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Beauty, Health

Exclusive Interview: Dr. Angelo Thrower, Pioneering Miami Skin Care Doctor and Entrepreneur

Dr. Angelo Thrower is a leading physician in Miami, Florida who specializes in skin, body and hair care for people of color and of diverse ethnicities. His work has revolutionized treatment procedures for ethnic skin, and his practice, the MedSpa, has enforced this newfound knowledge with state-of-the-art procedures. The MedSpa focuses on individualized treatments not only for certain skin types, but the specific plights these skin types face.

Dr. Angelo Thrower

Between running business, operating a skin-care line, and acting as one of the Miami Heat’s specialists for over 25 years, Dr. Thrower has his hands full. In this exclusive interview, Dr. Thrower reveals how he got into the business, what inspires him, and the impact he hopes to make (and currently makes) on the world of ethnic skin care.

Interviewology: What inspired you to get into the business of skin care?

Dr. Angelo Thrower: I was a medical student at the University of Miami in 1985. We had 180 students in our class, and six or eight were of darker skin. I was part of a true minority. The school would invite black doctors who practice in the area to give us talks. We would get general surgeons, OBGYNs and other specialists. During that time, I asked the question: What does our community need? I had intended to go into thoracic surgery. The doctors who came in as guest speakers, especially the African American ones, all said “We don’t have any dermatologists.” At the time, I had no interest in it, but I decided to look at the field.

I remember my time as a student well and with fondness. One of the things that struck me in the medical library was that all the Dermatology textbooks featured white people. There was no interest to identify skin conditions in people with other skin hues or people of other skin color. That piqued my interest dramatically. I kept asking questions and the professors would tell me there is no difference among people with different skin color. I would study the cases and visit underprivileged clinics at Jackson Memorial hospital and see the opposite is true, for example, with atopic dermatitis. This condition can look different in darker skin and the treatment and management of this condition in people of darker skin can be very different.

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation seemed always associated with Atopic Dermatitis in darker skin and Ointment base medications were much more effective than creams and lotions. I would see major differences that contradicted the textbooks and the assumed knowledge of doctors at that time.

With African Americans, Caribbean Islanders and people of darker skin tones, there are other special considerations that Caucasians do not have. I started looking at medications prescribed to Caucasians people. For example, Psoriasis a condition can affect the scalp, may require a topical medication, but it’s typically the wrong vehicle for black people. For blacks who only wash their hair every 7-10 days, the traditional treatment, which would be an alcohol vehicle, would create great difficulties and could possibly worsen the condition. Black hair and scalp requires oils and ointments for good health. Whereas for whites who wash their hair every day to remove oils, the alcohol vehicle medications are tolerable.

I started ordering books from England to get a broader and global understanding of dermatological conditions and treatments for darker skinned peoples. These books gave me a better knowledge and more awareness for this field as it relates to people of African descent.

I soon realized there were as many cultural misunderstandings and biases that contributed to medical misunderstandings and lack of proper treatment and solutions for people of color. Minoxidil is prescribed for Alopecia but once again it is alcohol or foam based. I realized I had to take that medication and put it in a moisturizing vehicle to treat people of color. I developed the Minoxidil in a scalp friendly formula that moisturizes the scalp while delivering the medication. The product is called ThroGrower.

Now we have a product that has proven efficacy and is compatible with dark skin dermatological needs and their lifestyle.

I: What inspired you during your education, residency, and formative years that made you want to open your own practice?

AT: I had a gap year where I did a lot of wound healing research. I was able to spend time at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, GA. I became friends with J. Graham Smith, President of the Academy of Dermatology at the time. He was aware of my special interest in black skin. I could express my opinion throughout the entire time of my externship there. In August, I spent most of my time reading text books on Black Skin versus White Skin disorders, atlas after atlases on the same and researching on the same. Dr. Smith expressed to me his desire to admit me into his program. He told me not to apply to any other dermatology program in the country.

I later went to George Washington University Medical center in Washington D.C., doing my residency continuing my research and reading everything I could about black dermatology. Realizing I was in Washington and the home of Howard University, a historically black college and medical center, I looked through the faculty and discovered John A. Kenny, the father of black dermatology. I would spend my weekends sitting on his front porch with him for hours as he gave me a better understanding of my studies and his experiences. He inspired me to continue my thrust for knowledge and awareness for dermatology in black skin. At this point I realized I was on a mission and nothing was going to stop me. Later, Dr. Smith from The Medical College of Georgia called me on the phone and told me my spot as a resident was taken and not available, dramatically altering my path and upsetting my plans.

