The Future of Beauty: Dr Jeffrey L Schmidt of Schmidt Facial Plastic Surgery On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Beauty Industry
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Treat your skin well. I practice what I preach. I wear sunscreen every day. I put my tube next to my toothbrush. I avoid being in the sun whenever possible. The same thing goes for wind and cold, dry air. I love living in Colorado, but along with that comes a punishing environment. The high altitude thins the atmosphere. So, in the mountains, we have less of a shield from the sun. One of the things that I like to do is anytime I’m outside, whether it be snowboarding, hiking, or even in my car, I try to always wear a buff/mask (which is easy to do these days). I make sure that I’m wearing protective eyewear in the form of goggles or UV blocking sunglasses.
As a part of our series about how technology will be changing the beauty industry over the next five years, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jeffrey L. Schmidt.
In 10 years of practice, Dr. Jeffrey L. Schmidt, based in Denver, Colorado, has established a reputation as an expert in facial anatomy and one of the finest facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons in the country. Dr. Schmidt attributes his passion for the practice to the rewards gained by helping so many people build confidence and being part of their personal stories as a result. Between his Vietnamese and Austrian ancestry and several medical mission trips abroad, Dr. Schmidt has gained an appreciation for cultural diversity. Aside from travel, he has many interests that, like his practice, are particularly appealing considering their bridge across art and science.
A Texas native, Dr. Schmidt graduated with a degree in psychology at Southern Methodist University before pursuing medical studies at The University of Texas School of Medicine in San Antonio. After earning his medical doctorate, Dr. Schmidt was selected for a highly competitive Head and Neck Surgery residency in Omaha, NE. In his final year, he was appointed Chief Resident of the program and became responsible for teaching residents and medical students from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University School of Medicine. Dr. Schmidt engaged in several scientific studies during his residency and was notably awarded for his research assessing the effects of melatonin in oxygen-starved tissues.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career Path?
Thank you for having me! My path began in medical school when we were randomly assigned a mentor.
My mentor just happened to be the chair of the otolaryngology department. At the time I didn’t even know what otolaryngology was, which I discovered is a surgical specialty focusing upon the ears, nose and throat. When I met with the chair and we discussed my career goals, I told him I wanted to become a surgical specialist of some sort, but I really had no definitive idea what I wanted to do. He said the best way to set myself up to be competitive for essentially any specialty was to add research to my CV. So I told him, “OK! Sign me up!” I really liked the department and while there was lucky to work under the tutelage of one of the world’s top facial plastic surgeons. At about the same time, I was watching popular plastic surgery shows at the time like Dr. 90210, Nip/Tuck, and other more reputable shows on the Discovery Health channel. I came to enjoy these interesting stories of transformation and seeing how this type of work could really impact people’s lives. I thought to myself, I really want to be a part of that; So this set the course for me to become a facial plastic surgeon.
Can you share the most interesting story that has happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve definitely had a number of interesting cases that have tested my skill, and I think that looking back over the years, there’s one that probably stands out from the others. The story involves a patient who suffered a fall and developed a case of necrotizing fasciitis. The media likes to call this condition by it’s more attention-grabbing title, “flesh-eating bacteria.” When patients get this infection in the extremities, often the germs will just tear through the tissues, sometimes leaving us with little to salvage. You can only imagine how devastating this condition is when it occurs in the head and neck area. I suspect that when this patient fell, he probably bit his cheek, and then the bacteria from his mouth escaped into the tissues and went to work eating through the entire side of his face, neck, and scalp. This particular infection was so aggressive that despite several very strong IV antibiotics, things looked dire. I took him to the operating room emergently and then several additional times over the course of the ensuing days to excise the dead tissue. After six or seven procedures, he started to round the corner, at which point we began rehabilitation and reconstruction of a large missing portion of his face. This gentleman happened to be in his 80’s at the time, and I really admired his tenacity, will to live, and his strength to keep fighting. At that age, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say, “Look, I’ve led a great life, but I’m throwing in the towel,” rather than enduring such extensive treatment. Roughly fifteen operations later, this patient had the worst behind him.
You can imagine how touched and surprised I was when, years later, he sent me a greeting card out of the blue. On his note he told me that he was living a good life into his nineties and doing exceptionally well. I keep this note on my desk along with all of the other thank you cards I’ve received from patients over the course of my career.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from That?
I’ve been in private practice as a solo-practitioner now for about 10 years, and we’ve been slowly building over time. I started out doing more reconstructive surgery and have since transitioned primarily to facial cosmetic surgery. It’s a bit ironic, but one of the springboards that propelled my practice was what happened in 2020. With COVID-19, we were forced to shut down for almost 8 weeks. Nobody really knew what was going to happen with the world in general, and I certainly had no idea what would happen with my business. We had to scale down personnel, put all focus on how we could continue to care for our patients and keep things afloat. We worked tirelessly to formulate a plan so that when things finally did open again, we were able to hit the ground running. Now we are busier than ever, and we are so thankful.
