A Skin Cancer Specialist On Her Skin Care Essentials

A Skin Cancer Specialist On Her Skin Care Essentials

Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Orit Markowitz

On Instagram, you’ll find Dr. Orit Markowitz, MD, FAAD under @yourdermsderm. It’s a cheeky username, but not an inaccurate one. While serving as the Director of Pigmented Lesions and Skin Cancers at Mount Sinai over the past ten years, the dermatologist has cemented her standing as a leading skin-cancer specialist with her minimally invasive techniques — and now, with her own practice, OptiSkin, she’s ready to continue her mission as “skin cancer’s worst nightmare,” as she declares in her bio.

Naturally, Dr. Markowitz is particularly mindful with her own skin care routine. “I’m a walking billboard for my practice so it’s important that I take care of my skin,” she says. She doesn’t shy away from Botox — “I do Botox annually to soften my forehead lines and around my eyes, and have started getting filler injectables as needed to reset the anatomy of the facial changes that come with age” — but her routine is especially centered on sun care and hydrating her dry and “aged” skin. This means she typically avoids products like toners, essences, serums, face oils, and masks. “People may be surprised by this,” she explains. “But most of these products contain a lot of preservatives and ingredients that are drying to the skin and too harsh for me. This doesn’t mean these products are superfluous or not recommended for other skin types, but for my aging and dry skin, I stay clear and opt for more in-office treatments like lasers.”

While she doesn’t always love “Dr. Google,” Dr. Markowitz suggests doing a quick search to see who has recommended a certain product or ingredient you’re thinking about incorporating into your own rotation. She warns, “Anything written on a product label or that comes from the brand directly could be misleading, so it’s important to find literature on the products. For example, you see a product is ‘recommended.’ Who is recommending the product? Is it a board-certified dermatologist? Then take it a step further. How long has this doctor been a practicing dermatologist? Has this dermatologist published?” She advises becoming acquainted with Pubmed, which allows consumers to search any doctor’s name and see what peer-reviewed journals and research they have published or participated in.

Other tips: Your annual (or semi-annual) skin checks should occur during the fall and winter, not the summer. “Even small doses of sun over the summer can alter your tone and the appearance of your moles, making it harder for a doctor to get an accurate picture of your skin.” And always ask your derm to use a dermatoscope, a hand-held microscope that has double the magnification and uses polarized lighting for more skin clarity. “You’d be shocked to hear that only 50 percent of dermatologists use this simple tool. I know it sounds crazy, but unfortunately, just because a tool is available doesn’t mean it always gets incorporated into the standard of care, and this is the case for all medical fields,” says Dr. Markowitz.

Read on for a deep dive into the dermatologist’s current skin-care routine, including the probiotics that improved her skin’s texture, the three sun screens she keeps on rotation, and the $9 body wash she can’t quit.

“In the mornings, my skin care routine starts from within. I begin with a detox tea, and one of my favorites is the Sakara Rose Detox Tea. It’s a great replacement for caffeine. Healthy glowing skin is a result of hydration, and that is exactly what this tea and drinking water do! ​I have been drinking herbal teas for more than 20 years and love finding new flavors, with this one being the latest addition to my tea collection. It is made with red rooibos, lemongrass, and rose.

“I follow up the tea with a full bottle of ice water with lemon wedges. I personally enjoy the taste of cold, lemon-flavored water and drink this over lukewarm or unflavored water. With water and hydration, I believe that it comes down to what you like to drink, as long as it works for you and doesn’t contain caffeine, alcohol, or too much sugar. I recommend before anyone drinks coffee that they fully hydrate with water first. I love Nespresso cappuccino, but I save coffee as a guilty pleasure for once I’m hydrated, exercised, and good to go.”

“I have been taking probiotics on and off for several years now and started using the Sakara brand a few months ago. I could see the benefits and improvement in my skin one-to-two weeks after I began taking the probiotics regularly. The main benefit is improved gut health, but I also find that when I add these to my daily routine, my skin improves — it feels less dry and smoother. This is a common effect of probiotics, which are considered to be anti-inflammatory. Inflammation in your gut can lead to extra redness and rougher skin, so as you improve your gut health, you will find that your skin will become less inflamed as well. Many people who suffer from atopic dermatitis and eczema have responded well to taking probiotics, and while I personally don’t suffer from any skin diseases, I’ve seen the effects they have had on my patients’ skin and have incorporated them into my own routine. Because I try to avoid using animal products, I like the Sakara probiotics.”

“In the evenings, before I use the Chanel Anti-Pollution Cleansing Oil [below], I remove my makeup with this micellar water. I love discovering new products that avoid drying out my skin (makeup-remover wipes are overly drying for me). Plus, I have more control in the amount of product I use with micellar water and soft cotton pads.”

“This cleansing oil is my go-to product for both morning and nighttime. While it’s traditionally a makeup remover, I still like to use this in the morning because I have very dry skin and I find it helps cleanse and prep my skin without drying it the way some traditional cleansers do. I love the way oils add a slight sheen to my face because it makes me feel more youthful. It’s also a great investment, as one bottle can last me up to one year!”

