Be confident enough to let those you hire do their best work in their areas of expertise. Recognize your own weaknesses to fill the void with those smarter and more capable than you in those fields and be receptive to learning from them. Truly listen and learn, while being humble and confident enough to embrace new thoughts, ideas, and approaches to better yourself and your endeavors with continual iterations.
As a part of our series about how technology will be changing the beauty industry over the next five years I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michele Koo, MD, FACS, a Stanford University-educated, board-certified plastic surgeon with over 27 years of skin care clinical experience from her own ongoing private practice.
Throughout her career, Dr. Koo has transposed, excised, and nurtured skin from the inside out. Now, she has created a line of elegant and luxurious biochemically balanced, results-proven skin care products, Dr. Koo Skin Care.
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 having immigrated to the U.S, I embraced the opportunity of freedom and education. Without knowing any English, I always felt a step behind. I wanted to be accepted and confident in myself. As a plastic surgeon, through either reconstruction or aesthetic changes, I make small but truly impactful changes in individuals’ lives. For me, it’s all about the ripple-forward effect of helping my patients. I have a deep empathy for those who seek change to be comfortable in themselves.
The profession I chose requires meticulous attention to detail and combines raw smarts, science, design, and skillful execution. My skin care line (www.drkooskincare.com) resulted from my patients’ and my own frustration regarding how expensive skin care products are — and how those products ultimately did nothing. (Not to mention my disdain of the wastefulness of plastic containers and the impact on the environment!) I really wanted to provide everyone with plastic surgery results without having to go under the scalpel.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There were many times when I had to say no to young adults, who wanted plastic surgery to change their appearances — including my own teenagers. This was an excruciating battle with myself — how to deflect and delay their requests without seeming like a hypocrite. I answered their questions and safeguarded them, just like I would any teen or adult patient who comes in with minor appearance concerns. While the nature of my practice is to “make the good better,” it isn’t the complete story. It’s about creating real beauty that suits an individual’s personality, lifestyle, and persona. There’s importance in loving yourself first, understanding your wants, needs, and personality prior to changing yourself.
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?
My success is measured by the deep and profound gratitude and relief my patients give me when I alter their genetics. They no longer feel trapped in the bodies that they could not change. I have learned so much from my patients just by truly listening. I have been humbled by the human body’s ability to repair whatever incisions I have created. When I see my own growth and enlightenment through the eyes of my patients, I know that I am successful.
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?
We are a product of those who surround us. My mother, my three children Cameron, Alex, and Sydney, my husband Richard Lehman, who is a famous skilled orthopedic surgeon, my assistant Joanne, and all my patients. Even though we could not afford anything, my mother and father gave me everything and more. They gave me love, security, and the push to apply to Stanford University. My children have been strong and so helpful, with their brutal and honest words, to tell me when I was wrong. I became a better mother and person because of that. My husband of 32 years works so incredibly hard to support me and our children, and encourages me to forge ahead in my own career and passions. My selfless, tireless, smart, loyal assistant of 27 years, Joanne, takes care of our patients and me. Without her I would never have been able to build the practice, my skin care line, and have a family.
The best advice I could give anyone is to surround yourself with caring people who you trust and have your back, then effectively delegate. Be confident enough to let those you hire do their best work in their areas of expertise. Recognize your own weaknesses to fill the void with those smarter and more capable than you in those fields and be receptive to learning from them. Truly listen and learn, while being humble and confident enough to embrace new thoughts, ideas, and approaches to better yourself and your endeavors with continual iterations.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?
The science of encapsulation and microparticles is a unique and effective means of maximizing the delivery of ingredients to the appropriate layers of skin without irritation. I have scientifically combined ancient ingredients with documented results and the newest of skin science and technology. This allows my products to be all inclusive of all genders, races, and skin types. Skin is skin and science is science, so there is no need to differentiate a man’s product from a woman’s product. I provide step-wise concentrations and ingredient differentiation for a ladder to success, the right product at the right time, in the right concentration.
I think you’ve hit upon two completely different types of “cutting edge” technology. One is the unbelievable advances of medicine and science technology, while the other is digital imaging and informational technology. I do not see true scientists or medical doctors interested in science and research creating and founding skin care beauty brands. Instead, I see a sea of entrepreneurs and fashion icons brilliantly using “cutting edge” social media, digital information dissemination, and marketing to create immense distribution and sales of their products.
However, with better information, technology, digital imaging, and instantaneous feedback capabilities, a greater accountability of claims for product results will be demanded. My product gives the industry a true science-based skin care line that works — and isn’t just “hype,” my lab supports and guides the use of my skin care products to achieve those results.
Technology, particularly the kind that allows imaging to be conveyed over the internet, is immensely dangerous. So much private information can be hidden behind a photo and be virally disseminated. Mirrors programmed with digital imaging technology utilized to measure body fat can have profound negative self-image consequences. If digital imaging and telecommunications are utilized for medical access, and immediate feedback, it can revolutionize medicine. With greater access to informational technology comes more dangerous invasion of privacy, intentional as well as unintentional. Used properly, visual imaging can save lives and render access to quality university based health care to third world countries and rural regions of the United States.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?
