Welcome to ON BEAUTY, a monthly feature highlighting creative, like-minded people who inspire us.
It’s not everyday you come by a business started by a father, daughter duo. Family can be a tough pill to swallow and even harder to work with. Still, Dr. Myles Zakheim and Kyly Zak Rabin have an incredible working relationship and cracked the code when it comes to a superior, more modern eye care and eyewear experience.
Zakheim and Rabin have crafted a brand and stand-alone store that caters to literally everyone. Otherwise known as Zak, their flagship in Los Angeles is a one-stop-shop and a new take on the mundane experience of finding glasses and getting an eye exam in the process.
Together they joined forces using Zakheim’s incredible career trajectory—he’s had his LA-based private practice, Optometrix, for 40 years and also creates special effects contact lenses for film, television, and music videos—and Rabin’s keen eye for aesthetics and knack for working on innovative start-ups.
Here, the duo reveals why your eye exam is so much more than a vision test, the reason why preservative-free eye drops are essential, and the various things you can see just by looking at the back of someone’s eye.
How did you come up with Zak and why was now the right time to launch?
DZ: We noticed for the last dozen years that my practice is very high end. We have a rather affluent clientele and as retail changes with online sales and everything from eyeglasses to furniture to clothing, you start to see a shift in the marketplace for eyecare. We found people were getting less expensive, eyewear, but low-quality eyewear. So we saw a niche to make a product of high quality and a medical presentation along with it that would be much more affordable than the current marketplace was allowing. The idea was to be able to buy professional services for eye care and eye health at a more affordable price, whether one had insurance or didn’t have insurance. We don’t want people giving up quality.
KR: My dad was seeing his patients add eyewear to their collections. They were continuing to shop for luxury eyewear, but they were also grabbing one for their kid or maybe an affordable pair for the car or an extra pair in their briefcase. We provide so much for our patients at such a high level of care; we should find a way to include this aspect. That was definitely the catalyst.
Over dinner one night, we were catching up. We started talking about business ideas. We had a very impromptu 45-minute brainstorm, which I thought was a brainstorm, but to him was a legitimate business meeting. The next week he asked me if I would meet him on Fairfax in West Hollywood. We walked into a space and he said, what do you think? I said this is great. What are you going to do here? And he says, the thing we talked about. Then we walked across the street, had lunch at Cantors, and wrote a business plan.
The conversation evolved and we decided if we’re going to do this, let’s solve some more inconsistencies. Let’s be modern; let’s focus on wellness. A huge part of what makes my dad unique is he has always said since I was little, he treats a person, not a person’s eyes. Somebody’s lifestyle and whatever it is that their body goes through daily is very much a part of his care. We wanted that to be a throughline of Zak. We focused on all these things that make for an annoying process and thought about how to make it more efficient and more affordable. What about the other side of the conversation, which is nobody really cares about their eyes. Getting a prescription is just an obligation. How can we create a place that emphasizes how important it is to take care of them and maybe also aesthetically create an environment in which you would want to.
A huge part of our eye exams at Zak is getting people to understand that connection between your eyes and the rest of your body and also understanding that the health of your eyes is actually of importance.
When you say wellness, what does that mean for you both?
KR: Growing up with my dad, I was always taken by stories that he would share about his patients. A patient would come in for their routine eye exam and he would be able to see things in the back of their eye that indicated health symptoms that had absolutely nothing to do with their eyes. Whether it be an autoimmune condition or high blood pressure or diabetes. A huge part of our eye exams at Zak is getting people to understand that connection between your eyes and the rest of your body and also understanding that the health of your eyes is actually of importance. That’s why we serve and make our carrot juice. That’s why we do these little things that might not matter at another practice and certainly have cost and labor, but things that we simply refused to budge on because they’re important in how we present Zak to the world.
DZ: The reference Kyly was making is that I have this particular patient who comes to see me at my office. I’ve taken care of her for about 15 years and she says, “I’m moving to Arizona and I need you to refer me to an optometrist. I need an optometrist because 10 years ago you diagnosed me with a brain tumor and you saved my life. Then 5 years ago, you told me I was diabetic and you saved my life again. I don’t need an oncologist and I don’t need an internist. I need an optometrist. So what ends up happening is that when you’re examining somebody’s eyes, it’s far more than what letter you can see on the chart.
