Dr. Wesley S. Wilborn, 75: Dermatologist formulated skin, hair care products

Growing up in rural South Carolina, Dr. Wesley Wilborn didn’t always have the luxury of purchasing what he wanted. Often times, he had to make it.

Wilborn took the ingenuity he developed in childhood, combined it with a chemistry background and medical degree, and created skin and hair care products that he used in his dermatology office.

“He didn’t go looking to be in the hair care and skin care business,” said William Wilborn, his son. “But when his patients presented with problems caused by other products, he felt like he could make something that would be what they needed instead of sending them to try something someone else made.”

The Wilborn men teamed up — the elder on the chemical side, the younger on the business side — and created W&W Pharmaceuticals, now DPL Products. When they started in the 1980s, the idea was novel, Wilborn’s colleagues said, because there weren’t many, if any, dermatologists creating and distributing their own line of products.

“He had a laboratory in which he formulated, manufactured, marketed and sold African-American skin and hair care products,” said Dr. Clyde Lord, a long-time friend and retired anesthesiologist.

“Wes was the first dermatologist I knew of to make his own line of products,” said Dr. Booker Poe, who graduated from Meharry Medical College with Wilborn and Lord in 1963.

Wesley Samson Wilborn, of Atlanta, died Friday from complications of heart failure. He was 75.

A funeral is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at Hoosier United Methodist Church, Atlanta. His body will be cremated following the service. Murray Brothers, Cascade Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

Wilborn, a 1959 graduate of South Carolina State College with a degree in chemistry, came to Atlanta in 1970, after completing his dermatological residency at Northwestern University Medical Center in Chicago. Shortly after arriving, Wilborn and a group of doctors started a commercial HMO, Health First. When the HMO sold, Health First Foundation, a non-profit that offers aid and scholarships to Georgians pursuing careers in health and medical sciences, was formed. At the time of his death, Wilborn was the vice president and treasurer of the foundation.

“He remained very active with Health First,” said friend and fellow foundation board member, Dr. DeLutha H. King. “Being able to give back to others was very important.”

Wilborn’s career included a number of firsts, including being the first black doctor to be a member and the president of the Atlanta Dermatological Association, Poe said.

“He was certified by the American Board of Dermatology and was very active in several associations,” his colleague said.

Wilborn was in internal medicine before joining the Air Force medical corps in 1964. In 1970, he opened his dermatology practice in Atlanta and his dedication to the field was unmatched, friends said.

“He was a very determined individual who was committed to his specialty,” King said. “He was just a very fine gentleman.”

In addition to his son, Wilborn is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Marrilue R. Wilborn of Atlanta; three brothers; two sisters; and one granddaughter.