1. Better access to the rapid diagnosis of dermatologic and plastic surgery concerns, faster response times to change skin care routines, and treatment plans for better outcomes. This also applies to diagnosis of skin cancers.
2. Improved biochemistry delivery systems for active ingredients to truly create change in the skin that will undo the past and protect it for the future. Creating micro- and then nano-actives to better achieve penetration into the cell for improved outcomes of skin change and protection.
3. Better distinction between true skin health and cosmetics. Cosmetic skin care is about optics and fast fixes. Quality medical skin care is about long-term skin health, followed by beauty.
4. (I had to add another one!) Improved virtual exercise devices and platforms to motivate those at home to start healthy routines. I have many patients who are too embarrassed to be seen in their gym clothes and won’t go to a class or train in a public venue. This will motivate and provide the platform for an unlimited number of in-home activities to stay healthy. This could be streamed and connected live with others doing the same routines to share the “misery” and experience!
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
1. Lack of transparency with the ingredients and why/how they work. I would ask for more transparency and education about the source, quality and concentrations of ingredients.
2. The emphasis on instant beauty changes with product use. I want to change consumers’ life-long skin care habits. Beauty and skin health does not come in a jar. I prefer to emphasize educating the consumer, peeling back the curtain to the wizard, and creating sustainable consistent skin care habits for not only skin health, but also holistic health as the skin is the gateway to so many diseases. Beauty and overall health will follow!
3. Improved labeling of products.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. A minimum of a 15-minute daily walk, and then building up to 30 to 60 minutes of some form of activity two to three times a week. Don’t set your goals so high that you feel intimidated and don’t even take the first step. I’ve had so many patient success stories, but the one that comes to mind is a woman in her 50s. She was at least 80 pounds heavier than her ideal weight. She hated “exercising.” She started ballroom dancing to socialize and as a stress reliever. She loved it so much, she increased her participation from one session two hours a week to five sessions, two hours each, five days a week! She entered competitive tournaments and formed so many new friendships. She lost 100 pounds and never looked back. Find your passion, don’t look for “exercises.”
2. A fresh lipstick or cologne every few months to brighten how you feel and look. I’m the perfect example in this case. I love something small, cute, and inexpensive that adds a touch of color, brightness, and freshness for my hair, makeup, and home. It doesn’t need to be a big purchase, it needs to be something you love, that makes you feel special and fresh.
3. Treat yourself to a professional color or hair styling at least every six to 12 weeks. Again, I have many patients, and this one applies to men as well. Men rarely take time for grooming. A client of mine, male, was undergoing a divorce, wanted to change his appearance, and didn’t want the downtime or expense of “plastic surgery.” I started him on a simple skin care regimen and suggested changing his hairstyle. He took my suggestion, and you cannot believe the impact this had on his self-esteem and perception. He started to slowly take more care in his dress and overall self-care. You have to start small and continue to grow!
4. One cheat day every week or two to eat or drink guilt free (but not in excess). Patients of mine who live in constant guilt can never progress with weight loss, give up smoking, or change their eating habits. They are constantly depriving themselves and then uncontrollably binging. If you indulge guilt-free (within limits) on set days, your longevity of healthy habits will be greater. I have too many clients and friends that fall into a self-loathing frame of mind.
5. Start with small changes, tip the first domino. For example, my patients who lose tremendous amounts of weight (I’m talking hundreds of pounds!). They start with such simple habits of giving up soda, sugary drinks, and eating late at night. They add one small step at a time. This applies to any “habit” that you want to change. A patient of mine wanted to change the way she interacted with her teenage daughter. No matter what she said, their interaction ended in an argument. I finally offered the advice of, “Why say anything, they want you to listen more than they want to hear your opinion.” She started practicing the closed-mouth technique and only offers advice when there is a question and now actually has full conversations with her daughter.
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. 🙂
I would inspire a movement of daily, basic motivational tasks — like washing your face every night. Start small but stay with it. Set a daily goal of very basic simple chores or activities of living. One chore a day that must be completed every week, expand from there. For example, on Mondays, don’t smoke any cigarettes if you’re a smoker. Tuesdays, balance your checkbook. Wednesdays, don’t eat sugar. Thursdays, walk for 15 minutes. Fridays, go to bed by 10 p.m.
Never give up and aspire to find you. It’s about iterating and re-iterating. It’s ok to fail but it’s not ok to give up.
It’s about letting your inner beauty come through, not cover-up and makeup. It’s the happiness we find in doing our best for ourselves first then for others. On an airplane, the flight attendants always tell you to put your own mask on FIRST, then on your child. You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself first. What do these tasks have to do with beauty? Beauty requires self-care, whether it’s your hair, skin, nails, clothes, or weight. It takes discipline and work. It takes consistency. It takes pride and love of oneself. Start small, stay consistent.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Steve Jobs said “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
My corollary is “Stay humble, stay learning.”
How can our readers follow you online?
Plastic Surgery — Website: https://drmichelekoo.com/
Skin Care Products — Website: https://drkooskincare.com/
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @drkooskincare
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.