Photo credit: Peter Hurley
I will admit that when I showed up to interview for dermatology programs in NYC in 2014, I was pretty nervous. Having grown up in California my whole life, I had heard rumors of how “formal” East Coast medical centers can be, and I worried about leaving a good first impression. I’ll never forget how meeting Dr. Melissa K. Levin (formerly Dr. Kanchanapoomi at the time!), my resident interviewer at NYU, immediately put me at ease and dispelled all those myths! Dr. Levin also hailed from sunny California and her bubbly and friendly personality made me feel right at home. I left with a hugely favorable impression of the program and could see myself fitting in there. In fact, we stayed in touch and she helped answer questions when I was making my rank list, and now that we’re both in NYC, we have had more opportunities to spend time together. She is truly a gem, an incredibly competent dermatologist with a big laugh and a warm heart. I am so excited to share with you her expert beauty picks for what she uses to to keep her skin so beautiful and healthy!
A little more about Dr. Levin…
Dr. Levin grew up in both California and Thailand in a family of doctors, and graduated summa cum laude from the University of California of Los Angeles, where she was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta honors societies. She went to University of California of San Francisco for medical school, and while there, took one year off to complete the prestigious Doris Duke Charitable Foundation International Clinical Research Fellowship, working in Uganda. After an intern year at California Pacific Medical Center in SF, she completed her dermatology training at NYU and now works at Marmur Medical in Manhattan as a general and cosmetic dermatologist and the Director of Clinical Research. She teaches Mount Sinai Dermatology residents once a month. She is an absolute skin care addict, growing up with a mother who instilled with her a love for skin care. Dr. Levin is frequently quoted in media outlets such as Women’s Health Magazine, Self Magazine, Buzzfeed, Allure, Prevention, and Fox 5 NY News.
Dr. Levin has a pretty extensive AM regimen (ummm, compared to my 3 step regimen here… >_< I need to step up my game!), and I love that she uses a mix of drugstore and high end products. Her main steps are cleansing, treating, hydrating, and protecting. She starts off her day by washing her face, alternating between her Cerave Hydrating Cleanser (I got a sample of this the other day and I LOVE IT — seriously so hydrating) or her Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser if she wants to “get squeaky clean.” She then treats any possible breakouts with Onexton gel (clindamycin and Benzoyl peroxide; don’t know what these ingredients are? Read all about my preferred acne treatments here). After she treats any acne, she uses CE Ferulic from SkinCeuticals, a super powered antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals from sun damage (also a favorite of Dr. Hale’s – her interview is here), and an eye cream, either SkinBetter Science Daily Treatment Eye Cream or Caudalie Premier Cru Eye Cream. She shares that, “I am prone to developing milia around the eyes so I’m careful with applying overly occlusive ointments which neither these eye creams are.” For essence, she uses Tony Moly First Essence or SK II Essence with Pitera. She then uses SkinMedica HA 5 (hyaluronic acid),which helps her skin retain moisture and stay hydrated while also repairing her skin barrier, or Previse Nutrify Hyaluronic Tonic 1-6, an oil free hydrating antioxidant. We’re almost done folks. After her daily HA, she will then finish up with Cerave PM facial moisturizer and of course, sun protection in the form of SkinMedica Total Defense Repair in SPF30 or above or EltaMD UV Clear Tinted broad spectrum SPF 45 sunscreen for her face. She frequently reapplies throughout the day with her SPF lip balm, either Elta MD UV Lip Balm or Colorescience Sunforgettable Lip Shine for color. Whew, we’re done. And this is just to start her busy day!
Dr. Levin shares that she prefers tinted sunscreens because as opposed to her skin care regimen, she says, “I am a bit of a minimalist when it comes to make-up and rarely wear any foundation or powder.” She tends to wear eye make-up with Naked3 Urban Decay, mascara with Lancome Defincils, blush with Naked Urban Decay Flushed, and UV-protected lip balm as mentioned above. All I can say is with beautiful glowing skin, who needs makeup?! Minimal makes sense to me.
Believe it or not, Dr. Levin’s nighttime routine is actually more simplified than the morning one. She starts off with the same cleanser as the morning (Cerave Hydrating Cleanser) or if she is having oily skin, Clean and Clear continuous wash. She then treats with Differin 0.3% gel or Tretinoin 0.05% in the summer (prescription strength Vitamin A derivative that is an acne treatment as well as anti aging cream) if her skin is not irritated. She rounds out her antiaging regimen with SkinBetter Science Daily Treatment Eye Cream or Caudalie Premier Cru Eye Cream for her eyes and SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum (also one of Dr. Hale’s faves). For the last steps of hydration and moisturizer, she uses Skin Medica HA5 or Previse Nutrify Hyaluronic Tonic 1-6 and finally, moisturizer with Cerave PM.
Why hyaluronic acid (HA)?
According to Dr. Levin, HA is the big buzzword in skincare lately and it’s for good reason! As a natural sugar molecule found in plants and animals, HA is a component in our body that retains moisture. In fact, 1 gram of HA can hold up 6 liters (1 quartz) of water. She believes that hydration of skin is key because as we age, we degrade this naturally voluminizing substance progressively and more rapidly. Dr. Levin says, “I have a combination of different problematic skin conditions including hormonal acne and eczema and honestly, after adding HA into my skin care regimen, both conditions have improved immensely.”
High end beauty products vs. Drugstore brands?
From Dr. Levin herself: “I’m a huge believer of combining with both high-end beauty brands and drug store but really, what I want my patients to achieve is loving and enjoying their skin care routine. My skin care routine is extensive! I know it is – but it’s because it’s my personal private time that I give myself and I love each step of it. Texture and elegance is important but it doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. But, you should LIKE the feeling of each product onto your skin and if you don’t, don’t use it. There are SO many wonderful skin care products on the market nowadays so the key is finding one you like and using it. There are basic guidelines that each skin care regimen should have: cleanse, moisturize/hydrate, and protect. If it’s three simple steps of CeraVe or Neutrogena products with one prescription retinoid or one over the counter retinol like Aven RetrinAL and your skin is responding well, then it’s working for you.”
Thank you for sharing with us your beauty regimen Dr. Levin! For more of her skincare pearls, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, and if you’re in the NYC area, you can visit her at Marmur Medical, located at 12 E 87th St, New York, NY 10128.
Here are a list of all of her products: