Board-certified dermatologist Sabrina Guillen Fabi, MD knew early on that she wanted to become a doctor and a reporter. With a lot of hard work, she’s now able to say she’s both.
In elementary school, Dr. Fabi decided that she would become a doctor when she grew up, because she wanted to help relieve people’s pain. However, it wasn’t until she struggled with childhood eczema, then developed acne at age 12, that she narrowed down her preferred specialty to dermatology. She started working for her childhood dermatologist, David Lorber, MD, during summers away from college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignsm; he continues to be a role model and constant source of inspiration to her to this day. After undergrad, Dr. Fabi received her medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago® College of Medicine, and ultimately completed a dermatology fellowship at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology℠, where she currently practices in the partnership Goladman Butterwick Groff Fabi Wu & Boen.
Despite her pursuit of one of the most hard-working careers in America, she still finds time to teach in her role as a Volunteer Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California® at San Diego and serve as a Diplomate of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery®. And, yes, she also works at her other dream job as a reporter; Dr. Fabi hosts a weekly local FOX® 5 medical news segment, during which she discusses everything health-related, from dermatology to Alzheimer’s.
When Dr. Fabi isn’t in the office, teaching, writing papers, or appearing on TV, she’s traveling the world. Throughout her upbringing in Chicago, Dr. Fabi took trips around the world with her mother, who owned multiple travel agencies serving the Latino community. These adventures inspired Dr. Fabi’s love for exploring the globe. (Case in point: in the summer of 2019, she visited Ecuador, France, Lebanon, the Amazon, Monaco, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Bangkok, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece!) In fact, when conducting our interview with her, Dr. Fabi spoke with us as she was globetrotting around the Great Barrier Reef. Read on for our chat with the on-air (and frequently in-air) doctor.
Spotlyte: What about your job excites you the most?
Dr. Sabrina Fabi: I love the variety that my job affords me: being able to sculpt and meet my patients’ aesthetic concerns, and care for patients, as well as investigate a novel drug, injectable, or laser, and postulate what the implications are going to be for one of these new modalities. It’s exciting to see how I can perfect these things in order to get better results for my patients, as well as write it down and publish it, so that I can share it with colleagues from all over the world.
Spotlyte: What inspires you?
SF: What's most inspiring for me is helping my patients feel more confident as a result of the things that we do.
Spotlyte: Did you always want to be a dermatologist, specifically?
SF: At the age of six, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, mainly because I wanted to relieve people's pain, but it was at the age of 12 that I had a better idea as to what kind of doctor I wanted to be.
Spotlyte: What was the turning point for you?
SF: At the age of 12, I was hit with acne. I recognized the impact on overall self-esteem and the deeper impact that something as superficial as a skin condition could have on someone's overall confidence, and how they interact with the world. Having suffered with eczema all my life — childhood eczema, as well — I wanted to help people not have to go through what I went through.
Spotlyte: How did your childhood dermatologist set things in motion for your career?
SF: My dermatologist growing up was Dr. David Lorber. He is the type of person and doctor I wanted to be. I wanted to emulate him just because he had a wonderful bedside manner. You could trust him: he cared, and he was extremely competent and intelligent.
Spotlyte: Did your childhood dermatologist mentor you as well?
SF: I actually ended up working with him during college, during my summer months, to get a little bit more experience from the other side — not as a patient, but from the healthcare provider's side. That solidified my decision prior to applying to medical school.
Spotlyte: If you weren't a dermatologist, what would your profession be?
SF: I wanted to be a reporter. I get to do that every week as a medical correspondent. Another passion of mine is educating people, so I can empower them. I felt that with reporting I would be able to educate others about things that are happening; as a doctor, I am able to report on medical advances and what's possible, and the direction of the future of medicine.
Spotlyte: You live that dream as a medical correspondent during your FOX Your HealthTM news segment for FOX 5 in San Diego, each week.
SF: I've been doing it weekly for the last five years. I cover anything that's medical-related. I'm a medical doctor, not just a dermatologist, so I cover anything from cardiac disease and Alzheimer's to arthritis. It gives me a unique opportunity to learn what's going on in other fields. Ultimately, conditions don’t occur in a vacuum, and what affects one organ typically has an affect on others, including the skin.
Spotlyte: What are the most common skincare questions that you're asked?
SF: The most common question I get is, "When should I start my anti-aging protocol?" and "When should I start using antioxidants or retinol or growth factors?" I always tell my patients that you start aging the moment you're born. You need to start using mineral-based sunblock, first, because much of the damage that we get is from UVA and UVB, but also pollution.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
Spotlyte: What's the most challenging aspect of your job?