There’s a lot of reasons that people don’t see clearly. One is refractive pockets and you need glasses because you’re near-sided, farsighted, or you have a stigmatism. But the bigger issue is what ongoing diseases do you detect when you examine somebody’s eyes. When you look at the back of the eye, you can see the optic nerve, which is quite often indicative of neurological disorders or diseases that a person might not necessarily be complaining about. Vascular issues, anything from blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, all these things show up on the back of the eye.
There’s a lot of online eye tests that have just been made illegal. They’re not eye examinations, they’re vision tests. If a person can see something at a certain distance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their eyes are developing or that they don’t need preventative care. So an eye examination covers a whole lot more than how a person is seeing. It gives us a look into systemic wellbeing and a patient’s overall health and wellness.
Walk us through the Zak experience.
KR: We truly operate as a one-stop-shop. The idea is, you can get your eyes examined at 11:00 am, get a new prescription, get fit for contact lenses, pick out glasses, have those glasses made, and leave at noon.
Traditionally, it’s a more arduous process. You’re typically waiting for seven to ten business days for something that you need. So that’s a huge differentiator is our efficiency and turnaround time.
The contact lens piece is huge, too. Doctor’s offices are traditionally known to upcharge for their boxes and you have to call them. We operate just like 1-800 Contacts. On our website, all of the major brands are listed and you can order your lenses and they’re shipped directly to you. We price match to 1-800 to avoid any confusion about pricing and to make it as easy as possible. So that same patient that’s getting their eyes examined, picking out their glasses, and leaving with completed glasses in an hour is also able to shop for their contact lenses all under the same roof.
From a product perspective, this goes back to the one-stop-shop of you’re either at a place that has affordable package price glasses or you’re at a high-end spot. We offer both. Our product from a shopping experience solves that affordable, accessible option. It changes the way you shop for glasses, which can be overwhelming. Ours are straightforward. Six shapes, two thicknesses, and the same three colors (black, tortoise, and translucent). Also, as my dad mentioned, there’s a lot of affordable eyewear out there that is not well made. It was important to us that this product is of high quality.
And then we have the curated products, and the idea is we don’t want to carry the shit everybody else has. Optical stores basically carry all the same thing. For us, it was important to differentiate. It’s amazing to be able to introduce a new brand to someone. It helps to contextualize the Zak frames and the offering is to help them contextualize the curated products.
What makes my dad unique is he has always said since I was little, he treats a person, not a person’s eyes.
From a care perspective, we are co-founders. This is very much a partnership in every way. But of course, my dad has the medical expertise and everything we do optically is his brainchild. So his level of comprehensive care is very much in everything we do.
The space is different from a traditional eye exam experience. What did you want patients and clients to feel when they stepped into Zak?
KR: The inspiration was, this cannot feel like a doctor’s office. We need to have a point of view and an aesthetic that speaks to what we want this eye exam to feel like and how we want people to think about their eye exam. This is a place that you want to be, a place that is warm, minimalistic, and clean, yet friendly.
Children, adults, basically everyone is prone to screens. How does this affect our eyes and what can we do to alleviate them?
DZ: Blue light exposure has been a big issue for the last five years. But there’s a little bit of controversy as to how much blue light is actually affecting us with our digital screens. The one thing that everybody seems to be in total agreement on is blue light affects our sleep patterns and circadian rhythm, which is why we’re recommending 30 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to go to sleep, turn off your computer. Get off your phone, get off your iPad. The newest research says, sure you’re getting blue light, but you need to get basically 100 times more blue light then you’re getting from these devices to have the effect. The question is how much of it is harmful.
KR: If you’re sitting in front of your computer for five hours a day, you’re a candidate for the blue light lens. It’s certainly something we recommend all the time because we find it to be helpful. It does have benefits, but we are wary of saying this is going to alleviate your eye strain. The jury’s still out on how much and how long.
If you’re sitting in front of your computer for five hours a day, you’re a candidate for the blue light lens.
