What are the essentials for a daily skin care regime?

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Is the 3-steps, Cleanser, Toner, and Moisturiser really enough for a daily skin care regime given the humid weather and pollutants in Singapore?

Dr. Teo Wan Lin Answered question August 2, 2019

Hi Janine,

There is a recipe for healthy skin in the same way one is careful to have a healthy diet and lifestyle to prevent illness, rather than change one’s diet only after one gets sick. Whether or not you have dry, oily or combination skin, there is really skincare that is suited for you and the answer lies in dermatologist-approved, research backed cosmeceutical skincare. Cosmeceuticals include potent bioactive ingredients formulated to prevent the onset of ageing, as well as to deliver nutrients to your skin. Such a skincare regimen, is likened to a healthy diet that will prevent skin problems from developing later. If you have an underlying skin condition, cosmeceutical skincare can also reduce the severity of acne and facial eczema. So it is indeed true, at least for cosmeceutical skincare, that there is a one-size-fits-all for all types of skin, as a recommendation for the basic healthy diet of skin.

In general, I recommend incorporating the steps below as part of your skincare regime. 

  1. Double Cleansing 

The purpose of skin cleansing is to remove oil, debris, bacteria from the skin surface by the process of emulsification, as healthy skin has a good balance of normal skin flora (bacteria) as well as hydration and regular skin cell turnover rate. However, the cleanser must also respect what we call the skin barrier, which is our natural production of skin oils that helps keep skin moisturised. 

I recommend double cleansing for my patients who wear makeup. For those who don’t, you may skip straight to step 2. Each cleanser has a specific purpose, essentially cleansing the skin while maintaining the skin barrier.

2. Exfoliation (Physical/Chemical)

Physical exfoliation: Physical exfoliation relies on the rubbing of granules, particles or materials (cloths, sponges) over the face to remove dead skin cells by gentle mechanical force.

While this kind of exfoliation can leave you feeling refreshed, the technique can be too harsh for the skin, especially for individuals with acne-prone or sensitive skin. Physical exfoliation may even weaken the skin’s barrier function and leave your skin red or irritated.

This is a no-no for those with active acne, rosacea and eczema. 

Chemical exfoliation: Chemical exfoliation relies on fruit enzymes and gentle acids to slough off dead skin. This mechanism is much more controlled, gentler than physical exfoliation and suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin types (lactic acids, polyhydroxy acids, salicylic acids).

3. Moisturising

Let us re-define moisturisers to mean topicals that closely mimic components in a healthy skin barrier. Such moisturisers have been clinically tested by dermatologists to restore barrier function. In my clinic, we created a cost-effective formulation Multi-CERAM™ which is based on a combination of bovine ceramide and plant-seed oil derived phytoceramides. 

It is important to consider that a moisturiser contains bioactive ingredients that mimic the components of healthy skin barrier, including humectants like hyaluronic acid that attracts water molecules to the skin and ceramide-type lipids that control transepidermal water loss.

It is also important to look down the order in which the ingredients are presented. The ingredient with the highest percentage is right on top and the concentration of each ingredient decreases with a descending order of mention in the ingredient list. The least moisturising and least effective creams/lotions are those which have the highest concentration of water or plain silicones, because while it gives the instant feel of moisture, it quickly disappears and does not repair the skin barrier.

4. Masking 

I would consider masking as something which is very good to do if you are already diligent with other aspects of skin health such as cleansing and applying cosmeceuticals. Using a face mask would deliver moisture to the skin and include ingredients (wash-off) which cannot be incorporated into leave-on moisturisers. The benefits of masking is largely associated with increasing skin moisture, so it is important to look out for ingredients such as glycerin, ceramide and hyaluronic acid, as well as potent antioxidants which can be plant derived.

5. Sunscreen

Most people do not apply enough sunscreen to achieve the specified SPF rating. SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor” and to achieve full protection, you will need 2 mg of sunscreen applied for each cm2 of skin, which is the basis of an SPF rating achieved in the laboratory setting. A good gauge could be a quarter to half teaspoon to cover the face, or approximately 1.2 ml of sunscreen (taking an average face size skin surface area of 600 cm2).

For daily use, re-application is advised every 2-3 hours. Re-applying sunscreen or double application helps to ensure coverage of areas that you may have missed the first time.

For outdoor sports or activities, ensure that sunscreen is applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, instead of putting it on only on the beach for example. Studies have shown that the sun protective effect of a sunscreen can be lost after contact with sand and with immersions in water. The 2-hour re-application rule applies, and it is especially recommended for individuals to adhere strictly to it when engaging in outdoor activities. 

Dr Teo Wan Lin


TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre

Dr. Teo Wan Lin Answered question August 2, 2019
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