Dr. Aleta Simmons is the only Black dermatologist in Nashville and an Assistant Professor + Diversity Champion of Dermatology at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Her calm demeanor will feel like you can share any of your skin needs with no judgment. Initially drawn to being a veterinarian, she decided to pursue another medical calling and has not looked back. Catering to patients of color and unique skin conditions, she is filling a major need in the city as Nashville continues to grow. It was cool, to sit down with Dr. Simmons to learn more about her journey into dermatology and also get a few skin tips.
What are you creating in Nashville?
I moved to Nashville to be closer to my family. However, my big goal was to help people. I think I’m in Nashville at a unique time to be the only Black dermatologist here. I want to foster and create community with others while also creating opportunities for education in terms of the dermatology field and the skin conditions that impact people of color. I think there’s a large gap in that kind of knowledge and having those connections is important so that people understand when they need to see a dermatologist. Along with knowing the things they can see a dermatologist for. Overall, just caring for Black Nashville is of huge importance to me.
Why Nashville and why now?
Nashville is growing, and in any growing city, there’s a variety of different needs. Being a dermatologist in the city gives me lots of opportunities to reach out to people in different facets of life and backgrounds. I take care of people from all across this area because there’s no one else catering to patients with skin of color and patients want to see someone who looks like them. As Nashville is growing and people are coming from all over, I’m starting to see people who have visited dermatologists in New York and now they’re coming to me.
I think that I’m filling a gap, and there’s no time like the present.
What inspired your journey in dermatology?
Growing up I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was in the second grade. I love science. From dissecting things, anatomy to physiology. I remember talking with a doctor during my 10 grad year and he asked, “why would you study all of those animals when you could just study one: humans?” I thought that was a pretty good point! That day I decided I wanted to be a doctor and study dermatology. I’ve been on this path now for about 20 years, and recognize the health disparity and how a difference is needed within our communities. There’s not enough of us, and I’m trying to address that.
What advice would you give to those who are hesitant to start their skincare journey or just simply overwhelmed?
If you don’t know what to do with your skin and you know you have some problem areas, I always say see a dermatologist. I have patients who come in and just tell me that they don’t know what to do with their face and ask for recommendations. I go through the full range of different products within different budgets whether patients are willing to pay for luxury products at $100+ or they are like me and just want to pick up a few items from a drugstore or Target.
Dr. Simmons Skincare Tips:
- Step away from the Instagram and Tik Tok trends. Social media is not the place to find your skincare regimen.
- Know your skin and pay attention to how it feels about 30 minutes to an hour after you wash your face. If it feels dry or too oily, you need to find a cleanser and a moisturizer that addresses those specific needs.
- Sunscreen! You need to make sure you are incorporating during the day. There are typically moisturizers with sunscreen in them so you do not necessarily have to use two different products.
- Start with the basics. Your basics should include a cleanser, a nighttime moisturizer, and a sunscreen product.
- After that, you can come to see a dermatologist and get tips for any problem areas.
Is there a favorite spot or restaurant that you have been digging lately?
I’ve been to the National Museum of African American Music twice now. I went during the opening weekend, and again recently with a few friends who came into town. I love being immersed in history while also listening to great music. Before we went to the museum, we ate at Shugga Hi. That’s definitely a spot where I go if I need some love or want to know that the person who cooked the food put some care into it. When I first moved here, my Sunday routine was to go to church and Shugga Hi was my next stop!
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