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Photography provided by Doug Marshall

In March 2016, I officially joined Snapchat and immediately became obsessed. I could share all my favorite things with the world including my hair, my dog and quick videos with sound bites from my favorite friends. But there was one unpleasant side effect: The whole selfie element took me to an entire new level of preoccupation with my appearance. As I was sharing my world, I became more conscious of my dark circles, puffy eyes and hooded eyelids. Using social media, I could enlist filters to hide what I deemed imperfections — but what about when the camera wasn’t on? I drove myself crazy finding concealers to hide my dark circles and eye creams to reduce puffiness. When capturing content, I found myself blinking my eyes right before I took a photo to look more awake and jutting out my chin in an attempt to give myself a stronger jawline.

Turns out I’m not alone. It’s estimated that some 93 million selfies are snapped a day. How many of those are deleted because the user doesn’t like how they look? Of the ones posted, how many are altered or enhanced by filters? I teach mindfulness and speak about self-acceptance in front of hundreds of people, and yet, I can’t let go of the things about my appearance that make me so self-conscious. I decided to investigate this further to see if there were things I could do to even out what I perceive to be flaws. Using Instagram, I tracked down the Skin Sisters. Brooke Moss and Lauren Sundick are actual sisters and both certified physician assistants who practice medical and aesthetic dermatology at Zel Skin & Laser Specialists in Edina. Shortly after our online interaction, I befriended them and eventually became a patient.

Photography provided by the Skin Sisters

I’m happy to report their work has passed my selfie test. The best part? They never set out to change the way I look. I don’t see a huge difference when I look in the mirror, which was the goal from the very beginning. My face is more defined, and my eye area is lifted and more relaxed. The Skin Sisters are officially the holy grail when it comes to upping my selfie game, and the process to get there was fun and informative with zero pressure. Because they have so many insights to share, I sat down with the dynamic duo to chat about the importance of an in-person consultation, the science behind certain treatments and all things skincare.

I found you because I was falling out of love with my selfies. Has the selfie movement fueled growth in your business?

Brooke: Over the past year and a half, we have definitely noticed more patients coming in for consultations who will show us their filtered selfies and say, “I want to look like this in real life.” It’s been a super interesting shift to see this, and I think the general public is becoming more and more aware of so-called “social-media dysmorphia.” A big part of our job in these instances is to help the patient understand what is fiction and what is reality. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the selfie has grown our business, but social media in general definitely has. I’ve found patients to be so appreciative when they come into our office and are able to access experts for a full 360-degree consultation that includes discussions on skincare and procedures. Social media makes things that might seem unattainable, like a visit to a medical office, super approachable. We always encourage people to come in with their current skincare products so we can comprehensively build a treatment plan that is both effective and efficient.

Lauren: We love sitting down with our patients and talking through their goals. We both find so much satisfaction in guiding patients through the process. Many of our patients are very interested in skincare and dermatology, and want to make sure they are doing everything right. This is great because we can really dive into a preventative approach to aging and make sure they’re using the right products to not only treat specific concerns they have but to keep their skin looking healthy as time goes on. It’s the same thing with injectables and other in-office treatments. The trends are shifting more from turning back the clock to keeping your skin looking as beautiful and healthy as possible in the first place. That said, it’s never too late to come in and address concerns that you have. We also practice medical dermatology, so often our approach will be a marriage of both angles. For example, we will see someone in the office for an acne treatment and once their skin is clear, they may want to address other concerns like wrinkles, pigmentation or redness.

Lauren, you recently took your followers behind the scenes of a laser treatment. What types of lasers do you recommend for beginners? 

