Dr. Imber of Youth Corridor on the New Frontier of Bespoke Skincare
We first heard about the Youth Corridor Clinic when lunching with a friend whose skin was looking particularly radiant. When pressed, she divulged she had been paying visits to Dr. Gerald Imber’s Youth Corridor on the Upper East Side. Founded by renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Imber, who has long been a pioneer in the field of cosmetic surgery, Youth Corridor is not only a high-end line of skincare products, but also a clinic that provides bespoke skin consultations over a five year period to suit each individual’s skincare needs. Think of it as a private lab for your skin (complete with well-kept medical records of each visit), where the goal isn’t just to solve your skincare woes but also to prevent future issues. “Dr. Imber is the tailor making sure all the seams are in place,” one of his estheticians described it. Launched just six months ago in his pristine surgical office, the service includes everything from budgeting and medical records to biological and lifestyle factors so that each patient has a tailored course of action. We paid a visit to the clinic where Dr. Imber provided a sample consultation in which he saw lines that we didn’t know existed. If you think that sounds like a gimmick to lure clients, think again. Why do monthly fix-ups when you can repair your skin in just two treatments? Dr. Imber explains the method to his magic.
You’re a plastic surgeon, so you do far more than skincare. What drew you to the face?
When I finished my residency, I went into practice with a guy and we did the first 100 breast reconstructions after mastectomy in the New York and we were the world’s expert on it. I got so bored, because it’s the same operation every time. We split up and I started doing a whole range of cosmetic surgery. I developed one or two things that were worthwhile in my career. One of them was a less invasive facelift called the “short scar eliminative incision facelift.” That became the gold standard operation in the country. I published a paper on the first 1,000 cases I did in a peer-reviewed journal. When I started writing about it, I realized I was interested in doing less. You don’t have to wait until you can’t stand the way you look—why not keep chipping away at things and look young and like yourself? That gave birth to all of this. I wrote a book called The Youth Corridor about 20 years ago, which was a Harper Collins bestseller. Everyone [his peers] hated me for it. [Laughs] Basically what it said was that prevention, maintenance, and correction are what it’s about. I bought the rights back from Harper Collins and every year we put out a new version. The newest one was updated three months ago, so it may be already out-of-date, but that’s what happens.
Explain the idea behind your bespoke service at your Youth Corridor Clinic.
There’s a five-year plan where I’ll sit with the patient and say, “This is where you are now. This is what you can expect to happen over the next five years. This is how you can challenge it or live with it, but this is what’s going on.” The simplest thing may be some products or a skincare routine or they might need some injectables or a little tweak. I get them to ground zero, and then they have access to me all the time. They can call, they can text, they can drop in. They are our patient. Most of the time the treatments are done without me but if it’s with one of my estheticians, it is done exactly the way I prescribe them.
What are some of the special treatments?
We have a peel called “no peel peel” which is a 70 percent glycolic peel that dissolves the dead skin cells on the surface. It gets all the junk off, but doesn’t peel and doesn’t get red, so you can go back to work. We also have all the regular peels. We do dermaplane. We have a hot new laser—we try to keep on the cutting edge and there are things we don’t do anymore because while the patients want them, I don’t think the results were worth the aggravation or expense. We used to do fraxel [laser] and my sense of it was that it was really great, but it kept you swollen for three months and it goes away. We charged a lot of money for it and I felt guilty. Patients still ask for it. But we try to live up to the things in which I believe. We have specialists that do the injectables and I do the injectables as well. We have the most experience in the world in fat transfer, which is probably the best filler in history. It stays forever. It’s you and it looks great and even when people think they are ready for a little lift I often just say, “Let’s just put some fat here and some fat over here. That will raise the tent pole a little higher, tighten up the skin and give you a little angularity.” Because everyone loses volume and angularity as they get older and angularity is equivalent to beauty. It’s as simple as that. You look at any old movie star with good bones and they look great.
Where do you usually take the fat from?
Everybody has a donor site. There ain’t nobody getting away from that! Everybody has a little bit and we don’t really use a lot. Every facial operation I do has a fat transfer as well. What usually happens is people come in and say they want filler. They want a quick fix, but whether you like the results or not, they go away in six months. That’s just the way it is. But after the first time, they will listen to me when I say, “Just bite the bullet and do the fat transfer.” It’s a little more expensive in the beginning, but fat is the way to go. You have to do it maybe twice in a lifetime.
So it’s worth the money?
It really works. There are some places where there is no substitute. For example, people with a weak chin—the chin is all muscle, so if you inject fat into the muscle you get a 100 percent take. It’s a permanent correction. I’ve done roughly 25,000 fat injections and after that you start to get a handle on it. Everybody knows a little something—some know about prevention, some know about skin, some know about surgery. But I know your skin in and out. I’ve done 5,000 face lifts. I know it, I just know it. I’m not going to listen to any nonsense from anybody. I don’t care about some facialist or some line of crap. I know what products work and what products don’t work and I’ll tell you the truth about all of them, including ours.
What are some of the nonsense products on the market?
I think you should divide products into therapeutics and non-therapeutics. Therapeutics are things that actually work and have scientific basis. Those would be things that are based on Retinoids or Retin A. Things that are based on Vitamin C that can actually get the Vitamin C into the skin. The rest of them are moisturizers. The difference between our really great $9M moisturizer and some really junky one is that this one feels better. It goes into your skin better, and lasts a little longer. It’s still just moisturizer. You could put Crisco on your face as long as you don’t mind the flies. It works. You’re just supposed to seal in the moisture. That’s it. So I divide things into that kind versus sunblock, Vitamin C, and Retinoids. We got into the skincare business cause I made fun of everybody.
