Dr. Gabriel says that adult acne affects her—and her patients—much more severely than teenage acne. As a teenager, you expect pimples here and there, but once you’re in your 20s, you think you should be in the clear. When you’re not, it feels like your fault. “It’s this thing where you have no control,” she says. “And people want control. Like, ‘I’m doing everything right. Why is this happening to me?’ It’s almost like this internal self-loathing. I think it drives people nuts because when you starve yourself, you pretty much lose weight. It’s a cause and effect. If you take your medicine, your headache gets better. But even when you’re doing everything right, the skin is just funky and it still breaks out. I think, particularly in adult women, it’s mind-blowing because you have zero control over it.”
Luckily, Dr. Gabriel’s acne calmed down after she gave birth and didn’t return with her second pregnancy. Her skin is back to normal, but as a dermatologist she still feels a pressure to look a certain way—she considers her skin her business card—though nowadays that pertains to wrinkles, not breakouts. However, she say’s recently been inspired by the body-positivity trend to try and let some of that go. “Self-acceptance is the new wave, and I totally feel that people’s raw being is more exposed,” she says. “It’s awesome, I like that there’s this pendulum towards non-perfection is why we’re perfect.”
Below, Dr. Zenovia Gabriel shares what’s currently keeping her skin happy.
My acne advice
I don’t have acne anymore, but the key thing with acne is not overtreating it and causing inflammation. I tell everybody, if you have acne, you need a good benzoyl peroxide wash. Period. In research, in derm, we know benzoyl peroxide. It’s kind of played out—it’s been on the shelf for years. But the way it’s made is so important, and that was the inspiration behind my benzoyl peroxide face wash.
My simple skin care
I’m big on hydration right now. Obviously, I’m more dehydrated as I’m getting older. I’m in that perimenopausal phase. I’m not an oily teenager anymore, and I just wake up looking dry. So I love ceramides and my Ceramide + Peptide Moisturizer.
Every morning I put on a vitamin C serum. You need antioxidation in the morning and sunscreen. And then, of course, the most important thing is a retinol. Numero uno, after sunscreen, is a retinol. And so, vitamin C in the morning, retinol at night, then hydration both times each day.
Everything that I do on my face is evidence-based. I’m a physician. I don’t care if you’ve got a rosehip oil, or a fancy little thing, and your packaging’s amazing. My question is, What do the studies show? And dermatology is a heavily researched field. There’s more research in derm than almost any other field besides cardiology. And everybody knows sunscreen and retinol preserve your collagen. Every dermatologist in the country believes in those two products. Everything else is icing on the cake.
I do one light laser a year. It’s like a good haircut. It sloughs down that dead layer, it stimulates your collagen. I like the LaseMD, but there’s also the Clear + Brilliant. There are numerous ones. But a light laser that does a slight buff and shine. I do that about once a year before the holidays.
And then the other thing I do once a year is a light chemical peel. My philosophy is, with the laser, you’re stimulating your skin from the bottom up. And with the chemical peel, you’re sloughing it from the top down.I do a chemical peel, then six months later, I do a laser. Six months after that, I do another chemical peel. So there’s my one-year gap between my chemical peels. It’s kind of low-maintenance.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty writer at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.