Joel Schlessinger, MD, is a well-known dermatologist with a bustling practice in Omaha, Nebraska, a successful businessman who owns and operates one of the top skin caree-commerce sites in cyberspace, www.LovelySkin.com, and a prolific clinical trialist. He also has a pretty impressive curriculum vitae or CV.
Schlessinger completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Alabama Children’s Hospital in Birmingham before doing another residency in dermatology at Barnes Hospital at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. He is the past president of the Nebraska Dermatology Society, the President Emeritus of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, and the founder of the Cosmetic Surgery Forum held annually in Las Vegas.
Despite this very full dance card, Schlessinger found time chat with Beauty in the Bag about his practice and how he balances all of these different endeavors
How do you define beauty?
It is something that everybody has in their own way. While many people define beauty as a movie star or person on the cover of a magazine, I see it as a way to enhance what you naturally have and make the best impression. We tend to have aspirations for beauty based on models that are airbrushed and live lives that are impossible for the average person to achieve and maintain.
How do you compensate for this in consultations with new patients?
“We use natural untouched models to bring a little bit of reality to the equation so we don’t end up sending a new generation of women and men to an unrealistic and dangerous place.
Tell us about your e-commerce site, lovelyskin.com?
“We started the website in 1998 and it was initially just to help customers and patients who had moved away and wanted our skincare products, but it became busier and busier. Now, it’s the 25th largest health and beauty website in the world and the recent winner (for the third year straight) of the Bizrate Platinum Circle of Excellence Award. No other skincare website has ever achieved this!
Sounds intense. How do you divide your time between your practice and the website?
“Essentially, I have two jobs. During the day, I am 100% in charge of taking care of my dermatology practice and patients and I spend the rest of the evening taking care of LovelySkin business. My wife, Nancy, has taken on many of the functions and helps me out greatly behind the scenes as does the rest of my staff. I couldn’t do it without their incredible help!
What is the secret to the site’s success?
Loyalty and history. It is difficult to start a website today and get traction because the cost of acquiring business is so huge. We started in 1998 and didn’t start making profit until 2002. We have hundreds of thousands of people who have used the site over the past 12 to 13 years. My staff and I view it as if we have pen-pals all over the world, which makes our customers feel like they are special.
Tell us about Advanced Skin Research Center, your clinical trial facility.
I have participated in about 250 clinical trials. At any given time, I have 20 or so clinical trials going on.
What’s in the pipeline that you are excited about?
Kythera’s ATX-101, an experimental fat melting injection for under-the-chin fat—and topical botulinum toxin, a potential option for Botox that could be applied rather than injected.
What is your beauty mantra?
I want to bring out the soccer mom’s natural beauty for the world to see—and focus less on the glitz and glamour. I want patients to achieve the best result in the quickest and most cost-efficient manner. The cosmetic treatments we do are really just making people the best they can be and that is something everyone should consider, just as we try to maintain our health in other ways. For some reason, the concept of minor ‘tweaks’ like Botox or fillers is controversial to some. For me, it is a natural desire for people to look their best. As long as that ‘best’ is something that they want for themselves rather than to fulfill someone else’s vision or desire for them, I am all in favor of it.
How much of what you do is cosmetic?
About 50 percent. I always enjoyed the medical aspect of dermatology too, and would never give that up as it is fascinating and allows me to see a wider variety of patients, from kids to my 105 year old patient who comes in to flirt with my staff. I love the variety.
What is the condition you find most challenging to treat?
Warts. Clearly there isn’t a solution yet as it is a common virus, but I do hope there will be options in the future that are more effective and less painful than freezing or lasers.
Any procedures that you find particularly challenging?
I often have challenging surgeries in my work as a Mohs skin cancer surgeon. Also, there are way too many tragic cases of individuals coming to our office who went to unlicensed or unqualified practitioners to have procedures done at a discount. Sadly, this is a common thing and it doesn’t just happen in the big cities. It is all over the place and affecting our field greatly. There are way too many cases of botched surgery in people who will now never consider cosmetic surgery again because they had cosmetic surgery by a person who did know what they are doing or were simply unqualified to perform the procedure.