When Dr. Loretta reached out and let me know she was in LA and would like to meet me, I couldn’t say no. As I walked into David Pirrotta’s Hollywood office and up the stairs, I was greeted by a smiling Dr. Loretta, and was introduced to the entire team that helps bring her products to life. To be honest, I was a little afraid to meet a dermatologist in person out of fear my skin would be judged. But instead, Dr. Loretta ?along with her daughter Liza Rose Ciraldo-Batt ?made me feel welcomed and beautiful.
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Not only did Dr. Loretta drop gems about protecting our skin from UVA rays and blue lights ?lights that come from our computers, smartphones, and televisions (they are especially harmful to melanin-rich skin) ?but she reminded me that aging is something we should embrace. Here, Dr. Loretta and I talk about running a beauty brand, taking care of your skin, and embracing the aging process.
Name: Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, Board Certified Dermatologist since 1982, cofounder of Dr. Loretta SkincareAge: 65Education: BA in Biology/Honor Curriculum, Hunter College, City University of NY; MD State University of NY, Brooklyn; Dermatology Residency, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx NY: Resident and Chief ResidentLocation: Miami, FL
Name: Myriam Zaoui Malka, cofounder & CCO of Dr. Loretta SkincareAge: 44Education: Baccalaureat D (math, biology, biochemistry), ENIO Paris 1992; East West School of Planetary Herbology, 1994-1995; Aromatherapy Courses by Jean Viennet 1995-1996; The Art of Shaving 1996-2011Location: Davie, Florida
What was your first job?
Dr. Loretta: I was raised by a single mom, and we were tight on money, so the day I turned 16 I got my working papers and my high school chemistry teacher helped me get a position that started the day after my birthday typing labels for a chemical company.
Myriam: Assistant to the CEO of a spa and wholesale medical spa equipment company.
Dr. Loretta, what was your experience like navigating medical school?
First of all, getting admitted to medical school wasn’t easy! My very first interview was at NYU Medical School. I remember to this day leaving the interview with tears starting to roll down my cheeks as I turn the doorknob to leave the male physician’s office from the interview. He had focused not on my good grades or test scores, but on the fact that I was from a single-parent home and had worked my way through college. He flat out told me he was sure I wasn’t a good candidate since I couldn’t afford tuition, and medical students didn’t have time to work part-time as I’d done all through college. Fortunately, I got accepted to the state medical school in NY, which was nearly tuition-free (paying less than $500 a year for school), and I worked drawing blood before classes to help pay for living expenses.
I started medical school believing that I would become either a pediatrician or OB/GYN, which is pretty much what the vast majority of women MDs did in the 1970s. But after my first year of medical school, I got a summer job at the Harvard Medical School Dermatology Department doing research on the effects of UVA on human skin. At that time, we didn’t really know how much of an impact UVA had on our skin ?if any. I became fascinated with the field of dermatology and went on to do a fourth-year research project at the Harvard Dermatology labs, and decided that although I loved babies, I was more interested in having my own family than caring for babies in my practice.
What drew you to dermatology?
My love of dermatology research and my desire to have a big family led me to choose dermatology, a field that fascinated me and also would give me a lifestyle where I could raise the four children I dreamt of having. Life was good to me since I went on to have a wonderful 40+ year marriage with one of my classmates and four beautiful children, two of whom are key members of our Dr. Loretta team.
I totally loved the visual satisfaction I got and the joy my patients derived from seeing the results!
He had focused not on my good grades or test scores, but on the fact that I was from a single-parent home and had worked my way through college. He flat out told me he was sure I wasn’t a good candidate since I couldn’t afford tuition, and medical students didn’t have time to work part-time as I’d done all through college.
The medical field is still male-dominated, what advice would you give women striving to make an impact in the same way you have as an MD/FAAD?
Every woman should realize that she has the potential to achieve her goals, and that she should set goals that are as high as she wants them to be. In general, I believe that women have to deal with more roadblocks to reach their goals, including finding the balance that allows them to enjoy a happy personal life as well as an accomplished and rewarding professional life.
Know that you can do what you want in your life, and the only one stopping you is your inner self. Talk to yourself with a mantra that goes something like this: I am enough. I have the power within me to achieve the personal and professional goals that will give me emotional and financial well-being. I do not need a partner to accomplish what I want.
Before we get into how you all came to work together, I’d love to talk with Myriam about what it was like to co-found a brand like The Art of Shaving.
I started formulating with curative naturals at age 21 and co-founded The Art of Shaving when I was 23 ?with no financial backing. My husband and I sold our car for $12,000 to finance our first NYC store.
What were the most significant challenges you faced?
My husband was my business partner (we compliment each other perfectly), and we had limited industry and business experience building brand awareness without a marketing budget (we used word of mouth, and a page and half in The New York Times didn’t hurt). I believe luck is one of many elements that contribute to success ?whether it be perfect timing or finding people along the way that contributed greatly to our success. So overall our journey was relatively smooth, as if it was meant to happen. We are truly grateful for that.
Every woman should realize that she has the potential to achieve her goals, and that she should set goals that are as high as she wants them to be.
How did you know it was time to sell the company to Proctor & Gamble and start a new chapter?
We realized early on that The Art of Shaving was the type of brand that strategic investors buy. We grew the brand to 50 retail locations and 1,000 points of distribution in the U.S. and distribution worldwide. 10 years after starting the business, P&G approached us to become the worldwide exclusive Gillette brand licensee for the premium market. Together we launched a co-branded razor collection called “Fusion Chrome. ?The collection was a huge success, which led to their acquisition of our company two years later. At 34 years old, it was a perfect time in my life to focus my energy on developing a family.