SF: Sometimes, it’s not being able to meet patients’ expectations of what non-surgical treatments can do. Especially today, with social media platforms, there might be unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved (especially with fillers), and for how long those results can be achieved, and what the maintenance on something like that looks like.
Spotlyte: How can social media be deceiving when it comes to treatments?
SF: You only see a before and after photo: you don't know what it takes to maintain [those results]. You also don't see all the prices on social media and what it cost that person to get that result. When patients come in, it's sometimes disappointing to them to learn what some of these procedures may cost. If they want [a major change], sometimes they may need surgery, and [that may not be what they] were planning to hear or talk about when they came in.
Spotlyte: What are some easy tips you have for patients?
SF: A good habit at night is washing your face with some type of light exfoliating cleanser (preferably [one that] has no beads and is either glycolic or salicylic acid-based) to get off all the pollution based particulate matter that sits on our face and ages us while we sleep. During the day, you not only want a good, mineral-based sunblock, but you want to be able to use an antioxidant serum. It's not just UV damage, it's also pollution that's aging us. That antioxidant that you apply on your skin helps protect from further cellular damage; sunblock doesn’t stop all UVA and UVB from penetrating the skin.
Spotlyte: What are the most requested treatments?
SF: We have over 50 different lasers and devices in our office, but 60 percent of what I do is still injectables. In my practice, I primarily do more dermal fillers than I do injectable [wrinkle reducers]. In the United States, neuromodulators are the number one [most used treatment], fillers number two.
Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Spotlyte: One of your interests is Ultherapy® — do you personally get it?
SF: I do Ultherapy every year and a half to two years.
Spotlyte: What other medical aesthetics treatments do you get?
SF: I [get] injectable wrinkle reducers. I do that regularly.
I [also] do a combination of an IPL combined with Clear + Brilliant®. I try to do that at least three times a year. I don't do filler [as often]. I would probably say I do it once every year and a half.
Spotlyte: What is a typical day in your shoes like?
SF: On a typical day, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. I meditate. I go through emails, and then I get ready in about 30 minutes. I have my coffee as I walk my dog, and then my day starts. I'm probably in the office around 7:30 a.m., depending on the day, and I go straight through. I have conference calls or see patients during lunch. My day is a mix of [administering] injectables, laser procedures, sclerotherapy, and sometimes liposuction. I do a lot of clinical research, so I see clinical research patients in between.
Spotlyte: What time does your day end?
SF: I typically am done around 5 p.m., and then I do one of my fitness classes, usually immediately after. I'll meet friends for dinner, or for a quick bite, or I may go home and work on my presentations and papers, since I do publish and teach a lot as well. I wind down at the end of the night for about an hour. I'll watch something on TV. Right now, I'm into The HeistTM. I go to bed around 10 p.m.
Spotlyte: What is your fitness regimen like?
SF: I love working out. I do a spin class at Pure Indoor Cycling®, probably once or twice a week, and Pilates at Club Pilates® at least once a week. I try to get in yoga at Yoga Six® once a week, and Barry’s Bootcamp®, when I can tolerate it. When I’m in town, what I really like to do is an outdoor yoga class in Balboa Park every Sunday.
Spotlyte: What does your morning skincare routine look like?
SF: In the morning I like to use the Neocutis® Neo Cleanse® Gentle Skin Cleanser. After that, I like to apply SkinMedica® TNS Recovery Complex®. I won't leave home without that, and I even travel with it. On top of that, if it's just a regular workday, I'll use Neocutis JourneeTM Moisturizer that has an SPF of 30.
Spotlyte: What does your evening skincare routine entail?
SF: At night, I'll use the Neocutis Neo Cleanse Exfoliating Cleanser because it's a chemical-based exfoliant, not a bead-based exfoliant. Beads can prove irritating and cause a lot of blood vessel [formation]. After I've done that, I will do a pea-sized amount of hyaluronic acid-based, prescription-grade tretinoin. I tolerate it a little bit better, and it's a little more moisturizing [than other prescription retinoids]. After that, I'll apply TNS Recovery Complex, followed by Neocutis Bio Cream Riche.
Spotlyte: What other extracurricular, fun activities do you really enjoy?
SF: I love to travel; I've been to 68 countries. Traveling is my passion. As a child, my mother owned travel agencies, so going to work with her was traveling to check out hotels and different tour operators. My brother and I both ended up with the travel bug. It’s allowed for me to have friends all over the world that I get to see, meet up with, and vacation with.
Spotlyte: What else are you passionate about?
SF: My passion is also trying to be the best expression of myself so that I can show up better for everybody else. It's not just about meeting goals. It's about me personally growing and being better as a human, which I have found takes as much work as all the rest of it.
Dr. Sabrina Fabi is a paid Allergan® consultant.
SkinMedica® is an Allergan-owned skincare line.
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