We believe in the importance of skincare education -- that’s why we sat down with Mother Dirt partner and Dermatologist Dr. Jessica Krant to discuss the skin microbiome, products she recommends, and her advice for healthy skin.
1. What is your background?
I’m a Board-Certified Dermatologist and Lifestyle Medicine-Certified Physician Specialist practicing in Manhattan, NYC. I am also certified in Integrative Dermatology and a double-certified Life and Transformational Mindset Coach!
I studied design and visual arts at Harvard College, where I graduated magna cum laude, and then went on to get both my M.D. and my Master’s Degree in Public Health at Columbia University.
The great joy of my life and career right now is combining my love of aesthetics (visual arts), investigative medicine (figuring out what’s wrong), building and working with my hands (sculpture, your aesthetic treatments), whole food plant-based way-of-life education—helping people investigate their minds and habits to break out of the ruts we create for ourselves and transform into the joyful, goal achieving, vital creatures we want to be.
2. Did you always want to become a dermatologist?
When I was five years old and asked by adults what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, “an orthopedic surgeon, like my daddy!”
I was always interested in science and in helping people. I thought I would be an engineering major in college, but to make a long story short, I ended up being a design and art major and doing my pre-med requirements on the side with my electives.
I went to medical school and found myself interested in every field. Still, in the end, I was drawn to dermatology because it is a field that allows me to primarily be a community physician with a long-standing relationship with patients and their families over generations (like my dad).
Dermatology still allows a lot of surgery and procedures along with diagnostic medicine, covers the whole body from the scalp to the toes, allows for cosmetic and aesthetic (art) interests and skills as well as medical, allows me to treat men and women and boys and girls, and is also the field with some of the most advanced science and technology including stem cell science, laser and device technology, the immune system, and the forefront of health knowledge, the microbiome!
3. What does a typical workday look like for you?
I see patients in my clinical dermatology practice most days of the week. One day per week, I teach dermatology residents in training as Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.
Evenings and weekends, I catch up on chart notes, work on my new Save Your Skin podcast and upcoming lectures and interviews, and coach my private life coaching clients as a certified life coach.
4. As a dermatologist, what skin conditions do you treat most frequently?
I am both a cosmetic and a medical dermatologist. I do general medical dermatology, which means I see a lot of acne, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, infections, and rosacea, along with doing skin cancer screenings, evaluating skin growths, and doing small surgeries.
As far as acne, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and rosacea, there are many factors to each, including environmental conditions, skin products, skincare habits, diet, stress, hormones, and genetics. All of these factors have in common that they directly or indirectly affect our skin’s microbiome balance, which in turn directly impacts our skin health.
5. What causes an imbalance in the skin microbiome, and how do we get it back to a healthy state?
Our skin produces its own natural moisturizing ingredients (Natural Moisturizing Factor), exfoliates itself on schedule when healthy, and maintains an acidic pH layer (the Acid Mantle) which specifically keeps low inflammation and creates an environment that makes it difficult for bad actors (pathogens) to take hold and wreak havoc.
When we over-clean, over-strip, or over-exfoliate, we disrupt this balance and potentially flip our skin into a state it can’t recover itself from. Then we often try to use commercially available moisturizers, irritating products, or medications to solve issues that did not need to exist in the first place.
One of the most simple, natural, and effective ways to get our skin back to a healthy state is to allow the natural acidic pH, natural moisture, and natural rate of exfoliation to resume and let the skin do what it does best.
Research shows that allowing the harmful bacteria and organisms to get hold can also flip the skin out of balance and trigger flares. Promoting healthy, skin-friendly microorganisms prevents and may be able to undo this trigger fully.
6. Why is it important to balance your skin’s microbiome?
Millions to billions of bacteria, fungi, and yeast live on us and inside us. We now are only just starting to understand the impact these unseen, invisible organisms have always had on our evolution and daily lives. We are only now just getting used to how normal this is and has always been, even though we were not aware of it previously.
As the universe exists in a massive equilibrium, so does the micro-universe around us on Earth and on and in each of us. Nutrition research is showing more and more the power of a balanced gut microbiome in all of human health and disease.
The skin is no different. Our skin contains its diverse natural microbiome. When our skin is healthy, everything is in balance. When we do things that disrupt that balance, we send the system out of whack and start to experience the signs of imbalance: inflammation, irritation, and disease.
7. What products and ingredients do you recommend using to get healthy skin and balance your skin’s microbiome?
These days there are so many brands and product lines out there it can be pretty confusing. Adding to the confusion, many “natural” or “organic” products are not particularly great for your skin since those terms have no legal or regulatory definition, so there can be a bit of game playing in terms of front label vs. ingredients.
And some of these so-called “natural” products create an imbalance of the skin’s natural microbiome and pH, which leads to a vicious cycle of people using products they think should be making their skin better but are making it worse. Hence, they go out and choose other “natural” products that make it even worse.
For me right now, my focus is on gentle products that do not disrupt the natural skin barrier but instead help to restore and support it because our skin is fantastic when it is allowed to do its own thing, and we spend far too much time trying to knock it off-kilter.
One of my favorite gentle ingredients right now is squalane, which helps moisturize without disrupting. I am also really enjoying the emergence of products that actively promote a healthy skin microbiome with probiotic ingredients, especially when they are acting like in Mother Dirt’s AO+ Restorative Mist. It’s vital that a skincare system not destroy the good while also claiming to create a healthy balance, and M.D. products are formulated together to do that very well.
8. What type of deodorant do you think is best for sensitive skin?
Let me first start by saying that many, and possibly most, people don’t even realize that stores sell two products side by side that is entirely different: antiperspirant and deodorant.
Antiperspirants contain chemicals often containing aluminum and other desiccating agents that stop the sweat glands from forming perspiration. Deodorants generally do not reduce the action of sweating, but they neutralize odor. Since many people have concerns about the safety of antiperspirant chemicals, and some can’t tolerate the irritant effects, deodorants are popular in the market.
Within the deodorant class, some contain more unfamiliar chemicals, and some are more natural. Although the term “natural” does not necessarily mean “gentle,” in the case of deodorants, gentleness can often be inferred.
I’ll tell you the truth: most of the time, I end up falling back on using antiperspirant because of the wetness control, but I happen to love Mother Dirt’s deodorant formula because it does absorb sweat, but naturally, with plant-based starches. It also goes on dry and has a fresh smell, not too perfumy or flowery.
9. As a dermatologist, what do you tell your patients to look for when shopping for skincare products?
I tell my patients that it’s hard to tell the quality just from packaging and marketing. It’s important to understand reading labels and the differences between marketing language and legal definitions. My main advice is to keep it simple and not just follow every piece of advice given on every skincare blog online.
10. What are your top 3 pieces of skincare advice?
1. Keep it simple. Less is more.
2. Be gentle with yourself.
3. When in doubt, see a board-certified dermatologist.
Wrapping It Up
We hope that you enjoyed our interview with Dr. Krant, our dermatologist partner. In addition to sharing her expertise with our customers and having her weigh in on our formulations to assist our Director of Product & Innovation, Lauren Trahan, Dr. Krant is also available to answer any questions you have. All you have to do is email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us on social media.