Zein Obagi is bringing scientific skin-care analysis out of doctors’ offices and to the people.
After establishing two stand-alone ZO Skin Centre locations in Southern California last year, the dermatologist founder of ZO Skin Health is proliferating the concept domestically and internationally through franchises. The first U.S. franchise unit is set to land in September in St. Petersburg, Fla., following ZO Skin Centre openings earlier this year abroad in Cairo and Dubai.
“In the last 20 to 30 years, there has been a reduction in the public going to physicians for their skin problems. They try to solve them by going to Kmart or CVS, and buying over-the-counter products, but you can see problems like sun damage are increasing despite people buying more sunscreens. There is a lack of bond between science and the public. We need to restore that bond,” said Obagi. “Otherwise, we are sinking into a bad situation with people getting skin care that I see no benefit in. It’s a waste of money, and I actually see harm in it.”
Each ZO Skin Centre is spearheaded by a physician, typically a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, who is trained in Obagi’s approach to skin care. Centre locations offer a range of filler, neurotoxin, facial, peel and fat-, wrinkle-, cellulite- and acne-busting services priced from $175 to more than $1,000, and ZO Skin Health’s skin-care collection priced from $29 to $299. Outside of the ZO Skin Centre locations, the skin-care products are largely found in the professional channel of spas and medical clinics.
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Physicians at ZO Skin Centres begin their relationships with patients by conducting 45-minute skin evaluations. In these evaluations, skin on the face, neck, scalp, ears, décolleté, back and hands is gauged, and personalized skin-care programs are developed to address acne, melasma, sun damage, skin laxity, volume loss, wrinkles or related concerns. Follow-up assessments are planned to determine the progress of skin-care programs.
The evaluations and subsequent skin-care programs are intended to avert skin ailments before they occur. “I emphasize prevention. We can prevent sun damage, aging, pigmentation and acne if we start delivering to the skin formulations that will help the skin work properly,” said Obagi. “At the ZO Skin Centres, we are able to diagnose because we do analysis of the skin. We may find medical conditions patients may not be aware of. The abilities are tremendous. It’s not just like a medical spa where you go in for Botox and fillers, it is a wider application of science that requires selecting what is best for each individual.”
Obagi imagines interactions with ZO Skin Centre patients throughout their lives. “We can create a program designed to fight the problems that are common at any age. We have products for acne at, let’s say, ages 10 to 20, then, when they get older, we have products that can be used in medical treatments. The needs of skin change every year, so a person who goes to the Centres, their skin will be analyzed again and again, and the program will be adjusted,” he said.
In addition to the upcoming St. Petersburg opening and a possible branch in Miami, ZO Skin Centre locations are expected to expand in Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Japan and the Middle East. “The locations have to be in high-traffic areas adjacent to luxury brands,” said Omar Kadro, chief executive officer and chief operating officer of the ZO Skin Centre Group. “The high-traffic areas give them exposure to let people know what is available.”
Obagi’s goal isn’t a rapid ZO Skin Centre rollout. “I am not interested in being like the Body Shop, opening everywhere. I am interested in having ethical people open in nice locations where they can provide information, scientific analysis, products and early diagnosis,” he said. “We may start with four Centres this year and, another year, four to five Centres more. It’s going to be a slow process.”
The Centres are around 1,200 square feet, which is the size of the flagship at the shopping center Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., and generally include one to three treatment rooms. Their color scheme is white, blue and silver. Kadro detailed the white signifies purity, the silver represents high standards and the blue refers to Obagi’s signature blue peel. He elaborated the skin-care products within the Centres are assorted to convey the issues they handle. “Product is not just thrown in the shelf. There is a protocol for each particular condition involving three to five products that have to be used in a step-by-step fashion, and that’s how they are displayed,” said Kadro.
Although he wouldn’t discuss financials, Kadro suggested the performance of the existing ZO Skin Centre locations has been strong. “Our experience at Fashion Island shows that the public really embraces the idea, and the revenue has increased from the beginning to the present time,” he said. Obagi is certainly confident about the concept. He said, “I believe strongly in it, and invested my own money in the first one. I feel strongly that this is the future.”