Dr. Muneeb Shah
Board Certified Dermatologist at Fora Dermatology
Mediaplanet chatted with Dr. Muneeb Shah, a clinical dermatologist also known as “DermDoctor” with nearly 18 million TikTok followers, about how to achieve your best skin ever.
What inspired you to become a dermatologist?
Skin is the largest organ in the body and it’s the first thing people see when they interact with you. It’s tightly tied to how you see yourself and how the world sees you. When I was a teenager, I had pretty bad acne and I remember not wanting to go to school or hang out with friends when I was breaking out. In dermatology, we’re able to look at a patient’s skin and make a diagnosis. If it’s acne, we have several extremely effective treatments that can significantly improve the skin. The improvements are visible at each follow-up appointment, and seeing those changes is gratifying for me. What’s amazing to watch is how improved skin leads to improved confidence in my patients and even changes the way they interact with the world around them.
I love educating — even before social media, it was my biggest passion. I used to teach medical students before I ever made videos on TikTok. Social media became an outlet to use video as a creative outlet to merge all my passions: creativity, education, and dermatology. Now, instead of one-on-one education, I’m able to educate millions across the globe.
Can you share your advice for some chronic skin conditions?
There are many chronic conditions we treat in dermatology, like eczema and psoriasis. Seeking out effective treatment can improve most of these conditions. Here are my tips:
- Find a dermatologist who can guide you on the right path. I know it’s difficult in Canada to find a dermatologist. Speaking to my colleagues, wait times can be over six months but if you have the privilege, they can definitely prescribe treatments that will help.
- Stick to a skin routine. Whether it’s prescribed or a routine you find for yourself doing your own research, a routine can add balance to your life and help you see real improvement. For example, with conditions like eczema, cleansing with a gentle fragrance-free cleanser, avoiding hot showers, and moisturizing within five minutes of cleansing while the skin is still damp can really help if done consistently.
- Stick to low-inflammatory foods. There’s not a lot of great research on how diet affects the skin, but we know that diets that are high in sugar can increase inflammation in conditions like acne and psoriasis. I always say what’s good for the heart is good for the skin. The Mediterranean diet is likely to be helpful. There’s even some evidence that intermittent fasting can be helpful for the skin.
- Find support groups with similar conditions. My patients with conditions like hidradenitis suppurativa and psoriasis find a lot of help in these support groups on Facebook and other platforms. It’s a way to share tips and to find resources to help you.
Do you have any advice for approaching overwhelming options?
Honestly, just keep thing simple. In my e-book, I talk about the routine of cleanse, treat, and protect. Basically, a great routine is three simple steps:
- Cleanse using a cleanser that’s specific to your skin type
- Treat using one single treatment that targets your main condition (acne, for example)
- Protect using a moisturizer (at night) or sunscreen (during the day)
With that simple routine, you’ll see a huge improvement and save a lot of money.
What are your tips for someone who doesn’t know where to start?
You can always check out my YouTube videos if you’re completely lost. Like I said earlier, a great skincare routine is three to four steps, maximum. Not just that, but more expensive certainly does not mean better. In fact, more expensive products tend to have more irritating ingredients.
Can you talk about the connection between skin and quality of life?
My skin has affected my quality of life and many of my patients’. Many conditions can decrease quality of life, from simply not feeling great about yourself to physical debilitation and constant pain. This can lead people to avoid relationships and jobs that require interacting with others, and can also lead to poor performance academically. The upside is that treatments can significantly improve quality of life. Support groups and mental health counselling are also very helpful for these patients.
Let’s talk about sun protection. Is it really as important as everyone says?
Sunscreen is the number one product in any routine. Many skin conditions are made worse by the sun. The sun also increases your risk of cancer and rapidly ages you. I recommend looking for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30, with broad-spectrum coverage.
Any sunscreen that blends well with your skin will do for me. Ingredients to avoid include oxybenzone and fragrance. Brand I like include Supergoop!, Black Girl Sunscreen, EltaMD, CeraVe, and Cetaphil.
What are the most common chronic conditions you see in your practice?
Psoriasis: Most people need to be on lifelong treatment. Biologic medications have made a huge difference. These are usually injection medications that are injected every one to three months. Most patients can get completely clear but others are harder to treat.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis): The itchiness here can be really debilitating. We didn’t used to have many options outside of topical steroids until recently. Now we have injection medications and oral medications that are a miracle for eczema. Most people can get their eczema under control with these new advancements.
Hidradenitis suppurativa: This one has a tough course that can lead to draining wounds, pain, and scarring. We don’t have any perfect treatments yet. Usually a combination of topical treatments, oral antibiotics, and injection biologics can minimize episodes. However, we still need more research.
Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis): Dandruff is very common and caused by a yeast on the skin. Usually we can keep it under control with anti-yeast treatments and dandruff shampoos.
Rosacea: There are several forms of rosacea, from simple redness to more acne-like lesions on the central face. Usually a combination of topical medications and oral medications can lead to improvement. However, some people need laser treatments to minimize the redness.
To learn more about common skin issues and how to treat them at home, check out Dr. Shah’s e-book, Skincare Certified: A Dermatologist’s Guide to Better Skin and Dr. Shah’s practice at foradermatology.com in Mooresville, NC.