Thursday 5 September 2013

Interview: Dr Noëlle Sherber, M.D., F.A.A.D.

Contrary to popular belief, beauty and brains can go together and there is no greater example of this than Dr Noëlle Sherber.

Dr. Sherber is certified by the American Board of Dermatology, the highest mark of clinical excellence bestowed upon a dermatologist. She is considered a world authority in the skin manifestations and treatment of scleroderma and, if that wasn't enough, she is an expert consultant to leading magazines such as InStyle, Women’s Health and Marie Claire.

So I am sure you can appreciate how lucky I felt when I was given the opportunity to talk dermatology, beauty crimes and skin saviours with Dr. Sherber...

What inspired you to become a dermatologist? And how did your career journey begin?

My father and grandfather are physicians and I knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps early: I asked for a doctor's bag for my 2nd birthday! Growing up, I always loved art and, from grade school through to high school, I would spend weekends taking drawing and painting lessons from renowned artist Rob Evans. Rob Evans has the most exquisite way of using light and shadow and colour temperature in his work. This sensitivity to the nuances of light reflection, as well as the first-impression impact that warmer or cooler colours can have, has stayed with me to this day. In medical school I found that it sparked not only my interest in aesthetic medicine (where small changes in symmetry, colour tone, and light reflection can make a big impact), but it also helped me to develop a keen eye for detecting subtle clues to diagnose skin conditions for my patients.

What is your career highlight?

A highlight of my career thus far is that I've been able to collaborate with wonderful physicians from different specialities to advance our fields. I am currently co-editing a book on the state of the art of facial rejuvenation with a fantastic ENT colleague, Dr. Lisa Grunebaum of the University of Miami. I also authored the dermatology chapter in Rheumatologist Dr. Fred Wigley's definitive textbook on scleroderma.

The collaboration of which I'm most proud is that my husband, plastic surgeon Dr. Ariel Rad, and I are realising our dream of opening a practice together in Washington, DC. We are building out a beautiful street-level space in the heart of downtown Washington at this very moment. I am drawing on my clinical research background to select the best-in-class skin care products from around the world for our retail boutique. The practice space itself, designed by architect David Jameson, is going to be very innovative - I can't tell all of our secrets yet, however as a start, discretion is paramount for us and there will be no waiting room!

Who is the ultimate beauty icon?

I love the saying "an original is worth more than a copy" as, while the intent may have been in reference to art, I think that it's particularly applicable to beauty. I always discourage my patients from thinking along the lines of wanting a certain beauty icon's nose/lips/cheekbones and rather encourage that we look at their faces with the eye towards highlighting the feature that makes them exceptional. Whether it's beautiful eyes or high cheekbones or charming freckles, there is something about every face that is exceptional. Sometimes I will enhance a person's face by evening out the skin tone, smoothing the texture or improving symmetry through laser or injectable treatments. However my focus with my patients is always that they are natural beauties!

What are your bathroom cabinet essentials?

I get sent a lot of new skin care products to try and review and, while this is very fun for me, this isn't always fun for my sensitive skin. The one product which I can always turn to, to soothe, moisturise and reset my skin without provoking a reaction, is Creme de la Mer. My mom started using this when Max Huber began selling it at Henri Bendel in Manhattan 40 years ago and it has become a classic for good reason. The algae-based complex used in Creme de la Mer acts as a natural preservative, therefore, since synthetic preservatives are a major cause of irritation, this rich cream is a winner for not provoking irritation in sensitive skin.
What is the biggest beauty crime a person can commit?

In my experience, the biggest beauty crime is not to focus on the fundamental health of your skin. I see many patients for scar treatment and a lot of them wish that they could have avoided these scars (whether from skin cancer or from acne) in the first place.

It is critical to monitor your skin for new or changing spots. Melanoma is now the most common cancer in people aged 25-29 and early detection remains the best hope in fighting this potentially lethal disease. Other forms of skin cancer, like basal cell and squamous cell cancers, can be treated with creams if caught early. However they must be surgically removed if more advanced.

Our best weapon against all forms of skin cancer is early detection, so it is crucial to keep a close watch on your skin. It is also important to see a dermatologist to evaluate any 'ugly duckling' spots that do not look like your others. Similarly, if you have acne, it is so beneficial to see a dermatologist early and be proactive about preventing scarring. There is no perfect fix for acne scarring, so the best approach is to see a dermatologist early and prevent it through effective acne treatment. Healthy skin really is the most beautiful skin.

What is your top skincare tip?

As skin ages, its ability to hold on to water decreases because we produce less glycosaminoglycans, such as hyaluronic acid, that hold water in the skin. While moisturising is important, using thicker and thicker creams as you get older may not help replenish the skin's water content, so I often talk with my patients about the difference between dry skin (in need of oil) and dehydrated skin (in need of water).

My top tip is to hydrate your skin more and more as you get older with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. This will help to keep skin smooth and firm. The best intensively hydrating mask I've found is the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask. This sheet mask is drenched in hydrating ingredients and traps them next to the face to ensure maximal absorption. These masks are particularly amazing when used after long haul flights or when you haven't been getting enough sleep - they are a celebrity favourite for good reason!

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