Growing up in Pensacola, Florida, board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, knew she wanted to do something science-oriented with her career. “We would spend our summer days on the beach,” she says. “I'd be learning the names of shells and fish, and at night, the constellations — that was my early intro into my love for science.”
Her passion for science sparked her interest to study biochemistry at Harvard College®, attend medical school at Columbia University®, train at Greenwich Hospital℠, and ultimately complete her dermatology residency at the Weill Medical College℠ of Cornell University®.
These days, Dr. King is based in New York — a far cry from sunny Florida. But, despite her zip code, she’s not always in the city. The 44-year-old travels to rural Maine once a month to take care of patients in an underserved area of the state. “It is like the polar opposite of practicing in Manhattan,” she explains. “It's hardcore medical dermatology.” Other recent travels have taken her overseas to Israel and Denmark, where she discovered delicious vegan food.
When Dr. King isn’t exploring the world, she enjoys touring art galleries and eating Mexican fare in Manhattan, as well as sharing where to go and what to order when cheese isn’t part of the menu. Keep reading to learn more about her, including her favorite treatments (both to administer and receive), the most challenging part of her job, and the “handsome” companion who joins her as she explores the city.
Spotlyte: Did you always want to be a doctor?
Dr. Hadley King: I was always math- and science-oriented. I did think [about pursuing] marine biology or being a veterinarian at some point, as most kids do. Starting in fifth grade, I was pretty into molecular biology — that probably sounds really nerdy. I thought I wanted to do more PhD-type lab work.
Spotlyte: How did your formal education shape your career?
HK: In undergrad, I was doing molecular biology and biochemistry. I started working in a lab, which definitely was amazing. It was the first time that [I was putting] all the stuff I'd been reading about and learning about into actual experiments.
Spotlyte: Were there any downsides to working in a lab?
HK: I got to experience the lifestyle after a while. For most scientists, it's fairly solitary: [you are] working on some tiny molecular question that not all that many people care about unless you make a really dramatic discovery. You're spending a lot of your extra time applying for grants to get funding.
Spotlyte: What made you ultimately decide to leave the lab and pursue dermatology?
HK: I decided that medicine might be a better fit for me. It's still science, but has a little bit more interaction with people. When I was applying for med school, I had the idea of dermatology. It was an area of medicine that I had more personal interaction and connection with.
Spotlyte: Do you think any childhood experiences may have planted a seed for your interest in dermatology?
HK: I had my own struggles with acne. And when I was a kid, we adopted a dog from the pound, and after, I came down with ringworm. My dog had ringworm! [Also], my dad has a fair Irish complexion. He was starting to struggle with skin cancer, and so I've seen that too.
Spotlyte: What’s the biggest difference between dermatology and other specialties?
HK: In medical school, as I was doing my rotations, the senior [dermatologist] could diagnose [some people] from across the room and also sometimes draw conclusions about what was going on internally. I was blown away by all of that. In [other fields of] medicine, a lot of it is lab results to figure out what's going on inside.
Spotlyte: Do you find that, as a dermatologist, you can focus on your favorite things?
HK: It's a great specialty in that you can tailor it to what you like. If you want to do more pediatrics, you can. If you want it to be more surgical, you can. If you want to do more [aesthetics], or more acne, or whatever, you can really tailor it to your interests, which is great.
Spotlyte: What treatments are the most popular in your office?
HK: Still, after all this time, injectable wrinkle reducers. We do a lot of lasers, radiofrequency, and fillers, also, but injectable wrinkle reducers are still number one.
Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. 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, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Spotlyte: Do you get injectable wrinkle reducers?
HK: I do. The area that it makes the biggest difference in [for me] is crow's feet.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Spotlyte: What is your morning skincare routine?
HK: I'll use a physical scrub that works for me because of all the retinoids I use. Right now, I'm using one from Revision Skincare®. Then I put on an antioxidant, like ISDINCEUTICS® Flavo-C® Ultraglican® Anti-Aging Serum or Revision Skincare Vitamin C, and then a moisturizer. Usually I apply Revision Skincare Intellishade® TruPhysical® Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45 and my makeup.
Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.
Spotlyte: What is your evening skincare regimen?
HK: I do use retinoids. They’re probably the thing I find most important for my skin. I'll wash my face with a gentle cleanser to get makeup and daily residue off. I'll put on a retinoid and usually GoodJanes® H²O My GodTM moisturizer. I also like Cetaphil®, CeraVe®, and Vichy® Aqualia Thermal® Rich Face Cream Moisturizer. After that, I apply eyelash growth serum.
Spotlyte: What makeup do you usually wear?
HK: I wear a little bit of Neutrogena® blush, a Neutrogena SPF lip color, and Laura Mercier® eye shadow. I also use Brush on Block® powder sunscreen for touch-ups during the day for SPF, without messing up my face.
Spotlyte: What kind of workouts are you into?
HK: I try to make it to the gym at least four times a week, and I love it. It's actually not a chore to me; it actually really makes me happier and I sleep better at night. I do prioritize that. I do weights and free weights, body weight things. I work out with a trainer sometimes to really push myself. I stay active. I do a lot of walking.
Spotlyte: When you're not in the office, what do you like to do for fun?
HK: I spend time with my dog, Milo. He's a Maltipoo. He's nine years old. He was groomed yesterday. He looks very handsome. It's fun walking around the city with him, exploring neighborhoods, popping into all the new shops and checking them out. That's one of my favorite things about living in New York — just exploring.
