How Derms Treat Their Own Skin Emergencies

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Dermatologists — they're just like us. No matter how gorgeously glowing and perfectly un-puffy their skin might look when we walk into their offices, they are, at the end of the day, still human. And what do humans do? Deal with annoying skin issues on the regular.

We thought it would be fun to quiz three of our favorite derms on what they do when certain ailments befall them. Do they just reach for over-the-counter healers like we do? Or do they always have a laser on standby, waiting to zap an unsightly dark spot? Turns out, it's a little of column A, and a little of column B.

Ahead, find out how each of these docs deals with their skin care SOS. Trust us, you don't need to take your boards to steal their expert advice.

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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Acne

When it comes to acne flare-ups, Dr. Karyn Grossman, a Santa Monica-based dermatologist, already has her spot treatment on call. "I have rosacea, so I have these compounds that I mix together for that, which are also good for acne," she explains. Her cocktail is a mix of steroids with topical antibiotics. But when she doesn't have that? "I'd use a 1% hydrocortisone cream and apply that, like, 10 times a day," she explains. (Who knew you should be reapplying it so often?) This will help take down the inflammation — which is precisely what acne is. She advises heading to your derm if your spots are becoming too difficult to handle. "They have prescription-grade fixes," she says.

The two other derms we talked to also rely on over-the-counter treatments. "I use a salicylic acid touch-stick on the occasional zit," says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington D.C. When it's time to cover, she uses a medicated concealer. (We're big fans of Murad's Acne Treatment Concealer.) Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, a board-certified dermatologist, uses Sebamed Clear Face Cleansing Foam every day. "It has antibacterial properties to treat and prevent breakouts." She also keeps things in check by doing regular, pro-grade salicylic and glycolic peels in her office every six to eight weeks.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Dark Spots

The perks of being a dermatologist? Access to the most advanced anti-aging technologies — namely, lasers. All three of our derms were huge fans of laser treatments to reduce dark spots. "It's the easiest thing to do," Dr. Grossman says.

But she and Dr. Nussbaum also rely on other methods to help nix their dark spots. "I use a prescription cream called Tri-Luma," says Dr. Tanzi. "It has a Retin-A, as well as a lightening ingredient in it."

Dr. Nussbaum stresses the importance of regular SPF in the battle against age spots. "Protection is key when it comes to preventing dark spots," she says. "I use a mineral-based SPF sunscreen every day, even in the winter, on whatever parts of my body are exposed." Dr. Nussbaum applies the cream 20 minutes prior to leaving the house and then reapplies every two hours if she's out in the sun.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Puffiness

Its true — everyone wakes up with a puffy face from time to time. "Puffiness is purely diet-related for me," Dr. Tanzi explains. To avoid it, she follows a low-carb diet and typically advises her patients to do the same.

But if you're unwilling to part with your pasta (I'm totally with you on that), Dr. Grossman has a seriously easy DIY recipe to help deflate your face. "I'll make some green tea, cool it down a bit with ice cubes, [then soak it in a towel] and use that as a compress," she says. "The antioxidants in the green tea are anti-inflammatory, and the cold helps decrease the puffiness."

Her next tip? Get your ass up and move! "When you wake up puffy, it's because you had a slowdown in your lymphatic drainage," she explains. "You've got to get your body moving."
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Sunburn

All of our derms are pros at avoiding redness at all costs. "I haven't had a sunburn in 23 years," Dr. Grossman gloated, with a chuckle. When she's outside, she's got heavy SPF and long sleeves to keep her from getting burned.

Dr. Tanzi actually has some advice for what to do post-burn, though. "I'd use an aloe vera gel, but right from the plant," she says. Afterwards, "I pop some Advil and drink lots of water." That seems easy enough, right?
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Dry Skin

"I love Aquaphor," Dr. Grossman says. "I have it all over my office, because my hands get really dry from washing them and using gloves." If her body is feeling a little flaky, Dr. Grossman reaches for Aveeno eczema relief products. Dr. Tanzi, on the other hand, goes for a sugar scrub. "I follow that up with a cream that contains shea butter," she says.

On their faces, things are a little different. Dr. Tanzi starts by cleansing with a Clarisonic brush, followed by a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid. (We love this one from Hada Labo Tokyo.) Dr. Grossman, on the other hand, sticks to her handy hydrocortisone cream. "On my face I'm careful, so I don't get dry all that often," she explains. The cream is mainly helpful for flaky skin.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Dark Circles

We want to put Dr. Tanzi's brilliant advice out there from the start: "Get some sleep!" But sometimes we're up late, and sometimes our dark circles are just spoils of war (or a particularly stressful evening at work). In that case, she uses an eye cream called Kojilac, which is chock-full of vitamins C, E, and green tea.

Dr. Nussbaum makes sure to drink a lot of water, use a moisturizing eye cream, and also maintains a healthy sleep regimen. "I occasionally have filler injected under the eye too, which lifts the thin skin up and away from the underlying vasculature," she says, explaining that's what gives under eyes their dark pigment. "However, this must be done by a trained, board-certified dermatologist," she warns. When all else fails? "Lots of La Mer concealer!"
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