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We Learned A Lot From This Beauty Expert—You Should Too!

Professional dermatologist Dr. Erin Tababa a.k.a "The Nerdy Derma" lets us in on skincare lessons she wishes you knew! #MetroBeautyInsider

These days when the world of beauty has become so open and inclusive, very reachable, and so fast-paced more than ever before, it's easy to get overwhelmed, and sadly, deceived by what we see and hear. At times, you may also feel like you couldn't keep up with the trends, as they come and go so quickly, just like that latest viral makeup or skincare hack on TikTok. These days when beauty can be both welcoming and alienating, we want to help cut through the noise and heed the sound advice of experts and seasoned beauty insiders, to help get us through the many questions we have about the world of beauty. 

Our Metro Beauty Insider this month is Dr. Erin Tababa, a self-confessed skincare nerd, calling herself "The Nerdy Derma" on social media. The skin expert says no to 'MiSKINceptions', no to false beauty claims, and yes to smart skincare! Now we're with her on that! Before becoming a professional dermatologist, Dr. Erin shares that her journey with skincare started back in high school, when her mom introduced her to the basics: using a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Dermatology was not her initial choice, and she shares, "I wanted to go for Obstetrics and Gynecology but I wasn't sure I could handle the mental and physical load of the specialty. There was no Aha! moment for me when I ticked off Dermatology in the application form for residency training—I just knew that I a) was a visual learner, b) enjoy doing precise and detailed work, and c) wanted to have a career with a good life-work balance. Dermatology fit the bill so I chose it."

Dr. Erin Tababa a.k.a "The Nerdy Derma"

Dr. Erin has surely come a long way from her high school days. Right now, she's influencing 23,800+ Instagram followers about skincare facts, myths, and everything in between, aiming to help as much people as possible. She's not called the nerdy derma for nothing! We were fortunate enough to speak with Dr. Erin about some of our burning questions, which we think you will also learn from. Keep reading:

Metro.Style (MS): What are your thoughts on beauty and skincare in the digital age?

Dr. Erin Tababa (DET): It's a double-edged sword since it has its own pros and cons. Before the advent of filters on Instagram and TikTok, you needed professionals using programs like Photoshop to erase a pimple here, blur the pores there. Nowadays, you can use instantaneous and hyper real filters which will plump your lips, sharpen your jawline, define your nose, and even change the color of your hair and eyes! This gives users - especially young adults - an unrealistic expectation of their skin to the point that surgeons are being asked to make patients look like their filtered selfies (see: Snapchat Dysmorphia). The need for validation from social media plus extreme focus on perceived physical flaws can lead to mental health disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder, depression, and anxiety.

There is also the issue of rapid spread of misinformation. The number of likes and shares is assumed by consumers of social media to be equivalent to how accurate a certain piece of information is. This can be dangerous since harmful or incorrect skincare practices often start out as shocking or attention-grabbing posts which are specifically made to catch your attention and not necessarily to provide correct information.

On the other hand, the wealth of information found in social media and the internet has empowered patients to make better choices for their skin. There are countless skin care experts, dermatologists, aestheticians, and even skin care companies which make it their mission to provide easy-to-understand skincare tips in an entertaining fashion. There's also a growing movement for inclusion and diversity. While conventional beauty standards still exist, social media helps you find and celebrate your "tribe" no matter what your gender, skin color, or shape is.  

MS: What are the top 3 skincare misconceptions/myths you would like to debunk?

DET: "Niacinamide *treats* acne." - No matter what advertisements tell you, niacinamide has limited effects specially on severe breakouts. Yes it can help lighten dark spots and calm inflamed skin; however, if you have ongoing cystic pimples, you cannot rely on niacinamide alone to solve it. 

"Oily skin can be permanently treated." - A lot of patients get distressed when their skin gets oily. I want to reassure them that even by midday, it's normal to have oily skin on the T-zone (forehead & nose) areas, more so if you use oil-based makeup, sunscreen, or even rich moisturizers, not to mention masks. Isotretinoin, an oral retinoid, can temporarily lessen oil production but this can go back to pre-treatment levels if you stop taking this medicine. Your best bet is to moisturize just on the dry areas of the face, to choose lightweight or oil-free products, and to blot shine as needed using blotting sheets or mattifying face powders.

"Moisturizers clog pores." - While occlusive-type moisturizers like petroleum jelly can feel greasy and may even trigger comedonal acne (blackheads/whiteheads), most commercially available facial moisturizers are unlikely to clog pores. In addition, moisturizers help normalize the skin's natural desquamation (exfoliation) process. This leads to smoother and brighter appearing skin. 

MS: There are so many skincare trends now - retinol, AHAs & BHAs, niacinamide, LED light, etc. What is your advice as an expert, for a regular person who is overwhelmed with what's out there in the market today?
I agree!!! Even as a dermatologist, I still get overwhelmed by the vast number of choices when it comes to skincare. To help you build your routine, try to determine the following. First, what is your skin concern. Make it as specific as possible, "to get poreless glowing skin" is both impossible (since you cannot physically remove pores) and vague (what does "glowing" mean?). Reframe it to something you can see or measure e.g. to control breakouts or to fade dark spots. Second, look for ingredients which are proven to target your specific skin concern. It will be very tempting, but avoid choosing products just because it's trending or popular on social media. Third, if you're unsure about your condition, do consider consulting with a board-certified dermatologist to help you with your skin concern.

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MS: What's next on your beauty wishlist?

DET: My favorite beauty content creators (hi to @carrotstickbeauty, @hellojesso_, @glowcounsel, @ginelmd, @theglowlog_bymk, @mi.noona, @martinruless, and @mc.brz) are always serving fun makeup looks. I find it so intimidating but I want to learn how to incorporate vibrantly colored eye makeup in my daily routine too.

MS: What's something you'd like to tell your 18-year-old self about beauty/skincare?

DET: Good job on your daily use of moisturizer & sunscreen! PS, the squeaky feeling after harshly washing your face is NOT a good thing for your skin!

MS: What's your advice for the busy woman who has no time to go through a complicated skincare routine, gadgets, or treatments? 

DET: Your routine must be a source of joy, not stress or confusion. Don't be pressured by social media to purchase and to apply everything all at the same time. Instead, try to allot a few minutes of your day to relax and to do your skincare. Using a gentle cleanser, a lightweight moisturizer, and your favorite sunscreen plus 1-2 products to address your main skin concern/s will do wonders if used consistently.

Interested to learn more from Dr. Erin? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok at @thenerdyderma.

Lead backgroud photo by Birgith Roosipuu on Unsplash