Inspired by my conversation last month with Dr. Wechsler, I decided to read her book, The Mind-Beauty Connection. Though published five years ago, her advice is extremely helpful. Best of all, the opportunity to look better, reverse aging, and feel better is in your own hands! I suggest you read her book yourself, but below were a few of the points I found most helpful.
Louise McCready Hart: I was very interested in reading how you, and other doctors, scan a patient’s appearance for clues about their inner psyche. It highlighted how much your experience in psychology reflects your dermatology practice–and how I should take more care in my own appearance since it is easy to read into it. Since most people’s image is so tied to their sense of self, and even self worth, what would you suggest to women who are trying to put their best face forward for a job interview, date, etc?
Dr. Amy Wechsler: I have a bunch of little tips that are mostly straightforward and practical—from standing up straight to making and maintaining eye contact. A good, firm handshake is key, and so many women don’t do that well. Every time I shake a hand, a man will say something about my firm handshake. My dad told me when I was a kid, “If you want to be taken seriously by someone, you have to have a firm handshake.” If you’re someone who gets anxious, try deep breathing techniques. There are all sorts of things to do ahead of time, and it’s ok to take care of yourself a little bit more. Grooming is important. If you haven’t had a haircut in a long time, maybe get one. If you don’t wear any makeup, try wearing a little. If you’re someone who tends to shlump over with your hair falling over your face, remember good posture and pull your hair back. Inner self-confidence definitely shows on the outside so do what you can to make yourself the most confident. It’s so individualized. If there’s someone in your life who is your cheerleader—your mom, your dad, your friend, someone who’s always on your side—contact that person right before a big interview or a date to pump you up. They can tell you all these great things about yourself that are true because they know you and love you. It may be your mom for a job interview but it may not be your mom before a date. I would always call my mom before an exam.
LMH: In your book, you brought up the subject of organic products and said you were cautious of them because they use so many potentially irritating plant extracts. Especially within the past five years this segment of the beauty market has exploded as more women worry about harmful chemicals and toxins. Are there any organic lines or products that you do like?
AW: I am still wary because I feel like not that much has changed. They still aren’t regulated in the United States. Organic food is highly regulated—there are still inconsistencies—but there’s a stamp of approval and you have to pass certain requirements on a checklist. But what does “natural” or “organic” skin care even mean? I tell patients who get a rash from organic skincare, “Well, poison ivy is organic. It is a plant, but one of the most irritating things.” I understand the logic behind ingesting healthy and organic food. But it is not clear a) organic skincare is necessary and b) we’re there yet.
LMH: Are we making any progress towards any sort of regulation for organic skincare?
AW: I haven’t read anything. Maybe there is a regulatory agency working behind the scene on it, but if there are, I’m not privy to it.
LMH: Hopefully that will change over time. Do you think extractions during facials are beneficial, neutral or harmful to the skin?
AW: I’m seeing a biased sample of the population. I see patients after an overzealous facialist has harmed them with scabs over their face. I think it is so dependent upon the facialist. If you want to get a facial, make sure your facialist isn’t overzealous. A facial should not hurt. It should not bleed. It should not scab. Always tell them you have sensitive skin.
LMH: Safflower oil sounds like the wonder moisturizer! It heals dry skin and is gentle enough for newborns. How and when did you learn about its restorative properties?
AW: Safflower oil is awesome. One of my teachers was a genius and told me about it. Safflower oil and olive oil have linoleic acid, and the skin naturally makes it. You could use olive oil, but you’d smell like a salad.
LMH: I have taken your tip to use three different towels (one each for the face, hair and body) to heart. Am I the only person who was using the same towel or have other people also thanked you for that suggestion?
AW: Ha, no, of course not. You just don’t want hair oils on your face.
LMH: I was fascinated learning how sugar and plunging blood sugar levels can contribute to inflammation and aging. Can you talk more about that?
AW: I think they’re writing too much about it right now. If you look at patients with diabetes that don’t deal with sugar properly, there are buildups of glycosylated end products that build up on and cause damage to blood vessels. Then people have made this jump that sugar is bad for anyone and will create that toxic end product. I don’t know that that’s true. The jury is far from out on that. I wouldn’t tell you that there’s a link between how much sugar we eat and how fast our skin ages.
LMH: Great—semi-good news for those with a sweet tooth! Anything else you’d like to add?
AW: I hope people are more mindful of their health and their body, what they’re doing to it and how much they’re sleeping. All of these things matter. Stress causes aging, but you can undo it too.