Lauren: There are so many options for laser treatments that there really is no one universal best; however, there are excellent lasers that are specific to treating certain skin concerns. For instance, if someone is concerned about redness or broken blood vessels, there is a specific laser for that. If the concern is brown spots or sun damage, there is a specific laser for that, too. It’s all about understanding what our patients’ concerns are so that we can put together the best, most effective targeted plan for them. The treatment that I showed was a gentle resurfacing laser to even out pigmentation. It’s a great treatment for someone who has developed brown spots. Mine appeared during my two pregnancies, which is very common. There was such little downtime post-treatment that I even attended a New Year’s Eve party that same evening.

Is Botox a gateway drug for other injectables? And at what age should someone start?

Brooke: We definitely see many new patients come in for neurotoxin consultations and injections. I guess you could call it a gateway for injectables and other cosmetic procedures in that wrinkles from movement are often one of the things that brings patients in to see us in the first place. There are four FDA-approved injectable wrinkle reducers, and we do tend to use Botox quite a bit. It has been on the market for the longest amount of time, and we love the results. However, each of the wrinkle reducers available has its own strengths. With increased use of social media, we are finding that patients’ first touch point with these wrinkle reducers is starting at a younger age. This is great, because we can take a more preventative approach. I started having Lauren inject Botox for me when I was 24. There were a couple lines on my face that were super bothersome to me, so we started early, and with a few units, we were able to prevent those lines from getting bigger and deeper. Now, more than a decade later, I still have Lauren treat me, and we treat several more areas. My goal for my patients and for myself is always to maintain a natural approach and just keep things fresh. No frozen faces.

Fillers sometimes get a bad reputation because of shows like the Real Housewives. What’s your approach to easing a new patient’s concerns when it comes to fillers?

Lauren: Again, it’s all about the consultation. Most fillers are made of hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring molecule found in the body. It acts sort of like a sponge in that the acid loves moisture and each molecule can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. As a result, fillers are great for plumping, smoothing and adding hydration. When talking about filler, it is important to understand that each type has something called a G prime. The higher the G prime, the thicker or more viscous the filler is. Thicker fillers are great for adding back lost volume in the cheeks or highlighting a man’s facial architecture in an angular and masculine way. For women’s lips, a filler with a lower G prime will produce a softer look. It’s all about combining an open and honest conversation with the patient about their aesthetic desires, an expert consultation to talk about facial architecture and anatomy, and the knowledge from a medical professional to both choose the correct type of filler and place it in the safest way.

You share an abundance of skincare tips and favorite products on Instagram. How should people care for their skin?

Brooke: Whenever someone who is unhappy with their skin reaches out to us via Instagram, we always recommend an in-office consultation. It is so valuable to have your skin viewed, touched and evaluated so that the perfect products can be recommended. We adopt an efficient and effective model when recommending skincare. On the most basic level, everyone should be cleansing, moisturizing and using an SPF every day.

Lauren: We prefer mineral-based formulations with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide because they provide a shield for your skin to block out UV rays that cause sun damage, brown spots, broken blood vessels, wrinkles and skin cancers, just to name a few. With that very basic building block, once we see a patient and understand their skin and concerns, we can start building in effective products to treat those concerns. Also, we firmly believe if you are making an investment in your appearance and in yourself with injectables, you should be taking out an insurance policy on that investment by using high-quality skincare products like antioxidant serums, sunscreen, and other targeted products or procedures to meet the specific needs of your skin. When our clients look good, they feel good.

If you had to live on a desert island for a year and could only take one skincare product with you, what would it be?

Brooke: This is an absolutely impossible question, but if I could only take one product with me on an island, it would be a dual-action one like La Roche-Posay AOX 50, which offers sun protection and is full of antioxidants.

Lauren: For me, sunscreen is a no-brainer, and I would take my very favorite, Elta MD UV Clear. If I could take just one other product, it would be an antioxidant to protect my skin; lately I’ve been loving Revision Skincare Vitamin C Lotion. The nice thing about the product Brooke mentioned is that it combines both ingredients I want, so maybe I can just share hers and also pack an eye cream…

Brooke: No sharing on the desert island. Every Skin Sister for themselves!

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