While we know that Trinidad and Tobago is home to some of the world’s most beautiful women, we also know that it takes a little effort to look effortlessly beautiful these days, and Dr Naomi Dolly is proud to be the mastermind behind some of the incredible skin in T&T.
Having grown up with my fair share of acne, and thousands of dollars accumulated on drugstore cure-all products that didn’t quite cure, I had a very jaded sense of what perfect skin truly meant – and I thought that those with flawless skin were quite simply lucky. But I was wrong.
When I met Dr. Dolly in her office, my first thought was how incredible her skin looked. Imperfection-free and smooth, with a blur-like finish to her face, I felt like I was looking at a Photoshopped version of herself, rather than a three-dimensional person sitting in front of me. Hmm, I thought. Maybe she’s just born with it.
But no, she’s not. And she’s made it her goal to leave her clients feeling happy in their own skin.
After graduating from medical school in Trinidad at the UWI St. Augustine campus in 2007, Dr. Dolly went onto complete an elective in Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and an externship at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. Despite being interested in dermatology from before even graduating medical school, it was a case that she encountered as a medical student of cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) that truly piqued her interest into skin.
In 2014, after spending four years during her residency at SUNY Downstate, she went on to do her fellowship in advanced medical dermatology – learning even more about the CTCL that interested her in the specialization in the first place, as well as learning more about connective tissue diseases. She then did a second fellowship in dermatopathology – becoming one of the few Caribbean doctors to specialize in the field.
“That’s the core of dermatology,” she explained. “You need to understand skin and what’s going on, not just by looking at the patient, but by looking in the microscopic level. Knowing that there’s a sparsity of dermatopathologists in the Caribbean, I felt it was very important for me to not only like it, but to be able to study it and do it myself.”
So wait… what exactly is dermatopathology? Well, simply put, it allows her to study the skin at the molecular level. This allows her to read skin biopsies and to look at and treat all types of skin cancers, like melanoma, basal and squamous cell carcinomas, and even cutaneous T cell lymphomas – the very disease that sent her on this journey in the first place.
But perhaps Dr. Dolly’s favourite part of being a dermatologist is that she’s able to do more than just one thing – meaning that despite her passion for dermatopathology, she also practices medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatology within her own clinic, Retouched by ND.
“I like the fact that the skin is the largest organ,” Dr. Dolly said. “It’s responsible, and can show many signs of both internal diseases and diseases that are very much only specific to the skin.”
It’s true – in fact, usually if a body is in distress, the skin is the first organ that will show symptoms. And that remains the same for all ages and genders. The skin truly shows no bias.
“I always had a love for both paediatric and adult medicine, and as a dermatologist, you’re able to see both children and adults, both men and women, so you don’t have to only see one,” Dr. Dolly added, noting her favourite part about practicing general dermatology. “I’m able to treat all different phases of life, which I like because I never wanted to see myself only doing A, B or C.”
At her clinic, located on Petra Street in Woodbrook, Dr. Dolly sees up to 30 patients a day – and no day is ever the same. She’s had to switch between reading skin biopsies, treating skin manifestations of lupus, helping clients with acne, injecting Botox, eliminating stubborn fat areas with body contouring technology and doing skin analyses. It’s a broad scope of work – but it’s all in a day’s work for Dr. Dolly, and she likes it that way.
“It makes our job very broad, but it also makes it very interesting,” Dr. Dolly noted. “Because we don’t always see the same thing every time, and that’s what I love about it.”
She’s able to do all of this with the help of her incredible support staff, which includes a medical aesthetician and two medical assistants. Along with her administrative staff, and her co-director in the company, her brother, everything about Retouched by ND runs smoothly – much like her clients’ skin. In dermatology, and especially in Dr. Dolly’s practice, no two days are the same, and her staff handles switching like pros.
And it’s busier than ever – especially as Dr. Dolly remains working part-time at a private practice in Manhasset, New York called Brody Dermatology. For the most part, she spends one week in her clinic in Trinidad, and the other in New York treating her mostly-medical patients.
“Sometimes I have to be switching modes in one day between surgery, cosmetic and medical treatments – and the fields are very different,” she said. “Sometimes my cosmetic patients don’t realize that I see general dermatology, and my medical dermatology patients don’t realize that I do cosmetic.”
While the constant back and forth can be a lot, Dr. Dolly actually enjoys it, because it keeps her up-to-date on the latest trends in dermatology that are practiced around the world. The United States is worlds ahead of Trinidad in the medical field, and practicing in both countries allows her to see the newest practices, and to figure out how to adopt them into our own society, and how to adapt them for our climate, our people and our skin.
“Medicine was not invented in the Caribbean. Education would have been based on the cultural norms that existed [where it was created], and we have different norms in Trinidad,” she explained. “So as a doctor, I’m not supposed to just say what exists, but I have to blend what the cultural practice and the society expectations are in Trinidad, with what I know. We have to try to see where we can find a common ground, or else we wouldn’t be effectively treating patients.”
This especially is seen in the cosmetic industry. It’s constantly updating, and new must-try services are popping up all over the world almost every month, and it’s easy to understand why people are quick to try it all. Dr. Dolly is very insightful in terms of what she offers in her clinic, but she sees the interest in cosmetic dermatology in Trinidad.
“Trinidad, we’re always known to have the most beautiful women,” she offered. “Cosmetic dermatology is becoming very popular because our world is very image-centric, and I’d say we have somewhat of a South American attitude when it comes to image and how we look.”
Most of it has to do with anti-aging.
“Nobody wants to look their age,” she said, with a laugh. “That’s where cosmetic dermatology comes in.”
And Dr. Dolly, who’s 34, doesn’t look her age at all. Her almost baby-like skin puts my mid-20s skin to shame, and has me signing up for the next available evaluation at her clinic.
It’s a combination of a great routine – she recommends talking to a dermatologist to figure out your skin type and tailoring products to suit; avoiding excessive sun exposure – because wearing SPF only protects from UVB light and not UVA blockage; anti-aging and preventative neuromodulators – to target wrinkles in her early 30s, something she barely even has to use anymore; and practicing proper skincare – which means avoiding makeup when possible, and cleansing properly when you do wear it.
“I do engage in simple things like chemical peels and microdermabrasions – which jumpstarts the exfoliation process and forces the skin to not be lazy,” she added. “The minute our skin gets lazy, it starts to get dull, you start to see wrinkles, your acne isn’t in control, your melasma isn’t in control, and that’s where you start seeing problems.”
And while dermatology is typically an expensive field, filled with overpriced products and amenities, Retouched by ND remains affordable considering the quality of the medication, treatment and services you receive – and that’s entirely due to Dr. Dolly’s commitment to accessibility.
“I don’t believe that something needs to become unaffordable to be considered quality, because then that would be inaccessible,” she explained. “Because the truth of the matter is even if it’s just considered cosmetic, sometimes patients do develop a lot of anxiety off of some aspect of their skin, so for you to make something like that unaffordable, it really does not speak for what you’re doing in terms of offering a service.”