‘The Pillowtalk Derm’ Dr. Shereene Idriss, MD, Reveals Her #1 Rule for Gorgeous Summer Skin: “You Will Be Golden”

Updated: May 19, 2023

"You can have all the lines and wrinkles in the world," says Dr. Shereene Idriss, MD—but these days, there's one trait that defines healthy-looking skin.

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If you haven’t heard of board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD, perhaps you’ve heard of the Pillowtalk Derm, the name she’s known by to the over one million followers across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Dr. Idriss has grown known for her no-nonsense videos that feel like an authoritative BFF setting you straight, as well as for calling out high-profile figures when she thinks their claim is bogus (see her takedown of Gwyneth Paltrow’s lotion routine).

Aside from Dr. Idriss’ videos is her talent. She’s mastered the low-key ways to emphasize a patient’s appearance by helping them give off a fresher, happier glow. If the plump-lipped Kardashian look was the face of the past decade, Dr. Idriss is on a quest to usher in the new face: One that actually looks like yours, just at your healthiest. She explains that her famous phrase, “Subtle is the new dramatic,” is to the field of dermatology “what ‘quiet luxury’ is to fashion,” she says: “It’s the you that only you can pull off.”

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Mindy Kaling, Jennifer Aniston and Emily Ratajkowski all follow her, but the truth is, she sees a lot more celebrities than you’ll never know about. “The reality is a lot of celebs that I treat in my practice don’t actually follow me on social,” said Dr. Idriss, who runs Idriss Dermatology out of her Bryant Park office in New York City.

For the masses who can’t make it into her practice, in 2022 Dr. Idriss debuted a skincare line, Pillowtalk Derm by Dr. Shereene Idriss. Her first three products made up the Major Fade system, which quickly sold out for the line’s ability to reduce hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone.

Dr. Idriss sat down with The Healthy @Readers Digest to talk about her latest product, The Depuffer, and bust a few skincare myths for our readers. If there’s one thing you leave this article remembering, it should be one of her mottos: “If you’re not aging, you’re dead.” We’ll gladly take healthy aging, please.

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Shereene Idriss on summer skin care

Pillowtalk Derm Product Shot Courtesy Dr. Shireene Idriss, MdCourtesy Dr. Shireene Idriss, MD

The Healthy @Readers Digest: The sun is finally out, summer’s on the way. What are some warm-weather skin prep advice that people just don’t talk about enough?

Dr. Shereene Idriss, MD: As the temperatures rise, our skin responds accordingly! What our skin gets acclimated to using in the winter months doesn’t necessarily apply for the warmer summer days ahead. It’s important to switch up how we deliver actives to our skin with temperature fluctuations. As the temperatures rise, I recommend swapping out thicker ointments and creams for lighter-weight hydrating serums and gel moisturizers. I would even go so far as to say that some people can skip moisturizing altogether in the more humid summer months.

The Healthy: You are one of the biggest SPF advocates out there with signs all over your office. What are your big sunscreen rules?

Dr. Idriss: Rain or snow, sunshine or clouds, SPF is always a must, and will never go out of style. People often associate wearing sunscreen with warmer temperatures. But the reality is that daily sunscreen is mandatory, regardless of how hot or cold the day is. UV rays can penetrate through clouds, the same way it can penetrate through your windows. Two finger lengths of sunscreen are the perfect amount to protect your face. (On Instagram, she suggests going for a little more if you’re bald.)

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Shereene Idriss on skin health myths

The Healthy: There’s a lot of misinformation out there online when it comes to skincare. Your Instagram “Pillowtalk” videos have gone viral for calling out bad advice. What are the top five skin myths you’ve called out and corrected? Let’s break them all down.

Dr. Idriss:

  1. Sunscreen will give you cancer. Get over it, especially if you live in a large city like New York City. Breathing in the fumes are more likely to be carcinogenic than sunscreen.
  2. Quality skincare needs to be expensive. It’s not about how much you pay, it’s how to use your skin care that pays off. Having a targeted skin care routine is what’s ultimately going to pay off for your skin.
  3. Hyaluronic acid serum. I’ve had enough of this one, especially the ones that cost hundreds of dollars for a 30-milliliter jar. You do not need a dedicated hyaluronic acid serum, as chances are one of the products in your skin care routine will likely have it in it. Save yourself time, money and unnecessary disappointment.
  4. You need to moisturize your skin all year round is something that is just not true. Acclimating your skincare to the climate that you’re in is invaluable. If you are in a humid environment, you can definitely skip the moisturizer.
  5. “Face cream is only for your face” is another myth that needs to be busted. Last I checked, you have skin on your neck, chest, arms, legs, and other body parts.

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Shereene Idriss on the latest in skincare

The Healthy: What does your personal skin care routine look like in the morning and at night?

Dr. Idriss: Shameless plug, but genuinely not so shameless plug. Ever since I launched my own skincare line, PillowtalkDerm, I have streamlined my routine immensely. I suffer from discoloration and hyperpigmentation and used to have a 10-step skincare routine in order to get the best of all the ingredients to help even out my skin tone. Over the past two years, I’ve been working on formulations that combine all of these ingredients into a simplified routine. So every day I stick to three to four steps by using my Major Fade solution system and sunscreen.

The Healthy: Your products that help fade sunspots and have notoriously sold out time and again. Tell us about your latest product, The Depuffer, and how it fits in with the rest of your line.

Dr. Idriss: Major Fade was the first trio that I launched, born not only from my own skincare routine, but also my experience from my practice through my patients. Achieving an even skin tone can give you your biggest bang for your buck when your goal is to look more refreshed. But taking a step back, your skin tone is primarily made up of two colors: brown and red. Major Fade addresses your brown discoloration, whereas the Depuffer targets redness.

The serum in the Depuffer is the powerhouse of this product, and the roller is an added benefit to the serum. The roller is the delivery mechanism of the packaging that comes into play as a tool with actual benefits. This serum does all the heavy lifting as it is formulated with Arnica Montana, traditionally used to help decrease the appearance of swelling; Centella Asiatica to combat redness and transient flushing; Niacinamide to soothe the skin’s barrier; and Ash Bark Extract to help reduce puffiness.

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The Healthy: What trends are you seeing lately in skincare and beauty?

Dr. Idriss: Buccal fat pad removal has been on the rise as of late, but given the speed at which information spreads on social, I hope it is a trend that is quickly dying.

The Healthy: For people who can’t afford to come into your office and get your personal touch, what can they do at home to take care of their skin?

Dr. Idriss: You can have all the lines and wrinkles in the world, but as long as your skin tone is even you will be golden. And wear the damn sunscreen. Your skin (and bank account) will thank you later.

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