The first thing I notice about Stefani Kappel, MD, is her peep-toe, patent leather Louboutins®. Not because they’re stunning — although of course they are — but because it’s 3 p.m. and I’m mystified as to how she’s still standing in such a daring shoe choice.
Dr. Kappel and I are meeting at a dermatological convention in Chicago. For the derms, the event involves running around a vast convention center, interspersed with significant stretches of standing. Yet, Dr. Kappel doesn’t have the affect of someone who’s spent the entire day in 6”ers. Instead, the California native is brimming with bubbly energy, shedding sunshine into even the drabbest of spaces — fluorescently-lit Chicago convention hall included.
Of course, Dr. Kappel is more than stylish kicks and smiles. She is also a board-certified dermatologist — and one who cares deeply about her patients. “I adore each and every one of them,” she gushes. One way she expresses appreciation is through social media; namely, Dr. Kappel uses Instagram® to interact with patients outside of the office, sharing snippets of her personal life, skincare routine, and overall good vibes.
“Many of my patients follow me, so I feel like they're like my family, my friends,” she says. “They're my little patient population who know me, my kids, and what I did over the weekend.”
Another feather in Dr. Kappel’s social media cap: YoungrTM by Stefani Kappel, MD, her Youtube® channel with a 10.5K-person following. Take a peek, and you’ll see skin-centric videos like Layer Skin Care Like a DermatologistTM, or Why Lasers Are the Future of Skincare!TM In addition to her professional knowledge, the University of California Irvine® Medical School graduate embodies other qualities of a successful YouTuber: an upbeat tone, down-to-earth delivery, and a knack for presenting well on camera.
Below, Dr. Kappel spills more on her social media tactics; plus, how she spends her free time, and why she wears sunscreen ‘round the clock — even at night.
Spotlyte: How did you get into dermatology in the first place?
Dr. Stefani Kappel: During my second year of medical school, I just fell in love with this specialty. I thought it was fascinating that you could correlate clinical disease with things under the microscope — and then [use that information to] treat patients.
Spotlyte: What types of cases do you find most difficult?
SK: Honestly, some of the most challenging cases for me are when there's an adolescent who has acne, and their parents may not be open-minded to certain [acne] treatments.
SK: Because, as a dermatologist, I know that not treating their acne [can] have long-term effects on their life later on — like acne scarring. By depriving him or her of that therapy [in their teens], they may have long-term side effects [that could have otherwise been prevented]. It's a hard conversation to have [with teens’ parents], and it makes me sad when they aren’t open-minded.
Spotlyte: How did you get into the aesthetic space specifically?
SK: I trained at UC Irvine in Orange County, where there were some [aesthetic] clinics. I had access to the Beckman Laser InstituteTM, so I was introduced to lasers and energy devices at a young age. I was like a kid in a candy store.
Spotlyte: Since you first started using lasers, have you noticed that they’ve become more popular?
SK: Absolutely. I feel like my patient demographic is a little bit different, too. [Nowadays], my patients are younger, usually millennials.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Spotlyte: Are there any aesthetic trends that you’ve seen really blowing up in the past few years?
SK: Male aesthetics are really trending now! I'm so happy for our guys.
SK: I've had a lot more male patients come in for lip filler. I’ve also seen them upping their injectable wrinkle reducer game a little bit.
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.
Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.
Spotlyte: Is there a reason you opt for mineral sunblock over chemical SPF?
SK: Mineral-based sunscreen actually protects you against the whole UV spectrum.
Spotlyte: Care to elaborate?
SK: [In terms of] the spectrum where the UV light can affect the skin, it’s UVA1, UVA2, and UVB. A lot of the chemical sunscreens will sometimes [work] piecemeal across that spectrum — but if you use a good zinc oxide or titanium dioxide [i.e. physical blocker] sunscreen, you’ll be protected against the entire UV spectrum.
Spotlyte: You never skip sunscreen, it sounds like.
