Dermatologists prescribe products to their patients all day long, but have you ever wondered which ones they personally use? Welcome to Derm Diaries, a new series where dermatologists share their skin woes—and solutions—so you can steal secrets from their skincare routines.
Marnie Nussbaum, MD, a dermatologist in NYC, learned early on about the "complexities of having clear skin," as she would say. "My mother told me the stories of her adolescent acne being treated with microdermabrasion and radiation which left her with scarring and then I watched my older brother deal with hormonal cystic acne." Which is why, when she started to experience acne in her teens and twenties, she wasn't all that surprised but more so intrigued. "It fascinated me how one day of clear skin could change my self-confidence and the way in which I interacted with the world," she says. You could say that's when her adventures in dermatology first began as she started experimenting with different acne regimens to try and improve her complexion. From there, she decided dermatology was the path for her.
"I knew I wanted to use my love of science with my love of people to become a dermatologist to improve people's self-confidence by clearing their skin and making them feel their best at any age," says Dr. Nussbaum. While acne is what ignited her fire for dermatology, Dr. Nussbaum got her own case under control after two rounds of Accutane (aka isotretinoin strong oral medication) and a diligent acne routine. Her biggest concerns now: fine lines, thin skin, and loss of laxity. "Who knew I would have to learn to balance acne and anti-aging?!" This juxtaposition of issues is especially challenging as "many anti-aging facial products are not made for acne prone skin as they are formulated with acne prone ingredients like rich butters and essential oils." Dealing with the same issues? Keep reading to see what Dr. Nussbaum has found to work.
Gentle cleanser in the morning.
"In the morning, I never want to put anything too harsh on my skin as I don’t want to strip the skin of its natural oils. Since I cleanse my skin in the evenings, the next morning I just want to gently remove any oil and dead skin cells that accumulated overnight. I always find that this particular cleanser is super gentle and doesn’t have harsh ingredients, such as AHAs or BHAs, yet it still cleanses very effectively. I also like that it’s gel-based."
An acne-friendly vitamin C.
"Vitamin C protects against free radical damage from environmental stressors, which causes collagen & elastin breakdown, resulting in fine lines as well as hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. Vitamin C also helps to brighten my complexion. Certain formulations of Vitamin C serums are oil-based or contain a high concentration of emollient ingredients that can clog pores while phloretin is noncomedogenic and more gentle for acne prone skin."
She uses a serum to target brown spots.
"Next up is SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense which contains topical tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide to break up the brown patches of melasma."
She uses a light moisturizer/SPF hybrid for the day.
"This moisturizer is oil-free and noncomedogenic. It doesn’t contain thick occlusive (aka non-breathable) agents, which can lead to clogged pores. The formula is also very light-weight and non-greasy so on dry skin days, you can apply it more frequently without causing breakouts. It’s a 2-in-1 formula (moisturizer + SPF) so by doing double duty, you don’t have to layer on another product that has potential to clog pores in acne-prone skin."
She uses a more active, exfoliating cleanser at night.
"At night, I cleanse with La Roche-Posay Effaclar Deep-Cleansing Foaming Cream Cleanser which contains both salicylic acid and alphahydroxy acids to clear pores, prevent acne and increase the shedding of dead skin cells. This is essentially a mild chemical exfoliation–I tend to avoid physical exfoliations which contains beads or physical particles that can cause micro-tears in the skin."
She's never without retinol at nighttime.
"I then use Skinbetter Science AlphaRet overnight cream which contains encapsulated retinol and alphahydroxy acid to gently exfoliate. Retinol increases skin cell turnover to prevent acne and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, however it can be irritating but I've found this formulation to be less irritating."
She uses an acne-approved richer moisturizer at night.
"This is my all time favorite moisturizer for acne prone skin as it contains ceramides to hydrate and niacinamide to reduce redness and—most importantly—it NEVER breaks me out."
She always finishes her routine with lip balm.
"My last step before bed is to apply eos’s The Hero Extra Dry Lip Treatment, which I keep on my nightstand. It contains ultra-moisturizing ingredients like shea and cocoa butters and avocado oil to keep my lips hydrated and conditioned. I love the formula’s buttery soft texture and it has a sweet berry flavor-YUM!"
She supplements her skincare routine with in-office treatments.
"In addition to the above regimen, I am diligent with my botox in my forehead, my elevens, and around my eyes. I also pair that with regular Clear + Brilliant Treatments for my melasma."
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