But that put me on a different path. I returned home to South Florida. I took odd jobs working in a nursing home, working for insurance companies, working in pre-op at hospitals, but I had the Black dermatology bug burning in me during this time.

I had already read and studied most of the available information and was very confident and competent to fulfill my dream against all odds.

I decided to publish an ad in the local Black newspaper called The Miami Times. It read: “Do you suffer from acne, dark spots, shaving bumps, bumps on the neck, dry scalp, or skin discoloration? These are the most common problems black people face. That ad brought in many people, including Dwight Lauderdale, a TV anchor for local news on Channel 10. He then in turned me to Dr. Stuart Leeds, the former Miami Heat Podiatrist, who told me, “If you were a stock, I would buy you now.” I was introduced to the then-trainer of the Miami Heat, Mr. Ron Culp, and they started allowing me to address the Dermatological needs of the players and the organization. I concentrated on the areas I knew I was an expert in. I stayed within my niche.

I: Please describe what you find most rewarding in your practice with regards to helping people with their appearances.

AT: Because of the longevity of my practice, I still get tremendous joy when patients come in and you can tell they were struggling with certain dermatological conditions and a certain expectation of me and we are able to put together an integrative medical approach just for them. I show them how to take care of their skin. I begin by teaching them how to determine their skin type to make the right selection of products for them. I create a topical treatment program and when necessary add energy devices such as our laser machine for skin rejuvenation and many other services.

I: Which MedSpa procedure is the most gratifying for you to preform? Why?

AT: Our MedSpa offers many different types of services, from chemical peels and acne surgery to microdermabrasion and mole removal, hair removal, stretch mark repair— but the real star of the MedSpa is circumferential fat reduction, skin tightening, and cellulite removal. This procedure for the reduction of fat has been nothing short of a miracle. No dieting, no pills, no exercising, and no down time, no anesthesiology. The machine melts fat naturally, the fat is vacuumed to the to the surface of the skin and the body absorbs it immediately and we see dramatic results.

I: How do you see your role as the creator of a new line of skin care products? Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur as well as a doctor?

AT: By nature, because of the large volume of inventory and different industry-related vendors I communicate with on a daily basis along with my experience, in the early 2000s. I had the opportunity to distribute my skin care products in Walmart across the USA. That put me into a major entrepreneurial place as a professional. The three books I authored— Black Skin Care for the Practicing Professional, Skin Care: How to Save Your Skin, and Basic Care for Naturally Textured Hair—opening my own hair salon, Hair Mystique, and running my dermatology clinic, I am more of an entrepreneur. But when I am in the examination room with a patient I am totally in a physician mindset. When I leave the room, I am an entrepreneur.

I: Describe how your practice is influenced by the aesthetics of Miami and its unique populace. 

AT: Miami, outside of the Caribbean Islands, is the perfect location for my practice because of the many different types of cultures we have. Our patients are all considered “ethnic”. You don’t have to be black to be considered a minority in the USA. Miami offers a wide variety of different shades of the same skin— black, brown, African, Latino, Caribbean.

I: When did you know you wanted to create your own skin-care line? What was the inspiration? 

AT: Every single product I have created, approximately 40, was based on a patient’s need. The most basic questions from patients are “What should I wash my face with?” for example, and it got me to think and develop a specific type of product for dark and ethnic skin types. Once I understood how to teach people to determine their skin type (oily, dry, combination), I was able to realize I could take this lack of product knowledge as an opportunity to make one holistic compatible regimen of products to match a patient’s true skin type. I came up with a variety of products and made every ingredient in each product compatible and designed specifically for each skin type. If you have dry skin, oily skin, the ingredients in will take care of your needs.

I: How long did it take you to develop the Skin Type Specific line products?

AT: Every product I have, my patients are very tolerant, I would make fifty sample bottles and give away samples, get feedback. The process can take up to 5 years or longer.

I work closely with patients and the chemists to develop the right product and the right ingredients.

I: Being one of the physicians for the Miami Heat must be vastly different from being a skin care doctor. How do you balance these two professions?

AT: First, working with the Miami Heat organization I have the honor of working with other top physicians in their field. Working with other top professionals will always make your job easier. I work with the entire organization. Our training staff, lead by our head trainer Mr. Jay Sabol, is the best in the business in making sure our players always receive top notch care. There is no turnover. Our medical support team is constant most of our medical staff has over 20 years together with The Miami Heat. We are a team that takes care of the team.

I: What is the one piece of skin-care advice you give to all your clients?

AT: Stop and think.

I: Do you have any new, exciting products or services you hope to offer within the next year?

