How Being Teased About Vitiligo Inspired This Dermatologist’s Career

As early as kindergarten, board-certified dermatologist Devika Icecreamwala, MD, was fielding questions about skin. These days, patients ask for her advice, but her circumstances were different at age 5: Dr. Icecreamwala had been diagnosed with vitiligo and was teased by her peers for her condition.

“Basically, your skin loses pigment,” explains Dr. Icecreamwala. “It involved a lot of my face, my hands, my legs, and places that were really visible to people. Early on, I just felt very insecure in my own skin.” While there is no cure for vitiligo, a variety of treatments (and makeup) certainly helped Dr. Icecreamwala over the years. The experience inspired her decision to become a doctor — which would ultimately entail relocating all over the country.

After grade school, the Apple Valley native left California to complete a combined undergraduate and medical school program at the University of Missouri®, Kansas City. Upon graduating, she moved to New York to be with her now-husband Kinjal Icecreamwala, and spent her intern year in the Long Island Jewish Health System℠. After Dr. Icecreamwala’s stint in Detroit for a dermatology residency and pediatric dermatology fellowship at Henry Ford® Hospital, they moved to the Bay Area and she opened her practice. 

As an homage to her last name, Dr. Icecreamwala’s office includes ice cream-themed decor — and there’s talks about serving the frozen treat in the future. But, more importantly, the 30-year-old dermatologist is focused on having a welcoming space to educate her patients, eradicating their skin concerns, and personally trying treatments so she can speak about them from a first-hand perspective. After all, her ability to relate and her desire to help others is what motivated her to become a doctor in the first place. 

Dr. Icecreamwala


Spotlyte: Besides your career path, how did having vitiligo impact your life?

Dr. Devika Icecreamwala: I know how uncomfortable it is to be uncomfortable in your own skin, and how much it really does matter, in terms of your self-esteem, and the way the world perceives you. 

Spotlyte: Is there a cure for vitiligo?

DI: There’s not a cure for vitiligo. Everybody’s a little bit different. For some people, it just kind of gets better on its own. For some people, it’s something they’re battling throughout most of their lives. For me, I tried a lot of topical stuff, [such as] topical steroids. I also did light therapy. I also was on [medication] for a few periods of my life.

EDITOR’S NOTE  As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment or medication.

Spotlyte: What worked the best for your vitiligo?

DI: I actually got really lucky that the combination of some of these treatments helped the pigment on my face, so it’s not really as noticeable. The vitiligo on my feet has completely gone away. I still do have little parts on my body, but they’re very easily hideable. Good makeup has been helpful as well.

Spotlyte: What kind of makeup do you use?

DI: I primarily just use eyeliner, mascara, and then a little bit of blush. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but my favorite [concealer] brand is bareMinerals

Spotlyte: Before applying makeup, what is your skincare routine?

DI: In the morning, I use an Obagi® CLENZIderm® MD Daily Care Foaming Cleanser, and then immediately afterwards, my favorite product is SkinCeuticals® C E Ferulic®. I put that all over my face and my neck. Then, I use the Elta MD® UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Sunscreen.  

Spotlyte: What is your evening skincare routine?

DI: I use a simple micellar water to remove my makeup. Then, I use the Obagi cleanser again. I alternate with a retinol, so I use the SkinCeuticals retinol 0.5, and I use it every other day. Then, I put on the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid moisturizer right on top of it.

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 are the most popular treatments in your office?

DI: In Berkeley — last year and this year, with the California fires — the air pollution quality was absolutely horrible. There is something that we offer called the Anti-Pollution Peel℠. It’s a very sensitive peel that has lactic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin D in it. That gently exfoliates the skin. That’s actually become one of our most popular procedures. A lot of people came in asking for that during the California fires, and then everyone just kept getting them once a month.

Spotlyte: Do you get injectables?

DI: I do. I get [injectable wrinkle reducers] in my forehead, my frown lines, and also in my crows feet.

