My Mom’s a Dermatologist and These are The 7 Best Skin Care Tips She Taught Me

By May 10, 2018

Want the best skin care tips from a derm? Luckily, one of Soko Glam’s new employees grew up with a mom who is also a dermatologist. In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked Daniela to share the seven best nuggets of wisdom her mother taught her about taking care of her skin.

Guys, my mom is fabulous. She’s a self-made dermatologist with a successful aesthetic practice in San Antonio, Texas, and she’s pretty much my fashion/career/skin care icon. When I was just months old, she would take me to her office in my bassinet because she couldn’t find a daycare she liked in Mexico City and didn’t want to leave me.

Growing up, I’d often go to her office after school, where I got to hang out with her nurses (read: bombard them with questions about skin care and products). You can say that my skin care addiction started young. And now that I work at Soko Glam, I constantly hit her up with questions about products and ingredients.

Something you should know about dermatologists is that not all of them are skin care obsessed. Some are just great diagnosticians who will prescribe you something, and they’re not as into trying all the products companies give them. That’s totally cool, but it’s something to note if you’re a skin care junkie. There are also those dermatologists who really love skin care and carry lots of skin care lines in their offices. I prefer the skin care-loving doctors simply because I love talking about skin care, and I have very reactive skin, so I like my doctors to be very familiar with the landscape and be able to give me feedback on the non-prescription products I’m using.

Luckily, my mom is a big believer in skin care, which means that growing up, I had access to prescription-strength drugs (I have a ranking of steroid and non-steroid creams for my eczema), physician-dispensed lines like SkinMedica, EltaMD, and Avène (they have some doctor-exclusive products), and lots of free goods from various companies like Aveeno and Neutrogena.

But even better than the free product was the expertise. Getting to ask my mom why she recommended products to me enabled me to know my skin better and to understand ingredients. Since not all of you are lucky enough to have a dermatologist mother, I have shared some of what I learned from her below.

Skin care can get you further than you think

My mom may be a retinol evangelist, but she also believes in a very holistic approach to skin care and encourages me to use a variety of ingredients to stimulate my skin’s natural healing processes. If you look at my mom, yes, she’s done a little injecting on herself here and there, but most of her youthfulness is due to her very diligent skin care routine, which she switches up from time to time.

My mom is in her late 50s, barely wears foundation, and literally looks younger now than she did 20 years ago. Skin care is no joke, despite what some people on the internet might have to say. This does not mean that all skin care is created equal. However, if you’re using good products with solid, research-backed ingredients and enough sunscreen, you’d be surprised by the results you can get long term.

But skin care does have its limits…

A hyaluronic acid serum is not going to sculpt at all and it won’t restore volume as well as an injectable filler. Sometimes oral medications are needed for acne or other conditions. Be reasonable about the expectations you have from your skin care. It can do a lot, but it’s not fair to expect it to do more than it was designed for! If skin care could do it all, then lasers, in-office peels, and endless more options simply wouldn’t exist.

Caring about your skin goes beyond skin-deep

Sometimes we joke in my family that my dad is a “real” doctor because he’s a cardiologist. Naturally, my mom attended medical school just as long as my dad and is also a real doctor, and she knows we only mean this as a joke. That said, she sometimes shares this anecdote about a time that she was making this joke with a patient, and the patient very seriously reprimanded her. This wise patient told my mother never to underestimate the impact of her work, as she restores confidence to people and can literally save people’s live with skin cancer screenings. I’ve had acquaintances who have seen my mom for acne treatment tell me how much they love her because she cleared up their skin.

It’s very easy to dismiss skin care as something frivolous, but I encourage you not to. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you don’t see this as a silly pursuit. Let me say two major points. One: The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and keeping it healthy ensures that your body is adequately protected, as the skin is often the first line of defense against external pathogens. Two: Your skin is literally what you show to the world, so it’s very natural that its state will affect your internal state. Numerous studies, plus the personal experience of almost everyone I know, show that when your skin looks good, you feel good. The opposite is also true!

A good skin care routine is like having a balanced diet

You don’t want a regimen that’s all exfoliation, even if you have some textural concerns and you’re an acid queen. The best skin care regimens resemble a balanced diet: a chemical exfoliant (retinol if you’re my friend), maybe some gentle acids, some growth factors (shoutout to Easydew), a good moisturizer, some targeted treatments for your specific concerns, an anti-oxidant, and sunscreen, of course.

