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Basic Skincare Routine: Effective Skincare According to a Dermatologist

January 28, 2024

Skincare truly can be simple. The best way to conceptualise how skincare affects the skin is really as straightforward as how water interacts with skin. Beauty marketing and buzzwords like “science of beauty” sometimes intimidate users who just want a simple way, a basic skincare routine to care for their skin, for skin health. 

Science of Basic Skincare Routine

My first goal is really to show you the simplicity of a basic skincare routine. Let’s build on what we all already know well: water is fundamental to life on earth. It could not ring truer for the skin. Starting with cleansing, which everyone intuitively does, whether with water alone or with a cleanser (which is preferred). Water is a universal solvent, this means that any cleaning process begins with water. The concepts of surface tension are at play when one uses facial cleansers as surfactants to remove dirt, grime and bacteria.

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    The basis of healthy skin is a healthy microbiome. The microbiome is the balance of good and bad bacteria essential to the intricate daily functionings of healthy skin cells. Eczema patients have a disturbance of the microbiome with staphylococcus aureus, otherwise a harmless commensal, becoming pathogenic and causing worsening flare ups with infections. Acne sufferers also have been found to have a microbiome imbalance, Cutibacterium acnes is the chief culprit. Again it is commonly found on the skin of healthy individuals as well.

    Basic 2 Minute Skincare Regimen

    Cleansers also play an important role in rebalancing oil production. Contrary to what many oily skin sufferers may intuitively believe, cleansing is not to remove oil! Rather, cleansing should focus on restoring the ideal skin microenvironment which ensures that sebum production is regulated. Oily skin is caused by sebum production in overdrive. This is the reason why you should never use harsh astringents to dry out oily skin. You will likely experience even oilier skin- reactive seborrhea is real. Rather, opt for a gentle cleanser. Botanicals can be infused as natural emulsifiers which helps it foam up without or with less laureth sulfates. 

    1-Step Beauty Skincare - Cleansing

    Asian Toner Moisturiser Hack for a Basic Skincare Routine

    Heard of the classic 3-step basic skincare routine of cleanse, tone and moisturise? Well, Asian beauty products pack more complexity into each step, while keeping it minimal. In the early 2000s, the story of SKII’s Pitera essence came to epitomise Asian beauty’s obsession with toning essences based on rice water. The science does support using toning essences with non-astringent actives, in contrast to its western counterpart where alcohol, salicylic acid are incorporated to reduce sebum and tighten pores. These toning essences are really moisturising solutions delivered in a water base. Water itself is an ideal toner, without alcohol.

    @drtwlderma All in 1 facial toning essence UNIVERSAL TONER BEAUTY ESSENCE- CUSTOMISABLE Conscious Beauty Cleansing Range •Good for Skin, Great for the Planet• 100% recyclable packaging with airless spray pump. 0% product wastage + full skin penetration. Treats enlarged pores and regulates sebum production with pharmaceutical plant extracts. Controls root cause of oil production with hydrating humectant polyglutamic acid and hyaluronic acid Suitable for all skin types including dry/combination/oily skin with additional anti-aging benefits. Used in TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre to treat enlarged pores and irregular skin texture/pigmentation. #facialtoner #facialessence #dermatologist #sgdoctor #dermatologistskincare #fyp ♬ Ballet song like "Waltz of flowers" _3 minutes(965255) – yulu-ism project

    When infused with antioxidants, the toning/moisturising process becomes an efficient 2 in 1 basic skincare routine step replacing the traditional separate tone and moisturise steps. Skipping a cream moisturiser is perfectly acceptable especially for those with combination/oily skin types in the daytime. Whilst you may have heard of dermatologists saying to never skip moisturiser, the fine print here is that Asian skincare products like the toner essence does itself contain heavy duty moisturising ingredients like glycerin, polyglutamic acid and hyaluronic acid. The same is not true for toners in the traditional cleanse/tone/moisturise regimen.