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.] 

Spotlyte: What other treatments do you get?

DI: I like to try everything that we offer in our office at least once. Everybody in Berkeley is very ingredient-focused, so I like to look through all the ingredients and test them out. I have done all of the chemicals peels that we offer in the office and lasers. I’ve tried fillers. I don’t get them regularly, but I wanted to try them, so I know how to explain it to people and explain what to expect afterwards. I’ve done microneedling and microneedling with platelet-rich plasma.

EDITOR’S NOTE  Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.

Spotlyte: Of all the treatments you’ve tried, which do you get regularly?

DI: I do injectable wrinkle reducers regularly. The other ones I just try from time to time.

EDITOR’S NOTE  Injectable wrinkle reducers should not be used more frequently than every three months.

Dr. Icecreamwala


Spotlyte: So — your last name has “ice cream” in it. Tell us about that.

DI: My husband’s family used to make and sell ice cream in India. Wallah means “seller of,” so we are the people of ice cream. They don’t sell ice cream anymore, but it started when the British came and occupied India — so it was around the 1950s when they were actually making ice cream. That’s where our last name came from.

Spotlyte: Besides the decor in your office, how has your last name impacted your career? Any plans to serve treats alongside treatments?

DI: We’ll eat a lot of ice cream. We make ice cream at home, but we’re not actually doing it professionally.

Maybe eventually we will start selling ice cream. It’s not something we’ve tried to do yet, but it’s definitely something that we’ve thought about. Everybody in the Bay has a little bit of a different preference. We’d have to serve vegan ice cream, and a lot of different types of ice cream.

Spotlyte: What are your favorite ice cream shops, brands, and flavors?

DI: We’re in the Bay area, so we have a lot of fun ice cream startups around. Humphry Slocombe® and Three Twins® Ice Cream are really popular. In general, my favorite flavor is anything that has any form of cinnamon in it — cinnamon, holiday spice-flavored ice cream. I like the holidays a lot.

Spotlyte: Besides eating ice cream, what are your favorite things to do outside the office?

DI: One of my favorite things is to actually watch the California sunrise. And I really, really like to run. We live very close to the Berkeley Hills, and we work very close to the Berkeley Hills, so there’s this park called Tilden Park that my husband and I try to run up to every morning. That way, we get a nice run in before we start our day, and I also get to watch the California sunrise, which is really beautiful. I try to run about three to four miles on a weekday. On the weekend, I’ll try to do something a little bit longer — maybe six miles.

After that, I’ll grab breakfast at the Berkeley Bowl®. It’s a really popular organic grocery store. It has a tremendous amount of interesting vegetables. I like to go there and grab an interesting piece of fruit, or get breakfast there. 

Spotlyte: Speaking of your husband Kinjal, does he help with the business?

DI: He doesn’t work with me in the office, but he’s really, really helpful. He was a business major. Anytime I have a question about anything, or need some guidance, he’s just really helpful to offer a lending hand. He and I did this together, and he’s been a really great partner.

Spotlyte: What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

DI: The most rewarding thing is to be able to educate people about their skin and their facial structure, and what would be the best for them. There’s so much information out there about skincare. There’s not really a perfect ingredient or a perfect procedure that’s for everybody.

People appreciate that as well, because they’re like, “Oh, OK. I get it. I know this new skincare routine and it’s working.” Or, “I got this new filler and it actually makes the difference that I wanted it to make.” So, that’s a very rewarding part of what I do every day.

Spotlyte: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

DI: Cases such as vitiligo, where there are a lot of treatments that we can try, but I can never definitively say if something’s going to really work. I always tell my patients that it’s a relationship: we try to get to know each other as much as possible. We’re going to work together to try to find something that works. It may not be the first time around, though. I think it’s really challenging for me because, ideally, I would just love to give them something and say, “Alright. Use this, and you’re going to be cured forever.”

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