The biggest takeaway for me, as cliché as it sounds, is when life hands you lemons — make lemon bars. Those little treats are utterly delicious. Anyhow, these black swan events happen, and they really present an opportunity for businesses and individuals to separate themselves from the herd. Some businesses shut down saying there’s no way to recover, and others asked “how can we turn this into an opportunity to really push forward?” These moments can be a major turning point where you can either excel or pack it in.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Without question, I am not a one-man show. I’ve had a number of people who have helped inspire and support me along the way, and I’m very, very grateful to all of those individuals. I certainly owe gratitude to my parents. Early on, they stressed the importance of a strong education and instilled in me certain values, including having a proper attitude in life, which is key, as attitude affects everything. One of my big inspirations in life is my uncle, a retired clinical psychologist who encouraged me to go into
his field of psychology — which I did initially pursue. In the end, I changed direction. Interestingly, though, there’s a very large role that psychology plays in caring for my patients. There is an interconnection between one’s appearance and one’s sense of self-confidence. In most instances, the work that I’m doing has a significant impact upon the way people view themselves.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?
Science and technology are evolving at such a pace that it’s allowing us to treat conditions in a way that we’ve never been able to before. For example, I’m so excited about the advances we’re making with light-based technology, including IPL (intense pulse light) and lasers, which allow us to improve previously untreatable conditions. One of our most recently acquired lasers is able to fire pulses on the order of a trillionth of a second in duration. Just think about that… A trillionth of a second! That is unfathomably fast. What’s so special about this laser is that there is minimal heat generated in the tissues as compared to previous generation lasers. We’re actually able to create a photo-acoustic effect that smashes pigment (be it tattoo ink or naturally occurring pigment in age spots), blasting it into tiny particles to be absorbed by the immune system. Also, since such little heat is produced, the likelihood of complications is minimized.
Off-the-shelf cosmetic filler is another example of a significant technological advancement. Harvesting the power of bacteria, we have engineered hyaluronic acid fillers that are naturally metabolized by our body. This is pretty amazing. Think about it. We have this substance that looks like clear gel, is biocompatible, and dissolves over time; we’re injecting this substance into someone’s face! This is truly an impressive achievement in aesthetic science and not something that happened overnight. Back in the day, we used to inject bovine collagen to fill thin lips, and before that, we used silicone. With both of these dated technologies, we faced a higher number of unfavorable reactions.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Of course medical technologies have their risks from a physical standpoint, but I think that some of the scenarios portrayed in the dark television series Black Mirror point more toward unintended social consequences. When we look at some advanced technologies such as lasers, I don’t immediately think of any specific concerns. But when we start contemplating what might arise far into the future, certain ethical situations might arise. Consider tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and cloning. Perhaps we may find ourselves in situations where we seemingly never age, or even appear to go in the opposite direction. What if we were to purposely make someone very young look like an adult? I think we could get into some pretty serious Black Mirror-esque types of situations. I think it’s important for both pharmaceutical and medical device companies to collaborate closely with physician experts to carefully discuss new technology in an effort to anticipate and circumvent these potential pitfalls.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?
I think number one for me is the prospect of what regenerative medicine will do for medicine in general, but particularly for facial regeneration. The implications for hair transplantation will be incredible. Rather than necessarily having to do traditional hair transplantation, where we take tissue from other parts of the scalp, we could actually separately grow these hair follicles and develop them into tissue that’s mature enough to directly place into the patient’s recipient site — rather than “stealing” that tissue from another area. This would be advantageous for someone like me, for example. I don’t have very dense hair to begin with. So, removing hair from the back of my head would make the area even sparser. That means that on a personal level, thinking about this type of technology is very exciting.
A growing fascination for me is the use of robotics in aesthetics. We are using robotics in surgical procedures much more commonly in certain disciplines including obstetrics/gynecology, urology, endocrine surgery, and general surgery, but not much when it comes to the aesthetic side of things. I’m really interested to watch the cost of robotic surgery diminish with time and observe new applications that make surgical procedures safer, enable surgeons to yield outcomes not previously possible, and potentially achieve all of this from across the world.
Another area that I find exciting is facial rejuvenation utilizing regenerative medicine technology. The ability to use one’s stem cells to rejuvenate some of the deeper tissues and revitalize the skin will profoundly revolutionize the war against aging. I think that we are just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of how we can and will tap into this technology.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
One of the things that concerns me about the industry is that with all the new technology, many people are of the notion that we facial plastic surgeons can achieve absolutely anything. We hear about facial transplantation and then watch television shows and movies showing plastic surgery transformation with no evidence of scars, and really, this blurs the line between fiction and reality. Many of these shows keep the good parts and edit out the challenges some patients must endure through the recovery process. These portrayals can lead some to believe that anything is possible and all outcomes will be perfect, which unfortunately is just not the case.
