Dr. Murad’s Life Story

From Immigrant to Pioneer

The youngest of six children born to Jewish parents in Iraq, Howard Murad fled Baghdad with his family in 1946, when he was just seven years old. Leaving all their wealth and possessions behind, the family began a new life in a new country—squeezing a family of eight into a tiny 600-square-foot apartment in Queens, New York.

To make ends meet, everyone in the family worked—including the future Dr. Murad, who held jobs as a newspaper delivery boy, a pinsetter in a bowling alley, a soda jerk, a golf caddy, a gardener, and even a Fuller Brush salesman, going door-to-door in a very poor and dangerous New York City neighborhood. He worked to put himself through college and pharmacy school; and then worked as a pharmacist to put himself through medical school. Although he didn’t know it at the time, his background in pharmacy would uniquely equip him to recommend, and later develop, his own skincare products.

The young Dr. Murad completed medical school and his internship just in time to be shipped off to the war in Vietnam, serving between 1967 and 1968. His job was to triage the wounded in the field and then shipping them to a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). The degree of pain and suffering he witnessed changed his dreams for a medical practice.

“I’d gone into the Army wanting to become a surgeon,” he said. “But by the time I got back I’d changed my mind—about the war and about what I wanted to do with my life. All the injuries, trauma, blood, and killing had shown me what war was all about, which, in turn, helped me understand what life is about. Although my dream had been to become a physician, it didn’t mean I had to be a surgeon.”

Throughout his life, his passion has been to help people lead healthier, happier lives. Back in the States and stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington, Dr. Murad became increasingly interested in dermatology—a field that would enable him to help people look and feel better about themselves.


“It’s not enough to know yourself; you have to become yourself.”

Visionary, Innovator, Entrepreneur

In 1972, after completing his dermatology residency at UCLA’s VA Hospital, Dr. Murad started to practice in a humble, 400-square-foot office that, at first, didn’t even have a sign on the door.

As his practice grew, however, it quickly became clear to Dr. Murad that his patients’ diet, lifestyle, and emotional state had a tremendous impact on their skin condition and overall health. He quickly abandoned the idea of treating just his patients’ skin and began taking his patients’ overall health into consideration. By the 1980s, he opened what would now be called a “medi-spa,” combining clinical care and beauty treatments, a good 15 years before the term “medi-spa” was coined in 1999. Eventually, he opened a full-service medical spa that provided a wide range of treatments and healing experiences.

All along, Dr. Murad utilized his training as a pharmacist to augment the treatment products available over the counter or by prescription, many of which were either inadequate or “completely useless,” he said. In 1989—at the age of 50—he founded Murad, Inc., and launched his own line of skincare products, against the advice of many others, including respected physicians.

At first, the business was a financial failure. To educate the public about his groundbreaking products—the first to achieve significant, measurable, anti-aging results without surgery—Dr. Murad invested in an infomercial. Although it made dermatology history, it didn’t make his company a dime. Rather than throw in the towel, Dr. Murad made one more infomercial. This one connected with consumers, and the world’s first modern, doctor-branded, clinical skincare line was born.

“My name is on every Murad product,” Dr. Murad says. “That means I am personally invested in making sure they are effective.”

In his laboratory, Dr. Murad continued to develop breakthrough skincare products and to understand more deeply what was going on in his patients’ skin at a cellular level and far below the surface. His research led to 19 patents, as well as to important advances in understanding the role of hydration (“the water principle”) in maintaining cell health and youthful appearance; the cause of—and effective treatment for—cellulite; the importance of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories in treating skin conditions; the role of diet and exercise in overall health; and increasingly, the importance of managing cultural stress in maintaining a healthy outlook and one’s passion for living.

Although Dr. Murad is known as a “dermatologist to the stars,” he believes without a doubt that beauty is not just skin deep. It radiates from healthy nutrition, pleasurable exercise, healthy stress reduction, and perhaps most important, healthy attitudes.


“It’s not enough to know yourself; you have to become yourself.”

Dr. Murad, the Artist

In 2008, Dr. Murad suffered a detached retina, requiring immediate surgery to save his eyesight. Following the operation, he was required to keep his head down, with his chin on his chest, for nearly a month while the retina healed. Unable to pursue his normal activities, Dr. Murad took up painting.

With no training other than an hour-long class at a spa in Ojai, California, Dr. Murad fell in love with the colors and creative outlet painting gave him. It was a surprising and delightful way to bring play back into his life—reconnecting him with his “inner toddler” and an opportunity to “build youth,” as he advises his patients.

In the years since, Dr. Murad has created literally hundreds of paintings that line the walls of his home and offices and fill the pages of his books and notecards. When he paints, he makes a few marks on a canvas, adds some vibrant colors, and then sprays water on them to watch the colors interact. He never knows how his paintings will turn out, he says, and he uses that metaphor for life, as well:

“Make your marks, add color, and then flow with the result. We can’t control everything, but we can make the best of whatever happens.”

Dr. Murad’s “third career” as an artist has also reinforced his understanding of the importance of creative expression in general—and art therapy in particular—in helping people overcome the effects of cultural stress. Taking time for your own unique form of creative expression, whatever it may be—singing, dancing, cooking, painting, making music, or making birdhouses—is vital to reconnecting with your “inner toddler” and maintaining your passion for living—without which, why live at all?


Thought Leader:The Father of Modern Wellness

One of the common threads linking all of Dr. Murad’s many roles and manifestations is his willingness to follow his own path, to not fear embarrassment, and even to risk failure, confident that what he learns from failure will eventually lead to success.

Now in his 80s, Dr. Murad has not “retired,” but is continuing to write, paint, and speak in response to the issues with the greatest impact on modern wellness.

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