Do you think it is important to have a co-founder or partner when building a company?
Not necessarily, unless you find someone with skills sets that are complementary. Then magic can happen.
Myriam, how did your experience with The Art of Shaving prepare you to venture further into the business of beauty?
As cofounder and CCO, I was directly involved and responsible for many areas of the The Art of Shaving, developing hundreds of natural shaving-skin-hair-body products and grooming tools. Running my own laboratory and learning the discipline of product manufacturing was beneficial.
Through your work with the Dermatology Department of Harvard Medical School, you performed early testing on the effects of UVA on human skin. As a woman of color, I’d always assumed I didn’t need sunscreen, but now that I’m in my 30’s I don’t leave the house without it. Do we need to use sunscreen daily?
Dr. Loretta: Let me start by acknowledging that there has been a shift in our thinking about what spectrums of light damage our skin. Dermatology researchers now recognize that the light-induced skin damage we see is not only from UVA/UVB, but also from visible light, especially High Energy Visible (HEV) light that is given off not only by the sun’s blue skies, but also by computers, cell phones, and other digital devices.
It turns out that people who are “melanocompetent, ?(a term we use for women and men of color, including blacks and Latinos), are more susceptible to these visible rays than people who are white are. But to answer your question, there needs to be a catch up with our way of thinking of light protection to be sure that you are protecting your skin from UV as well as HEV.
There needs to be a catch up with our way of thinking of light protection to be sure that you are protecting your skin from UV as well as HEV.
How do you all feel about the pressure society places on women to stay “youthful?”
Dr. Loretta: The only pressure you should put on yourself should come from your inner self. As a woman of 65, my best advice is to start to consider staying youthful when you are in your 20’s ?but not by taking measures to alter your appearance. The best long-term plan to stay youthful is to keep your body, including your skin, as healthy as you can; eat well, walk often, and minimize stress to the best of your ability. Be sure your lifestyle includes a number of things you do that specifically make you happy ?this is what keeps you youthful.
Women are pressured to maintain their youthful look of their 20’s, but also raise kids and be a career woman at the same time! When we created the Dr. Loretta brand we decided to promote all age groups and embrace Dr. Loretta’s philosophy and passion to encourage women to age confidently.
Myriam: When women look at those unrealistic pictures in magazines, they can end up feeling dissatisfied with their appearances ?that’s also the reason why some women will excessively use injectables or plastic surgeries starting at a very young age. I believe the skin is a mirror of your overall health, and beauty starts from within.
You all have an all-female team. Was that a choice you did mindfully or did the working relationships just fall into place?
Dr. Loretta: This has been put in place mindfully. We are an all-female team who has been working well together for years and have now come together with a strong purpose: to help all women feel more confident as they age. Myriam and I have been doctor-patient for 10 years, and our CEO Gina is my oldest child who left her law practice to run our business. Liza, our Director of Education, is my youngest daughter (now 29) and has a lifelong interest in skincare.
Skincare and cosmetic lines are now developing products that make women of color a priority ?specifically those with darker skin. Is that something you all keep in mind when developing your products?
Dr. Loretta: Absolutely! I am privileged to practice in Miami-Dade County, the first county in the U.S. to be a “majority minority ?city. This means that the majority of our population, and my patients, are women of Latino or African ethnicity. Our products have no color lines drawn and can be used whether you are a red-headed woman of Irish descent or a dark-skinned black woman.
One thing that caught my eye when looking at your line was the packaging. It’s simple, yet inviting ?and millennials love the packaging. How did you all come up with a design you felt represented the Dr. Loretta brand?
Dr. Loretta: Myriam is our creative director and led the team to develop our packaging. We wanted it to be minimalist, but also to be clear and to list the main ingredients and the factors that the products protect from.
Myriam: When I started developing ideas and concepts for Dr. Loretta’s line, I was very excited by the challenge to develop medical, anti-aging products for women. I instinctively selected a pastel pink, grey, and white from the onset. My design philosophy is “less is more, ?so when I sourced the packaging I was looking for some soft curve and a bare, sleek style. I added a matte soft-touch effect for a sensorial experience.
You both lead full lives in your careers and family life. How important to do you think it is for career-driven women to find joy and balance in their personal and professional lives?
Dr. Loretta: Nothing is more important ?without balance you cannot have long-term success! Recently there’s been an increase in depression, and even suicide rates in the U.S. ?I believe this is in large part due to the lack of balance in many people’s lives.
Myriam: I am grateful that I am able to balance my career, being a mom and wife, and taking care of myself, too. Having the right support around me is key. My husband and I truly back each other up. He is an amazing, hands-on dad, a great businessman, a loving husband, and he shares my passion for a natural lifestyle.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Dr. Loretta: You are enough. Listen to your gut. Life is long so be patient and work hard and eventually, you will accomplish your goals ?but nothing good comes fast or easy.
Myriam: Don’t worry, be happy.
If you could have lunch with one woman, who would it be and why?
Dr. Loretta: My dear friend Rosemary Barkett. She was born in Mexico to Syrian refuges nearly 80 years ago, and went on to become a Catholic nun while in her teens. She left the convent after several years to finish college and go to law school. Rosemary became a judge and the first woman Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and then became a U.S. Federal Judge. She has never forgotten the importance of humility. She exemplifies the perfect balance of personal and professional success. More than a decade my senior, Rosemary is a role model for me and for all women on how to age confidently!
Myriam: Coco Chanel. I admire the empire and iconic brand she created, her impeccable taste, her minimalist branding, and the complexity and original smell of the Perfume N° 5 she developed.