Baby-faced dermatologist Dr. Robert Buka was holding court at White’s Pharmacy in East Hampton, where a 2 1/2-year-old named Stella munched contentedly on a cookie while her mom pointed to a faint pink spot on her cheek. “I think it’s eczema,” she said, as Buka, 31, leaned in for a look. Normally, he’d be at Mount Sinai, but as one of only a handful of “pediatric derms” in the city, he’s taken it upon himself to develop a kiddie skin-care line (branded “Doctor Bobby”). On this Friday afternoon, he’d set up a counter in the cosmetic section and was offering free consultations. The kids went straight for the treats while parents unburdened themselves of their worries about their children’s complexions. (One father was convinced that his son’s catcher’s mask was giving him zits.)
A blemishy baby can be a buffed-and-presentable parent’s nightmare. “The first few months are a huge bonding time,” Buka explains. “If the baby has a severe dermatosis, they don’t get as much attention from family members. There are psychosocial repercussions.” They could even become outcasts in their peer group: Babies themselves don’t like the looks of other babies with funky skin. Like “if a kid has bad cradle cap”—flaky, scaly scalp caused by yeast. “Moms arrive in tears,” says Buka, because their kids were shunned by playmates. Buka deals with serious cases, like a 4-month-old who had deep, disfiguring cysts in his pudgy cheeks. But mostly he treats eczema, flesh-colored warts, and baby acne (when a pregnant woman’s elevated estrogen gets passed on to the baby in utero, it triggers breakouts after birth).
Back at White’s, one dad, holding a squirming young boy, eyed the products suspiciously. “My son is going to be a metrosexual at age 1,” he said.