“Her New Book Promises to Change How Your Skin Looks”
Until now, the most famous person born in the tiny northwest Texas town of Lubbock was recording artist Buddy Holly. That might change in the next month or so as another Lubbock native-Miami Beach star dermatologist Leslie Baumann-launches her revolutionary book The Skin Type Solution: A Revolutionary Guide to Your Best Skin Ever. Purchased a year ago by Random House, Baumann’s book already has hundreds of thousands of advance orders-well on its way to instant bestseller status-and her promotion of it, from Good Morning America to just about every national talk show, will likely make her a familiar household name by this summer. Move aside, Buddy Holly.
Baumann took some time out from her crammed prepublication schedule to sit down with us in her sprawling 9,000-square-foot top-floor spread in the Miami Heart Institute, a year-old setup with unobstructed views of Miami Beach, Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The first thing that strikes you upon meeting Baumann is the impression that it isn’t possible she’s the doctor who has achieved all the things listed in her multipage curriculum vitae: She designed and created the University of Miami Cosmetic Center in 1997, the only university-run clinic in the United States devoted to researching cutting- edge cosmetic procedures. She has been quoted numerous times in magazine such as Allure, 0, Elle, Vogue and Good Housekeeping, as well as newspapers such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. And in addition to her research work-her worldwide travel schedule to speak at pharmaceutical conferences guarantees platinum mileage-award levels-her patient practice has been so busy that she has refused to take new clients for two years (her center has other doctors and a small army of nurses and assistants). And the reason it’s difficult to imagine that the Leslie Baumann you’ve just met is the one who has accomplished all of those things is that this 38-year-old woman seems more like 25: Her high-pitched, little girl’s voice is a
Leslie Baumann will likely be a familiar household name by this summer.
cross between Melanie Griffith and Marilyn Monroe, and her flawless skin doesn’t have a wrinkle or sunspot on it.
But it doesn’t take long to figure out that behind the little-girl countenance is a serious brain committed to her career and profession. Despite growing up in a family of lawyers, she wrote a letter to her grandmother while in second grade declaring she wanted to be a pediatrician. By college, she had opted for dermatology. In medical school she met her husband, Roger, a third-generation Miami Beach native whose grandfather, Leonard Wein, was one of the founders of Capital Bank and Mount Sinai Hospital. The high- energy Leslie-who calls her husband her “mellow leveler -converted to Judaism when they married, and the couple is now raising both of their sons Jewish.
When it was time to do her residency in 1994 she wanted to come to Miami, since it was her husband’s town and had one of the best dermatology programs in the country. Six-hundred applicants applied for six spots, and Leslie nabbed one. The university encouraged her to do her research and work there, and she accepted.”‘ became the first person to have a role like that with a university,” she says. Baumann considered herself a trailblazer in much the way that her three role models-Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Estee Lauder-had been in their lives.
While she built up a client list, Baumann paid the bills by doing research. At the time, pharmaceutical giant Allergan was doing trials on Botox. “Allergan sent me around Asia to teach doctors how to use Botox,” she recalls. “When I grew up, Dallas was the biggest city near Lubbock. So I just loved the travel.”
Word soon spread that there was a new rigorous center for testing. “We were swamped with trials and soon were busy with patients,” she says. Today, the university’s cosmetic center is the biggest in the country, just ahead of its counterpart at New York University. Just 21 residents are accepted annually. ‘We do it all, the toxin trials, the creams, the fillers. We apply stringent FDA levels to raise the bar on the cosmetic companies. We refuse to lie about the results. A trial can be manipulated, but we wouldn’t do it. Early on we met resistance, but we wouldn’t budge, and now they have all come around to us on our terms.”
By 2001, her practice was booming-despite her reputation as Dr. No, a-doctor who routinely refused requests from patients whom she felt wanted too many or unnecessary procedures. “My patients are my calling card,” she told us. “I don’t want people thinking my work is anything but the best.” She was known as Dr. No for refusing patients who wanted too much work done.
While pregnant with her second child, she wrote a textbook-the $150 book has sold 4,000 copies, a respectable number in the academic field. Still, she felt there was another book to write, a more commercial one, but she wasn’t sure what it was. A column she wrote for Skin & Allergy News was a nice outlet but didn’t satisfy her desire to write something more substantive.
Fortunately, work experiences pushed her in the right direction. “Some people were just coming in for consultations on skin care, and I would have to ask all these questions before deciding what skin type they had and what ingredients would work best. So I did a preprinted handout for them to fill in. Patients loved it.” Baumann’s catalogue of skin types grew from four to 16. She then gave 500 of her patients an expanded questionnaire, and through their feedback, developed a 64-question form. “Around this-time, I thought maybe I should put this all into a book.’
A mutual friend put Leslie in contact with Arthur “South Beach Diet” Agatston, who recommended his agent. In 2004, New York publishers-eyeing the book as the next health-related South Beach phenomenon-began jockeying for the rights. The result Random House’s Bantam Dell division paid a more than $1 million advance, a staggering sum for a first- time commercial author.
The Skin Type Solution tries to take the chaos out of skin care and to rescue those who feel overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices they are confronted with in Sephora or a department store. The book is designed for all age groups, and everyone takes the skin-type questionnaire. Then, based on what type you have, Baumann tells you which products to use and which to avoid. “I want to be the Consumer Reports of the cosmetics industry,” Baumann tells us.
So how does she balance, being a leading national dermatologist, a wife, a mother and a soon-to-be best-selling author? “For me, life is like juggling. Each part of life is a ball-husband, kids, boss. People make a mistake and assume that all the balls have to be up at the same time. But it is just that no ball can hit the ground, and I am focused on not letting anything hit the ground.”
Nonetheless, it all still seems a bit unreal to Baumann. “I just wanted to have something to hand to my patients, and it is so crazy, I ended up with this book. I am so totally excited.” But Baumann knows there is more to her career than rolling back years for patients and selling The Skin Type Solution. “I want to contribute something to the dermatology world. I want to do something that matters in the cosmetic derm world other than just filling wrinkles. I am not curing cancer. I want to find something that fills that part of me. With the book, I am empowering women to be able to make their own decisions and not believe all the marketing B.S. out there. In the end, you can’t be too motivated by money. I earn one-fifth in academic medicine compared to what I would earn in private practice. But I love my job and what I am doing.” A full professor at the University of Miami, she is now trying to raise $2 million to endow the Leslie Baumann Chair, a permanent position for cosmetic dermatology at the university.
“I am passionate in life, whether it’s my kids, my husband or my work. And I’m young, so I’m excited about things I’m going to do in my career that aren’t even on the radar yet. I want to be on the cutting edge all the time.” Baumann likes to operate on 10 year plans, and since she opened her clinic in 1997, it means she is nearing the end of her previous big life plan. “I haven’t done my next 10-year plan yet,” she says with her infectious smile. “You’ll just have to be patient and see what happens next.”
The Skin Type Solution is the cutting edge now. Where Leslie takes it in the future is anyone’s guess.