When did you start the skincare line?
About five years ago. I had done a lot of research. I found that if you mix 15 percent ascorbic acid–that’s the active form of Vitamin C, and it’s very fragile and hard to deal with—with Vitamin E and melatonin, the combination seems to potentiate one after the other and you get a phenomenal result that penetrates the skin. We had a product, but it was disgusting to use. I went to a chemist who made it nice and we sold it online. We did a bunch of television shows and things and we did pretty well, but we had only that had a great sunblock and a very nice moisturizer. Then somebody from Harrods in London, who ran the whole skincare department of the company, started buying the product online and she wrote me a note and then asked if we would like to have our products in Harrods. Then somebody wanted to invest in the company and it was the right time, so we expanded the line and went to Harrods two years ago. The only brick-and-mortar retail place that has it is Harrods—everything else is Net-a-Porter or our website.
What is the most popular product in the skincare line?
Our hero product is the Vitamin C [Ultimate Antioxidant C Boost Serum], which if you don’t mind, I want to spend a minute on. Here is the deal with the Vitamin C: Collagens make the Vitamin C absorb into the skin. It doesn’t readily penetrate the skin normally. It’s more solid than malleable. But if you put in on with Vitamin E it penetrates better. When you put sunblock on, you’re not going to get sunburn because the sun is either filtered or reflected. When you put Vitamin C on alone, you find you get much less sunburn than you would if you put nothing on. If you put C and E together, you get much better protection. If you put C, E, and melatonin on once, you will get virtually no sun damage in that area. So we knew what worked there is the added advantage. Everyone knows Vitamin C is the one thing that reverses sun damage. It helps get rid of sunspots. Also one of the things the sun does is thins the skin and thins the collagen. Vitamin C corrects that and builds up the collagen and thickens the skin. So this is something that reverses old damage and prevents new damage. Everybody has to use it. So we developed this serum that has the highest concentration of Vitamin C available. We keep working on the product and adding things to it. We suggest everybody use that in the morning.
What are some of the other bestsellers?
The retinoid gel called the RetinUltimate Transforming Gel, which is not quite a Retin A, but it’s the only Retanoid on the market that doesn’t irritate. It feels great and it really works. We advise people to use that at night. It does several things: It helps cell turn over, it gets rid of brown spots, and is effective against defined wrinkles. However, it’s also the best anti-acne compound in the world. It costs so much that no kid with pimples could afford to use it! [Laughs] But for instance if you broke out and you put this stuff on for a couple days, it goes away. It’s remarkable and has great Retinoid action. Like I said, not quite Retin A, but no irritation at all. Those are two hero products. With them is one of our moisturizers, which is the ultimate moisture cream—all eco-friendly and no emulsifiers. It gives you 12 hours of good moisturization and protection after you use these therapeutics. It’s really elegant and wonderful. Is it worth the $400? Probably not, but…
We appreciate the honesty!
But, it’s great! I mean there is no better moisturizer, but where do you put the limit? I don’t know where you put the limit. Then we have a less elegant, but very good moisturizer. We have an interesting eye and neck cream because those are the thinnest skins. It works very well. They are not as potent as some of the other things. People love them, but there is no miracle ingredient. There are peptides and a few antioxidant ingredients. We have an alpha beta hydroxy mask, which is really good. We have a relaxing mask that feels terrific and if you use that after you use all these therapeutics, it makes your skin feel better. We have a cleanser, which doesn’t foam, which I absolutely detest because I’m used to foaming. Women love it. It doesn’t foam and it doesn’t pollute the environment. It does two things that most cleansers don’t: It gets rid of cell debris and it also gets off makeup beautifully. It’s really a terrific cleanser, it’s just non-foaming. Anyone who is actually modern loves it. So those are the products. Every one of them is delightful, but three of them are terrific, really terrific. I guarantee that if you use the RetinUltimate and the Vitamin C you will see a difference in your skin in a week, period. End of story.
If someone is coming in for the bespoke five-year plan, how is cost determined?
The biggest cost is if they want to see me and have a consultation. Some people like to do that because then we have a real base line. It’s $750 for that. Then after the consultation, I tell the esthetician where to start and we get going and do really simple things first, and then the esthetician keeps me posted. We photograph every patient every time, so we have a good graphic record. Then if somebody comes in and says, “I’ve done this three times and now I’m starting to get blotches from it,” we can see it. We move on to something else. It is all in an actual medical record.
Will you open up other locations?
I’m assuming we will have other locations for this. But first I want to keep it within my office, because I want to see what the estheticians do. I want to see what the patients look like. I want to have my finger on it, because guess whose name is on everything? So now we are organized well enough. Our nurses are just terrific. For instance, we do a lot of PRP microneedling, which works wonderfully. And now we are doing PRP injections for hair restoration—although there is not enough pure scientific evidence, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Everybody is shocked by how well it works. It works well for women, not for men. We found that using PRP and microneedling for the vertical skin lines on the upper lip is terrific. We also do it for stretch marks. I have a “I don’t quite believe it” mentality about everything. It has to be seen. I don’t believe anything a rep tells us. I would say we are a completely, 100 percent honest operation. I don’t know if you know this scientific phrase but, “No bullsh*t.” That’s really who I am, so I believe in everything that we do for our patients.