Iconic celebrity beauty moments aren’t born without the visionary artists that create them. In Behind The Glam, TZR gives you an inside look into the careers and inspirations of the industry’s top artists.
If you’ve ever seen a beauty editor’s personal product storage, you know that we are spoiled for choice when it comes to skin care. Even more significant than the copious samples that are sent our way to test, we also have access to an all-star roster of doctors, from celebrity dentists to the industry’s most in-demand plastic surgeons. But when it comes to dermatologists — arguably the most crucial specialist for any skin care aficionado, editor or not — there is one name in particular that has risen from a whisper of in-the-know clients to full-fledged icon status: Dr. Dendy Engelman.
“I love being able to see the disease that you're treating,” the dermatologist and Mohs surgeon explains when we meet just a few blocks away from where she practices at Shafer Clinic in Manhattan. “And I love the psychological aspect of the transformation that happens with the patient when whatever you're fixing becomes better.” Even if you’ve never met Dr. Engelman (who is affectionately known as Dr. Dendy to her roster of loyal clientele) in person before, she might already look familiar. As a regular fixture on The Today Show and a trusted expert for pretty much every magazine title under the sun, she has deftly expanded her passion for dermatology and deep wealth of knowledge far beyond the limits of her treatment rooms.
But for how coveted an appointment with Dr. Engelman is in 2022, she didn’t expect to wind up practicing in New York City forever. After graduating in her home base of Charleston, South Carolina, and matching in general medicine at Mount Sinai, she assumed she would stay for just one year. “[I thought[, okay, I’ll have fun in New York, work my buttons off, do internal medicine and be a ‘real doctor,’ and then I’m going back home to start the rest of my life,” she reveals. Then came an elective rotation with a Mohs surgeon, after which she applied for a 25-spot fellowship in Mohs Surgery and Procedural Dermatology. Spoiler alert: she got it, and despite some initial hesitation, “I just never came back.”
Now, the mother of two finds herself busier than ever with patients who seek out her subtle, considered, your-face-but-better approach to aesthetic dermatology (in addition to skin disease care). “I love my patients,” she says. “We have the titans of the universe and every industry who comes to us [at Shafer]. And so, not only do I help them, but they help me. It's little mini TED Talks every 10 to 15 minutes catching up with them. What's going on in the legal world? What's going on in the arts world? Oh, you're now starring on Broadway?”
Not to mention that, for a physician, the field of dermatology traditionally develops at a much faster clip than other medical specialties so there is always something new to explore. “It's like every six months there are new devices and injectables,” says Dr. Engelman, who regularly works with the industry’s buzziest brands and top technology like Glacial Rx, AviClear, Lutronic Genius RF, Tri-Lift, Emsculpt Neo, and more.
But being a partner at a premier dermatology practice also means that Dr. Engelman sees plenty of new patients in her treatment room who arrive with photos or videos from TikTok and Instagram (where she also has over 30,000 followers) in search of unrealistic results inspired by celebrities and creators who are not always transparent about their treatments. “People who do have a platform are not being fully forthcoming with what they've done,” she says of social media, “[which] is to the detriment of, usually, their fellow woman. It's not fair that some celebrities, who are 65, [say], ‘I’ve never done any plastic surgery or would consider it.’ And then here's a lady in Idaho who's 65 and [thinking], ‘I must be a genetic mess, because I don't look like that.’ [When] in fact [the celebrity has] done an encyclopedia worth of stuff to get to that point. It's not fair and it definitely should not be accepted.”
And although she stresses that dermatologists are not necessarily specialists on the market of topical products (“It’s not the focus of our training — it’s skin disease”) Dr. Engelman does get frustrated with the rise of Instagram and TikTok “experts” claiming that this or that cream helped eliminate their cellulite or plumped their lips. As she explains, “[Dermatologists] should be the ones giving advice that's medically sound. These trends that go viral, but not only are they not effective, they could be harmful. Because what, in six seconds of your life you're going to listen to this person [who is] validated by the numbers behind their name instead of the letters behind their name?”
So, with this influx of misinformation, does she often have to turn down a patient’s request for filler or other popular procedures? “I've had a lot of, ‘I just lost my job,’ or, ‘Something bad happened. Can you just inject me with something?’” she says of some clients. “I'm like, ‘That's not how this works. I will talk to you. I will give you a hug. You can make an appointment with my mother, who is a therapist. But whatever I've got here is not going to fix [that].” It is this type of care and consideration, minus any needles or fancy tools, that has made an appointment with Dr. Engelman in such high demand, especially in an age when speedy, blowout bar-style cosmetic procedure spaces are becoming as commonplace as your neighborhood Starbucks.
“Nothing's wrong with you,” Dr. Engelman stresses of her approach to a patient’s treatment. “There are nuances where patients have been like, ‘They didn't even listen or treat what I came in with.’ And it is not fair. Because we did a zillion years of school, and dissected humans, and know facial anatomy. So, we have to kind of put [our patient’s treatment] into layman's terms. What we say could be very medical and you have to communicate in a way that everyone is understanding.”
This compassion, in addition to her signature less-is-more approach to injectables, is what has Dr. Engelman’s patients returning year after year to be treated with her expert eye. “We're getting away from the stigma of self care. And the industry is following that,” she says of her work. “[But] it’s a very vulnerable position [being a patient]. You're taking off your clothes to be skin checked, or, you're taking your makeup off. You're sitting there numbed. You feel out of sorts. And so people share things in that space. That's a very sacred space to be reverent to. I like meeting people there.”
Luckily, you can rest assured that you’ll leave your appointment with Dr. Engelman not only looking like the absolute best version of yourself, but feeling all the more confident and cared for — until your next visit, of course.