Dr. James E. Fulton Jr., the Key Biscayne dermatologist who assured pimply-faced Baby Boom teenagers that chocolate didn’t cause zits — and later armed that same generation with Retin-A to battle lines and wrinkles — died July 4 at Mercy Hospital.
He was 73 and succumbed to colon cancer, said his wife and business partner, chemist Sara Fulton.
In 1990, the Fultons co-founded the Vivant Skin Care line based on vitamin A therapies that James Fulton patented. The company makes 30 skin-care products in the $15 to $100 range, using only U.S.-made ingredients, at an FDA-approved plant in Miami Lakes.
Fulton’s 2001 book, Acne Rx: What Acne Really Is And How To Eliminate Its Devastating Effects, earned him a spot on television’s “The View.”
A one-time University of Miami Miller School of Medicine faculty member, Fulton stayed on as volunteer faculty to the end of his working life, in June.
He pioneered cosmetic surgical procedures to reduce acne scars, and fat transfer procedures for breast augmentation.
His wife believes he was the first dermatologist to include an aesthetician on his medical team, a practice that colleagues initially scorned, then widely imitated.
Born in Ottumwa, Iowa, on Feb. 25, 1940, Fulton grew up in California. He suffered from acne, which led him to research the condition and develop ways to fight it.
In the introduction to his book, he spoke of “both anguish and joy’’ in tackling the topic.
“The message is basic. While acne is a complicated, mysterious and devious disease, the treatment is remarkably simple and control is finally possible. That is the joy,’’ he wrote.
“The anguish lies in the personal memories I dislodged as I wrote...The medical establishment miserably failed me in my search for a treatment that would work...My professional obsession has been to discover methods which though too late for me personally, would save others from the scars of acne,’’ both physical and emotional.
Fulton was a fellow of both the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and American Academy of Dermatology, and was board certified in both specialties. He saw patients at Flores Dermatology in Coral Gables and delivered free care to children at His House Children’s Home.
Fulton, whose father had been a Cracker Jack company executive, swam competitively at Tulane University, where he earned undergraduate and medical degrees.
Following medical school, Fulton came to Miami at the invitation of Dr. Phillip Frostand earned a doctorate in biochemistry from UM in 1972. He and UM’s Dr. Harvey Blank developed benzoyl peroxide gel (Panoxyl®) and topical erythromycin (E-Gel®).
As a University of Pennsylvania researcher in 1969, Fulton developed tretinoin (Retin A®) with Dr. Albert M. Kligman. The universities held the patents, which they licensed to pharmaceutical companies.
That year, Fulton, Kligman and co-author Dr. Gerd Plewig published The Effect of Chocolate on Acne Vulgaris, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
They detailed a study on 65 subjects with moderate acne, some of whom were given candy bars “containing 10 times the amount of chocolate in a typical bar, or an identical-appearing bar which contained no chocolate....Counting of all the lesions on one side of the face before and after each ingestion period indicated no difference between the bars.’’