    2-in-1 Toner/Moisturiser Basic Skincare

    Never forget sunblock in a Basic Skincare Routine

    While it is all true that Asian beauty idolises fair skin (for better or for worse), the message is pretty consistent with modern day sun protection advocacy. The downside to Asian beauty’s obsession with fair skin is the dangerous practice of skin whitening with harmful bleaching agents. Otherwise, the good in Asian society’s desire to keep fair skinned is apparent in the sun avoidance strategies practised by most of the population. It is clear from dermatological research that UV radiation increases oxidative stress which ultimately reduces the skin cell’s ability to repair damaged cells. This first of all manifests as skin ageing but ultimately leads to increased risk of skin cancers. 

    Some basic skincare routine principles to follow here are – choose a minimum SPF of 30. SPF 50 is the industry standard for dermatologist recommended sunscreens. However, higher SPFs are not meaningful, because it does not obviate the need to reapply sunscreen 3-hourly for example. Broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks out both UVA and UVB rays are the medical standard. Physical sunscreen tends to be less allergenic for those with sensitive skin. However, the chunky texture and whitish cast is cosmetically unappealing. For this reason, most facial sunscreens are a mix of chemical and physical sunscreen actives. These perform well on both a functional and cosmetic level.

    Asian formulated sunscreens have highly distinct properties compared to their western counterparts. For one, formulations catering to the Asian market have a less distinct white cast which shows up prominently on darker Asian complexions. The addition of functional ingredients is notable with K-beauty sunscreen formulas. These have an added anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can boost UV protection and enhance DNA repair.

    SPF 50 Sunscreen Dermatologist Recommended

    The Asian Beauty Edit & the A,B,Cs…C-Beauty, J-Beauty, K-Beauty

    We’ve covered the principles of basic skincare and now time for the Asian beauty spin. As a dermatologist looking up the historical and modern perspectives on Asian beauty – I find the following points pertinent to the scope of this book, Asian Beauty Secrets—Korean Skin Cycling with Plant-based Natural Ingredients:

    Ethnobotany was practised as traditional therapy for dermatological conditions. Active herbs were delivered in skincare for treatment of acne, eczema and psoriasis.

    The beginnings of the Gut-Skin connection. Way before science demonstrated that antioxidants in certain foods were helpful in fighting inflammation – the ancient Chinese women were obsessed with herbal teas as the elixir of youth. Mung beans, snow fungus were all incorporated as dietary beauty elixirs- a modern concept we now call nutraceuticals.

    Gua Sha and jade rollers began to epitomise Asian beauty in the last decade, as modern science uncovered how these traditional rituals were indeed assisting in lymphatic drainage and enhancing collagen stimulation.

    Beyond a basic skincare routine, these are the same concepts which will be considered in an intermediate-advanced skincare regimen laid out below:

    Intermediate Skincare Routine

    I like to use a time based method to classify the different “levels” of the ideal skincare regimen. After all, time is the chief concern for many. “I don’t have time to do this 5 step regimen,” “I’m too busy”… one rarely hears that one is too busy to eat or sleep. This allegory aptly highlights the importance of skin nutrition. Sadly, many people only realise this after they develop a skin condition. 

    The societal idea of beauty must progress to that of skin health, instead of aesthetic standards. In turn, our understanding of skin health must be closely tied in with skin immune function. As with all organs, the skin is a complex living organism that has a host of germs called the microbiome co-existing on its surface. 

    Mechanisms involving cell communication are at work daily keeping skin resilient and free from damage. Skin health interventions then must move away from meeting aesthetic standards, but towards developing an inner resilience. Empowering skin cells to do what they are designed to, helping them develop their fullest potential. 

    An effective basic skincare routine is like good counsel. Creating the ideal microenvironment that enhances cell talk, teamwork and dynamic interactions. Cell talk refers to the various signals that occur between cells that enable physiological processes to function properly. Ageing, skin damage and various dermatological conditions arise from a breakdown in cell communication. 