SK: I am such a nerd — I always wear sunscreen, even at night when I'm on my computer. In this day and age, we have to worry about high energy visible (HEV) blue light. That high energy visible light can break down collagen and cause premature aging. And [some newer] mineral-based sunscreens protect against that, too.
Spotlyte: Any specific mineral-based sunscreens or sunscreen brands you prefer?
SK: I like Tizo®. It has iron oxide in it, too, which protects against the blue [light]. I also like Colorescience®. SkinMedica® has really great, smart sunscreens as well.
Spotlyte: Any tips for choosing a mineral-based sunscreen?
SK: I always say to look for zinc or titanium [dioxide] at eight percent or higher.
Spotlyte: When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
SK: I love what I do, so I love working. But, when I'm not working, I love fitness. BarreTM is my favorite — I'm obsessed. I also love spending time outdoors. I live on the beach; I love surfing and beach volleyball. I also love listening to live music. I have my favorite DJs and producers.
Spotlyte: Who's your favorite DJ?
SK: I love Rufus Du SolTM. They're one of my favorites. It's so funny (I don't usually admit this), but I love grimy EDM [electronic dance music]. I think it's so genius to see DJs mix.
Of course, I also love spending time with family and friends. I have two kids, so they're my life. I adore them.
Spotlyte: I'm sure you're telling them to wear sunscreen, all the time.
SK: Of course. They're like, "My mom's a dermatologist. I have to wear sunscreen" — while they’re caked in white sunscreen. I'm trying to teach them at a young age that it’s important to take care of their skin.
Spotlyte: With two kids, do you feel like it's hard to balance work and personal time?
SK: It is. Time management is always a challenge, because work can consume you, especially if you really love what you do. I never stop thinking about my patients.
So, it is hard to balance: when I'm at work, I feel like, oh shoot, I'm not being a mom. But then, when I'm with my kids, I'm like, oh shoot, I'm not seeing my patients. But it's fun — and that's what keeps me going.
Spotlyte: What is the most challenging part of your job?
SK: Sometimes patients become overzealous, or they [want to] overcompensate.
Spotlyte: For instance?
SK: They might say, “Well, gosh, I had this great response to this laser — now I want [more]." And I'm like, no! It doesn't have to be that way. Like — don't become all-consumed by it!
Or even — I'll talk about different skincare products on my YouTube channel. There are so many different active ingredients you can use . . . and [some] people want to use every single one. But they don't have to use every single one! It’s like anything in life: moderation.
It's great that people are so motivated and so passionate about skincare. But you have to hold them back sometimes.
Spotlyte: Do you think social media plays a role in people’s obsession with trying any and every new skincare ingredient on the market?
SK: As doctors, when we're prescribing a new [product] or a new technology, usually we'll go by evidence-based medicine or FDA approval. But, [because of social media], anybody can say anything about anything. You could be an influencer or a celebrity selling a [skincare] product.
So, as a physician, an unexpected part of your job is that you have a moral obligation to protect people from buying the wrong thing — but you also don't want to hurt business for someone else. It's a delicate balance.
Spotlyte: How is social media important to you from a work standpoint?
SK: It's important to really vibe with your patient population and have them know where you're coming from. In my case, [I show] what I do to protect my skin — so, if I'm on the beach, in the water, [I’ll be] using sunscreen.
Spotlyte: You have a sizable following and people are engaged. Have you always been interested in social media?
SK: I love it. [If I weren’t a derm], I think I would still use it just for fun with my friends. It's fun to share ideas and information.
Spotlyte: How so?
SK: For example, in the fitness space: If I want to learn a new technique or set or [discover] fun athletic gear, I’ll be all over social media [looking for things]. I think it makes everybody better able to share ideas and be on the forefront of what's the latest technology [for] whatever space they’re in.
Spotlyte: How has social media impacted your relationship with your patients?
SK: Most of my patients who come to see me vibe with me. It's really fun to have that rapport with my patients. I love helping them and seeing their progress over time. It's so rewarding for me. I live for that.
Dr. Stefani Kappel is a paid Allergan® consultant.
SkinMedica® is an Allergan®-owned skincare line.