Article Tab: A rendering of the Obagi Skin Institute in Laguna Beach. The clinic opened in July at 883 South Coast Highway; to Contact: Call 1 (949) 667-5115 or email

A rendering of the Obagi Skin Institute in Laguna Beach. The clinic opened in July at 883 South Coast Highway; to Contact: Call 1 (949) 667-5115 or email

Obagi Skin Health Institute, founded by Dr. Zein Obagi and headquartered in Beverly Hills, opened in Laguna Beach last month. It’s the third location and first in Orange County.

The company is known worldwide for anti-aging procedures, so we chatted with Obagi’s board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Monika Kiripolsky, about skin health advice most relevant to Orange County.

Uneven Skin Tone and Hyperpigmentation

The company’s newest location is housed in a beautiful, sleek and stylish new building filled with up-market interior materials and a candyland of shiny, high-tech, dermatological gadgetry. But lest one forget that the ocean is practically at the front door – there’s also a shower available for people who’ve perhaps booked an appointment after a day on the sand and need a bit of freshening up. So it’s no surprise that the beach, one of the prized benefits of living in Orange County, is also one of the most detrimental to healthy, youthful looking skin.

“Sun damage is definitely more prevalent in this part of the country. … You notice that when you get off of the plane in Southern California right away,” says Kiripolsky, comparing Orange County to the Midwest and East Coast. “Here you have gorgeous beaches and a community of people who are outside a lot more and they have more sun damage.”

Obagi built a reputation on treating dark spots, particularly on ethnic skin, without making the condition worse.

“Patients fly in from Ethiopia, the Middle East and Asia,” says Kiripolsky, adding that studies of beauty across cultures show that “the number one ideal is to have an even skin color. It signifies youth, so a lot of times we have to do some work to get (skin) back to that.”

Recommended products: For an uneven skin tone, including melasma and dark spots, Kiripolsky recommends sunscreen, topical antioxidants and products with hydroquinone, although that ingredient is controversial.

“You only want to use hydroquinone for a finite period of four to five months and with a concentration of about 4 percent or lower. Then you want to stop using it,” says Kiripolsky. “Skin stops responding to hydroquinone after about five months and after using it for a few years it can be toxic to your skin.”

Obagi’s skin care line, ZO Skin Health, also includes a hydroquinone-free product made to combat skin discoloration and treat hyperpigmentation called Brightenex ($110, Also recommended is Oclipse Sunscreen + Primer SPF 30 ($65,

Dr. Obagi ended his relationship with Obagi Medical Products Inc. because, as he states on his website, under the helm of new owners, the company strayed from his original goals. Dr. Obagi’s new company is ZO Skin Health.

Recommended procedures: Kiripolsky says chemical peels and lasers are also used to treat discoloration. These can vary in intensity and patient downtime. More intense procedures penetrate deeper, require anesthesia and have a higher risk.

“IPL, intense pulsed light, is great for sunspots, but you have to be careful because (if done improperly) and someone has melasma, which is a deeper pigment than freckles or sunspots, it can make skin worse,” says Kiripolsky, adding that skin darkening and even scarring can occur if a chemical peel or laser treatment is poorly done.

The Obagi Institute often prescribes a multi-week regime of topical creams to prepare skin before intense procedures.


In addition to retinol, enzymes and antioxidants, Kiripolsky says, products with DNA repair agents are also anti-aging. “And there are growth factors, which are how our cells talk to each other, and baby skin is full of growth factors. As we get older we make less of it, and in the 30s and 40s markedly less, so we basically restore that topically.”

Recommended products: Ossential Daily Power Defense ($150,

Recommended procedures: Kiripolsky also uses lasers, chemical peels, Botox and fillers for anti-aging.

“Botox is preventative. I started in my 20s, and the earlier you start the better, because after years of making facial expressions you start to get those lines even when you’re at rest and not making facial expressions,” says Kiripolsky. “Volume restoration is a big thing too. After you turn 30 we lose volume in our face every year, so our skin starts to just fall and hang. … Restoring volume also prolongs the time before you have to do a face-lift.”

She says there are many types of fillers and that the key is to go to someone who has experience with all of them.

“Someone who knows which ones to use, where in the face to use them and how deep to put it,” says Kiripolsky, adding that she loves Sculptura because it causes your own body to make collagen, and it’s a gradual change.

She likes using Sculptura in the contours of the cheeks and to add volume to the temples (a surprise part of the body that gives away your age if you lose volume there); Radiesse for marionette lines along the mouth; Restylane for under the eyes and the tear troughs; and Juvederm for the lips.

Prevent bad cosmetic work

Make sure your doctor is properly certified.

“These days, people put up a shingle and are savvy enough to say “board certified” but not say what board they’re talking about,” says Kiripolsky, adding that because it’s a lucrative market, there are a lot of people doing procedures such as injectables and lasers that don’t have the proper training. She says to make sure your doctor is certified by the American Academy of Dermatology or American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Meet your doctor in person to see their bedside manner.

“You have to feel comfortable around them because you’re going to be going back for follow-up visits,” says Kiripolsky. “Also check how nice their staff is, because you can tell a lot about a doctor by their staff. If their staff is usually happy and friendly then they’re usually treated well by the doctor behind closed doors.”

Get second and third opinions.

“I want you to feel really comfortable when you come to me and I’m confident in what I’m recommending,” says Kiripolsky.

Bring a written list of concerns.

“That way when you see the doctor you won’t get nervous when you see the white coat and forget what you wanted to talk about,” says Kiripolsky. If you’re coming in because of botched cosmetic work somewhere else, “voice what happened to you during your surgery and then let the doctor give the advice on how to fix it or redirect the attention.”

Listen to your doctor.

“In Orange County and Beverly Hills, for example, people tend to want more and more added to lips.” She says people also forget the hands and décolletage signal aging and that a good doctor shares with patients what they need.