Dermatologist and skincare brand founder Dr Carl Thornfeldt shares his successes in the aesthetics specialty
“To have patients calling me to say how my treatments are changing their lives is a blessing”
“I have been privileged to have been involved with saving a number of people’s lives; particularly some young children and babies with horrible skin conditions,” explains dermatologist Dr Carl Thornfeldt. “Once I saw a six-year-old child in my clinic with a benign looking mole and the mother told me she was very worried about it, and I was the fifth dermatologist she had seen. It looked perfectly benign but I listened to her and decided to take it off – it turned out to be an invasive malignant melanoma,” he says.
Dr Thornfeldt grew up in Idaho, a state in the north-western region of the US, with his father who was a paediatrician. Here they had a small farm which, Dr Thornfeldt says, sparked his interest in science and nutrition.
“I wanted to go into human medicine so I went to college based on where had at the highest student percentage of acceptance to medical school,” he says, which turned out to be Oregon Health and Science University. “But I specifically chose to specialise in dermatology because I suffered from a significant skin disease and I wanted to completely understand why those severe diseases occurred and how to prevent them so other people wouldn’t suffer,” he explains.
"I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to have a theory, do years of basic research, and then three years of clinical and formulation research and then it actually works"
At the time Dr Thornfeldt started practising dermatology in 1983, he was the only dermatologist for 30,000 square miles in eastern Oregon, in south-west Idaho. “By 1985 I felt that I was failing as my patients weren’t getting as well as they should be, people weren’t going into long term remission, so I started looking at the problem; what were we missing?” he says. “And one day it struck me – the number one purpose of the skin is for protection, and yet all the work that was being done in the 70s and 80s with retinoids, hydroxy acids, topical steroids and antibiotics for acne etc., was designed to destroy the skin barrier.”
Dr Thornfeldt began researching the hypothesis that if the function and structure of the skin could be optimised, then maybe skin disease and ageing could be prevented. He says, “In June 1989 we built a team of researchers and started a basic research project to learn everything we could about the epidermis, how the skin barrier regulates itself, how it repairs itself from environmental stress and injury.” Dr Thornfeldt found that, “There were two underlying abnormalities in the foundation of the cause of skin disease and ageing, and that was damage to the stratum corneum barrier and chronic inflammation.”
Dr Thornfeldt started his work on putting together products to protect the skin barrier, he explains, “I went to the botanical world looking for molecules and extracts that would protect the skin barrier and prevent chronic inflammation, which we found, and then we went ahead and set up Episciences Inc a couple of years later.” In 2002, Epionce was introduced to the market.
“I don’t plan on stopping; my calling is to provide quality specialty care to a part of the world – the US – where there is a huge deficiency of it”
“I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to have a theory, do years of basic research, and then three years of clinical and formulation research and then it actually works,” exclaims Dr Thornfeldt. “To have patients calling me to say how my treatments are changing their lives is a blessing.”
Continuing his research and education is vital for Dr Thornfeldt, as medicine continues to advance; he says, “Research in the last two years has shown how important the role of pollution is in activating skin ageing and skin cancer. There is also continual new research done with various molecules, so it is very important to keep on top of that.” He continues, “I take more than ten journals a month home and try to read those as at the end of the day, everything I am doing is to help me become a better doctor.”
Despite his success, there will be no slowing down for Dr Thornfeldt. He says, “I don’t plan on stopping; my calling is to provide quality specialty care to a part of the world – the US – where there is a huge deficiency of it.”
What treatment do you enjoy giving the most?
I get great joy from the challenge of treating eczema and psoriasis patients because when they do get well I feel those are my greatest accomplishments.
Looking back at your career is there anything you would have done differently?
Anytime you start on a quest there is going to be sacrifice, unfortunately I think my family sacrificed a lot more than I would have liked them to. My regrets are that I allowed an imbalance, so that the work was more important than the family.
Have you been given any good career advice?
One piece of excellent career advice came from my father who said always listen to the mother, which I did with the six-year-old patient and it saved her life, and there has been a number of other patients that I have been able to save the life of because I listened to the mother.
What do you enjoy the most in your career?
When people who have been suffering from various skin conditions come up to me and tell me how much better they are – that is the greatest joy from it. I have had some opportunities to meet and work with some amazing people, but I think that the success of the patients is really the driver.
Upgrade to become a Full Member to read all of this article.