As a dermatologist, Shirley Chi, MD, has access to tons of beauty treatments. From Botox to thread lifts, she’s tried it all. And because of that, she’s an excellent resource for those looking to figure out which in-office treatments are actually worth it.
“I’ve tried everything because I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing procedures on my patients that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing on myself,” says Dr. Chi, a 45-year-old board-certified dermatologist in California. Sometimes, that looks like a Friday night with some DIY injections (the perks of being a dermatologist!), other times, that means having one of her fellow doctors or physician assistants do a laser treatment on her. She’s a strong believer in having a solid skin-care routine, but also recognizes that nothing compares to the results you can get from in-office treatments. Below, she shares her five favorite in-office treatments that are staples in her routine.
A dermatologist’s 5 favorite in-office treatments
1. Wrinkle relaxers — every three months
“I don’t think there’s anything on this market today that has an immediate anti-aging impact as much as Botox and all the neurotoxins,” says Dr. Chi. Neurotoxins (which, in addition to Botox, include other brand names like Dysport, Juveau, and Xeomin) work by relaxing the contraction of facial muscles so you can’t crinkle or wrinkle the overlying skin. It’s something you have to do regularly to maintain the results. “I do it pretty regularly, probably minimum once every three months, minimum, because I use very little,” she says. “I use microdroplets of neurotoxin because I want to look natural.”
2. Lip lift — every three months
To get a fuller-looking pout, Dr. Chi does a lip flip about every three months. This involves using a tiny little bit of neurotoxin, like Botox or Dysport, right along the vermilion border, or the lip line, to turn your lip out a little bit so they look a bit meatier.
“I actually don’t use lip filler. I love the way it looks on other people, but I think I’m nervous that I’m going to look too filled in my lips,” says Dr. Chi. With a lip flip, “you’re just basically relaxing the muscles that purse up your lips. And so your lip looks more relaxed and plump.” She loves that it leaves her lips looking natural while adding a bit of plumpness and taking away the lines around her mouth.
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3. Microinfusion — special occasions
Ahead of special occasions, Dr. Chi uses Aquagold to do microinfusions. Aquagold is a small glass vile that has needles on the end to deliver injectables into your skin. Your doctor can create the perfect microinfusion mixture for your needs.
“If I’m coming back from a trip or I’m getting ready for an event, I will do microinfusion,” says Dr. Chi. Depending on what your own individual needs are, your dermatologist can come up with a tailored mixture of ingredients to deliver the results you’re looking for. Usually, Dr. Chi uses a combination of hyaluronic acid, which plumps and hydrates the skin; Restylane, an injectable liquid that adds volume and fullness; glutathione, an antioxidant that aids in brightening; and a little bit of Botox.
4. Laser treatments — every two years
“I do a laser treatment probably once every two years or so,” says Dr. Chi. She either does IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) to get rid of brown spots that build up over the years; or Fraxel, which works by causing a little bit of damage under the skin to stimulate collagen production, to tighten pores.
When Dr. Chi first started training in dermatology, lasers were not for people of color. “I could never do any of the lasers, so it was not until more recently, I would say the last 10 years or so, where lasers for people of color have really increased in technology and safety,” she says. “So now, I feel really comfortable doing lasers on myself and my patients.”
5. Sculptra — every three to four years
Every three years, Dr. Chi will do Sculptra, which stimulates your body’s production of collagen, leading to firmer skin.
“We call it the ‘liquid facelift,’ because it grows deep collagen,” says Dr. Chi. “You don’t look like you’re filled. You just look kind of lifted and more like yourself.” Once the collagen grows in, it takes time for your body to grow out of it, which is why you don’t have to get it very often to maintain results.
Initially, Sculptra was approved to help people taking HIV medications have a fuller face. “With HIV, when you take your medication, it causes what we call lipoatrophy, where you look very gaunt in your face,” says Dr. Chi. “And then, other people were like, ‘Oh wait, can I just use that even if I don’t have HIV?’ So then it became approved for cosmetic use.”
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