Dr. Nina Desai is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in all facets of dermatology—general, cosmetic, and pediatric—closely and compassionately working with patients of all age ranges to develop individualized treatment plans. She follows a simple philosphy when it comes to her career: help all patients achieve healthy, beautiful skin so they can look and feel their very best every day.
Dr. Desai earned her MD from Brown University and trained at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Medical Center in New York City where she was elected Chief Resident for the Department of Dermatology. Throughout her career, she has conducted dermatological research at Harvard University and Cornell University and has authored numerous journal articles. Ater working in a private practice setting on Park Avenue and in Tribeca in New York City, she and her family moved to the west coast where she began a new chapter at Manhattan Dermatology in Manhattan Beach, CA.
BITB had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Desai to get the inside scoop on the most-requested treatments during each decade and the skincare products she can’t live without.
How did you become interested in the field of dermatology?
I am a board certified dermatologist, and have been practicing medical and cosmetic dermatology for over 10 years. I started in private practice in New York City in 2009, and in 2014 my family and I relocated to Southern California, where I then joined Manhattan Dermatology in Manhattan Beach, California. I absolutely love my patients and feel so fortunate to be excited about my work.
My obsession with skin and how it heals started when I was teenager. After a car accident, I was left to deal with several burn scars on my legs and back. Over the years I sought treatment after treatment to improve the discomfort and appearance of my scars. It was during my time as a patient that I became fascinated with the complexities of the skin, the way our body heals, and more specifically the way laser technology plays into this. I was enamored by the devices I saw, but disheartened by how few treatments were available to me because I have darker skin. At that young age, I knew I had found my passion and my career. I was fortunate to receive my medical degree from Brown University, working under some of the smartest minds in medicine.
My passion to understand skin disease and how the skin heals led me to pursue research at both Harvard University, and Cornell University where I published numerous papers and book chapters on skin cancer and skin diseases, in particular in skin of color. I then trained at St Luke’s- Roosevelt and Beth Israel Hospitals in New York City where I was able to learn first hand how to treat skin issues in a very diverse population. I continued my education by seeking out the best laser and cosmetic specialists in New York and Miami, to train in cutting edge techniques, including the treatment of burn and traumatic scars with resurfacing lasers. I had come full circle. It is so fulfilling to offer treatments that, years ago I was told were not possible.
What treatments do you see trending among patients in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s+?
Treatments trending in patients in their 20s are those with minimal downtime, geared towards preventing signs of aging, such as light chemical peels, with combinations of beta and alpha hydroxy acids, micro- Botox/Dysport and microneedling to prevent fine lines and stimulate collagen.
Patients in their 30s and 40s are coming in for more corrective treatments such as corrective botox and fillers – such as Juvederm and Restylane, The most asked about areas to fill in this age group are under eyes and lips. Patients in their 30s and 40s are also seeking slightly more aggressive lasers and photofacials to get rid of sun spots, redness on the face, to improve their complexion, and reduce pore size. Very popular treatments in this age group include, IPL, Clear and Brilliant, Broad Band Light, and Halo by Sciton resurfacing.
Women in their 50s and 60s are also interested in treatments to volumize areas of volume lose, such as lips and under-eyes, but they are also looking to tighten areas of laxity, such as cheeks and jawline with products such as Voluma, Restylane Lyft and Sculptra. Another treatment I often perform in this age group is the non-surgical eye- lid lift (a combination of perfectly placed botox and filler) to help with the laxity of the skin around the eyes that some patients develop as they age. Deeper chemical peels, resurfacing and tightening treatments are also very popular in this age group, and these include Vivace, (microneedling/ radiofrequency) to tighten and lift, Ulthera, Fraxel, Profractional and TRL – ablative resurfacing by Sciton. These treatments tend to involve a little bit more downtime and can be more expensive, as they are more aggressive corrective treatments for deep sun damage and wrinkles. Of course all treatments can be used in all age groups depending on the individual patient. I work with each of my patients to devise a very personalized plan in order for them to achieve the best cometic outcome.
As a dermatologist, you probably take great care of your skin. What beauty products are in your cosmetic bag and on your bathroom vanity?
The most important step to having great skin is to have a great skin care routine, and of course to follow it. I share all of my personal product choices with my patients and I tell all of my patients that the most important parts of your skin care routine are:
- A good cleanser- a gentle cleanser in the morning, like CeraVe Hydrating Cleanserand a double cleanse at the end of the day, beginning with something like Simple Micellar water to get all the dirt, oil and make up off of your face so your skin can repair while you sleep.
- Sunscreen – Sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 30, applied to your face, neck, chest and hands every morning. Always remember to reapply throughout the day if it is sunny, or you are spending a lot of time outdoors. My favorite every day sunscreens are the Elta MD Clear, the La Roche Posay Melt in Milk, and the Supergoop Unseen. These are light, not chalky, go great under makeup, and are suitable for all skin types. For re-application throughout the day, the Colorescience Sunforgettable mineral powder and the COOLA make-up setting sunscreen spray make it easy on the go.
- Antioxidants – Antioxidants applied to the face every morning (and sometimes at night as well) help protect the skin from dangerous free radical damage caused by the sun. Free radical damage contributes to sun spots, wrinkles, fine lines and skin cancers to name just a few of the problems they can contribute to. My go tos are Glow MD C E+ Ferulic acid, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, and Drunk Elephant C- Firma Day Serum. The Drunk Elephant is great as it also can be used by pregnant or nursing mamas.
- A retinoid – I recommend all women over the age of 30 be on some form of a Retinol or Retin-A. The difference is that Retinol is over the counter, while Retin-A is a prescription. Both come in varying strengths and the strengths are based on individual tolerance. Retinoids help cell- turnover and promote collagen stimulation, which makes your skin look smoother, fresher and brighter. I am currently using Retin-A Micro 0.06% 3 times a week, as I do have sensitive skin. I also love Glow MD daily retinol serum for winter months, and on days when I am feeling a little dry.
- Moisturizer- While I love using my retinoid, I do have sensitive skin, and I tend to break out with heavy moisturizers. So a good hydrating oil free moisturizer is the last step to my nighttime routine. Right now I love CeraVe PM moisturizing cream, or Neutrogena hydroboost gel cream.
- Lastly my splurge is my neck cream- it is a much neglected part of the body, but it can really age us. The Alastin Restorative Neck Complex helps firm the neck while improving crepiness, and discoloration.