DZ: Blue light filtered glasses are available with no prescription, so I have people who don’t need a prescription and are wearing them with a plain lens to alleviate the strain that the blue light is emitting. It’s a little bit yellow, so what happens is you don’t get the bright light, it softens it up. Where I actually avoid the blue light filtered glasses is if you deal with color. I have a patient who is a graphic designer and she needs to be color-true on everything she’s doing.
In terms of the eye area, we can utilize creams, serums, tools, and sometimes injections to diminish puffiness and undereye bags. Is there anything from your point of view that patients can do alongside a traditional beauty routine? DZ: We recommend non-preservative moisture drops. The reason for this is twofold. Moisture drops certainly compensates for dryness. If the person has allergies, which can cause itchiness, dry eyes, or scratchiness, the moisture drop also cleanses the eye. So it flushes the allergens out that you are exposed to in the environment. We have a lot of glands on the lid margin that get clogged up, so we would recommend hot compresses to open up the pores — the same thing you would do if you steamed your face. Applying a warm compress to the lower lids helps produce more fluid. It becomes general maintenance. A lot of people get what we call Blepharitis, which is dandruff in their eyelashes. If you have dandruff in your hair, you’ll see it on your shoulders. If you have dandruff on your eyelids, you don’t see it, but that will lend itself to itchiness, redness, and dryness.
DZ: My favorite ritual is relaxing in the jacuzzi. Only if I have time, but as often as I’m able to. I stay in for 15 minutes with or without company. If I’m alone, I read the newspaper. I still love reading the physical paper. I get the paper every morning and it’s delivered to my office.
KR: My ritual is tea. I’m a huge tea drinker and every morning, I love the process of choosing my tea, brewing it, and steeping. I have a big collection of loose leaf teas. For me, it’s that 10 minutes of actually putting it together and making it properly. The water should be heated at a certain temperature. It’s 10 minutes for me. I also call my dad at 7:30 am because his first patient is at 8 am.
DZ: Vanilla. You know sometimes you get your car washed and they put a scent in it? I like the vanilla scent.
KR: My favorite scent is Gaiac from La Labo. It’s the Tokyo scent. That’s the scent that I wear on a daily basis. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to have to give it up as it becomes more popular. I also love the scent of coffee. I don’t drink coffee and I hate the taste. I had a kindergarten teacher who would allow one person to sit on her lap at some point during story hour and when I would sit on her lap, she smelled like coffee.
Tips for long haul flights?
KR: Preservative-free eye drops. Everyone is using sheet masks on planes and hand cream and wiping the plane down with Clorox wipes, but these little drops keep you lubricated and hydrated throughout the entire flight, especially for those who wear contact lenses.
DZ: Airplane travel is extremely dehydrating. We have dry-eyed patients who use drops twice a day and we’ll have them double up and triple up on long flights. So for long flights, eye drops certainly, lots of water, and get up out of your chair. You have to move around to increase circulation. You can pick up cramps or blood clots if you’re not moving.
Favorite beauty food?
DZ: I love the taste of blueberries. I feel like I’m doing something healthy for myself. It’s a great antioxidant and I feel better when I put it in my sugary cereal. It’s a counterbalance of the garbage I’m putting into myself.
KR: Protein. I’m that person. I have to have protein at every meal or else I don’t feel satiated. Eggs are huge for me. Fish or chicken, too. If I have a salad, it’s not just veggies. Nuts won’t even do it. I need a traditional protein.
What’s your vice?
KR: My vice is Diet Coke. It’s so embarrassing. I have three a week and mostly with my dad.
DZ: I like chocolate. I’m a Nestle Crunch, Kit Kat kind of guy.
Do you have any charms or talismans?
DZ: My bracelets never come off. They’re all gifts except one. Most are from my patients. A patient gave me one and then another patient said I’m going to make you something. They speak to each other. I never take them off. I’m not a jewelry guy, but if I take them off, I feel naked.
KZ: I used to be a more superstitious person. I had a necklace I would wear every time I would fly that my husband gave to me. It was a ring around a necklace and it just became this thing that I wore every time I flew.