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.
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.