Summer is right around the corner, and we’re all trying to get our skin healthy and glowy for the warmer weather and fun in the sun. Since a great face starts with great skin, I spoke with Michelle German, PA-C, a physician’s assistant at Courted at The St. James, who specializes is skincare.
German has lived in D.C. for 13 years and she is no stranger to the sun. A graduate of Howard University, the past five years have allowed Michelle to work within publication, medical practice, and also as a makeup artist for experience in both the medical and aesthetic side of cosmetic dermatology. She sees acne problems, moles, and stretch marks on a daily basis and she does injectables like Botox and dermal fillers as solutions to many of her clients’ skin troubles. She prescribes everything from medication to regimens to help make skin more healthy and keep up its beauty. She shared amazing tips about beauty, skin regimens, and at-home trends that are all the rage, but might not be worth your time.
What makes a good regimen? According to German, skincare does not have to include much product, and it definitely doesn’t have to break the bank. “The most minimal thing that you could probably do for your skin is cleansing, exfoliating, and wearing sunscreen, and that’s like the basic of the basic. If you just make it part of your routine, it becomes easier as you go on.”
While German works in a professional setting, there is valuable skin care that can be done at home, and it is important to start with the basics when it comes to understanding our skin. “People should realize that your skin is the largest organ of the body,” German says. “The same way that you exercise to keep fit, you need a skin care regimen in place in order to keep your skin fit.” Much like with our physical fitness, the sooner we start a skin regimen, the better. “You have a lot more collagen in your skin as a young person. Your elastin makes for your skin to be very tight, but we all have to age and the things that you do at a young age will help you to age more gracefully.”
Sunscreen was one of the most important parts of the skin regimen that German stressed as a year-round staple. Now that the sun is out to play, it is of even higher importance. “I know sometimes it can be difficult to find one that’s not chalky or agrees with your skin, but the sun can damage your skin no matter what color you are. The more melanin you have the more protection you have whereas you don’t burn as easily as somebody who has less melanin, but you can still get that damage.”
Speaking of skin damage, German shared a few at-home skin treatments that we should be careful about- microneedling and skin rollers. “At-home micro-needling, I would say no to- especially for people of color- because any sort of trauma or inflammation that you do to your skin can have a potential of causing hyperpigmentation.” A visit to Michelle at the St. James may be the best route for that kind of treatment. “Just given the extent of what happens when the skin is traumatized, I would rather have a professional do that.”
She also shared a non-invasive skin treatment that can be a waste of time if you purchase the wrong products: jade rollers. “There is a catch-22 with those things because they do work if you’re actually purchasing the actual jade stone. The real jade stone is going to get to a way cooler temperature than an artificial jade stone. That temperature is going help with inflammation and cause a little skin tightening. But when it’s something that is jade-like or some sort of faux jade, you don’t get any of the benefit, so you just have something rolling across your face. It’s not doing anything at all.”
One major goal of good skin care is to achieve that natural glow that comes from healthy skin. “I encourage everybody to go makeup free. Always wear sunscreen, of course. There are serums that you can use on your face that give you a natural glow so you don’t feel as if you have to apply makeup. You want to be comfortable enough to be bare skinned without the makeup.” She shared some of her favorite serums to achieve that summer glow, including products by SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, IS Clinical Super Serum, ascorbic acid, and other medical-grade vitamin c serums.
German warns to start your skincare regimen sooner rather than later because lasting beauty takes time. “The way that the skin works is that we get a new skin layer every single day, but it comes from your bottom layer, so it takes time for the products to work. They’re trying to penetrate through 40 layers of dead skin that we have just on the surface, which is why it’s also important to exfoliate because you want to be able to exfoliate at least one of those dead skin layers off every single day.”
In her position as a physician’s assistant, German gets the satisfaction of changing her clients’ lives through treatments that improve the look and condition of their skin, but looking good starts from the inside. “I feel like there is a mind-body connection so that when you look good you feel good.” Whether clients struggle with acne, dark spots, or unwanted hair, German can always find a solution to make them feel better about their appearance. “I love people’s reaction once I get them to their goal,” German says “Being able to help them out in that regard and they leave feeling amazing and beautiful- that is the best part for me.”
Her job is not all smiles, though. Sometimes clients request the impossible, and German has to remind them of the limits of her work. She specializes in enhancing her clients’ appearances and sometimes the results take time. “In this Kardashian era where everybody wants that instant gratification, my least favorite part is getting somebody in the chair that I feel like I won’t be able to help because they don’t necessarily want to enhance themselves- they want to change themselves.” Sometimes those changes are impossible. “When somebody comes in and they show me a picture of a nose, and a jaw, and lips that aren’t theirs, and they’re like ‘I want to look like this’, you have to kind of maintain and calm the crazy. In aesthetics, people just want that instant gratification, so my least favorite part is telling people ‘no’, but ‘no’ for a good reason.”
Treatments that German has said “yes” to? Lip and under-eye fillers. These seem to be very popular in her office. The former for women ages 20-30, to achieve a more symmetrical look or “a little extra pout,” and the latter for women who are slightly older, since the under eye area is usually “the first thing that you may notice that doesn’t look the same as it used to a few years ago.”
Like everything else, knowledge is power. If you are not sure where to go with your skincare, pay Michelle German a visit for a consultation. “When you come to see me, I’m not trying to push products on you. I want you to be comfortable with everything that you are using, know how to use it, and be able to be consistent with using it.” And men, that goes for you, too. Typically, most of her clients are women, but good skincare is for everyone and German would like to see more men come in for skin services. “All of the men that I do see really love the treatments that they get. Sometimes they get hooked.”