Dr. Michelle Henry, MD FAAD, lifetime optimist, discusses the links between optimism and healthier skin.
“Reflect on all the times you couldn’t make it and you did. I think there’s proof in your life that with optimism you can survive many, many things. And you have that template, a blueprint, that you can do it again.”
- Dr. Michelle Henry, MD FAAD
From the age of seven, a sanguine Dr. Michelle Henry viewed the world around her and the future ahead of her, with an exceptional degree of optimism – a defining characteristic, a mindset, that would propel her to success later in life.
We asked Dr. Henry, a board-certified dermatologist, about the effect that optimism has had on her life – and particularly as a budding optimist at such an early age.
“There are certainly things that I have very deep, profound optimism in. It starts with my family. I think it’s the way we talk to each other, the way we’re taught to talk to ourselves. Growing up, my mom always said, ‘We don’t say bad things to ourselves because our mind hears it.’ And that was before we were really focusing on our mental health. I remember thinking as a kid that she was silly, but it works and you hear it, and you learn to be as kind to yourself as you are to others,” says Dr. Henry.
At her private practice, Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan, in New York’s Midtown East neighborhood, Dr. Henry has established what can best be described as a “positivity protocol,” a modus operandi that educates patients on the importance of positivity in the aging process, maintaining mental health – and the effects of each on the health and youthful appearance of their skin.
An ACGME fellowship-trained Mohs micrographic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Henry explains the attentive approach with her patients this way:
“Part of what I prescribe to my patients, in addition to good skincare, is to focus on their overall mental health, their sleep hygiene, that is, making sure they’re getting good sleep, making sure they’re eating well. And making sure that they focus on their mental health. It’s so easy to lose one’s grasp of that.”
She sees the proof that her positivity protocols work in the disparities between new and established patients of the practice.
“New patients come in a little bit more curious, more concerned about aging. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. They come to us with a lot of anxiety and they’re concerned about whether it’s too late. In my office, we’ve developed a positive mindset around aging. And so my existing patients are well-versed in taking the best care of their skin through both topical skincare and an active approach to overall wellness.”
With her keen insights into the effects of optimism and a positive mindset on the skin health of her patients, we wanted to know how she perceives the link, if any, between optimism and the skin. The science validating a connection between gut health and the brain has been well established in recent years; but what about the brain, and specifically, the mind, and a direct connection to one’s skin health?
Dr. Henry muses, “I truly believe that just as there is a big interface between our mind and our gut, there’s an interface between our mind and our skin. And I think that when you feel bad you look bad.”
Does she feel it’s important for her patients to ‘look forward’ with optimism when it comes to aging? Her answer is unequivocal.
“I think optimism is absolutely important because aging is a gift. What’s important is that we’re living longer, we’re feeling better. And we want our skin and our outward appearance to reflect what’s inside. I think it’s important to be positive about the future because it really and truly is a gift.”
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