    Beyond Basic Skincare: Intermediate-Advanced Skincare Regimens 

    It may be daunting to start with a 9 step skincare regimen if you are new to skincare. Think of it like learning a new recipe or a skill. You always have to start from the basics! The good news is, you will progress and get more efficient at your routine eventually, saving you time and effort. What I advocate here is essentially second nature to many of my patients. However, this explanation of the different levels of skincare routines I recommend should help you progressively develop the understanding and skills to care for your skin. No aesthetician or facialist required!

    Once you’ve mastered basic skincare, you will benefit from some understanding of how different skincare products work when progressing to the next level.

    Skin Barrier Repair: Best Dermatologist Tips on How to Keep Your Skin Hydrated

    December 21, 2023

    You may already be aware of the importance of skin barrier function—how it can affect the condition of the skin, but how exactly? Skin hydration and the stratum corneum barrier have been active areas of dermatologic research for a good decade. Alongside these developments, consumers are beginning to find their interest piqued about the subject, largely because of the marketing campaigns by industry giants. Before you commit to any product or treatment that promises skin barrier repair, I’ll teach you exactly how to navigate industry jargon so you don’t get confused, worse still, foxed by the deluge of claims—beginning with the basic science of skin.

    Skin Anatomy And Physiology

    Layers of Skin
    Figure 1.1: Diagram showing structure of skin

    The skin is made up of 3 layers – epidermis, dermis and hypodermis (otherwise known as ‘subcutis’ or ‘panniculus’).

    The epidermis has 5 layers – stratum corneum, stratum granulosum (granular cell layer), stratum spinosum (spiny layer) and stratum basale (basal cell layer) from the outermost to the innermost layer.

    This outermost layer of the skin consists mainly of keratinocytes, cells which produce a protein called keratin that is a key structural material in the hair, skin and nails. These cells mature over a two-week life cycle. During these two weeks, they are first differentiated from epidermal stem cells in the basal cell layer and are further differentiated as they move upwards towards the epidermis. At the end of the 28-day cycle, they are shed off after reaching the stratum corneum.

    The dermis has 2 layers – the papillary dermis and reticular dermis. It mainly consists of fibroblasts, collagen and elastic fibers.

    The final layer of the skin called hypodermis is where the adipose tissue (fats) lie.

    Barrier Repair Speed Guide
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      Skin Structure Diagram
      Figure 1.2: Diagram showing skin structure

      Concept Of Skin Function And Importance of Skin Barrier Repair

      1. Skin barrier function – the skin acts as a physical barrier between the internal and external environments to retain moisture and protect the skin against mechanical, chemical and microbial injury; dysfunction of the skin barrier may result in injury, dehydration, infection and inflammation

      2. Immunologic – the skin senses and responds to pathogens; dysfunction of the immunologic barrier may result in infection, allergy, inflammatory skin conditions and in the worst case scenario, could lead to skin cancer

      3. Temperature regulation – the skin maintains a constant body temperature by regulating heat loss in the form of sweat production, with insulating properties of fat and hair and with a dense superficial microvasculature; the failure to maintain a constant body temperature could lead to hyper- or hypothermia

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      The second edition of the skincare bible includes specialised Focus Tutorials on two new modules Skin Resilience & Skin Barrier Repair with extended question and answer practice for advanced practitioners.

      4. Protection from radiation – a dark pigment in the epidermis called melanin protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation; disruption of the production of melanin increases the risk of skin cancer

      5. Nerve sensation – the skin constantly monitors the environment through sensory receptors and mechanoreceptors found in the skin; dysfunction in the nerve sensation may lead to pruritus, dysesthesia (an abnormal sensation) and insensitivity to injury (as in the case of diabetes and leprosy)

      6. Injury repair – the skin has the ability to repair cutaneous wounds in four phases: coagulation, inflammatory, proliferative-migratory (tissue formation) and remodelling; the loss of this ability results in delayed wound healing (e.g. post-radiation treatment)

      7. Appearance and quality of life – besides medical conditions, deteriorations to the skin such as skin defects or physiological ageing can lead to psychological distress (e.g. lipoatrophy and vitiligo);

      Skin diseases can all be localised to a problem when any one of these functions of skin are disrupted and will be covered in the following chapters.

