Plastic Surgeon Dr. Trent Douglas on How Military Service Shaped His Practice and His Skincare Routine

Plastic Surgeon Dr. Trent Douglas on How Military Service Shaped His Practice and His Skincare Routine

You may not think the military has anything to do with plastic surgery, but five minutes of conversation with San Diego-based board-certified plastic surgeon Trent Douglas, MD tells a different story. Though he was bitten by the plastic surgery bug as a medical student at Emory University®, it was his 22 years in the Navy that really made him into the sought-after surgeon he is today. 

Many of us tend to think of plastic surgery as all boobs and butts, and nips and tucks — and almost always elective. But, according to Dr. Douglas, it’s much more than that. “General [plastic] surgery is all about having the competence and the ability to work all over the body,” he says. And that’s exactly why people like him, specifically other surgeons like him: his skills are an incredible asset in a military setting.

It was through his three deployments, humanitarian aid missions to Southeast Asia, and an almost year-long stint at a NATO hospital in Afghanistan that he really came to understand the power of plastic surgery. He credits the development of his expertise not only to dealing with complex battlefield injuries first-hand, but also to closely collaborating with colleagues from other specialties. 

“To put these guys back together after very traumatic IED blast injuries required a lot of surgeries and teams of specialists working across the board,” he explains. He often found himself working alongside (and learning from) neurosurgeons, ENTs, orthopedic surgeons, and even dermatologists. It was those derms, for instance, who taught him about the power of lasers, particularly when it comes to scar treatment. “Using the best of all specialties gets the best possible outcome,” he says.

These days, at his new private practice, Restore SD℠ Plastic Surgery, his patients are more often looking for anti-aging options than reconstruction. That doesn’t mean his philosophy has changed. (In fact, he still takes TRICARETM military insurance so he and his partner, fellow Navy veteran Katerina Gallus, MD, can continue to treat the military and their families.) “There really is no difference between aesthetic and reconstructive surgery,” he insists. “It’s the same fundamental principles.” 

His eye for reconstruction is particularly helpful when performing mommy makeovers and tummy tucks, which have become a sort of de facto speciality of his. The common theme among most of his patients, he’s noticed, is that they’re not asking for huge overhauls. Instead, they are just hoping to get back to where they were at a previous point in their lives, like before they had kids. “They’re looking to regain a sense of femininity, as well as improve their body image and self-esteem,” he notes. He achieves this through a fully customized and multi-faceted treatment plan for every patient that he can ensure them will give them the most subtle-looking results.

His philosophy for all his patients is simple. “We aim to give very age-appropriate and very natural-looking results [with surgery], so that people should have to really guess if you've ever had anything done,” he says. In a short time, it’s become his niche. He’s noticed most patients who come to him are asking for less aggressive facelifts, smaller breast implants, and gradual tweaks instead of the big, drastic results of yesteryear. And that’s a niche he’s more than happy to fill. “We all have to age, but let’s age appropriately,” he quips.

While he’s seen plenty of success working in a city like San Diego, the locale presents some unique challenges. Dr. Douglas, while becoming one of the area’s go-to surgeons, has also become a vocal advocate for patient safety. “San Diego is a border town, and there is medical tourism going on,” he says, referring to the close proximity to Tijuana, Mexico, a long-standing plastic surgery hub. “We see some terrible complications from cases done over the border.” 

That’s partly why Dr. Douglas believes that the most important part of his job is educating potential patients, particularly when it comes to how they choose their surgeon. “It all boils down to patients looking at price, but I tell them to look at value instead,” he says. Remember, you get what you pay for! Instead of looking just at the price tag, he advises, potential patients should look at the board-certifications of everyone, including the anesthesiologist; ask how often they would see the actual doctor (not an assistant); and make sure there is a complete doctor-supervised after-care plan. And don’t get wrapped up in marketing: “It really is up to the patient to properly vet potential surgeons and make sure they are legitimate,” he says.

Lately, conversations around aesthetics have started to hit home, as his children become teenagers. “My son is navigating the whole acne thing, and he was getting teased about it,” he says. “It’s a socially-conscious issue for him.” Through laser treatments, he’s helped his son deal with acne so effectively that his friends and their families have started to make appointments, too. But that doesn’t mean Dr. Douglas’ own family is flocking to his practice. 

“I tell my wife and daughter the same thing I tell all my patients: ‘You’re just fine the way you are, but if you have issues you want to talk about, I’m happy to work with you,’” he says. “In aesthetic medicine, we’re doing elective procedures to help people feel better about [their appearance].” His treatments always put the patient first, and that philosophy will always guide his practice and his hand.

His less-is-more attitude even extends to his own skincare and treatment routine, but what he really does for himself may surprise you. Read on for his inside-out skincare tip, why he loves lasers, and his tried-and-true hair product hack.

