Photo: Britney Young (Peter Hurley Studio)

What would you ask Dr. Michelle Henry, a Harvard-trained, board-certified dermatologist, if you were just sitting around kicking it over lunch? The Glow Up caught up with the good doctor you can easily ask anything of, since she’s so approachable, and judging by her smooth-as-glass complexion—you’ll like the outcome of her advice.

Henry is the kind of Glow Up girl we all want to be—the complete science-nerd bombshell package cinched tight with a Gucci belt. As we tucked into salads over a hurried workday lunch, she gave me the breakdown on what we can be doing now to live our best life for our skin and our overall health.

Check out what she had to say in detail below:

Selfie of me and Dr. Michelle Henry at lunch
Photo: WebbOnTheFly.com

What You Need to Know Before Getting Any Cosmetic Procedure

  • “It’s important to vet whoever provides the service. It’s not uncommon to find medical practitioners who take a weekend course on fillers and Botox as their only training before treating patients with the injections. It’s important that the doctor is an expert in the anatomy of the face.
  • “Ask your doctor to show you before and after photos of the results they’ve gotten with numerous patients. Reproducible results across a variety of patients, including patients who are similar to yourself, are important to review ... before making the decision to be treated in a given doctor’s practice.
  • “No defensive doctors. Cosmetics procedures are not only costly, they are a highly visible personal investment. It’s important that all your questions are answered in a patient, thorough and compassionate manner. Be clear about what your expectations are and listen to the doctor carefully to ensure you understand the warnings, potential risks and whether or not the achievable outcome is in line with your vision of how you’d like to look.
  • “Trials for lasers are not conducted on dark skin. I see a lot of hypopigmentation [white spots] on patients where doctors who are not familiar with highly melanated skin used lasers.
  • “It’s important to have an ‘ethnically sensitive’ doctor. Looking better and creating the best version of ourselves does not mean erasing our identity. I see this a lot with rhinoplasty. Nose jobs are a particularly sensitive area of plastic surgery for black women; not all doctors share the same ideals of beauty.”

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Trying for a mind meld of science-brain fly girl energy; me on the left, Dr. Michelle Henry on the right
Photo: WebbOnTheFly.com

Tips to Prevent Hair Loss

  • “Be gentle with your hair. Hair follicles are shaped like an ellipse, and black women’s type of hair grows out of the hair follicle like a flat ribbon. Each twist and turn in our curls is a breaking point. Protective styles are a must. If you can’t wear a protective style all of the time, at least try to wear one in your down time or on weekends.
  • “Pay attention to the moisture-protein balance of your hair. Meaning, hair should be pliable and easy to work with. Using products with too much protein in them can turn your hair hard and dry, causing it to snap. Too much moisture and the hair is gummy and won’t move. Aphogee is my favorite protein-based conditioner.
  • “Take care of your scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis feels like little mounds on the scalp. It’s itchy and people think it’s dandruff, but it tends to persist and flake and sometimes causes crusty scaly patches on the scalp that can be painful. Stress aggravates the condition and so does scratching the affected area.
  • “I see a lot of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, or CCCA. This condition is common in black women. This form of hair loss starts at the crown of the head and radiates outward. You might feel itching or burning—some patients have no discomfort at all—but you know you have it by a visible pattern of hair loss. It may be hereditary, but it is mostly thought to be caused by styling practices like relaxers, tight braids and weaves. Prolonged traction on the hair or repeated chemical altering eats the hair follicle and causes the follicle to scar leading to baldness. This is a hair emergency! When I see patients who are suffering from patchy hair loss, I tell them don’t even make an appointment with me; just walk in and I’ll fit you in—it’s crucial to attack the problem immediately. The treatment is anti-inflammatory medications which can include antibiotics and steroids.”

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How to Protect Your Skin This Summer

  • “Summer is time to exfoliate more. Winter leaves a dry, dull layer of skin because of the cold and harsh dry weather coupled with indoor heating. A regular routine of gentle exfoliation for the next few weeks as we move into the warmer months will help prevent clogged pores and breakouts.
  • “Sunscreen! I can’t stress it enough for people of all skin tones. I see a lot of melanoma in my practice, and it’s totally preventable. Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen is my favorite—it’s phenomenal. It doesn’t leave a white residue and it lasts.
  • “Hydration. In the summer we perspire more because of hot weather. I don’t necessarily prescribe to eight glasses of water of day—I think that’s an antiquated metric. If you drink at least four glasses of water, you’re doing good.
  • “Use of retinoid products or Retin-A is really common for fine lines and hyperpigmentation, but periods [make women] sun-sensitive. When summer comes, it’s good practice to switch it up to a less aggressive formula.
  • “Switch to a lighter moisturizer to avoid clogged pores and breakouts. L’Oreal Hydroboost is a current favorite.”