Manhattan-based dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades is a Fulbright scholar with 3 Harvard degrees – a BA in Biology, an MD and a PhD in Genetics – and 25+ years of scientific research under her belt. The double Board-certified dermatologist established her esteemed Park Avenue private practice in dermatology and laser surgery over 20 years ago and has since developed a devoted A-list clientele.
When the physician-scientist isn’t seeing patients, one can find her orchestrating NY Derm LLC—her research clinic and lab focused on anti-aging skincare, acne, skin cancer, and lasers. She also works as an attending physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, Yale/New Haven Hospital and Yale/West Haven VA Hospital. If Dr. M is not in the office, lab, or hospital, she is tending to her brainchild, 37 Actives (as in active ingredients) skincare line—a toxin-free, eco-conscious line that seamlessly integrates high-tech and natural ingredients in the form of a cleanser, serum, lip treatment, and creams.
To say Dr. Macrene is busy would be the biggest understatement of the century.
Her ceaseless pursuits do not go unnoticed, as her name is recognized, respected, and recommended in New York City and beyond. BeautyMatter had the incredible opportunity to speak to the woman who dedicates her life to raising the bar in skincare. Below are our questions and her in-depth responses:
Tell us a bit about why you started 37 Actives. How did you bring this vision to life?
Upon starting my Manhattan-based dermatology practice over 20 years ago, it was a time when active ingredients started to appear in the beauty market at a rapid rate. To layer products that can do everything would mean layering on toxic preservatives and would also cost thousands of dollars and time in a day-to-day routine. My patients and the editors urged me to find a way to create an all-in-one, toxin-free anti-aging skincare solution that incorporated all the most important active ingredients. Hence, 37 Actives was born!
You have not 1, not 2, but 3 degrees from Harvard-What inspired you to pursue a PHD after obtaining your MD?
From a young child, I was always interested in nature and was found studying the flowers and insects in the garden. When I attended Harvard University as a freshman, the first thing I did was enter a lab to do research. It was very difficult to choose a single path of study, as I was also an artist and sculptor, and true to form, I chose to pursue the MD PhD Program at Harvard which allowed me to continue my love of scientific research while also becoming a physician. I love medicine because of the rewards of helping people, but have incorporated the arts through the injectables, and the science through my work with 37 Actives.
New York City is full of Dermatologists. What did it take to be recognized in New York Magazine's 2017 Best Doctors List?
If you love what you do and do it with art, mind, and passion, the rest will follow. I never pay attention to what everyone else is doing. I just focus on excellence, or what the Greeks call arête, in everything I do. This has culminated in recognitions such as the NY Mag Best Doctors List and Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award given to only 100 individuals worldwide this year (that is out of 7 billion people) which makes me feel good about what I am doing for people and the world.
What are some trends you are currently seeing in Cosmetic Dermatology and how have these changed over the last 5 years?
I believe that through actives, I will make procedures obsolete in my lifetime. I see a trend towards power for the individual. At-home lasers and devices. At-home procedures. Simpler and less-invasive options. 37 Actives is the forefront of this trend: in a cleanser, a cream, and a neck and décolletage lotion 100 active ingredients applied in a single day. Your skin will never age.
How does your background as a physician inform your products' creation and use?
I have the best of both worlds: I understand the skin on a clinical level as a dermatologist and on a cellular level as a scientist, hence my trademarking my use of the term Derm-Scientist®. Too often, there are scientists holed away in a lab in Paris who come up with ingredients that are new or interesting, but they do not understand the skin and the product either irritates or simply does not yield the long-term result. Conversely, there are MDs out there who use the same old same old ingredients to create simple and efficacious but not superlative or groundbreaking products, or they turn to labs to have them formulated. I am in the singular position where I understand both the patient skin and the science and have the ability to discover new actives and formulate them into great products that deliver results.
What is the number-one piece of advice you give to all of your patients regarding skincare?
Do your homework, put your trust in the person you know has the best education, credentials, and know-how, and put your trust in the science of the products: stick with your regimen long term in order to get long-term results. Consistency is key. The worst thing you can do is expect that a topical product which is truly going to build collagen and other key components to skin is actually going to work in a mere week or two and abandon the effort. You need to stick with the products for months to accumulate real change and real improvements to your skin. Quick-fix products are usually irritants that peel or inflame or bleach the skin, giving you short-term results usually at the expense of long-term harm.
There are many plant-derived, toxin-free skincare lines out there, so what do you believe sets your brand apart from the other eco-conscious and plant ingredient-centered skincare companies? What is 37 Actives' point of differentiation?
When I was only 12 years old, I read Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring and immediately became a researcher in my local university working with Dr. Richard Lockshin to find pesticide alternatives from plants. Determined to continue saving the environment and our health, at Harvard University as an undergraduate, I worked in the lab of Dr. Carroll Williams working on deriving active ingredients from plants to control insect populations. I then spent years at Harvard studying plant molecular biology with Dr. Lawrence Bogorad, the scientist who discovered chlorophyll. Later, as a Fulbright Scholar, I isolated natural variants of plant bacteria to assist agricultural crops as an alternative to GMOs. In graduate school in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, I developed methods for delivering ingredients to cells. Now, all these years later with my additional practical knowledge from 20 years of clinical dermatology practice, I have honed superior skills in extracting actives from plants and in formulating sophisticated and safe delivery methods, and have more knowledge in plant actives, toxicity, and ecologic safety as well as the effects of skincare ingredients on the skin than anyone else in the beauty industry and possibly worldwide.
The skincare industry is constantly evolving. What is your current take on it from a physician's point of view? What insights do you have as a physician-scientist working in the beauty industry?
In medical-based skincare, namely dermatology prescriptions, I saw us taking steps forward toward more autonomy for patients with generics and over-the-counter topical medicine, but recently we have seen steps backward with the skyrocketing costs of prescription medicines. This suddenly made 37 Actives not only cost-effective but far less expensive and a better option than prescriptions. For example, a topical Retin-A or prescription acne cleanser can cost a patient $700 each, whereas 37 Actives cleanser with 12 actives including anti-acne niacinamide and vitamin Bs is comparatively inexpensive at $79, and the anti-aging serum with 37 anti-aging ingredients (not just one like Retin-A) is highly cost-effective at $175.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have overcome in starting your own skincare line?
I am a doctor and a scientist, not a businesswoman. I am a compassionate and generous person with integrity, like most physicians; those traits do not often work well in business where others are not always playing by the same rules. I had to learn how to continue to be who I am, while still advocating for what is right in order to keep the business going and to be treated fairly.
And finally, what is next for 37 Actives?
I must make the world’s best sunscreen. This would be toxin-free but with the same level of effectiveness as top-of-the-line sunscreens. A real challenge and one I must achieve.
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