Calming Rosacea From the Inside

“I have battled rosacea for most of my adult life,” he says. “I was doing everything my dermatologist told me, like [certain] sulfa drugs and tetracycline, but still not having a breakthrough.” That changed when he discovered a collagen drink called Skinade® ($165 for a 30-day supply). After a month of drinking it every day, he noticed his skin calming down, and now he hasn’t had a rosacea flare up in over a year. He still drinks a bottle of Skinade every day as the cornerstone of his skincare routine (“It’s replaced my afternoon Diet Coke®,” he laughs).

[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment.]

Keep It Simple

Because of his rosacea, he’s learned that the best skincare routine for him is a simple one. It relies on just a few products he’s found work for him through extensive trial and error. “I’ve tried just about every skincare product, but the one I really noticed a difference with was the Replenix® Gentle Antioxidant Soothing Cleanser because of the anti-inflammatory and calming effects,” he says. He follows that up with ZO Skin HealthTM Exfoliating Polish a couple of times a week and ZO Skin Health Daily Power Defense Serum. And, of course, since he lives in California, it’s all topped off with sunscreen (he favors his own private label version which can only be purchased at his practice.)

Light It Up

The products Dr. Douglas uses on his skin might be simple, but his personal treatment routine depends on some major technology. “I do IPL about every four months for vascular reduction and rosacea treatment,” he says. “I also do the Lightstim® red light infrared treatment for 20 minutes about twice a week.” He wasn’t convinced about the efficacy Lightstim until he started using it himself and saw what it did for his own skin, he says.

His Guilty Pleasure

“My guilty pleasure is DiamondGlowTM facials,” he says, noting that he likes the hydrating aspect and serum infusion. He believes in results, and never brings new technology into his practice without seeing results firsthand. That said, the seal of approval for DiamondGlow actually came from his wife. “The first time I did it, I went home and my wife was like, ‘What did you do?,’” he laughs.

No Injectables RIght Now, But He’ll Likely Use Them in the Future

His wife, it seems, is his biggest barometer for what is working for him and what isn’t. “I have done injectable wrinkle reducers in the past, but my wife told me I didn’t need it, and she’s usually my gauge on those things,” he says. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t believe in the power of injectables. Injectable wrinkle reducers are a growing part of his practice and factor into many of his patients’ treatment plans, but “it’s very much individual to each person’s face,” he says. 

For now, he’s more focused on his skincare routine, but notes that he’ll probably incorporate injectable wrinkle reducers into his aesthetics regimen in the future.

[Editor’s note: 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. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.

Military Grooming Lessons

Grooming while in the military is its own animal, but his time spent in the service did bring one surprising change. “I was usually just happy to have a hot shower,” he jokes. It was in Afghanistan that he stopped using bar soap, which he realized was overdrying his skin. “Liquid body wash was all they had, but I found that it’s nonreactive to my skin and didn’t set off my rosacea,” he says. Now he uses Old Spice® Body Wash to keep his skin moisturized and healthy instead of dry and crackly.

Shaving While Sensitive

For Dr. Douglas, and many other men who struggle with rosacea, shaving can present a particular issue. It can cause additional sensitivity and irritation, and make rosacea worse. He’s found that it all comes down to what shaving cream he’s using. “I love C.O. Bigelow® Premium Shaving Cream because it doesn’t irritate my skin,” he says. “It has eucalyptus in it, so it also smells good.” The only problem is that since his son is shaving now, too, the product gets used up more quickly than it should!

Favorite Hair Hack

To keep his thick hair in place, Dr. Douglas favors Joico® Molding Clay, but found that it’s slightly thick and hard to work through his hair. His solution? “I run it under warm water so it smooths it out,” he says. “I’ve cut down how much I need to use by half with the warm water trick.” He uses a dime-sized amount, runs it under a warm tap, and works it through his hair. “For anyone with a full head of hair that’s thick and hard to control like mine, it’s a great product,” he says.

DiamondGlowTM is an Allergan®-owned treatment.

DiamondGlowTM Important Safety Information

Indication and Use

The DiamondGlowTM device is indicated for general dermabrasion of the skin and also delivers topical cosmetic serums onto the skin.

Important Safety Information

DiamondGlowTM is contraindicated in patients who are pregnant or lactating, have compromised skin quality including but not limited to, sunburned, chapped, irritated or broken skin, open wounds, active, weeping acne, cold sores, or herpetic ulcers. Ask your patient about any medical conditions, including allergies, and usage of topical medication on the area to be treated.

Typical side effects include a scratchy, stinging sensation during the treatment and temporary tightness, redness or slight swelling after the treatment. Rare serious side effects may also occur and include severe skin irritation and allergic reactions. Cease use of the device immediately if any of these serious side effects are observed.

Patients should be advised to use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher following treatment.

Consult the DiamondGlowTM User Manual for a complete list of Contraindications, Warnings, Precautions, and potential side effects.

Pro‐Infusion Serums Disclaimer

The Pro‐Infusion Serums are intended to meet the FDA’s definition of a cosmetic product, an article applied to the human body to cleanse, beautify, promote attractiveness, and alter appearances. These products are not intended to be drugs that diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. These products have not been approved by the FDA and the statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.