AT: I am now in my eighth year of finalizing a formula that is scalp-friendly for all ethnic hair types for alopecia. One of my mentors in medical school, Guinter Khan, is the original creator of minoxidil. Since working with him, I have had a desire and drive to make that formula more appropriate for black people. I now have that formula rock solid with a patent pending in ten different countries, and we are dispensing it and promoting now.

It’s called Throw Grower, with a stem cell root stimulator, called Redensyl. The base is scalp friendly because it contains aloe butter and argon oil. It is a perfect vehicle for ethnic hair types. The results are dramatic.


Exclusive Interview With San Francisco Plastic Surgeon Dr. Larry Fan

Editor’s Note: This Interview first appeared in The Sophia News. It is reprinted here by permission. It was conducted via email in 2017.

Dr. Larry fan is an esteemed and award-winning plastic surgeon in San Francisco where he founded his nationally recognized boutique medical practice, 77 Plastic Surgery. Dr. Fan leads his medical team with the inspiration of the “beauty that surrounds and resides within all of us.”

The Sophia News recently chatted with Dr. Larry Fan about beauty and plastic surgery trends and issues. This interview was inspired by Dr. Fan’s prominence in the world of cosmetic and plastic surgery. In the interview Dr. Fan shared his philosophy for helping people reach their realistic goals for beauty, and gain more self-confidence in the process.

Sophia News: Please describe your passion and career path towards becoming a plastic surgeon.

Dr. Fan: When I was in college I decided to be a doctor, I wanted to help people in choosing my career. I enjoy being a surgeon When I was 21 I broke my nose playing basketball and I did not think it was a big deal at the time but over the years my nose became very crooked and it became a big issue for me over time. My nose began to make me very self-conscious, when I was out and about I could see people staring at my face and I was very comfortable.

I ultimately decided to get my nose fixed and with that experience I learned what it means to be unhappy with your appearance. That lead me to plastic surgery. When I was in medical school I realized, I liked plastic surgery more than other parts of medicine. I wanted to work with my hands and be very active. I grew up being an athlete and this physical aspect of plastic surgery appealed to me greatly. I find it very fulfilling.

The impact of positivity it has on people’s self-esteem is very powerful and I know it firsthand.

SN: How would you describe your average patient?

LF: My average patient is that there is no average patient. The ages and cultural backgrounds all vary. The reasons for coming to me and wanting plastic surgery are many and everyone has a unique story. Demographically, my patients are 85% women, though I have a greater portion of men compared to other doctors.

The age varies from young women who want larger breasts in their 20s to women in their 70s. Being in San Francisco I have all ethnicities, a very diverse patient format. Many south Asian, Hispanic, all sorts.

SN: Do you find that standards of beauty and sexuality vary greatly between San Francisco and Los Angeles or across the country?

LF: First, I think across the USA, everybody wants to feel beautiful, younger, and geography does not have much an impact about it. It’s a timeless desire for women. There are some subtle differences in expectations and pace in San Francisco Bay Area than Los Angeles. In San Francisco, they are more discreet and favor more natural looking results, versus L.A. that wants more dramatic or extreme.

In San Francisco, the people don’t want others to notice the surgery procedures as much as perhaps other cities. In L.A., it’s more dramatic and more flashy and more noticeable. In Beverly Hills for example, the population is far more made up and beauty-conscious than in San Francisco. There is a noticeable cultural difference in terms of beauty and self-awareness between San Francisco and Los Angeles, which is reflected in subtle ways.

SN: What do you find most fulfilling as a plastic surgeon?

LF: Helping people feel better about themselves. What I love about my career is that I get to help people; that I have firsthand experience that improving your appearance can help you lead a fuller more confident life. I have patients who come in dissatisfied and struggling with self-confidence. Something as simple as helping a flight attendant who was bothered by the size of her ears. She came to me to help her reduce the size and took time and courage for her to do this. She was in her 70s. Once she saw the difference she shed tears and gave me a hug; telling me, “I can’t tell you how much this helps me, and it was something I was dealing with and struggling with my entire life.” I feel lucky to help people in a profound way.

SN: Do you see the future of breast augmentation change greatly in terms of technologies and implants?

LF: It’s one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the entire world. My patients generally have a challenging relationship with their breasts. This could mean desiring larger breasts, smaller breasts or changing their appearance or shape via a breast lift. Breast augmentation is a procedure that has been popular for a few decades and that over the years the procedure has become more refined and safer both medically and aesthetically. That means the implants have continually improved. Twenty years ago, there was a concern about leakage and safety of silicone. There were many studies and panels, and after five or ten years everyone agreed that silicone implants were safe and risks were dramatically reduced. Over the past ten years, new implants are more durable, hold their shape better, and appear more natural. The procedure is better and safer than ever as a result, though one must always remember there are risks associated with any surgical procedure.