Last year, I had a great year of travel. I was in Israel for the first time for one of my best friend's weddings, so that was very special. I was in Denmark for the first time, which I very much enjoyed. It's just such a design-oriented culture. Everything looks so great, and minimalist, and cozy. I loved the aesthetics there. I am vegan, and the food was just next-level amazing.
Spotlyte: How long have you been vegan?
HK: I've been a vegetarian since high school, and then I started experimenting with veganism over the last five years. The first time I tried it, I definitely missed cheese a lot, and I went back to cheese after a while. Slowly, [though], my taste buds have changed. I don't crave it the same way.
Spotlyte: What are your favorite restaurants in New York City?
HK: Something I love about living in New York City is that all the food options are amazing and, especially now, everyone caters to plant food. Out of vegan places, I love Mexican food: Jajaja℠ and Bar Verde℠. There is a vegan ceviche at Jajaja that I really like that has hearts of palm. I really like the mushroom tacos at Bar Verde. And I love guacamole. Their margaritas are amazing, because they’re made with fresh fruit juices. They’re just really great. Not too sweet.
Dirt Candy℠ is a very popular vegan place that definitely deserves all of the attention that it gets. It's amazing. It's been fun to see the popularity of all these options increasing with the Impossible BurgerTM and the Beyond Burger®, which I still treat as a junk food splurge.
Spotlyte: Are there ever situations where you revert back?
HK: Situations come up, at a business dinner or a business lunch, where it's just more comfortable for me to not bring attention to myself as being different. And, in certain situations, if I'm given a gift or something, I'll eat the fancy chocolate, absolutely. That makes my diet more sustainable, the fact that it's not so rigid.
Spotlyte: In addition to exploring the city with Milo, you’re really into art.
HK: I like art and art galleries. For years, I was a junior associate at MoMA®, which I love. Unfortunately, I aged out, but I still like to go. Now, I'm involved in Park Avenue Armory’s℠ Avant-Garde group. It’s nice to get to spend time with other people who are into the arts and see performances and things like that. I've taken a little bit of art history, but I'm not super educated on it. I definitely appreciate it. Spending time with a group like the junior associates helps me get more exposure.
I tend to like very detailed drawings or paintings, ones that are very lifelike. I enjoy that. I also like some abstract stuff, which is totally different. I like Edward Hopper's paintings. I love his use of light.
Spotlyte: Do you enjoy traveling for art fairs and exhibitions?
HK: I have gone to BaselTM in Miami a few times, and it's certainly fun. Gosh, it's overwhelming. There's so much art to see. I always love to check out art museums when I travel.
Spotlyte: Speaking of travel, you go to Maine pretty frequently for work.
HK: I go once a month to Presque Isle, Maine, which is far north in Maine. I work three or four days a month there. It is an underserved area. They have no dermatologists. I have a colleague who has been spending time up there for almost 15 years, and he's been trying to talk me into joining him forever. I just started doing it over the past year. That's been a really nice addition to my dermatology life. It is like the polar opposite of practicing in Manhattan. It's hardcore medical dermatology.
Spotlyte: Are there no aesthetics in the Maine practice?
HK: Definitely no aesthetics. We see lots of psoriasis. There are a lot of potato farmers, so a lot of skin cancer, psoriasis, and eczema, because of the long, dark, cold, dry winters; things like psoriasis and eczema flare up.
Spotlyte: In Maine and Manhattan, what's the most challenging part of your job?
HK: Diagnosing melanoma is one of the hardest things that dermatologists do, particularly in people who have a lot of moles and a lot of atypical-looking moles. Deciding which mole to biopsy is hard.
From a more [aesthetic] point, it’s making sure that I'm on the same page as the patient, and trying to figure out exactly what their expectations are and exactly what they're looking for. If they ask me, I'm certainly very happy to tell them what I would recommend when I look at their face, but the most important thing is what they're noticing and what bothers them. It’s trying to suss all that out, and then making sure that their expectations are realistic. That's the right recipe to end up with a very satisfied, happy patient.
Spotlyte: What kind of patients do you turn away, if any?
HK: People who have had a lot of injectables done fairly recently and still feel like they need more, especially if they were just seen by someone else who did the injections but it hasn't even been a month. I definitely don't feel comfortable going along with that. I've had a few patients who I felt were too young, so I discouraged them.
Injectable wrinkle reducers should not be used more frequently than every three months.
Spotlyte: What about your job excites you the most?
HK: It's so fun that you can just make a very good, quick visual diagnosis, based on pattern recognition and the fact that I’ve been doing this for years. When I don't know, I can come up with a differential diagnosis or a list of things that might be in my head [to figure it out]. I love the puzzle-solving aspect.
I also really love the patient interaction in dermatology. The problems and the successes are so visible. Seeing their confidence shift as a result of treating them for acne, or from doing cosmetic treatments — I love that.
Spotlyte: Have any of your patients taught you something about beauty or dermatology?
HK: Things will definitely come up, like new products that they just read about and I haven't tried. I learn about some buzzy ingredients or new lines. That keeps me on my toes.
Spotlyte: Has social media impacted your job at all?
HK: In this day and age, everyone's taking selfies — and we've all become so conscious of what our faces look like in photos. Sometimes patients who have a good eye will have done a good job assessing exactly what it is they want for their face. They've gotten very visually involved, and they know what they're looking for, because there's so much stuff out there on social media these days. I listen to that. And, there are times that I disagree.
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