Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi founded the company in 1988 to market products he had developed in his Beverly Hills practice, of which his first creation was the Obagi Nu-Derm System. In 1997, he sold a controlling share to outside investors, and it began operations as the company Obagi Medical Products Inc. Dr. Obagi is still the second largest individual shareholder. The company develops skin health products they say are designed to improve penetration of prescription and cosmetic agents across the skin barrier, which include treating visible skin conditions such as photodamage, senile lentigines, acne vulgaris, sun damage and rosacea.

The Good:

Obagi has gotten some positive press from women’s magazines and websites like Elle and Elle.com, which gave the brand kudos in the skin category as part of their 2010 Genius Awards and was featured as one of New York based dermatologist Dr. Arielle Kauvar’s favorite products to lighten skin. Their products also contain prescription strength formulas, and Obagi-C Rx System is the first and only prescription-strength Vitamin C and hydroquinone system.

The Bad:

Despite a strong following including singer Alicia Keys, Obagi’s products are questionable. Their toner is little more than witch hazel and aloe and Nu-Derm Exfoderm Forte includes triethanolamine (TEA) which is an irritant at moderate doses and a two-year study on mice associated it with skin cancer.

The Truth:

Obagi has never really been Marta’s cup of tea. She doesn’t like the anti-aging philosophy of peel, peel and then peel again and wondered why Alicia Keys used the line, especially when studies have shown that high doses of hydroquinone frequently cause ochronosis (a bluish black pigmentation of skin tissue), particularly in darker skinned people. It is also linked with cancer and is banned in several countries. Marta also thought the toner was not much more than witch hazel and aloe. Essentially, we here at TIA aren’t impressed with Obagi.

Featured Product:

Obagi Nu-Derm, Elastiderm, and Professional-C