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Bella Interview: Dr. Vail Reese, Dermatologist and Expert on Skin in Film


Meet Dr. Vail Reese, a San Francisco dermatologist who brings new meaning to the phrase "skin flicks." When he's not working, he's busy maintaining Skinema.com, a fun and fascinating site about skin in cinema. I recently sat down with Dr. Reese to talk about celebrity skin, acne, Botox and more skin topics. We had so much to talk about that I'll be adding more from him in the future. For now, read on!

You run Skinema.com, a website chronicling skin and dermatology in cinema. Which celebrities have good skin, in your opinion?
Nicole Kidman. She's a role model for being fashionably fair. So are
Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon and Keira Knightley. These are women who are not hitting the tanning beds. Being tan is last century's look. With all that said, Keira has acne, but so do a lot of stars—like Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In the last Harry Potter movie, they had to go in frame-by-frame and digitally fix blemishes.

For more, including Dr. Reese's advice on treating adult acne, read more

What's the best way to find a dermatologist?
Talk to your regular doctor to find out who’s reputable. It’s more powerful to talk with family members, friends and coworkers. I also suggest contacting the American Academy of Dermatology. That way, you’re getting someone who's board-certified.

How prevalent is adult acne?
You are not alone if you have adult acne. Usually, it's worse with people who didn't have severe teenage acne. In our society, teenagers are expected to have acne. They're not thrilled about it, but at least they're not alone. By the time they reach their 20s, their acne usually isn't as significant.

But when a twentysomething client walks in breaking out, it's a double-whammy. They're trying to be professionals, but it's often considered juvenile, and that undermines confidence. Does acne impact peoples' lives? Absolutely. So I don't give acne the brushoff. People worry that they're vain, but I don't think it's wrong to want to look your best. It's biologically normal to want a healthy complexion! The good thing is, we have treatments at all stages.

So what do you recommend?
There's no magic bullet. Treatments need to be tailored to each person, but there's usually something that will work. Especially with acne, dermatologists have things to offer that you cannot get over the counter.

You also have to be patient. In reality, acne does not clear in three days. Anything we prescribe takes longer than three days because it's fixing problems at the pore level. Basically, with any acne treatment, it takes time to see the full benefit. You'll see a benefit in four weeks, more in eight, and in 12 weeks you get a real sense of the improvement.

Does diet affect acne?
I don't find that diet plays a role.

But you have to admit, sometimes you can look at someone's skin and tell they're not healthy, they're not eating well.
Well, maybe on that level. If people get more rest and eat a good diet, that helps. But they can still get acne. Eating chocolate, for instance, isn't going to cause acne.

Are there any over-the-counter remedies that you recommend?
Low-strength benzoyl peroxide can clear bacteria, and I recommend using gentle cleansers for acne. And there are some good moisturizers with sunscreen, which everyone should use.

Well, I'm obsessed with wearing sunscreen. But can you tell readers why it's so important?
When I see someone who's 18 and getting sun, I can see where their skin is headed—where it'll be at 28, 35. They're headed for wrinkling, discoloration, or even skin cancer. So stay away from the sun—no tanning beds! And wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 15, but more preferably, 30. Put your dermatologist out of work!

  • Visit Dr. Reese at Skinema.com and at his practice. And if you have any questions you want me to ask him, leave a comment—I've got an appointment next week!

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