      Dr.TWL SkinScience
      The Skincare Bible: Strategic Blueprint for Resilient Skin teaches you the art and science of skin barrier repair.

      Skin Barrier Repair And Hydration

      You may have heard about the term ‘skin barrier’, which in scientific terms is more accurately referred to as the ‘stratum corneum barrier’. How important is the skin’s  barrier function and how exactly does it work?

      Skin hydration and the stratum corneum barrier have been active areas of dermatological research for many years. In the last 5 years, commercial companies have started to market their skincare to address this. Before you commit to any product or treatment that promises to skin barrier repair, have a read on to understand what these terms and processes mean.

      The Stratum Corneum Skin Barrier

      The skin barrier primarily prevents foreign material from entering the human body. But it also does more than just that. It prevents water loss and serves as a shield against the environment. The barrier works to maintain the body’s homeostasis (or stable equilibrium) level, without which the entire body’s organ systems will shut down. The loss of water from the body through evaporation from the surface of the skin is known as Trans-Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), thus a need to maintain hydration of the superficial cells, known as corneocytes.

      Corneocytes are the cells found in the stratum corneum layer, the outermost layer of the epidermis. These cells are formed through cornification, where the skin cells develop tough protective layers or structures, ultimately creating a physical barrier for the skin. When deprived of moisture, dry skin easily develops cracks, fissures and is more susceptible to environmental changes such as the weather.

      Ambient humidity also affects the corneocytes. As the level of environmental humidity varies, corneocytes acclimatise by drawing water up from the deeper layer of skin cells, in order to maintain equilibrium with the environment. This explains why our skin feels drier in winter.

      Skin Hydration

      Skin hydration is a critical factor in attaining healthy skin and a measure of any effective skin barrier repair. A mixture of water-soluble compounds called natural moisturising factor (NMF) have been found to affect water content levels. The arrangement of lipids (fats) in the stratum corneum is also important, as it serves as an effective barrier to the passage of water through the layer. A poor arrangement or deficiency in the corneocyte “cement” can lead to increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL occurs as water diffuses and evaporates from the skin surface. While this is a physiological process, excess TEWL is undesirable as it can lead to excessively dry skin.

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      Achieve healthy, radiant skin inside-out—based on principles of skin barrier repair for resilience.

      TEWL and Moisturisers

      TEWL has been one of the most commonly used methods in dermatology research to measure skin hydration as it directly correlates with skin barrier dysfunction. Healthy skin would score a low TEWL value as it would mean less water loss.

      In the same vein, most moisturisers are put to the test by using TEWL values. A good moisturiser should help decrease TEWL. Moisturisers have remained as a ‘staple’ in basic skincare. Yet, not many may fully understand its function, thus leading to confusion in choosing a suitable moisturiser for their skin needs. An effective moisturiser should protect the skin by stimulating and augmenting its natural barrier function for holistic skin barrier repair, creating the perfect microenvironment for skin healing. Moisturisers will slow down skin ageing as a result.

      What happens if the water content of the stratum corneum falls below a desirable level? Normal desquamation is not able to take place, that is the shedding of the outermost skin layer. With insufficient hydration, skin cells will adhere to one another and accumulate on the surface layer. Visible changes associated with this phenomenon include dryness, roughness, scaling and flaking.

      Certain cosmetic ingredients such as ceramide, glycerol (also known as glycerin) and hyaluronic acid have gained prominence in recent years by targeting the stratum corneum water content. How do these work?

