'I'm A Dermatologist With Eczema, Here's What I Do To Keep My Skin Clear'

Dermatologists prescribe products to their patients all day long, but have you ever wondered which ones they personally use? Welcome to Derm Diaries, a series where dermatologists share their skin woes—and solutions—so you can steal secrets from their skincare routines.

Sheila Farhang, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Tuscon, Arizona has been working with patients to tackle their skin problems for years but it wasn’t until she developed an eczema and contact dermatitis allergy to jewelry and detergents later in life that she could relate. “I see patient’s every day with this but never truly understood how it can affect one’s quality of life until I started experiencing it myself!,” says Dr. Farhang.

Luckily, as a dermatologist, she knew exactly how to treat it and says that with some lifestyle modifications she’s able to keep it under control without medication. “Contact allergy can develop any time in someone’s lifetime and can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what ingredient or material is causing it,” explains Dr. Farhang. If you think you might be experiencing a contact dermatitis allergy (small, red, inflamed bumps that almost look like a breakout), she recommends seeing your dermatologist who can offer patch testing (non-needle) to evaluate some of the most common allergens. Here’s exactly what Dr. Farhang does to keep her skin happy and calm.

Lifestyle modifications:

  • Opt for all things labeled “sensitive-skin” including detergent, hand soap, etc.
  • Choose cotton clothing when you can.
  • Be selective with your jewelry and only where it when you have to.
  • Avoid hot showers and opt for baths when possible.
  • Moisturize heavily from head to toe within a minute after bathing to lock in that moisture.

Dr. Farhang’s go-to products:

Sheila Farhang

She keeps her cleanser simple.

“I love starting my morning with a simple cleanser such as Cetaphil or Cerave. We usually don’t need anything too active or aggressive in the morning (assuming the PM skincare routine was done and didn’t sleep with makeup on!). One tip is not to wash the face with hot water. A lot of people think that hot water works better or gets rid of acne causing bacteria but that’s not true. In fact it strips a lot of our natural oils. Washing the face with lukewarm or cooler water actually has benefits including de-puffing and it’s a good way to wake up!”

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She relies on prescription-strength products for acne and rosacea.

“Since I am acne prone and have a bit of rosacea (visible vessels and large pores around my central face), I try to use active ingredients to target this both in the AM and PM. In the morning I usually use a prescription Azelaic Acid gel or Epiduoforte (adapalene + benzoyl peroxide). Adapalene is actually retinoid that does not deactivate when exposed to sunlight unlike other retinol, Retin-A, etc. I also love that Epiduo has glycerin, which is technically a primer. Anytime I can reduce the number of steps in my skincare routine is a win!”

Sheila Farhang

She always applies a vitamin C serum.

“The AM skincare routine is a great time to incorporate a vitamin C of some sort. It’s a brightener as well as the most potent anti-oxidant which will help combat all of the free radicals our skin gets exposed to during the day. For a splurge—a lot of dermatologists use and recommend Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. This product is backed by a lot of science which is reassuring because vitamin C is so unstable to light, temperature, etc. You want to make sure the product you’re using actually works!

If you have acne-prone skin I actually recommend the same version but the Phloretin CF . I am always rotating my products so my skin doesn’t get used to the same formulation and because I like to try them out before recommending them to my patients. I am currently using the Revision C+ Correcting Complex 30+ because I love that it’s not a serum. Another good alternative at a good price point is The Ordinary.”

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She opts for a tinted sunscreen.

“Speaking of combined/multifunctional products I usually opt for a tinted SPF moisturizer. I always remind my patient to choose products that have an SPF over 30. All of these sink into the skin nicely.”

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She applies eye cream morning and night.

“It’s always a good idea to use an eye cream both AM and PM—although I also sometimes skip this step when I’m in a hurry! Undereye cream is a place where I suggest splurging if you can as well—the skin is so thin so you want to make sure the product is safe but also effective! I opt for something that is hydrating and helps with the integrity of the skin as ‘dark circles’ may just be the blue tint from the vessels underneath the thin skin.”

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She double cleanses to remove makeup.

“If I’m wearing makeup—I double cleanse. First with a Neutrogena makeup wipe (gently!) then with the same gentle cleanser I use in the morning.”

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She swears by retinol.

“I use Epiduo pretty religiously (gentle enough retinoid that also brightens) but I also rotate it with a stronger retinoid such as prescription strength Tretinoin 0.05% and Sente Bio Complete Serum.”

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She uses an exfoliating cleanser a few times a week.

“I think people overdo exfoliating which strips all of the natural oils and disrupts the skin barrier. Exfoliating a few times a week is enough. I can’t live without my SkinMedica AHA BHA exfoliating cleanser.”

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She uses a heavy, ceramide moisturizer at night.

“I usually like to heavily moisture at night using something with ceramides which mimic your skin’s natural moisture.”

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