Sex, Insta Filters and Roller Disco: Riffing on Beauty + Wellness w/ Dr. Paul Frank

Beauty and wellness have traditionally been viewed as separate disciplines. But as time has gone by, with advances in research and some intentional marketing on the part of both smaller entrepreneurs and corporate concerns alike, the line between them has become ever more blurred. Going to a doctor’s office for laser or Botox is, well, the new facial.

A pioneer of this symbiosis of beauty and wellness is none other than Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, one of the leading cosmetic dermatologists in the country. Frank practices on Manhattan’s Upper East side, with satellite offices in the Hamptons, Miami, and soon, the West Village. Known for his work keeping celebrities perennially youthful looking, he was embracing the notion of beauty and wellness as one and the same long before it became…a thing.

In The Pro-Aging Playbook (Post Hill Press), which has just hit the shelves, he emphasizes this important concept, nailing home the point that wellness on the inside is key to your appearance on the outside. He discusses the importance of aging gracefully and uses a network of experts, who have documented different techniques through clinical evidence. The book speaks to the importance of a holistic approach to beauty—one which combines physical, emotional and spiritual wellness, in combination with technological advances in the art and science of skin care.

His message, in short: when we look and feel our best, it effects how we show up to the world.

It’s important to point out here, that Dr. Frank fell victim himself to COVID-19 early in the virus’ arrival to the US, a hardship that he says very much tested his personal resilience and reinforced the importance of overall wellness. In spite of being significantly fit, it was a difficult recovery.

Dr. Frank’s work has been exalted by fashion and music icons such as Madonna—with whom he created the cosmetic brand MDNA—Marc Jacobs, Char DeFrancesco, hair legend Sally Hershberger, and celebrity stylist-turned-designer Rachel Zoe. In fact, musician / model Caroline Vreeland tells BlackBook that she’s also been a beneficiary. “What I love most about the good doc is that he extremely passionate about what he does, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s funny, smart, kind, and he’s keeping me young!”

But Madonna perhaps sums up his work best when she explains, “He reminds us that while he can help us to a point, we have to do the deeper work as well.”

As he returned to fighting fit shape, we caught up with Dr. Frank to tap into his singular wisdom and science.

For the longest time we’ve been in inundated with beauty books that always talk about the exterior; but yours covers the inside-out. It seems to be more about wellness holistically, rather than mere aesthetics.

You can’t inject happiness. Right?

Given that you are a cosmetic dermatologist, you could easily just tell people to start getting Botox at age 30, but you’re not. Instead, you are asking people to watch their drug and alcohol intake, meditate, dance, and follow other wellness regimens.

People need to realize that that the cosmetic treatments and the wellness stuff go hand in hand—they’re not at odds. Wellness and beauty are merging into the same category. The younger generation doesn’t look at what I do as cosmetic surgery; they look at it as a form of grooming. Perceptions about doing these types of things are changing. In writing this book, I felt that someone needed to make the connection between the wellness industry and the beauty industry.

In your book, you referenced your adolescence and learning how to roller disco—how it changed your life and made you more confident and physically fit. Do you feel that everyone needs an activity that can be transformative to their self confidence in order to look their best?

I think fitness is probably the most key component of keeping your body looking and feeling well into old age. I was not athletic in traditional sports when I was young, but it turned out that roller skating and dancing was what did for me. And I think my example of roller skating just goes to show that it needn’t be talent in traditional athletics. I think everybody has to find something that they like that gives them a sense of physicality. It really is important to get your sense of self-respect for your body.

You cover many topics in your book, but the one that seems consciously absent is the role of sex. Does sex make us beautiful?

Good point! Sex is a combination of spirituality, meditation, and exercise, right? Nothing clears your head better than getting laid. You’re absolutely right. I’m going to have to write a sequel to discuss sex. But I did reference intimacy. I talked about intimate relations with regard to connecting with people and your community.

But are there health and beauty benefits to sex?

You’re not exactly screwing wrinkles away, but sex is part of the stress relief thing. It is definitely exercise and a form of meditation and clearing your mind. But I don’t think a study has been performed to determine whether, if you have sex every day, you’re going to look younger than the next person. But you are likely to be happier.

You are known to have really strong curation of music in your office. How do you think about your playlist and what do you think the patient experiences from it?

I’m known for my music, I came out with my Spotify PFrankMD playlist. And it’s always a combination of eighties or new wave, and ’90s hip-hop, mixed with classics like Sinatra. It gives people memories, and it gives a little bit of anesthesia while I’m treating them.

Your practice caters to different shades and types of skin, and not every dermatologist can do that or even tries to.

I trained in New York, which is a melting pot. But I am also a technology guy. So many of the newer technologies now cater to several skin types, and I work to ensure that I am leveraging the latest in my work.

Your space is also very welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, and you treat renowned drag artist Miss Fame. Do you think beauty companies are doing a better job in terms of marketing and product development, to make sure that all these other communities are represented?

I think they’re doing a better job of target marketing, because they’re going where the money is. I’m not so sure if they’re all great in terms of the quality of their products, but it is good that the community is recognized as one worth targeting. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. One of the advances over the last decade or so is that there are fewer beauty stereotypes, and that doing cosmetic work isn’t about looking like someone else: It’s about just finding your own best version of yourself.

Social media has become a big part of our lives: for many, and even more so during the pandemic—it has become the way we socialize. Is it possible to achieve Instagram filtered skin in real life?

The good and the bad news about modern day beauty is that we have much better technology and options that are less invasive. We’re becoming more and more of a visual society and images that are filtered are giving us impressions about what we can achieve. And I think that’s one of the pitfalls of what’s going on right now—that we really think that people on Instagram look like that in real life. The fact of the matter is, none of us look as good. I mean, I have Victoria’s Secret models that are insecure about the dimples on their ass. So, you know, sometimes the people that are the most beautiful are the most insecure. And I address that a lot in the book.

We’re obviously in the midst of difficult economic times that are likely to get worse. How much of a priority is cosmetic dermatology now?

Well, there is a myth that these things are only for rich people. I started my practice in the aftermath of 9/11, and I went through the financial crisis in 2008. And in all honesty, you know, of course things slow down a little bit. But a lot of people feel like they have to look their best to stay competitive in the workforce.  I have a lot of patients from different walks of life who save up for their Botox. Vanity has no face and wallet anymore. The technology is just getting better and better and the audience is getting wider.

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