In Memoriam: DAYSPA Remembers Dr. Sheldon Pinnell

Dr. Sheldon Pinnell

Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, an internationally eminent scientist, dermatologist, leading scientist behind L’Oréal-owned SkinCeuticals, and J. Lamar Callaway Professor Emeritus of Dermatology and Chief Emeritus of the Division of Dermatology at Duke University, passed away peacefully at the age of 76 on Thursday, July 4, in Durham, North Carolina.

Dr. Pinnell is widely regarded as the founding father of topical antioxidants, and it was his investigative research that changed the way the world uses topical antioxidants today. He was the first to patent a stable form of vitamin C to effectively penetrate skin, delivering eight times the skin’s natural antioxidant protection.

Before helping to shape the cosmeceutical industry, Dr. Sheldon Pinnell was at the forefront of significant advances in the understanding of skin biology and the pathogenesis of skin diseases. Early in his career, he made major contributions to the understanding of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the role of vitamin C in collagen biosynthesis. During his lifetime, he also received numerous medical and scientific awards and published more than 200 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals on dermatology topics such as photoaging, collagen synthesis, UV protection, topical vitamin C, and other antioxidants.

Dr. Pinnell earned his medical degree at Yale University and trained at the University of Minnesota Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, Massachusetts General Hospital and Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich. Dr. Pinnell earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry at Duke University, where he graduated with Phi Beta Kappa academic honors.

Dr. Pinnell returned to Duke University in 1973 as an associate professor and investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Department of Medicine. He went on to develop and implement major strategic initiatives that facilitated the growth and prominence of Duke University’s Division of Dermatology and culminated in the establishment of the Department of Dermatology in 2009. He held the office of Chief of Dermatology for 15 years and retired in 2010 after 37 years of service. During his tenure, Dr. Pinnell trained over 100 residents, 22 research fellows, and left a legacy of 22 prominent dermatologists, including seven current department chairs, residency program directors, and associate department and vice chairs. Dr. Pinnell also served as a diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology.

“It is our greatest privilege to have been able to help Dr. Pinnell bring his discovery of topical antioxidants to life. Prior to the introduction of topical vitamin C in the early 1990s, skincare professionals were largely limited to sunscreens to protect against the deleterious effects of the sun. It was Dr. Pinnell who gave the medical community the confidence to transform the approach to at-home skincare, said SkinCeuticals Co-Founders, Alden Pinnell and Russell Moon. We are fortunate to have known Dr. Pinnell as a scientist, a family man and a dear friend. His life lessons and infectious spirit will remain with us forever.”

“We are honored to have had the chance to know and work with Dr. Pinnell over the years. It was his breakthrough research that propelled the use of topical antioxidants within the skincare industry. Today, topical antioxidants are widely recognized as an essential component for maintaining and protecting healthy skin. Most US dermatologists recommend that patients incorporate an antioxidant into their daily skincare routine. Everything he has taught us, as well as his passion for discovery, will continue to live on through all of us here at SkinCeuticals. I personally have grown and learned an enormous amount from Dr. Pinnell, and he will be dearly missed,” said SkinCeuticals Global General Manager, Marc Toulemonde.

“Dr. Pinnell’s philosophy and dedication to advancing science in the cosmeceutical landscape is unlike any we have ever seen, and he remains an inspiration for us today, said Brigitte Liberman, World Wide President, L’Oréal Active Cosmetic Division. It is our esteemed privilege to have had the opportunity to learn from him and to introduce a range of products that changed the way we care for our skin globally.”

Despite his many academic and professional accomplishments, Dr. Pinnell would like to be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, and ardent Duke Blue Devil fan. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Doren Madey Pinnell; three sons, Kevin, Alden and Tyson; and five grandchildren.

A small, private ceremony for Dr. Pinnell was held on Monday, July 8, in the gardens of Duke University. Later this year, a celebration of his life will be held at the Duke University Chapel, in conjunction with the dedication of the Pinnell Center for Investigative Dermatology. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Dr. Pinnell’s honor may be made to Duke University (PO Box 90581, Durham, NC 27701). Contributions may be designated for the Pinnell Center for Investigative Dermatology, Duke Athletics, the Sarah P Duke Memorial Gardens.