For Southern California dermatologist Christine Choi Kim, MD, the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to skin rejuvenation procedures.
In her practice as well as in her role as a clinical research investigator at the Clinical Science Institute in Santa Monica, CA, Dr. Kim combines or stacks treatments to achieve optimal yet subtle enhancements.
Dr. Kim attended the seven-year accelerated B.A.-M.D. program at Boston University. She went on to earn an M.B.A. in healthcare management at the Boston University Graduate School of Management. She trained at Weill Cornell Medical Center-New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, serving as chief resident in her final year. Dr. Kim then completed a fellowship in Laser and Cosmetic Surgery at SkinCare Physicians of Chestnut Hill, Mass.
She spoke with Beauty In The Bag about her approach to rejuvenation, her Korean-American roots as well as her personal beauty secrets. Here’s what we learned.
1. What is your signature procedure?
I am a big believer in combination therapies and making incremental, credible changes. It is better to have a friend tell you how happy and refreshed you look without being able to pinpoint why, instead of saying, “Wow, your Botox looks so great! What did you use in your lips?” No two patients are alike, so I do not recommend the same cookie-cutter approach for all. We are also constantly changing, so rejuvenation is really a moving target. For facial lines and wrinkles as well as sunken cheeks, my usual go- to’s are neuromodulators and dermal fillers. Still, you can’t ignore the aging effect of uneven texture, tone, and pigmentation of the skin. My favorite combination approach of the moment for overall facial toning and resurfacing is a Thermage skin tightening treatment, followed two weeks later by a Fraxel Dual resurfacing treatment, and then two weeks after that, I perform a SilkPeel DermalInfusion. Call it a “one- two- three punch”! This is my recipe for achieving amazingly refreshed, glowing skin. Of course, you have to do your homework between visits to protect your investment. Sun protection and a comprehensive skin care regimen are essential for maintaining post- procedure results.
2. How young is too young to start cosmetic procedures?
This is an important question. One of my mentors, Boston dermatologist Kenneth Arndt, MD, likes the term “pre-juvenation.” The rationale is: Why wait until you see obvious signs of aging before having treatments that promote collagen firming and reverse sun damage? Most cosmetic procedures I perform render the best results within the 35- to 55-year-old age group. I call it my “sweet spot” demographic. Start too old, and you just don’t see as dramatic an improvement, especially if the skin is very thin and crepe-y, no matter how much product you use. Start too young, and cosmetic procedures may have a paradoxical aging effect to the face. Earlier is not necessarily better.
Having said that, some young women and men in their twenties have a hereditary tendency to contract their corrugator muscles even when they are reading a menu, driving in their cars, or concentrating as they speak. The vertical lines (which look like the number 11) that are starting to become etched in between their eyebrows will only deepen with time. I also see very expressive young patients with horizontal forehead lines already forming at rest. In these cases neuromodulators like Botox play a role in prevention and are appropriate.
I am very cautious of performing cosmetic procedures on children and teenagers unless it is for a birthmark, a congenital defect, or some other condition that is socially debilitating. In fact, anyone under 18 has to have a parent or guardian’s consent. I am very aware that parents have a strong influence on some of my young patients’ self- esteem, so it is my job to make sure we are treating with the child’s interest in mind and not just the parent’s. Although I have yet to encounter a parent pushing a child to have fillers or Botox, I have certainly encountered my share of parents urging their reluctant children to start laser hair removal. My advice is simple: cosmetic procedures are elective. They are not without risks. Why not wait until your child is comfortable and motivated? In the end, the procedure will be a lot less anxiety-ridden and a much more pleasant, safe experience.
3. What skin care products do you use daily and why?
My skincare regimen varies with the season and with how my skin is feeling and looking. I am always addressing, adjusting, and assessing my routine. The constants are: an SPF 30+ sunscreen applied in the morning (preferably with antioxidants built in), and then a night time retinoid or glycolic acid product.
Excessive sun exposure is the single worst thing you can do for your skin because of the increased risk of developing skin cancers and the aging effect it has on the skin. If you are staring at a new darkening mole or wondering about a non- healing flaky spot on your skin, be proactive and make an appointment with a dermatologist for a skin check. It might be the single best thing you do for your skin…and could save your life!
I am loyal to my Clarisonic brush, which I use just about every single night to thoroughly cleanse my skin. I do think it is important to take a holistic approach to skin health: hydrate, eat right, exercise regularly, sleep well, don’t smoke, and find a way to de- stress.
Being Korean-American, I absolutely love trying all the skincare products that have made it stateside. K- beauty sleeping packs and masks are easy to use two to three times a week. My dream is to visit South Korea for a “beauty tour” of dermatology practices and skincare companies.