This balanced approach that I grew up with actually drew me to the Korean routine later in life because with each different steps, I can highlight a different key component. For example, I will use an anti-oxidant serum like the COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid, an acid-containing chemical exfoliant like the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine pads once or twice a week in place of my trusty Differin, the A’PIEU Madecassoside Cream because it’s so yummy, my acne treatments, and a growth factor serum.

I constantly go back to the balanced diet analogy because it works. Carrots are good, but if you’re only eating carrots, you’re depriving your body of other critical nutrients. Same concept applies with skin care—find the products that work for your skin, but make sure there’s some variety to get the best results.

More expensive is not always better

To be honest, my mom is not the biggest fan of La Mer. She really doesn’t see the point. My mom, who is a big fan of expensive things and brand names, loves Aveeno, CeraVe, and Olay. Her routine is full of bougie doctor-dispensed products, but those are expensive because of the research, raw materials, and formulations, not because of packaging and the huge costs of selling in luxury stores. I’m not saying to go drugstore-only and to shun Sephora, but I encourage you to make sure that you’re spending wisely.

This is actually why I love Korean skin care: good formulations, proven ingredients, still a very nice user experience, and not pricier than many of the things you can buy at Ulta. Be a smart shopper. Also, if you’re using a product like La Mer, know what it is you’re paying for—if you like using something that’s expensive because you like feeling luxe, that’s fine, you do you! Just don’t automatically equate price with quality.

Pro tip: Generally, plan to spend more on the things that stay on your face. A $90 cleanser is usually a waste of time; spend money on your serums and moisturizers, since they do more of the heavy lifting.

There’s still room for the doctor

I sometimes think people hate me because I’m always like, “Go to the doctor!” It’s true, you can DIY a lot of skin care nowadays. There are tons of resources online (I’m a lurker on Reddit), and I’m by no means discouraging you from experimenting and talking to people. However, if you’re dealing with a serious and/or persistent issue, go to a dermatologist!

For example, the other day my mom was in town, and I was dealing with some flaking on my nose. I thought I had just over-exfoliated, and I was aggressively moisturizing the area, but it wasn’t getting better. My mom took one look at it and said “seborrheic dermatitis” and told me to use an anti-fungal cream. Naturally, it cleared up. You can save yourself a lot of heartache and money by taking your problems seriously the first time around, rather than trying to find your own solution for months.

Beyond frustrating skin things, you should still go to a dermatologist for yearly skin cancer screenings. These are considered preventive care and are typically covered by insurance plans. The dermatologist will examine your whole body to make sure there’s nothing funky going on. I can’t stress the importance of yearly screenings! Skin cancer is no joke. Some forms of it are less serious and require simple in-office removal. Other ones, like melanoma, are as serious as any other form of cancer. Paying attention to your skin, and letting a trained professional get to know and look out for your skin, are hugely important.

When I was in seventh grade, my mom happened to notice something weird with her bellybutton. It was oozing, so she biopsied it. Turns out, it was stage 4 melanoma! Luckily, she’s been cancer free for years now, but if my mom hadn’t checked herself regularly and taken this anomaly seriously, I hate to think how things might have turned out.

Your routine is “you” time:

When I lived at home, if I walked into my mom’s bathroom while she was doing her morning or evening routine, she would gently kick me out. When I was younger, this was annoying because my mom is glam and I love watching her get ready. Now, I totally understand. She was an early believer in the ritual, and for a woman who regularly worked 10+ hour days and had three demanding daughters, this time was crucial.

When I’m talking to Soko Glam customers, this is something that is constantly reinforced. Skin care is self care. Don’t apologize for taking this time for yourself, and remember why you do it: because you like it and because it feels good to take care of yourself.

The skin care community is amazing

One of the biggest lessons I learned from growing up with a dermatologist mom is that this topic and industry builds community. I’ve seen this come to life more by working in the industry and in the last couple of years on the internet, but the main reason I enjoyed spending time at my mom’s office and why I love what I do is that talking to someone about their skin care is at once very intimate and extremely low-key. They’re not telling you their deepest secrets, but you get a window into their lives and how they take care of themselves.

I often find myself connecting with customers who have the same freaky skin type I do (for the record, it’s combination, very sensitive, acne-prone and with mild rosacea). It’s amazing how much of a connection you can build over skin care, and taking up the “family business” in my own way has definitely strengthened my already-tight relationship with my mom.

+ Got some good skin care tips from a derm? Share them below!

Shop The Story