By and  on February 2, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS — In an atmosphere that emotes part Grecian spa, part Beverly Hills glitz, noted dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi unveiled the Obagi Skin Health Institute on 270 North Canon Drive last month, in the heart of the district’s prestigious retail and residential area.

With eight treatment rooms in an airy 6,000-square-foot space, the institute counts as its high point a state-of-the-art surgical suite where minimally invasive procedures such as ultrasound liposuction and radio frequency ablation can be carried out. The other procedure rooms will offer processes such as Botox, injectable fillers, laser and Intense Pulsed Light therapies.

Obagi said he wants to focus on “skin health restoration ” at the center.

The spa’s opening coincided with the Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision to investigate the use of hydroquinone in skin products — an active ingredient in some of Obagi’s skin care items, such as NuDerm and CRx, each of which contain 4 percent hydroquinone. The skin-bleaching ingredient was banned by the European Union in 2001, and has been linked to increased risks of cancer. The FDA is reviewing public comments on the proposed ban, but a final decision still might be months away.

Obagi agreed that there had been “unethical and nonmedical” use of hydroquinone in cosmetic products, and a distinction had to be drawn between using the ingredient for purely aesthetic rather than medical reasons.

“This product is badly abused by many people, especially those who try to lighten or whiten their skin without medical supervision,” he said. “This is not something that should be purchased over the counter.”

The ban would only affect items sold over the counter, not items sold under a prescription.

He said he includes hydroquinone products in treatment regimens he draws up for his patients, but that the condition must warrant it; these include problems regarding pigmentation, melasma and ethnic skin that needs pigmentation correction.

“We have had no problems for the last 35 years with the medical usage and the proper concentration and application of this product,” he said. However, additional Obagi products will bow this year that will not contain hydroquinone.

“We have antiaging products in the pipeline and tremendous breakthroughs in the treatment of acne without the use of hydroquinone,” he said.

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