Another concern is this idea that we have the ability to correct all conditions with a laser or non-invasive procedure, in all cases avoiding the need for surgery. Take for example fillers. If one has bags underneath the eyes, often we’re able to place fillers, like Belotero, around the eyes and camouflage those bags to address that concern. However, over time — as the skin and deeper tissues begin to age — the bags enlarge, and the skin sags more. We’d have to correct this by adding more and more filler, and by doing that we aren’t actually addressing the underlying issue. All we’re actually doing is adding more volume which can result in over-filled and bloated facial features. It’s my job as an aesthetic practitioner to tell my patients, “This is not the direction you want to keep going. If you continue down this path, your face is not going to look natural.”
The commoditization of aesthetic medicine is also concerning. It’s becoming easier and easier for these technologies to be employed by unqualified individuals with no understanding of the real-world implications or science behind what they’re doing. This creates a high potential for misuse. Whether it be fillers or lasers, some are being administered by folks who just don’t have the appropriate education about relevant anatomy and physiology or understanding of the technology required for safe use. This is why it’s very important to really look at the credentials of your doctor to understand who’s treating you. While there are some limitations placed by the government in terms of who’s authorized to perform your treatment, there are some instances where individuals performing treatments have gone rogue from state guidelines. This is dangerous. These treatments may alter the structure of our tissues and, in the wrong hands, could result in infection and permanent disfigurement. From a healthcare reform standpoint, we have to work at making things as safe as possible for our patients. Additionally, we as providers really need to understand the psychology of our patients. We could say, “Yep. You’ve got a problem. We’ve got a solution. You’ve got a brown spot? We’ve got a laser for that. You’ve got thin lips? No problem, we’ve got fillers for that.” Instead, we need to exercise good medical judgment to decide whether it’s appropriate to offer treatment. There are some people who become addicted to plastic surgery because it gives them a temporary dopamine hit. Such individuals may seek treatment to cover up deeper psychological issues, which sadly, plastic surgery cannot cure. As providers, we must educate these patients on body dysmorphia and help them find more appropriate counseling instead.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- At the end of the day, attending to our most basic needs allow us to be the best version of ourselves and will, in turn, allow us to feel beautiful.
- It’s really important to make sure to get a good night’s sleep. This is the time when your body undergoes reparative processes, the essential biochemical reactions that are necessary to allow our bodies to function at their best. Sleep impacts all of our organs, including our skin.
- Sticking with the basics, next is diet and exercise — but more so diet. You can’t exercise yourself out of a bad diet. Our overall form is largely impacted by the food choices we make which affect our face, its volume, skin tone — our body, its shape, how our clothes fit. Some people will try to change things via plastic surgery, but first and foremost, mind the fundamentals.
- Next, treat your skin well. I practice what I preach. I wear sunscreen every day. I put my tube next to my toothbrush. I avoid being in the sun whenever possible. The same thing goes for wind and cold, dry air. I love living in Colorado, but along with that comes a punishing environment. The high altitude thins the atmosphere. So, in the mountains, we have less of a shield from the sun. One of the things that I like to do is anytime I’m outside, whether it be snowboarding, hiking, or even in my car, I try to always wear a buff/mask (which is easy to do these days). I make sure that I’m wearing protective eyewear in the form of goggles or UV blocking sunglasses.
- Finally, smile more. Smiling changes your physiology and biochemistry and has the ability to impact that same physiology and biochemistry in everyone around you. Smiling is powerful and contagious.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Let’s start a movement called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” I like to gauge the “small stuff” in the grand scheme of life’s important things by asking a series of questions: Will this impact my life after 5 minutes? What about 5 days? 5 weeks? 5 years? If the answer is: this will be a significant issue for me in 5 years, then this issue merits more attention. However, if someone cuts me off in traffic, why get upset about it? I’m likely not going to be thinking about it 5 seconds from now, let alone 5 minutes from now. So, I really don’t give it any unnecessary, undeserved attention and energy. Life is a finite gift, and we must use it wisely.
The way I like to look at things is that if something’s bothering me, I need to accept, understand, and expect such challenges are par for the course in life. The universe is going to throw curveballs, and that’s what keeps our journey interesting. How much energy we spend dwelling fruitlessly on problems is up to us.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I remember when I was in high school I was over at a friend’s house and noticed that, framed on the wall was “The Definition of Success,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
These words struck a chord in my life at a young age, and they have become a guiding light for me. I hope that I’ve checked all of Ralph’s boxes.
How can our readers follow you online?
We’d love for you to find out more about us online by visiting our website at www.the-facelift-doc.com. You can also find us on Instagram @the_faceliftdoc and on our YouTube channel Schmidt Facial Plastic Surgery. We hope to see you there!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
The Future of Beauty: Dr Jeffrey L Schmidt of Schmidt Facial Plastic Surgery On How Their Technolo was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.