A Skincare Moment with A Dermatology PA by Rachel Cabeza

Like many people in the world, I am obsessed with all things skincare. I loved watching my mom as a child when she did her skincare routine. As a teen, I started using sunscreen and cleansing as per my moms guidance and it was a great way for us to bond.

Now, I see it as an essential part of my day that also makes me feel luxurious. As I should! While I have been into skincare for some time, I hit the jackpot. One of my best friends is a Dermatology PA.

Now what is a Dermatology PA, you may ask? Dermatologist PAs work alongside collaborating Dermatologist Physician colleagues to examine, diagnose and treat patients, including prescribing medications and performing surgical procedures. PAs typically enter medical training after a 4-year bachelor degree with 2000+ hours of patient contact experience, and add an additional 4000+ hours of medical experience in school. From acne scarring to botox, they do it all! My friend, Sarah Biedermann, MMS, PA-C, was kind enough to let me pick her brain and offer some quick tips about skincare.

Do you recommend going to see a dermatologist? How often?

Sarah: (Laughs) Very good question. Number one, if you’re concerned about anything – go. A dermatologist can take care of a ton of different concerns, from acne to mole checks to infections. Also cosmetic treatments as well. I recommend going at least once a year, and that guidance will change with your skin cancer history.

Would you say there are three types of skin – dry, oily, and combination?

Sarah: Humans love to classify everything into particular categories – but I would not say there’s a perfect classification of dry, oily, and combination. I personally believe everyone has combination skin. There are very few cases where the patient’s skin is only oily or only dry. It’s typically a combination of both due largely to what products you’re using, the weather, and your genetics.For instance, a patient with really dry skin – upon further inspection could have a deeper issue, like a thyroid problem or an autoimmune issue that flares up in the form of dry skin. The same goes for oily skin. That’s why it’s great to visit the dermatologist and stay on top of that.

What a simple quick over the counter for a pimple or two, not talking cystic acne or anything?

Sarah: Gentle skincare – no harsh rubbing, no touching your face, no picking.

We want to clean the face without irritating it too much. I have two strategies. First – get rid of the pimples already there. Clean your face with a gentle cleanser such as Cerave, Cetaphil, Aveeno, and La Roche Posay. First Aid Beauty is a great brand that is cruelty free. Twice a day – in the morning and at the end of the day. In general, nothing with fragrance or dyes, I have no qualms with foaming cleansers and suggest them for people with extra oil. 

I suggest using active ingredients, like 2.5% benzol peroxide. There are some risks – there could be some irritation, if so use it every other day or consult a dermatologist if you can.

Second strategy is prevention. This means adding in a retinoid to your routine. Again, these are not for everyone, especially those with very sensitive skin. They are a vitamin A derivative and they work as a chemical exfoliator. They slough off the top layer of your skin and push everything up to the top skin layer.

The retinoid available is Adapalene 0.1%. It’s  over the counter and two brands offer it. Differin gel and La Roche Poche Effaclar Adapalene 0.1%

Not to be confused with retinols – the weaker cousin of a retinoid if you will. The best way to use these is to use a pea-sized amount to your face and mix it in with a moisturizer. Using more than a pea-sized amount or more than once a day will not benefit you – in fact it only may lead to more irritation!

What’s an over-the-counter product you would recommend to everyone?

Sarah: Everyone has different skin conditions, but the classic dermatologist line is sunscreen. The best sunscreen for you is the one you’re going to wear. Personally, I use the Cerave AM with sunscreen.Mineral sunscreen is made up of zinc – which is white – and it can be streaky on skin. To combat that, I prefer tinted moisturizer with sunscreen. Nowadays, because of daily mask use, mineral sunscreen can be heavy on the skin and leave you prone to more bacteria under that mask. I suggest using the mineral sunscreen on your forehead and something much lighter under your mask – like powders or the tinted moisturizer. You really should be reapplying it every two hours after your first application. My new favorite thing is powders – it doesn’t ruin your makeup, I love it. I’m a big proponent of powder.

Rapid Fire One Word Reactions to Questionable Skincare Products

Apricot Face Scrub?

Sarah: No way!

Blackhead strips?

Sarah: Uh…Telangiectasia. 

What does that mean?

Sarah: It means you’re going to strip your skin and it’s going to cause little capillaries to come to the surface and you’re going to get rosacea.

Red Light Therapy?

Sarah: Bacteria fighting, maybe. Needs to be studied more.


Sarah: Hate em! They used to be necessary because there wasn’t the best technology in creams and they were used to “balance the pH” but now the technology is so good toners often strip your skin.

Toothpaste on pimples?

Sarah: It’s for your teeth…there are so many better options that are over-the-counter. The reason I assume people do that is because there is a peroxide component to it. 

Benzoyl peroxide – which is meant for your skin already is over the counter and I recommend that for spot treatment. No more than 2.5% though they offer 10% over the counter but I think 2.5% is way more than enough without causing excessive irritation.

Any lasting comments for our readers?

Sarah: Remember that anything you do with the skin is going to take time, because what we’re waiting for is cell turnover and that can take months depending on your skin type. Especially with acne and acne scars and hyperpigmentation – it does take time. Be sure to see your friendly dermatologist for a customized, medical grade skin routine that works best for you!

You can follow Sarah on instagram.com/nyc.skin and book a treatment with her at the Dermatology Specialists.

Rachel Cabeza is a Latinx actor/writer located in Brooklyn, NY. She loves watching movies, hiking with her dog, cooking pizza in her pizza oven EVERY weekend, and working out. Rachel is excited to bring a new column about skincare, beauty, and fashion to Mixed Mag and connect with all the amazing readers.

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