'I was five when I told my mom I wanted to be a doctor. She never discouraged me—she never said, ‘Are you sure? Do you want to be a nurse?’ Nothing. She just went to my school and told all the teachers to give me the advanced science books in second grade.
I went to New York University—I was pre-med but with an art minor. I’ve always had an interest in sculpture, particularly of the face. I love old faces, young faces, children’s faces, so that’s the focus of my collection. And that's when I met my husband, too. He proposed on the third date...I had to break up with my boyfriend to say yes! [Laughs] We got married nine months later and have been married 42 years. That was during the Vietnam War, and we had difficult time getting into medical school together—we ended up in Brussels doing courses in French. They were quick to fail people and didn’t accept poor accents. So they would say, ‘Your knowledge isn’t bad, but your accent is terrible,’ and they’d fail you. But it was an experience, and it made us strong and close.
When we got back to this country, I did internal medicine and infectious diseases at first. But the body is all connected, and I’m not good with losing people, so I switched over to dermatology. Emotionally, I had to accept the fact that people might judge me for switching focuses, but I don’t really care about being judged. As long as my patients are happy, then I’m happy. I don’t care about the outside world. But I’m not just a cosmetic dermatologist. When every patient comes in, they get a cancer screening. If they come in for Botox, they are still going to get undressed and examined. Patients will say, ‘I’ve never had a skin exam,’ and they’ve been going to dermatologists for years.
If you’re going to work 10 hours a day, five days a week, you want to love what you do. Dermatologists tend to really love what they do. And I have to do what I’m good at—when you’re in a practice with five other doctors, you get to pick and choose what you work on. For me, it's sculpting.. I’ve been doing full-body liposuction since 1986, and I do a French technique where patients are standing for the contouring. I play Carly Simon while I’m doing it—“ You’re So Vain.” Such good music to do it to.
My mother was very big on taking care of yourself. She always took me to the best hairdressers for the best hair cuts. When I got my first pimple, she took me to the head of the acne program at NYU—things like that. It definitely influenced how I continue to treat my skin. Get a routine and figure out which products you like. Nobody can use three retinols, three night creams, and two day creams. If you’re going to deviate from your core products, only do it one at a time. And I always tell people to exfoliate on a daily basis. This once-a-week thing is nonsense. But, I think you have to know your skin. You should never look red or irritated—you should look better after you scrub. I tell my patients to do it in the shower, because if you’re not doing it in the shower, it’s inconvenient, it’s messy, and you’re just not going to do it.
So every day, I exfoliate and shower with my Resurfacing Microbrasion System—it’s a tiny granule, and I file it with a very rich hydronic serum that has pigment. It also has mulberry, bearberry, and chamomile. Your skin will actually look more soft and less pink and afterward. Then I also wash my face with my Universal Anti-Aging Cleanser With Olive Oil—it takes off makeup, too. Never go to bed with makeup on. It could be 3am—even if it’s just three hours of sleep—I never go to bed with my makeup on. It’s got pollution and free radicals in it from the environment so you should be taking that off and using an antioxidant to combat those effects.
When I’m out of the shower, the first thing I put on my skin is Patricia Wexler Acnescription Overnight Acne Repair Lotion [ed note: currently unavailable]. I use a retinol three times a week—right now it’s the Natura Bissé Diamond Extreme. I think that it’s great, but you have to know how much your skin can tolerate. I have a lot of red in my face, so I’m careful. If you’re not so red, you can use it a little more, especially because a lot of the new formulas are non-irritating. I also love the Natura Bissé Diamond Ice-Lift. A day before a red carpet event, you put it all over your face, leave it on for 10 minutes to dry, and it peels off like cellophane. It looks like you had a facelift. I try to keep two jars around at all times. If you have puffy eyes or lip lines, it’s like a miracle.
Then I put on Nia 24 Eye Repair Complex all over my face because it strengthens the barrier of your skin, so if you’re dry, it keeps the moisture in. After that comes my Intensive 3-in-1 Day Cream or Intensive Night Reversal and Repair Cream. The day cream has sunscreen, the night cream doesn’t—but I like to use my night cream twice a day because it's more reparative. It gives more oomph to your face.
But at the same time, I’m also very lazy. I haven’t done any lasers. My last filler was two years ago…and I haven’t done Botox in two years either. The things I am OCD about doing are habits that are just generally better for the skin. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life. If I’m somewhere sunny, I wear a t-shirt backwards, so it’s more like a boatneck, stand under a tree, use a parasol—I really try not to be in direct sunlight because I’m sensitive to it. And I need to stay hydrated all day long. I think being dehydrated is the worst thing for your skin so I have an 8 oz. glass of some liquid in every room that I work in, and if it’s not there, I get really testy.
I don’t always wear makeup. In fact, there was a period this year where for about three months I didn’t wear makeup to the office. I just was in a phase—I wanted to look like Tilda Swinton or something. People said I looked so young and this and that. It was a conversation piece. Then I got tired of it.
During the day, I use ColoreScience Sunforgettable Face Primer. It makes your makeup go on really smooth and has SPF 35, which is fine for the winter. I use SPF 45 in the summer. After my primer, I use my new Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in 5.75— It’s really nice. I use my fingers to apply it, not a brush or sponge. I know makeup artists do it with tools, but I don’t have the time or the patience for that. And afterward, this is the best blush— Giorgio Armani's Cheek Fabric Sheer Blush in 306. After that, I go for my eyebrow pencil—the Vincent Longo Eyebrow Micro Pencil in Auburn one is the only one that goes with my red hair. I bought 40 at a time because you can use this pencil, and in a week to 10 days, it’s literally a micro pencil—but it’s the only one that doesn’t look like you’re penciling it on, which is good because my brows are totally blond. I dye them, and it only takes two minutes. Then I highlight under them with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Duality in Camille Sand.
Stila Eye Shadow in Kitten is the only eyeshadow I’ve worn for 20 years. I bought a ton of those, too, because I'm scared they're going to discontinue the color. It adds a brightness to my eye. Smoky eyes aren’t my thing—I like a fresh look. I just started wearing eyeliner for the first time in my life this year. I feel like it makes my face pop. I like to do it in a straight line with Eyeliner Baby Doll by Yves Saint Laurent. It stays all day.
I like to put my lipgloss under my lipstick because it’s moisturizing but not too sticky that way. I just got the Chanel Lèvres Scintillantes Glossimer in 93 Pailettes. Then I’ll put Lipstick Queen Sheer Lipstick in Saint, which is a pinky-nude, on top. It’s really a pretty color but still neutral. I never do a bold lip. I think I’m bold enough. Even the eyeliner is pushing it for me.
I’d never say I’m very playful with my makeup, but I’m very bold with my hair. I change the shape a lot. To me, hair is hair—it’ll grow back, and I can change it again.
I love Terax Crema Ultra Moisturizing Daily Conditioner and Kérastase Bain Miroir, which I don’t think they’re making now, but you can go on eBay and spend a fortune on whatever is left. I’ll use Serge Norman's Meta Lush Volumizerat the roots because I have thin hair—it's curly but the texture is still really fine. The Shu Uemura Fiber Lift is necessary in my life. I use it two or three times a week. And then when my hair gets very dry looking, Nevo by Pravana Hydra Pearls Drops of The Amazon is amazing. It’s an oil in a little capsule or a pump bottle, and you put so little on through the ends. Occasionally I’ll do Kérastase mask, but that would mean I have 10 extra minutes in my life.”
—as told to ITG
Dr. Patricia Wexler photographed by Tom Newton. For more of The Top Shelf, click here.