Maybe Beyoncé woke up like that — but most likely she follows the advice of Dr. Harold Lancer, one of L.A.'s top "dermatologists to the stars." With an office next to Hermès on Rodeo Drive and a VIP waiting room for clients like Kim Kardashian and Victoria Beckham, Dr. Lancer's products were formerly offered only at his practice until Oprah apparently begged him to make them available for sale. He obliged, and now his famous three-step system and his new book, Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin, are widely available. He talked to the Cut about the difference between celebrity and civilian skin, the necessity of exfoliating every day, and why getting facials only four times a year is useless.
Why did you decide to write your new book, Younger?
I have probably the largest, solo dermatologist practice in the world with about 30,000 active patient files. I’m going to be 61 in September. Younger is my legacy of the consumer understanding of home skin care. It states the easy steps someone has to take to find the fountain of youth within themselves. It really exists.
What is the fountain of youth?
The book explains the necessity of reducing stress, of a decent sleep profile. If you don’t reduce stress or get a decent amount of rest and sleep, beauty and health are virtually impossible to attain. I’ve been teaching it to my patients since 1980. While writing the book, I also thought, Who do I see that has the world’s worst skin? Those are people that have diabetes. It’s due to sugar imbalance and insulin intolerance.
What diet produces the best skin?
The diet recommended is 40 percent protein, 40 percent fats like olive oil and grapeseed oil, and 20 percent carbohydrates. I can tell you that by following my own advice, I lost 60 pounds. It wasn’t designed to be a weight-loss concept, but nutrition to make your skin look better. It was by accident.
There are also a few, specific recommendations — the first is salt reduction to the point of zero added salt. It doesn’t matter if it’s kosher or Himalayan or rock salt. You must go to a zero-added-salt [diet]. Rule two — animal dairy products to zero. Dairy products are toxic to skin-cell metabolism. Rule three has to do with carbohydrates. The carbohydrates in my diet are a gigantic, fresh apple or grapefruit. Carbohydrates cause spikes in insulin production. Insulin stress reduces skin-cell metabolism.
What makes the Lancer method special?
There are about 10,000 beauty brands in the world. I see patients who bring me things from countries I’ve never even heard of. People are always asking for the magic ingredient, but that’s totally screwed up. The Lancer method is three steps: An exfoliating polish first and rinsing the skin, then doing the cleanse, and a multifaceted Nourish afterward. It’s totally re-inventing the concept of skin care so the polish is always first.
Most traditional advice recommends you don’t exfoliate every day. Why exfoliate so often? Won’t this degrade the quality of the skin?
The outer layer of skin in both men and women is called the epidermal stratum corneum. You need to exfoliate that before it can even tolerate proper cleansing. If you have a tough stain on your kitchen counter, you need to scrub first before you can clean, it’s the same thing. Daily damage, age damage, and sun damage need to be exfoliated before [the face is] cleansed.
Why don’t more dermatologists recommend exfoliating every day?
Twenty years ago, dermatology was a very special specialty. In 2014, now everyone is a dermatologist. Every aesthetician and cab driver in New York is a dermatologist. When a physician tells you once to twice a week, they don’t understand that they need to explain what an exfoliant really is.
A mechanical exfoliant is an enzyme that is protein-based. Exfoliation means allowing the top layer of skin to be nourished. It is just removing dull-skin debris and allowing oxygen to transfer the lower layers of skin. When most doctors say exfoliation shouldn’t happen every day, they are talking about standard scrubs, which is sandpaper in a bottle. They don’t have a concept of what products are available.
Exfoliating properly is a nightly event. It’s sort of like exercise. There are some individuals who tell you to exercise 20 minutes a day. The real good trainers will tell you that you must do a small amount of exercise daily.
Wouldn't Retin-A reduce the need for daily exfoliation?
Retinoic acid is important in terms of not only increasing skin-cell growth rate but increasing cell membrane nutrients to increase oxygen transport, which supports the collagen matrix. It is a daily aid to keep the cells functioning properly, not just increasing cell turnover.
The skin-cell maturation process may take 21 days. But the movement of cells and maturation is hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly. Different cells are transforming all the time. When the primitive look is to say cell turnover is every 28 days — it's every second. The retinol is the skin product that allows that and it is included in my method as well.
Your office is unique in that there is also facials offered on-site. Why are they important to your practice?
Well, they must be done by a properly trained aesthetician, physically in a dermatologist's office. I would never go to a free-standing aesthetician. You need someone that is medical grade and well-trained. Someone tied at the hip with a dermatologist. The benefits of a good aesthetician treatment is that it teaches the patient how to take care of their skin.
When I have patients who tell me they go for facials four times a year, that’s worthless. I suggest three- to four-week intervals. I have four aestheticians in my office. Every day when they’re doing treatments, I pop in and micromanage their topical skin care.
I don't think dermatologists like that exist in New York.
It shouldn’t be. A good office usually has medical-grade aesthetician.
It’s known that you also have a few celebrity clients. What is the biggest difference between celebrity skin and non-celebrity skin? Celebrities should have access to every single beauty product in the world.
While celebrities may have access to all kinds of beauty products and treatments, they also live with the public's expectation that they look flawless at all times. The stress of this alone is enough to wreak havoc on the skin, without even considering the constant makeup application it often takes to maintain this ideal. The true difference between celebrity skin and non-celebrity skin is just what the skin is subjected to. Celebrities lead a very different life from the average person's, and so their skin care must reflect that difference.
What is the biggest barrier to good skin?
The biggest barrier whether it’s men or women, is confusion. I think it’s the media and advertising. There’s an immense potpourri of products. If I were an ordinary consumer, I would be like, "Whatever is in the shower soap dish is good enough."