We got a few dermatologists and aesthetic doctors to spill on the worst skincare habits that Singaporeans have – and why you need to change.
Using too little sunscreen
We all know that adequate hydration is essential to healthy skin. However, did you know that applying an adequate amount of sunscreen is just as important in helping to stave off premature signs of ageing? According to Dr Toby Hui, Senior Doctor at Freia Medical, about “90 per cent of skin damage happens due to overexposure to harmful UV rays”. And in order to address this, we should all be wearing “at least a 50-cent coin sized” dollop of sunscreen. He adds that sunscreen should be reapplied every two to three hours when you’re exposed to the sun for long hours and that it is important to “go for a broad spectrum sunscreen with an oil-free formulation so it doesn’t clog up your pores.”
While we’re on the topic of sunscreens, there’s another commonly seen sunscreen-related skincare blunder among Singaporeans. “Some people may feel like it’s fine to skip sunscreen since they spend their entire day in the office and are away from sunlight,” warns Dr Lam Bee Lan, Medical Director of Ageless Medical and Ageless Medi-Aesthetics. The truth is, glass windows do not filter 100 per cent of harmful UV rays. “Moreover, when we’re in an office environment, we are constantly exposed to blue light radiation emitted from computer screens and mobile devices, which can also generate free radicals and have the same hazardous effects on our skin,” warns Dr Lam. To complement a topical sunscreen, she also advises getting started on oral supplements which contain antioxidants and have free radical-scavenging properties to help reduce hyperpigmentation.
Having insufficient knowledge about sunscreen
While most Singaporeans are aware of the potential damages of excessive UV exposure and do take precautions especially when they’re going to be out in the sun for long hours, many still do not have a complete grasp of the limitations of regular sunscreens, observes Dr Tan Wang Theng, Medical Director of Moyem Medical Aesthetics. “There is increasing evidence that besides UV rays, the Visible Light (VL) and Infrared (IR) spectrum of sunlight play a role in accelerating skin degradation and hyperpigmentation disorders such as melasma. Yet, most conventional broad-spectrum sunscreens do not protect against VL and IR,” shares Dr Tan.
Solution: look out for sunscreens with iron oxide or newer HEV (High Energy Visible Light) filters to shield your skin from VL emitted not only from the sun, but from indoor energy-saving lighting, smartphones and computer screens as well. For example, Form Matter Eclipse SPF 50 Sunscreen is an oil-free, dry-touch gel that shields the skin from solar radiation and is suitable for all skin types. This new-generation sunscreen is ultra-lightweight, and is formulated with advanced filters that provide protection against UVA and UVB, as well as harmful HEV (High Energy Visible Light). It is also made with potent botanicals to neutralise oxidative damage and aid DNA repair. You should also ensure that your skincare products are packed with antioxidants to help combat free radical damage.
Over-cleansing oily and acne-prone skin
When living in the tropics, it’s inevitable that our sweat and sebum glands become overactive. As a result, many of us have to deal with shine-prone skin, frequent breakouts and enlarged pores. The first instinctive reaction that many Singaporeans have when managing oily skin, is to wash their faces multiple times throughout the day. According to Dr Lam, many of her patients not only over cleanse their skin, but also exfoliate excessively with facial scrubs or chemical exfoliants. But this only does more harm than good: over cleansing and exfoliating can strip the skin of natural oils and disrupt the optimal pH balance of the skin, signalling the oil glands to produce even more sebum. She adds that the correct way should be to use gentle, non-foaming cleansers twice a day and keep exfoliation to once or twice a week. She also recommends regular facials like Ageless Medi-Aesthetic’s Miracle Defence Medi-facial, which helps manage acne by restoring skin’s protective shield using probiotics and prebiotics. On the other hand, the Clarity Revival facial also works well for oily and acne-prone skin as it keeps bacteria at bay with a unique algae and wakame seaweed blend.
Echoing this observation is Moyem Medical Aesthetics’ Dr Tan. In today’s marketplace where gritty face scrubs, vigorous sonic brush cleansers and potent at-home peels are readily available, it’s easy for these products to leave your skin blotchy, flaky or bumpy when used in the wrong combination. As a result, it can lead to more problems for your skin, like inflammation, clogged pores and impeding skincare from absorbing into skin.
Aggravating your acne with incorrect use of hair products
As Dr Georgia Lee, Medical Doctor and Founder of DrGl, DrSpa and DrHair points out, many Singaporeans who are prone to acne around the hairline and at the back are aggravating their condition by using occlusive (barrier-forming) hair oils and leave-in conditioners. When such products are not washed off thoroughly, they can accumulate on the scalp and skin, and eventually cause acne along the hairline and on the back, which is especially stubborn and leaves scars that can take years to lighten naturally. Instead of rich oils and leave-in conditioners that come in contact with skin, Dr Lee recommends switching to rinse-off conditioners and emphasises on the importance of rinsing it off thoroughly, i.e. hair shouldn’t feel slippery if conditioners are thoroughly washed off.
Overloading your skin with skincare
Thanks to the plump and dewy complexions of Korean celebs, many women all over the world have taken an interest in Korean skincare, including the extensive skincare routine that many Korean women swear by. While piling on layer after layer of skincare products might work for some women, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Dr Teo shares that many of her patients alternating between several skincare products, in hopes of finding the perfect combination that works for them. However, in the process of doing so, exposing your skin to different skincare may cause your skin to become sensitive and eventually “risk developing a condition known as allergic contact dermatitis with prolonged exposure to certain ingredients.” In addition, ingredients such as retinol, salicylic acid and lactic acid can also cause skin irritation in some cases when used without supervision of a dermatologist. According to her, it would be best to stick to dermatologist-tested cleansers or cosmeceuticals that include lightweight emulsion-type moisturisers suitable for a humid climate like Singapore’s.
Picking at zits
Another common bad skincare habit among Singaporeans is picking at pimples and pimple scars. According to Dr. Teo Wan Lin, Founder, Medical Director & Consultant Dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, “Our fingernails and fingers are full of bacteria. For people who are already suffering from acne or are acne-prone, this increases the chances of getting secondary bacterial infections and worsened acne when they pick at their skin. Over time, it can also cause more inflammation and worse scarring after the acne heals.”
She also adds that the best way to manage acne-prone skin is to “visit an accredited dermatologist who will prescribe you with appropriate topical or oral medications as necessary”. At her practice, Dr Teo supplements prescription treatments with her line of cosmeceuticals skincare, which feature evidence-based, bioactive ingredients. She recommends the Vita C Gold™ Serum, which contains stabilised vitamin C (as opposed to conventional ascorbic acid which is easily degraded when exposed to air) for its anti-acne and anti-scarring properties. According to her, “acne is a treatable medical condition and should not be left alone or it can lead to bad scarring.” If you have a very persistent pimple, for example a large cyst that has been there for more than 1-2 weeks, she recommends speaking to your dermatologist about it who can give you a steroid injection (known as intralesional triamcinolone injection) to reduce the inflammation very quickly.