Photographed by Kate Warren.
Dr. Tina Alster, 54
Laser-surgery pioneer and founding director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery
How did you get into dermatology?
“I went through medical school, and I knew I’d be going into dermatology because at that time, it was the only specialty where you could combine surgery with medicine, and it had really good work hours. When I was almost done with my training, I wanted to find out how to get out of New Haven. So, I was looking for any way to leave a little early, and I was fortunate enough to meet this woman with a [Port-wine] birthmark. I had just come across a new technology, the laser, that could pinpoint blood vessels, and the more I looked into it, the more interested I became. She kept paging me (at that time, there was no email) — no less than 10 times in three days.
"I found an article about the laser, contacted the person who wrote the article, and got a fellowship at Harvard. I did the fellowship in laser surgery, wrote the first test book on laser surgery, and the rest is history — the lady with the Port-wine birthmark really drove me. I started treating birthmarks, and then began to specialize in scars, which is what I’m really known for in the field. At this point, I’ve written more articles on laser surgery than anyone in the world.”
Have you always been interested in skin care and beauty?
“My two sisters were much more into makeup than I was; I was sort of the brainiac, as the oldest. I’ve always liked fashion, and I’ve always been a junkie for skin care, but I hate putting on makeup. I understand makeup — it’s just that I don’t have time in the mornings to do all this. If I can’t do it in five minutes, it’s not going to get done.”
Tell us about that five-minute routine.
“I take a shower and use my Clarisonic brush. My disclaimer — I serve on the medical-advisory board for Clarisonic, so I’ve been using that brush since it was a prototype! I use it with a cream cleanser, either my own Skin Is In
cleanser, or sometimes I’ll use Chanel or La Mer. Immediately after, I use my topical CE Ferulic
, which is a topical antioxidant. Then I use a moisturizer that has SPF in it, and I use something around my eyes — it’s Ethocyn by chanTal eye serum
. I use the La Mer lip balm
, and if it’s dry like it has been lately, I use La Mer The Concentrate
as an extra layer before I put on makeup.”
And, what’s your beauty routine at the end of the day?
“Instead of using the Clarisonic brush, that’s when I pick up those large round cotton pads — they’re called Swisspers. I wet it with warm water and put a cream cleanser on it — it could my Correction Cream Wash, or the Chanel cream cleanser
. I prefer a cream over a foaming wash because foaming ones are too drying. I’m older, and I need something a bit more creamy. And, the cream helps take off my eye makeup. I don’t really even use a makeup remover, except when I really have stuff crusted on. And, at night, I go between products. One is called Senté Dermal Repair Cream
; it contains heparan sulfate, which helps to turn skin cells over. The other is one of the products in my own line that has peptides in it, which help with collagen turnover. I use the Ethocyn around my eyes again, and during the dry months, I add on The Concentrate from La Mer to seal it all in.”