Dr. Amy Wechsler is a dermatologist, advisor to Chanel skincare, and single mother of two teenagers. She wakes up at 6:15 a.m., receives approximately 100 emails, and sees between 20 and 35 patients a day with no lunch break. On the eve of opening her expansive new office on 85th Street in Manhattan, the Upper East Side derm spoke to the Cut about how she gets it done.
On her morning routine:
I take a shower and I’ve lately been having someone come to the apartment around 6:40 to do a quick blow dry before the kids are up. It only takes like 20 minutes. My daughter Zoe, who is 18, wakes up on her own, my son Jaden, who’s 15, I have to wake up. Then I make them breakfast. My son used to be into pancakes but now thankfully is just having cereal, fruit, and orange juice I’ve squeezed for him the night before. For Zoe it could be anything from fresh-baked banana bread that I make to cereal or oatmeal or yogurt. If they take any medicine or vitamins I put that out on the table, and then I eat with them and drink two cups of English breakfast tea.
I drive my daughter to school, she goes pretty close by. I usually drive her in sweatpants. Jaden usually takes an Uber since he’s going to school downtown this year. I come back, park the car in my garage, and go upstairs to get dressed, then go to work.
On her wardrobe strategy:
I have a friend who’s a stylist and we sort of barter services. Once a month, sometimes even more, she’ll come and put outfits together for me so getting dressed will be a no-brainer. I only give myself three minutes to get dressed in the morning. I have some go-to dresses that are so easy — I work with Chanel on skin care so I have a couple of great Chanel dresses. Today I’m wearing this Rick Owens leather dress that I got on sale a few years ago that I wear a little too often. I throw on black tights, a black dress, and today I’m wearing a purple cardigan for a little color, and I go.
On her work day:
The first thing I do when I get to the office is log in to my computer. I have a printed schedule of patients for day waiting for me, and my staff has usually gotten the first patient ready. I see from anywhere to 20 to 35 patients a day. I go straight through; I don’t need to take a break for myself. I always eat, but it’s often just for five minutes in the back of the office. I either order in or bring it from home. The neighborhood where I work now is kind of like a food wasteland, so we order on apps like Caviar or Postmates.
I try to eat healthfully, so I’ll have a lean protein, some veggies; quinoa or brown rice; I’m not just a salad-for-lunch person. I also snack, I’ll have a cheese stick or a fruit in the morning sometimes.
On combatting the afternoon slump:
If I have a little lull, I have a piece of dark chocolate and a little green tea from Ito En and I’m good. I switch from black to green tea around lunch.
On her favorite thing about the job:
I have the privilege of taking care of people. It’s the best. I don’t find it hard — it doesn’t even feel like a job! I knew I wanted to be a doctor since seventh grade, after I gave up on the astronaut and the baseball player. It’s just an honor to be able to take care of people. People share their innermost thoughts and feelings and worries, and I get to help. I just think it’s awesome.
On how she stays organized:
I can’t do it alone, so I’ve put together an awesome team. We happen to be all women right now. I have an office assistant, office manager, a medical assistant, and a physician’s assistant. I feel like we’re really the A-team.
I’m a pretty organized person in general. I keep a calendar in Outlook. When we’re done with the day’s work, my assistant will send an email telling me what time I start and end, and anything out of the ordinary that’s going to take me out of the office — a dentist appointment, a meeting with Chanel — or someone that I want to know is coming to the office — my mom! Or a VIP I have to dress up a little bit more for, or any meetings. I like to be prepared, I hate being surprised. I keep my schedule pretty much in my head but I do make lists in my phone and check them and delete as I do them. But if there are things that must get done that come up during the day, I write them on my notepad with a little box next to it and when I finish I check off the box, it feels very satisfying.
On her desk:
I have one treasured pen on my desk that’s a Montblanc that my dad gave me. The desk is somewhere in between [messy and tidy], I’ve got piles but I know exactly what the piles are. To the right are labs and consultation letters from other doctors, and biopsy reports always gets gone through completely before I leave for the day. And then I’ve got other piles of journals and personal stuff on the left. Sometimes I’ll keep a thank-you note from someone out, because reading it just makes me happy. And then I’ve got pictures of my kids around; moisturizer, hand sanitizer, water. I created a fragrance-free moisturizer with Chanel called La Solution 10, and I use it as a hand moisturizer during the day; I don’t like fragrance on my hands.
On leaving at a decent hour:
I’ll make my calls at the end of the day — if I have to call patients back about a biopsy, finish up paperwork, and try to get home, because my kids usually start texting me “When are you coming home?” and I always eat dinner with them on school nights. I don’t like going out during work nights; I love it on the weekends but during the week I love to be home.
