin Type Solutions is to improve skin health around the world by helping doctors match the correct products to the Baumann Skin Type.

I am passionate about skincare and am a science nerd, so I read up on all the new technologies and follow brand launches. My five pieces of advice are based on what I have learned by studying skincare science and industry trends in skincare marketing.

  1. Use ingredients backed by solid science. The FDA’s definition of a “cosmetic product” is a product that “improves the skin’s appearance” but does not affect the skin’s biology. If a product is shown to affect the skin’s biology — technically it is regulated as an Over the Counter (OTC) medication (if it contains pre-approved “monographed” ingredients for that purpose) or is considered a drug and needs FDA approval. Cosmeceuticals are considered cosmetic products. The word “cosmeceutical” is not a category recognized by the FDA- it is more of a marketing term. This means that most skincare brands and ingredients have not undergone strict scientific efficacy testing, and if they have, the companies are not allowed to make those scientific claims, so they often do not share the data. This means that companies are dis-incentivized to research their products on human skin. Most cosmetic research is done on cell cultures in the lab which is not the same as on human skin. If you are planning to come out with a skincare line, it is important that you have an expert help you evaluate the data to see if the products really work. Pseudoscience (science that is taken out of context and misused) is often used to sell products that actually have no efficacy.
  2. Allow customization. My research has shown that there are over 40,000 different skincare regimens needed to cover all ethnicities, genders and ages 13 and up. (we did not include ages below 13 in our research). I am not saying you need 40,000 different products, but there are 40,000 different ways to combine the skincare products necessary to treat all Baumann Skin Types. This is a perfect example of why one product is not right for everyone.
  3. File Intent to use” trademarks before you pay a lot of money to have the packaging designed and the product manufactured. You might not be able to get a trademark. It will cost you a lot of money to redo the packaging and name changes can confuse consumers. Use the government’s online TESS system to check for yourself if a trademark is already in use. It looks difficult at first, but it is easy to learn.
  4. Copyright any material that is important to your brand identity. This is an inexpensive way to protect your brand. I recently had to file a lawsuit which alleges another company, HelloAva, had copied content from my Skin Type Solution book which fortunately had been copyrighted and trademarked.
  5. Over 50% of skincare lines that are launched fail. Make sure you have a clear idea of your demographic, competitors and what makes your company different. Order a minimum quantity of each product and test them before you order 100,000 units which is the amount you need to order to get good pricing. The early minimal quality products will cost you more but will save you a lot of headaches in the future if there is an unforeseen problem.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I would encourage is “Know Your Baumann Skin Type and Shop Accordingly.” All cosmeceutical companies should develop products targeted to the Baumann Skin Types. Right now, companies try to introduce products in the market that are right for everyone; however, that is impossible. Also, companies tend to focus on only one skin problem so that consumers must buy multiple products. For example, companies that make acne products will develop an acne serum, acne cream or acne toner without considering all the other barriers to skin health that need to be addressed. Just because you suffer from acne does not mean that your skin does not have other issues as well. Using the outdated skin typing system of dry, oily, combination and acne prone skin is not enough. It does not consider the fact that multiple skin problems can exist at once. All skin problems should be treated-not just one-in order to have the healthiest most radiant skin.

I encourage everyone to ask their doctor to diagnose their Baumann Skin Type. If there is not a doctor in your area that uses the software, you can find out your skin type and find a doctor at SkinTypeSolutions.com. Once you have your skin type diagnosis, it is easier to be educated about what types of products are best for your unique skin type. If everyone knew their Baumann Skin Type and looked for products labelled to be right for that skin type, we (companies, researchers, doctors, patients, consumers) would all be speaking the same language and it would be easier for people to choose products that improve all of the skin problems that they have.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In 1997, I gave a skincare lecture and a dermatologist in the audience asked me for a reference on a scientific statement I had made. I had learned the “fact” from a marketing person from a skincare company. After being questioned by the enlightened dermatologist, I reviewed all of the research on the product and realized that I was mislead by “pseudoscience.” It is very easy for a company to take a piece of scientific data out of context and use it to market products. One example of this is peptides. Peptides do not penetrate into the skin’s dermis because they are large and have difficulty passing through the skin barrier. The research on peptides that show anti-aging effects are done in cell cultures where penetration thru the skin is not an issue. The same can be said about stem cells. This means that peptides and stem cells may have interesting effects on cells in a culture dish but are useless when placed on the skin because they cannot get in.

The lesson I learned is- “Check the science yourself and always follow any scientific statement with evidence-based research.”

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