Local dermatologist is leader in skin-care industry
When you step into the offices of High Point dermatologist Dr. Zoe Draelos, there’s a good chance you aren’t there just to have a mole looked at.
Draelos operates an extensive clinical research facility where pharmaceutical and cosmetics products are developed and tested. Whether it’s sunscreen or wrinkle cream you buy over the counter or a prescription drug to treat a serious skin ailment, it’s likely that Draelos played a role in taking it from its initial idea through the government approval process to the point it appears on store shelves.
“Our research sort of spans a broad spectrum, from things you can buy at Walmart to shots that cost $10,000 a piece,” Draelos said. “I don’t think a lot of people know that a lot of skin-care products they use every day were tested and developed right here in High Point.”
Draelos has practiced in High Point for 15 years and has been a clinical researcher for 30 years.
Her diverse background — she was a mechanical engineer before she went into medicine — enables her to design all of the research equipment at her facility.
The idea of her research studies is based on a business relationship — giving companies the information they need to make a product successful.
But Draelos said she sees her mission as more than that, providing a type of community outreach that serves specific medical needs and stands out as a bright spot in the local economy.
“High Point really plays a vital role in new product development that improves many people’s lives around the world,” she said. “We try make the community a better place. People come in and say they’ve had this disease for years and no one’s been able to help, and we’ve been able to give them state-of-the-art treatment for free and change their lives.”
The companies Draelos and her team have worked with include well-known brands like Dial, Head and Shoulders and Clearasil.
Some of the research entails testing ideas companies have for new products. One recent example involved an oatmeal extract that a company wanted to put in a moisturizer.
The test subjects will try the product out and provide feedback in a sort of focus group model: Does it smell bad? Is it too sticky or too greasy? Draelos’ staff uses a machine to see how well the skin is moisturized by the product.
“We pay people for their time and their opinions to come and give us their ideas,” she said.
The testing involves more than a quick office visit.
If a company wants to advertise that its product relieves dry and sensitive skin for 16 hours, that has to be established through testing before it will be approved by the Federal Trade Commission.
“So we have to bring people to the office and keep them here 16 hours, and then we look to see if it’s still working properly,” Draelos said. “Every word on a skin-care product, somebody somewhere had to prove it did that or the FTC will say you’re making unsubstantiated claims.”
After the research is collected, more phases of testing may take place and, if things move forward, the data goes to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.
Draelos said one new drug her office helped develop is Mirvaso, which recently was approved by the FDA.
“It takes the redness out of your face. People with a permanently red face find it emotionally disabling. We were one of the sites that tested it through several phases of testing,” she said.
Draelos also works on debilitating skin conditions. She and her staff are developing a new shot to treat severe cases of psoriasis.
“Some skin diseases are so terrible and so awful, they’re head to toe. People may have 40 or 50 percent of their body involved,” she said. “We have people who, they lost their job, they don’t have any insurance, they can’t get a job, their spouse has left them and every night, they want to take their skin off and set it on a chair because their skin is so itchy and so uncomfortable.”
In the cosmetic realm, she’s working on a powerful antiperspirant for people with heavy sweating. Then there is the body wash for teenagers with acne. Draelos seemingly has her imprint on every skin-care product out there.
“It’s fun for me to walk down the store shelves and go, ‘I worked on that product,’” she said.