Dr. Lawrence Samuels has learned plenty in his nearly four decades of dermatology experience – particularly how to make skincare affordable and accessible to all people. He has worked as a dermatologist in a number of hospitals across the nation, and now serves as chief of dermatology at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
In between hospital shifts, Samuels also channeled his passion for healthy skin into a unique line of skincare products, called Rx Systems PF. These products work to reverse photodamage and promote the appearance of younger skin. He also teaches at Washington University’s School of Medicine and runs his own practice.
Now, he shares his favorite skincare tips and insider health and anti-aging tricks with us.
Q. Why did you choose to practice dermatology?
A. Dermatology is a very diverse specialty. It allows the physician to see children and adults, plus it challenges my diagnostic and surgical skills. Dermatology also allows me to be involved in the growing field of cosmetic dermatology. I find my career professionally and personally rewarding when I can improve a patient’s skin condition and appearance, thus enhancing their self esteem and productivity, and make a diagnosis and treat skin cancer, which can be lifesaving.
Q. What is your personal philosophy for skincare?
A. Keep it simple. Individualize skincare products and regimens to improve or eliminate skin problems related to sun damage and aging. I believe it is important to under-promise and over-deliver with skincare products and treatments. The goal is to maximize skincare health and appearance and control the amount of money spent. I recommend [avoiding] creating the bathroom cemetery. That is, [women should toss] old products which over-promise and under-deliver that are buried in the cabinet under the sink.
Q. What are some of the most common skin complaints you get from clients? What do you recommend for them?
A. On a cosmetic basis, patients complain of rough, dry skin, large pores, skin discoloration, brown spots and wrinkles. I recommend a Visia skin analysis, which can help identify skin problems and their severity. Based on the results, there are numerous treatments (medical microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, chemical peels, enzyme peels, Botox, filler materials, laser hair removal) and numerous skincare products directed at specific patient needs. There is no one product that is the “secret sauce” for healthy, young looking skin.
Q. What are some of the most common skincare mistakes you see in your clients?
A. Over-cleansing and under-moisturizing. There are patients who still believe there are safe UV rays which do not cause sun damage to the skin. Patients believe a lot of what they read on the Internet or hear on Dr. Oz and other shows.
Q. What do you recommend for these individuals?
A. The best advice is first to talk to a specialist for specific problems, whether it is an esthetician or a dermatologist. Then I recommend the algorithm above, beginning with the Visia analysis. There are times when patients have very specific problems, such as the deep crease between the eyebrows, which can be treated with Botox. The bottom line is the better overall health and appearance of the skin, the better all treatments and products will work.
Q. What are the best ingredients to look for in an anti-aging product?
A. Alpha hydroxy acids, especially glycolic acid, alpha lipoic acid, retinoic acid, retinol, L-ascorbic acid, glycoprotiens, peptides, soluble collagen, soluble elastin, as well as other antioxidants. With sun damaging and aging skin, skin cell growth slows, exfoliation is impaired, collagen production decreases, and there is irregular pigmentation formation. The above ingredients accelerate skin cell growth and turnover, restore normal skin exfoliation and increase collagen formation.
Q. Is there any way to “undo” sun’s damage to the skin? What do you recommend to clients and patients who have sun spots or other visible signs of sun damage?
A. Yes. There are several reparative skincare products and treatments, but overall sun protection and consistent use of a broad spectrum sunscreen with micronized zinc oxide is imperative.
Q. What do you recommend for a patient who suffers from eczema?
A. Mild skin cleansing, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream used twice daily, and moisturizers. I recommend avoiding any activities or foods that seem to aggravate the eczema, especially things that come in contact with the skin. If over-the-counter products are not effective, there are several prescription medications available.
Q. Do you recommend Botox? Why or why not?
A. All the time. There have been numerous clinical trials documenting its effectiveness and safety for the lines between the eyebrows, forehead lines and crow’s feet. It is a treatment that will need to be repeated at some point to maintain the results. It is also effective for severe armpit sweating.
Q. What are some of the most important considerations a woman should make before choosing to get Botox or another professional skin treatment?
A. It is most important to identify the skin problem and what treatments or products have been shown in clinical trials to correct the problem. If needed, get a second opinion. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is not going to give you the results you desire. This is the over-promise, under-deliver aspect of advertising.
Q. What should the ideal skincare regimen for a woman between the ages of 30 and 55 include?
A. In simple terms: an appropriate cleanser; a reparative cream to improve skin texture, reduce pore size, and decrease the appearance of brown spots and fine lines; and a broad spectrum moisturizer with an SPF of at least 35. Only three products will begin to make the skin healthier and younger looking.
Q. If you could recommend one product for a woman to add to her skincare regimen, what would it be?
A. You said “add,” so I am going to assume she is already using a cleanser, reparative cream and moisturizer with sunscreen. The one product I would recommend to add is L-ascorbic acid (true vitamin C). L-ascorbic acid is the single most important water-soluble antioxidant in the skin. The skin’s natural reservoir of L-ascorbic acid decreases with sun damage and aging.