      Ceramide for Skin Barrier Repair

      Ceramides for Skin Barrier Repair Model
      Figure 1.3: Diagram showing brick and mortar skin barrier model

      Ceramides are best understood as the cement joining bricks of a wall together. Genetically, people with sensitive/eczema skin types have deficient ceramide content. Additionally, one’s skin barrier can be damaged by the use of harsh cleansers containing laureth sulfates, over-washing or just due to ageing and hormonal influences such as menopause. The use of ceramides in moisturisers is crucial in preventing and repairing skin barrier dysfunction.

      @drteowanlin Ceramide benefits in moisturizer for dry skin Improve skin hydration Reduce water loss from skin Increase skin’s natural ceramides Anti-inflammatory Beneficial for those with eczema, or atopic dermatitis Most ceramides beauty brands refer to are synthetic or animal sources, i.e. bovine in origin—which is also a concern for those preferring a vegan lifestyle. Dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin’s top pick for ceramides is a lesser-known subtype known as phytoceramides. These are botanically derived from plant seed oils and the most prominent phytoceramide of all is shea butter. Derived from the shea tree, shea butter provides a rich source of natural origin plant-based ceramides that can repair the skin barrier effectively. Benefits of phytoceramide skincare Enhance hydration better than synthetic ceramide Improve the recovery rate of damaged stratum corneum Improved immunity Anti-inflammatory #dryskin #moisturiser_for_dryskin #moisturisertreatment #sgskincare #dermatologytiktok #sgtoktok #sgdoctor #dermatologist #tiktoksg🇸🇬 #skincareroutine #skincaretips #skincare101 #skincareproduct ♬ original sound – Dr.TWL Dermatologist

      Glycerol for Skin Barrier Repair

      This ingredient exists in the stratum corneum as a humectant. It has been demonstrated that changes in the stratum corneum’s water content correlate with the glycerol content in the layer. Such results have driven the development of glycerol-containing moisturisers since decades ago. Check the ingredient list of your moisturiser, this is a fundamental ingredient which should appear in any basic, effective moisturiser used for skin barrier repair.

      Hyaluronic Acid for Skin Barrier Repair

      Known chemically as sodium hyaluronate, it is a major component of the dermis (deeper layer of the skin). What is less known is that hyaluronic acid is also present in the outermost layer. It plays an important role in regulating the skin barrier function and hydration. Although the skin care industry may recognise hyaluronic acid as a powerful humectant (it attracts water to hydrate the skin), this molecule also participates in cellular functions. Hyaluronic acid influences cell-cell interactions that lead to normal structure of the skin barrier and hence is critical in skin barrier repair.

      Conclusion

      Though the mechanisms for skin hydration are complex and beyond the scope of this book, a basic understanding about the skin structure and function is crucial to form the basis for choosing appropriate moisturisers for any skin type. Dermatologist-recommended moisturisers target at least one, if not all of these pathways for effective skin hydration to achieve skin barrier repair. With a myriad of drug-store and luxury beauty brands available, it is a useful guide to determine what may be worth your dollar for your basic moisturiser.

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      Heal your skin barrier with the best skin barrier repair products recommended at our pharmacy.

      Moisturising is a basic step in a skincare routine after cleansing which every one should incorporate. That aside, if you are looking to up your current skincare routine, cosmeceuticals are the buzzword amongst dermatologists. A combination of ‘cosmetics’ and ‘pharmaceuticals’, cosmeceuticals are products with bioactive ingredients that can bring benefits to skin health including skin barrier repair, and are prescribed as adjuncts to anti-ageing treatment.

      Retinoids Ruined My Skin Barrier: To Hell & Back

      June 6, 2023

      Why a dermatologist ditched retinoid skincare products for good

      Retinoids Ruined My Skin Barrier Visual

      The retinoid family of chemical compounds includes Vitamin A also known as retinol, derivatives of which are — retinaldehyde, retinoid acid and retinyl esters, amongst other synthetic versions of retinoids. Retinoids are essential to various biological processes.