In addition, our understanding of the variables involved with breast implant technologies is better than ever as a result of these studies. We can now, as a result of the knowledge, make precise pockets and calculations when inserting the implants; respecting the patient’s tissue and other variables that decrease the risk of problems in short and long term. Understanding the variables help with the safety and overall cosmetic results.

There will always be a level of risk since it is a surgical procedure, and I tell my patients, “you need to understand that getting breast implants is a lifetime choice.” I tell them, “there are risks and over the next ten years there is a small chance you may need a second procedure to replace the implants or for some other reason.”

In the last two years, there has been a small link between silicone breast implants and a rare form of lymphoma that has garnered media attention and it is something I tell my patients. I try to tell my patients that the chance is extremely low; I want people to be aware of all the risks.

SN: What level of consultation do you provide for married women and their husbands concerning expectations? Is it common for you to temper expectations?

LF: Many of our patients are married women. Typically, the husbands are involved at various levels. The most common scenario is that the women are doing the procedures for themselves. Typically, the husband is supportive and will say, “I think you are perfect and you don’t need anything, but if this is important to you then I am here to support you.”

At the same time, I tell all my women patients that it is important that you should only make changes to your body that you want and not do it for anyone else. When I do on occasion see that a woman feels pressured to undergo a procedure because of pressure by her husband, I will convey my input.

SN: Do you ever have patients who are celebrities or in the public eye? If so what types of special services do you offer them for privacy?

LF: I do get celebrities and public figures regularly. When people in the public eye come in we do provide a level of customized care for privacy and discretion. My team is experienced in providing privacy and special needs to all patients, not just celebrities. I value everyone’s privacy, regardless of whether or not a patient is a celebrity. I am comfortable with the needs of those in the public eye. For example, I have a famous millionaire who is a male patient, and we work with him and our assistants to give him a few special requests regarding services. We try to minimize waiting times and we are happy to help people with special needs such as hours of visit, security, and other things. We try to accommodate everyone’s special requests.

SN: What is the most challenging aspect of being a plastic surgeon today?

LF: I think one of the most challenging aspects is managing the expectations of my patients. As a surgeon, I want perfection, and so do my patients; whether it is the result, the care, or the appearance that someone has. And yet plastic surgery, like all surgery and all medicine, it is both an art and a science and there are factors that are out of my control or our control. It is impossible to guarantee any results. Complications and poor results are possible.

Patients have various levels of understanding and expectations of what they are going through. Especially people who are younger, they expect things to be perfect with no hardship, even if they are starting from a base of genetic appearance, their expectations are sometimes unrealistic.

For example, I do get women who are perfectly fit or beautiful who may have put some weight on and want to be a size zero when they are already fine. They want liposuction to work magic and make them meet an expectation of self-image that is not realistic. I spend a lot of time communicating the importance of realistic goals and expectations to them. Even when I spend a few hours with my patients about this, at the end of the procedure I can tell they may still be struggling with disappointment, and this is a challenging for me personally.

SN: Why do you think so few actresses are willing to admit they have had a cosmetic surgery procedure? 

LF: It is true that cosmetic surgery is far more accepted by society at large than by celebrity culture. More and more people are actually considering plastic surgery procedure. And yet if you look at cosmetic surgery from certain perspectives and traditions within the USA, there are people who are more moralizing, and there is a big divide culturally in American society where it is not accepted.

In Hollywood, beauty standards are all about entertainment and fantasy. For movie stars their cache is predicated on looking like goddesses and gods who cannot do anything wrong, who are naturally perfect and who do not need any medical intervention to maintain their appearances; hence the reluctance to discuss and admit to plastic surgery procedures. Hollywood perpetuates this fantasy of perfection and beauty, which is not real and not realistic. For an actress or actor, the appeal must be that their looks are effortless and God-given. This is an illusion. Plastic surgery puts a lie to this myth, this image of fantasy perfection. I imagine one day with the continuing popularity of cosmetic surgery procedures Hollywood’s attitude may evolve.

SN: Does philanthropy or charitable giving play any role in your work and career?

LF: Yes, philanthropy is important.

I performed emergency and elective reconstructive surgery for the indigent and underserved in the San Francisco Bay Area on a weekly basis for more than a decade (at a public hospital, San Mateo Medical Center). I stopped earlier this year because of the business of my practice and because taking call was talking too much time away from my family.