On her dinner game changer:
We usually eat dinner together around 7:30, 8:00 latest. I used to get very stressed out about getting dinner on the table because I’m not a great cook. I love to bake, but cooking is kind of stressful for me, especially if I don’t have time. As a single mom I don’t have anyone there as backup, and I couldn’t do it, so I splurged on someone who comes and cooks for us three times a week. My kids noticed my stress level in the evening literally go away once we hired this guy. He comes Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays and he also makes me lunch for the next day. It has literally saved me.
On how she unwinds:
It’s kind of goofy but when I get home — and we don’t wear shoes in the house — the first thing I do is I change out of my work clothes and it changes my whole mindset. I put on comfy sweats and a T-shirt and a sweatshirt and then I just instantly relax. Until I change I’m a little tense, and sometimes my kids will be like, “Mom, go change.”
I have a no-phone-at-the-table rule for everyone including myself, and I’m very strict about it. I have an iPhone and a BlackBerry. I get emails on my BlackBerry and texts on my iPhone.
After dinner, my kids will be doing homework so I’ll be there if they have questions. When they’re done we’ll watch TV, and hang out. Some nights my boyfriend is over. There’s a couple of shows my daughter and I watch together. We watch Madam Secretary and I try to get her to watch Blue Bloods with me, I recently watched The Crown with my boyfriend because Zoe had already seen it, and I’m a House of Cards fan too. Everyone’s asleep by eleven at the latest. I feel very strongly about sleep and I try to get at least seven and a half hours a night.
On handling stress:
Things can definitely get to me but I’m pretty flexible, I’m a good problem-solver, and pretty even-keeled. I don’t know if the it’s the psychiatrist in me but in general I don’t get hysterical or histrionic, I’m just like “Let me take a deep breath and we will figure this out.” Sometimes I’ll stretch a little bit to relax. I tried meditation but it didn’t really suit me. I also exercise and that helps. Wednesday mornings I do Pilates, usually Tuesday evening I’ll do a workout at home with a trainer and also one weekend day with him. I have an exercise bike and a little gym in my apartment, it’s so convenient.
And I play drums; that’s usually a good outlet for me.
I’m acutely aware that some things have to give — I can’t do everything. I prioritize my kids first, patients second, but I do take care of myself. I know that if I don’t, I can’t take care of [anyone]. I get enough sleep, I have down time, I go out on the weekends with friends or with my boyfriend, I watch movies, I read books, I’m in a book club that I love with girlfriends. I’m a big nerd, I would never show up at my book group unprepared, so it’s built-in way to make me read fiction and not just medical journals. I loved Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night. For movies, I just watched Moonlight and I loved it — we got it On Demand. I saw Beauty and the Beast with my daughter and her friend and the friend’s mom on opening night; it was awesome.
On how she got into skin:
I went to med school thinking I was going to be orthopedic surgeon because I was an athlete with a lot of sports injuries, but I just didn’t find it super interesting. I did an internship in emergency medicine and didn’t love it, then went back and did psychiatry! But I’m a very active person and I felt it was a little too passive for me, it didn’t fit my personality. I figured out that dermatology made the most sense. To treat the most external and the most internal at the same time and how they’re so interconnected. I had horrible acne as a teenager, and I remember waking up every morning and you just don’t know what you’re gonna look like. A bad-skin day affects your mood, your self-esteem, the way you carry yourself — everything.
On work travel:
Once or twice a year I go to Paris for a few days [for Chanel], and I’m on the board of Valeant Pharmaceuticals so there are board meetings quarterly, which is like a day and a half in Toronto. I don’t love traveling for work, I hate leaving the kids, it makes me a little anxious. I turn down a lot of invitations for speaking and meetings and stuff because I just want to be with them.
On her packing essentials:
I always pack sneakers and shorts in case I have time for a workout. One time I was in Paris and I had time for a workout but I forgot to pack workout sneakers so I rode the exercise bike in the hotel slippers.
On what she’d change about her work life:
I think it would be a good idea for me to once in a while have lunch with a friend. I’m going to try to do that.
On fielding skin queries from strangers:
When I was a psychiatrist, before I did dermatology, strangers would come up to me and tell me their dreams — too much information! Now people pull me into bathrooms to show me rashes on various body parts — I’d much rather look at a rash than hear about someone’s dream. I’m happy to help. I don’t feel like being a doctor is just nine-to-six or nine-to-seven Mondays to Fridays. It’s a way of life. So if I have a skill I’m able to help people with, I’m happy to — maybe to a fault.