The Sonoran Desert is a world away from the tropical climes of Hawaii, but Tina Pai, M.D., is both a native of the 50th state, as well as a long-time resident of the Old Pueblo.
Though she was a drawn as a child toward a career in veterinary medicine, by college — Whittier College in Southern California, where she earned a degree in chemistry — she changed direction toward helping people. She earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, did her internship at the Mayo Medical Center, and then her residency at University Hospitals of Cleveland.
Dr. Pai initially had a practice in Honolulu, but she and her husband, Dr. Mikel Lo (a highly regarded plastic surgeon), relocated to Tucson so that he could complete his medical specialty training. She joined the staff of Skin Spectrum, where she works with Dr. Jodi Comstock, also a Top Doctor.
We asked Dr. Pai about her practice, as well as for some advice about maintaining healthy skin.
What areas do you specialize in at Skin Spectrum?
We specialize in cosmetic dermatology, so our focus is on improving our patients’ appearance. Patients come to us for help with wrinkles, brown spots, acne, dark circles under the eyes, unwanted hair, a double chin, spider veins, love handles, scars, and more.
Although these are cosmetic concerns, often they are a reflection of underlying issues or medical conditions, so our goal is to improve skin health, in addition to addressing what is visible on the skin surface.
We use lasers, injectables, topical products, chemical peels, medications, and nutrition to achieve improvement.
What seems to be the treatment or procedure that you are doing most often these days? Why do you think it is so popular or prevalent?
We’re finding that what makes our patients happiest is what we call “combineese,” or combination therapy.
As we age, our faces change in so many ways. We deflate, which causes shadows and sagging; our skin weakens and wrinkles appear; we develop brown spots and dullness.
We’re fortunate to have many excellent procedures, such as lasers, fillers, and neuromodulators, and they keep getting better. However, most of them address just one aspect of the aging process, so in order to get the best results we need to combine all of these procedures. They work synergistically to turn back the clock and make us look more like our younger selves.
A popular combination currently is the Clear + Brilliant laser, a filler such as Voluma in the cheeks, and a neuromodulator such as Botox or Dysport. Patients like that they look refreshed yet natural, and they don’t have significant visible healing.
What advice do you give your patients about taking care of their skin?
The most important thing we can do is to protect our skin from sun damage, because it not only causes health problems such as skin cancer, but it also causes wrinkles and discoloration. I recommend using sunscreen year round, wearing a hat and clothing to shield skin from the sun, and doing outdoor activities early or late in the day to avoid the strong midday sun.
Another key to healthy skin is to take care of it from the inside. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods (such as leafy greens, olive oil, and berries) helps to fight skin problems such as acne as well as sagging and wrinkling.
What has been one of the biggest developments in dermatology in the past five years?
One of the most fascinating developing areas in dermatology (and all of medicine) is regarding the human microbiome, which is the collective name for the trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that reside on our skin and in our body.
In recent years, researchers have identified what the normal microbiome is for a healthy person, and are now learning that the microbiome changes in various diseases. This holds enormous potential for understanding, treating, and even preventing diseases. For instance, an acne vaccine has been developed, based on a bacterium that is involved in causing acne.
Might we someday soon treat rashes by applying bacteria to our skin, or taking probiotics, or eating certain foods? And not just skin diseases, but heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and allergies, all of which are associated with microbiome imbalances. The potential impact is astounding.