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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, 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, 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,

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 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!

Join The Conversation
scissorz scissorz 8 years
i didn't know that keira knightly has acne....i guess they really do a lot with the editing...just didn't realize. makes me feel better because she is so gorgeous. i hate having acne...i feel like people think that i don't take care of myself and that is so not the case. i probably have a more regimented skin routine than many without acne. the pill has been helping me a lot. pretty much all of mine is on my chin so it tends to be hormonal
flowergirl flowergirl 9 years
oops typos
flowergirl flowergirl 9 years
Yes, people really need to lay end the extreme tanning trend. It's not hot.
rgrl rgrl 9 years
Total, I agree with sunscreen making you break out, it's usually so heavy. Neutrogena makes some moisturizer with SPF15 that is fragrance free and works for me. Oil of Olay also has an SPF face lotion I like, and I usually don't like their products.
rgrl rgrl 9 years
Thanks, but all this info is common knowledge. The whole "don't tan/ wear sunscreen" lecture has been around for years, and while it's good advice I would hope everyone knows that by now. I wish he told us what types of products are good for adult acne or some new breakthroughs we haven't heard of yet. I look forward to more features like this and learning more about skin care. :)
alicia17 alicia17 9 years
Wow! I can't believe how long it takes to see a improvement in skin like 2 months!
EnglishMuffin42 EnglishMuffin42 9 years
I've got a similar situation to kjl - I tried different methods and treatments for years with little to no results. It was only when I stopped having my daily bowl of cereal with skim milk that I noticed a change. After experimenting for a while, it seems skim milk and non-fat dairy is my problem. As long as I don't overdo it, 1% or low-fat doesn't cause any breakouts. I'm not sure if there is anything scientific to back this up, it's just what I've found works best for me!
kjl2 kjl2 9 years
Diet was the cause of mine for 10 years. I took everything but accutane and tried every Rx topical with no improvement. One week, I cut my dairy intake and my breakouts eased up. When I cut sugar about a year ago, my breakouts stopped completely. 100% clear when I'm off sugar and keep the dairy (and soy) under control. If I have it (around 30g a day is the trigger), I break out (usually cystic in the lower face area, if this sounds familiar to anyone) the next day or the following. I stop, it goes away. Clockwork. I only bother to type this because five years ago, my then-derm told me diet had nothing to do with it and my subsequent breakouts caused extensive scarring for me and I just don't want others, for whom this may be the cause, to go through the same thing.
intensebandgeek intensebandgeek 9 years
Great interview! And I'm glad eating chocolate doesn't effect your skin :p
Beauty Beauty 9 years
I'd think that tanning beds are just all-around bad for your skin, but I looked and it seems like a last-resort option for people with psoriasis:
GiggleSugar GiggleSugar 9 years
I like this approach to beauty--prevent bad skin instead of just finding a lot of stuff to cover it up! And why would ANYONE jump in a tanning bed and pay for the pleasure?!
nomerz nomerz 9 years
PS -- I always go to estheticians/dermatologists that have great skin because it's the best form of advertisement! :)
nomerz nomerz 9 years
I heard that rumor too ... when I was getting my microderm certification, there was a girl in my class that has psoriasis and was constantly tanning because it was the only thing that helped. that has to be killer on your skin because of the UV exposure ... no?
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 9 years
Great interview Bella!
mlmoreno47 mlmoreno47 9 years
Hey Bella, could you ask him about the tanning bed and psoriasis. I read on webmd that it's actually good for treating that because of the lights or something! :)
Claudia-915 Claudia-915 9 years
the interview was very useful..thanx bella! eventhough we already know all about wearing sunscreen, some ppl still don't realize how important it really is.
Lala77 Lala77 9 years
thx so much for this interview, I like to tan I'll be way more careful from now on :)
lemurian lemurian 9 years
Total, Colorescience makes a good powder sunscreen that's basically inert, so probably wouldn't break you out :)
total total 9 years
I don't tend to wear sunscreen daily because I find it causes and/or aggravates my acne. In fact, I've kaiboshed moisturizer and begun to use a very simple, gentle cleanser and have found my skin to be MUCH clearer. Does anyone have any suggestions for a daily sunscreen that doesn't irritate sensitive skin or clog pores?
lemurian lemurian 9 years
This is a great post!! Not only does he give great advice, but it's good to point out that celebrities have the same problems as the rest of us.
arrhythmia arrhythmia 9 years
thanks for the great advice! it'd be great if we can get more advice from time to time from a specialist :)
herjoiedevivre herjoiedevivre 9 years
I went to my dermatologist when I was in 10th grade. Now I'm 2 years out of high school and I still have to be on acne meds...I wonder if that counts as "adult acne"
ccsugar ccsugar 9 years
Awesome interview! Can't wait to read what else he has to say.
Beauty Beauty 9 years
Thanks for the feedback! Yes, Dr. Reese has beautiful skin—so I'm excited to see how mine looks after I start as his patient! Casie82, I wouldn't be discouraged. I think Dr. Reese means that there's no one solution that works for everyone, but there's one that's right for you. I definitely recommend going to a dermatologist rather than a regular doctor. Nothing against general practitioners, but dermatologists are specialists so they'll be able to look at your skin and figure out what regimen would be best. And then they'll do a mole check!
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