No More Baggage

straighten crop

{Wearing: Lipstick: M.A.C. Dita Von Teese.}

They say a woman over 30’s best friend is good lighting. What’s missing from that equation is Dr. Shaun Patel of Miami Skin and Vein. Let’s face it, lighting won’t follow you everywhere you go and I’m yet to find a way to integrate Instagram filters into my real life. I started seeing Dr. Patel back in August to add a little Botox here and there. After all, I’m working on 38 and I prefer to keep my angry face a secret, along with any little lines that pop up along the way. Plus, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to look and feel your best. If a little syringe here and there keeps you feeling great and stands up to what Father Time is dishing out, well, sign me up.

I’ve been to more than a few dermatologists in my lifetime. And, to be quite honest, I’m always a little nervous upon our first dance with the syringe. I don’t want to walk out of their office looking like I have a serious case of resting bitch face. Expressions are good. A lack of them not so much. So, I’m always cautious if this person is going to put my face on ice and leave it that way or if I’ll leave looking like a more-rested me. But there was something about Dr. Patel that I liked off the bat, something that made me feel at ease. First, he’s young and cool and personable. All pluses. But what I loved was how, upon meeting me, he asked me to go through what I keep in my makeup bag. “Oh, that’s good,” he said. “Nope, toss that one out.” After all, this is the stuff I slather onto my face day in and day out (confession: the stuff I often fall asleep in, too). It just makes sense that an expert should evaluate what I keep and what I toss. Oddly, enough, none of the dermatologists of skincare past had ever done so.

After getting comfortable with Dr. Patel, I decided to entrust in him my biggest skincare woe: the dreaded under-eye baggage and circles. Look, I’ve tried sleep and diet and gaining weight, but those damn bags are the ones I cannot unpack. I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue, so I interrogated interviewed Dr. Patel on the who, what, when, where, why and how to make it go away. Here’s what I learned:

The causes of these nasty little monsters we call dark circles 

The skin around the eyes is the thinnest skin in the body. It just so happens there’s a muscle under there called orbicularis oculi. When the skin under your eyes thins, that muscle shows through. If only I could transfer inner thigh fat to my eyes. Sigh. Dark circles can also be related to sun damage or genetic predisposition to excess pigment under the eyes, volume loss or excess blood vessels under the eyes. A lot of that has to do with what your mom and dad passed along (thanks, guys), getting older (thanks, life) and taking care of your skin (thanks, Sephora).

If you, like me, find yourself  focusing on this part of your face obsessively, the first step isn’t to go out and get a facelift and hide from the world until you heal. It’s actually much less drastic than that. Instead, start with a cream. Dr. Patel says to look for retinols, because it’s like giving your skin a second chance and will improve what’s going on under there. You can also try caffeine creams, which reduce swelling and constrict blood vessels to minimize darkness. And if that doesn’t work for you, you can try an injectable to reduce wrinkles and add volume.

That’s the road I took. Is it weird having a needle stuck under your eye? Yes, but mostly because the idea of that sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. Does it hurt? No, because numbing agents are used. And Dr. Patel has a gentle hand. Plus, at the end of the day, I’m fixing something I don’t like, which is worth it—needles and all. I used Belotero, which lasts anywhere from one-to-two years, mostly because that area of your face doesn’t experience much movement.

So what is this Belotero stuff I just injected into my face? It’s a hyaluronic-based filler. And what, exactly, does that mean? See, skin is made up of collagen, elastin, fat and hyaluronic acid. As we get better (not older), skin loses each of these, which causes parts of your face, like around the eyes, in the midface (cheeks) at the nasolabial folds or corners of the mouth and in the lips to look older. Hyaluronic acid-based fillers like Belotero, Juvederm, Restylane and Voluma put that volume back in. Dr. Patel opted for Belotero because it’s a thinner filler and does absorb much water (i.e. does not cause swelling). But not all patients need filler to fix their under eye issues. If you have dark circles from hyper-pigmentation, then a laser or chemical peel is your solution. If your dark circles are the result of prominent blood vessels, then a vascular laser, such as the Cutera Excel V, is your go-to. Whatever the case, Dr. Patel has a solution.

As for me, I’ve been sporting my under-eye filler since August and I feel great about the injections Dr. Patel gave me. I still keep frozen spoons in the fridge to plunk under my eyes for those nights when sleep eludes me. But I’m not slathering 10 pounds of concealer under my eyes anymore. And that is worth its weight in Belotero.

As for how often you should visit your derm, Dr. Patel says this: “In Miami, I recommend most of my patients see a medical dermatologist for a skin cancer check once a year given the amount of sun exposure we get in Miami/South Florida. When it comes to a cosmetic dermatologist it depends. At minimum most of my patient comes see me every 4-6 months for Botox injection and maybe every 1-2 year for filler injection. They also frequently visit my clinic for a clinical facial every 1-2 months. Clinical facials using physician designed protocols and medical grade products are a great way to keep your skin healthy and beautiful. In fact I try to get one every 2 weeks when time permits.”

Trust him, he’s a doctor.

To check out Dr. Shaun Patel at Miami Skin and Vein, check out his site and blog here.