Jessica Wu, MD, 51

We all make choices when it comes to how we age: How much cosmetic intervention will we go for? Do diet and exercise factor in? Is introspective work like meditation, therapy, and religion a must? At The Plum, we choose to report on those choices rather than judge them. Here's what aging well means to Jessica Wu, MD.

By Genevieve Monsma
Dr. Wu on a mountain


Jessica, in her own words

“I’m a beauty and fashion-obsessed Harvard Medical School-educated cosmetic dermatologist dedicated to helping women look their best and feel confident. When I’m not in my office, you can find me in the mountains, where I’m a certified Canadian Ski Instructor; at the beach, where I train for standup paddleboard races; or on the highways, riding my Harley Davidson.”

On her attitude adjustment

“When I turned 49, I began to dread my 50th birthday. As I wallowed in self-pity, one of my friends pointed out that I was more physically fit, emotionally fulfilled, and professionally successful than I was 20 years ago. She was right — At that moment, I made the conscious decision to look ahead to 50 with excitement rather than dread. I gave myself an entire year to prepare: I planned a series of fun and adventurous activities like cat-skiing and skydiving with friends and family.”

Her aging role model

“I think Jennifer Lopez is redefining what it means to be a woman of a certain age. Once upon a time, being 50 meant you were past your prime. But Jennifer is proving that at 50, you can be just reaching your prime: She has a vibrant career, rocks long hair and sexy gowns and looks fitter and happier than ever. 

My mother also inspires me: At 77 years young, she amazes me with her youthful looks and unlimited energy.  I attribute this to nightly facial massage and a positive outlook. When I was growing up, it used to drive me nuts when she would tell me to ‘look on the bright side.’ But now that I’m older, I’m doing the same thing. I truly think optimism keeps her young at heart and youthful on the outside.”

What she's had done

“I’m a cosmetic dermatologist! It’s my passion and my business to be at the forefront of health and beauty treatments that help us all age more gracefully. I attend international anti-aging conferences and test all products and procedures on myself and in clinical trials before I offer them to my patients. From prescription creams to facial injectables to body contouring treatments: I proudly do it all — in moderation.”

The part of aging she likes most

“I love being more confident and secure in my accomplishments, my opinions, and my looks now that I’m in my 50s.  I’m feeling the joy of self-confidence that I never had in my 20s and 30s.”

…and least

“I don’t enjoy having a slower metabolism and stiffer joints — or thinner hair and eyebrows.”

Her skincare routine

“I have eczema and sensitive skin, so I am a skincare minimalist. In the morning, I splash with cold water, then apply my own Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals AntiAging Suncare SPF 32 with zinc oxide, followed by Julep Cushion Complexion tinted moisturizer. As soon as I get home in the evening, I take my makeup off with Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water, then wash with and a bamboo washcloth.  I use Tretinoin .025% three nights a week, including around my eyes, and SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 on the alternate nights to keep my skin tone even. I also use Latisse on my brows every night (Full disclosure: I was an investigator in the Latisse FDA clinical trial). Before bed, I apply Vertly cocoa-scented CBD Lip Balm, then I massage my face on acupressure points, as I was taught to do by my mother, who learned from her mother. I also do my own Botox and filler every three months, which I’ve been doing since 1996. Once a year, I laser off any brown spots and broken blood vessels. Finally, I do Emsculpt to tone my abs every three months.”

Her hair essentials

“I have my hair blown out twice a week; it saves so much time in the mornings. My hair color tends to turn brassy (especially in the summer), so I use Amika Bust Your Brass Shampoo and Conditioner to maintain the right tones. Every six weeks, I see my stylist for a trim and to color my roots. A celebrity patient recently turned me on to Oribe Root Touch Up Spray, which helps in between color sessions.”

How she offsets the effects of heels

“I work out with a trainer at my home four evenings a week. Three days are typically reserved for high-intensity intervals which could include rowing sprints, kettlebell swings, burpees and other bodyweight exercises. One day a week, I do strength-training and core work including back squats and deadlifts. I stretch every morning and use a rumble roller, which is like a foam roller but more intense.  If I don’t stretch and roll, my knees hurt; I suspect this is because I wear heels all day in my office. During ski season, I do more skiing-specific exercises to improve my balance and agility. I ski one week per month during the ski season.”

Why she changed her diet and workout routine

“For many years, I lived on bread, salad and wine. I thought I had healthy eating habits since I stayed away from red meat and fast food; However, I didn’t have energy, I had irritable bowels and my waistline kept getting thicker — especially after I turned 40. I was tired of being tired, so I started working out with a trainer and began seeing a nutritionist. I started lifting more weights. I also gave up bread, dairy, and sugar, and now mainly eat fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and eggs, with occasional whole grains. I lost 15 pounds, have much more energy, deeper sleep and better digestion. Around the time I was writing my book, Feed Your Face, I discovered that the same foods that help your metabolism are also best for your skin. I do still enjoy wine, so once a week I have a ‘treat’ meal, often with friends, with a good red wine and chocolate.”

The future looks bright

“I’m optimistic about aging. I like to think I’m redefining what 50 looks and feels like for myself — and my patients. One phrase I often tell my patients is better next year, which is a reminder that we do have the power to change our habits and lifestyle and continually improve how we look and feel.”

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