Dr. Jessica Wu is a board-certified dermatologist who practices both cosmetic and medical dermatology in Los Angeles, California. Currently involved in ongoing clinical research trials on new injectable and topical anti-aging treatments, Dr. Wu was Principal Investigator in several studies of cosmetic products and devices that have resulted in FDA approval, including JUVÉDERM® filler and LATISSE®. In 2005, Dr. Wu developed and introduced her own skincare line, Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals, which is available at specialty stores nationally and internationally. Her first book, Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days, was published by St. Martin’s Press in February 2011. She is also co-founder of a nonprofit organization, BeautyShares Inc., dedicated to building confidence and self-esteem in disadvantaged young women through after-school workshops on grooming, skincare, and healthy lifestyles.
Tell us about your background. How did you select dermatology as your specialty?
I had terrible skin as a teenager—bad acne, severe eczema rashes—as well as thick glasses and a chubby figure. It was a triple curse! I spent hours in the aisles of my local drugstore trying to figure out what acne wash or pimple cream to use. So I decided early on that I wanted to become a dermatologist, to figure out how to take care of my own skin, and to help others who had the same struggles with their skin issues.
You practice both cosmetic and medical dermatology. What is the difference?
Cosmetic dermatology includes a wide range of services and treatments designed to help my patients look better. This might include doing a light medical peel to lighten sun spots or improve acne scars; or a laser treatment to smooth fine lines and wrinkles; or injectable treatments like BOTOX® Cosmetic and JUVÉDERM® to lift and smooth sagging skin. It also includes prescribing medical-strength topical products like LATISSE®, which makes lashes grow longer, thicker and darker, or prescription-strength fading creams to improve sun damage and discoloration.
Medical dermatology includes diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions that aren’t appearance-related, but more health-related. For example, I recommend doing a full body skin examination (even on my cosmetic patients) to look for any moles or growths that could be skin cancer. I also treat acne, rashes, and various skin growths, including cysts and skin tags.
What is your advice for aging gracefully?
My philosophy for aging gracefully is to do what you’re comfortable with so that you feel confident and good about yourself—and to not feel guilty about wanting to look your best. So many of my patients feel guilty about coming to see me; they equate “aging gracefully“ with letting it all fall apart. On the contrary, I think aging gracefully means that you take care of yourself—this includes eating right, exercising for strong bones, and doing small tweaks or procedures depending on your comfort level. For some, it might be as simple as using an antioxidant eye cream to moisturize that delicate area. For others, it might include in-office cosmetic treatments. Whatever you decide to do, you deserve it!
I am also finding that some women are frustrated because they are seeing acne as they move into adulthood. They are saying to me – why is this happening now? I thought this was a teen problem! Some are surprised to hear that 1 in 3 women in their 30s, and 1 in 4 women in their 40s have acne. One topical acne medication ACZONE® (dapsone) Gel 5% tends to works better in women than in men. My advice to women with acne would be to see your dermatologist about a solution regardless of whether you currently have a breakout or not.
What types of cosmetic treatments are particularly popular now?
Injectable filler treatments that give you a “lift” without surgery are very popular now. For example, I often use JUVÉDERM® in the “parentheses” along the side of the nose and mouth to restore volume to the face. It’s important to do this carefully and conservatively so you look soft and natural, not overstuffed. By doing it slowly and carefully, my patients are amazed at how little discomfort they feel, with little to no bleeding, bruising, or swelling. Most of them go right back to their normal activities. Best of all, they can see the results immediately.
Are skincare products available at retail effective? Are products sold by physicians better?
You can find effective over-the-counter skincare products at any price, including drugstore products, especially when it comes to cleansing and sunscreen. However, many anti-aging products that are available at retail have not been studied and proven to be effective. In general, products that are available in doctors’ offices are more likely to have undergone rigorous testing to support their claims. In particular, prescription-strength products, like LATISSE®, have been proven to effective and studied for safety; no other retail lash-growth product has undergone the same level of testing for safety and efficacy. For those suffering from acne, it’s best to see a dermatologist to discuss solutions if over-the-counter products aren’t working for you.
What’s new in the field of anti-aging? What do you find particularly exciting?
I think we’ll start to see both topical and injectable products that use stem cell technology. The science isn’t there yet, but that’s where we’re headed.