“I work out every morning and try to switch it up between running a 5k, doing a Peloton spin class, and doing lightweight resistance workouts and yoga. After my workout, I rinse my face with warm water, pat dry and then cleanse with the Chanel Anti-Pollution Cleansing Oil [above] a second time, followed by a layer of my Chanel Sublimage La Crème. It has been my No. 1 moisturizer for the past ten or so years! I love it because it is super-rich and applies smoothly. I started it in my mid-30s after I had my children, as this is when my skin really shifted and became more dry. I wanted to use a cream that not only had good sealant ingredients but also felt luxurious. The sealant ingredient in the Chanel creme is shea butter, which seals in moisture and is also anti-inflammatory.

Many well-made creams are expensive, and while this one may cause sticker shock, it does last a long time. Because this cream is rich, a little really goes a long way; I would say I use about four “dabs” of the cream each time, meaning it lasts me six months or more. ​You can get some similar creams for less, and I also recommend those, especially the Eucerin Redness Night Cream, which also has great sealant ingredients.”

“I use the Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen, which doubles as my winter sunscreen and foundation. In the winter months, when the sun’s rays are less harsh and I am not outdoors as often, I find this sunscreen provides sufficient sun protection. The Elta MD sunscreen is often considered the gold standard for SPF because it is formulated with limited ingredients, making it great for all skin types. Derms also love that it is a lightweight formula because they find patients are more likely to apply a screen that feels good. While the tinted formula works well on my skin tone, there is a clear version for those with darker tones.”

“In the summer, after applying the Elta MD Sunscreen [above], I add a nice, thick layer of this cream instead of using the Chanel Sublimage La Crème [above]. It is a lightweight, fast-absorbing physical block that is the perfect everyday sunscreen to protect your skin while keeping it hydrated and nourished. Physical sunblocks are much less apt to irritate sensitive, dry skin because they do not contain the preservatives and synthetic ingredients, such as oxybenzone, that are found in chemical sunscreens.” [Editor’s note: The SPF 50 is currently sold out, but the brand also offers an SPF 17.]

“After my creams, I apply the rest of my makeup, including under-eye concealer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, tinted highlighter, and red lipstick — my go-to concealer right now is the Benefit Concealer because it’s moisturizing and doesn’t cake, and my go-to lip is the Chanel red in ‘Carmen.’ I then like to seal my makeup with the COOLA SPF 50 setting spray. It is refreshing and has a cooling effect, which makes it enjoyable to use, especially in the summer, when it’s hot out. It has a faint traditional-sunscreen scent — and this may be an unpopular opinion, but I love that scent. I love that it does a great job setting my makeup and protecting my skin.”

“In the summer, I like to keep my lips bare and use less product, which is why I switch to this. I want to make sure I am protecting my skin from sun exposure in every way possible, and this includes my lips. This lip balm not only provides protection, but it is super-moisturizing, and I love how smooth my lips feel after.”

“If I ever get a pimple, I like the PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash. It includes benzoyl peroxide, which effectively helps get rid of the bacteria and dead skin cells that clog your pores. While all acne washes are drying, I found that this 4 percent creamy wash is a less-drying option, which is why I prefer it.”

“While Nutrafol is a known hair-loss supplement, the capsules contain vitamin B and vitamin D, and these are essential vitamins for women. Vitamin D, especially, is a vitamin integral to our bone health and is something we get from the sun. However, because wearing SPF is so important for skin-cancer prevention, it is important to find another way to get your vitamin D, and a great way to do that is with supplements. Vitamin B supplements are essential for women because we menstruate, and when we menstruate, our bodies get depleted of vitamins like B and iron, which are vital for our energy.

“I always recommend that people consult with their doctors for recommendations, as vitamins and supplements are not FDA-regulated. Also, many people don’t realize this, but you can purchase caramels or gummies that contain vitamin-D supplements, and this is another way for me to both get vitamin D and acknowledge my sweet tooth. I know it may sound crazy for a dermatologist to tell people to eat candy because there has been so much conversation about sugar causing aging, but in this instance, a small amount of sugar that contains an essential vitamin is a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth without overdoing it and eating a ton of unhealthy sweets.”

“There are certain products that I can’t stray from, and this is one of them. I like to use the formula for sensitive skin to avoid any added fragrances that could irritate my sensitive skin.”

“Just like with my face, I avoid using scrubs on my body and even my feet. While it may appear your skin needs to be scrubbed, it actually doesn’t need to be — dry skin is a result of a breakdown of the skin barrier and can present as flaky, cracked, and uneven skin. When we take an exfoliator to the surface and scrub the skin, at first glance, our skin appears smoother as the flakes and cracks aren’t visible, and this is where we get the misconception that exfoliating equals smooth skin. When you are exfoliating by scrubbing, you are really damaging the skin more, as you are just temporarily scraping off the first layer of the unevenness. The best way to treat dry skin is to even out your skin by adding moisture, not by taking away scrubbing away the skin. This is true for both physical exfoliating scrubs and chemical exfoliation.

“I am a huge, huge fan of this Aquaphor body spray and recommend it to all of my patients! I use it daily on myself because it is super-moisturizing, making it perfect for dry skin. It is also formulated with limited preservatives, so it’s great for sensitive skin, too. I also love that I can immediately get dressed after using this. Unlike traditional Aquaphor, which can be super-thick and greasy, this applies smoothly and does not leave a greasy residue. It is a truly well-formulated product that also delivers.”

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