      I’m a Dermatologist & I’ve Stopped Prescribing Retinoids

      Retinoids ruined my skin 8 years ago. I’ve healed it but….retinoid worshippers, pay attention.

      This is a story about how I broke my decade-long addiction to retinoids. At first ashamed, I tell of how I regained my dignity. Seven years ago, the day I decided to banish my tubes of tretinoin to vanity drawer purgatory….

      Flaky, An Observation

      It was 2015 and I was already out in private practice. One afternoon, a surgeon colleague of mine commented that my (usually pristine) facial skin was flaking.

      “Do you mean my sunscreen? Or my…ill-fated BB cream? It does pill sometimes, you know.”

      “No. It’s your epidermis.”

      He was right. Later that evening, I skipped my usual dose of tretinoin 0.05% (0.1% typically causes a chemical burn like reaction — never met someone who tolerated it), and applied copious amounts of moisturiser before going to bed.

      Three days later, my skin did look less angry, less painful but just…slightly flaky. That though, was enough to convince the addict in me that my epidermis was ready again. But the good dermatologist decided to halve the dose of tretinoin this time — just 0.025% will do. Lots of moisturiser too.

      By the way, skin cycling was invented the same time retinoids were — over 2 decades ago. So we already knew what to do.

      Retinoids for beginners
      Retinoids for beginners, are they worth it?

      The reason retinoids are recommended by dermatologists are:

      1. Retinoids treat comedonal acne
      2. Retinoids help reduce scarring and post-inflammation hyperpigmentation (PIH) by regulating cell turnover
      3. Retinoids before and after: Retinoids are known to enhance skin glow aka the “retinoid glow” which is due to the multiple actions on the epidermis and dermis. Namely, cell renewal rates, enhancing collagen formation for a tighter and more lifted appearance of skin.
      4. Retinoids stimulate collagen production and targets aging skin processes

      Flaky Mind, Flaky Skin

      Except that I never expected that it wouldn’t go away. One month later. Even with 0.01%.

      I had but gone through 4 cycles of stop/start-moisturise-stop/start — the vicious cycle of a dermatologist going insane with practising what she preached. That didn’t work. So you see, whenever the addict did see that her skin was less angry, she couldn’t resist her fix.

      “Your skin. Is looking flaky again.” Surgeon friend muttered. Half mocking, always.

      “It’s retinoid dermatitis,” I cursed.

      That evening, I put away the tube. Stuffed it into the recesses of vanity drawer abyss — praying to God for strength…to never touch it again. It worked. Flaky, red, painful skin never came back. And my repentance was for good.

      Why I’ve Stopped Prescribing Retinoids

      I was what you might call a retinoid worshipper. From my early twenties, I religiously slathered on tretinoin nightly after a bout of teenage acne — also when its merits were preached to me by my dermatologist.

      When I entered dermatology residency, I too began chanting the mantra.

      “Retinoids are good. Retinoids fight acne. And when acne is gone, you’ll find retinoids also keep you young.”

      Also for credibility, you know? Since every dermatologist I apprenticed under said that. Congnitive dissonance is….

      An uncomfortable experience. So the next 6 months I continued prescribing and preaching while my stockpile of 0.025% tretinoin languished in vanity purgatory. I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

      Retinoid side effects
      Retinoid side effects (what dermatologists don’t tell you until…) Well until they become victims themselves.

      The Revenge of Retinoids

      “You can cut down on the dose when your skin gets irritated. Use the 0.01% instead of the 0.025%.”

      “You shouldn’t stop using it. Your acne will come back.”

      “All dermatologists have that…retinoid glow. Where’s yours?” I imagined.

      So like a heretic I searched for retinoid alternatives on PubMed. The search threw up OLIGOPEPTIDES (never heard that mentioned throughout my entire residency program!). Must be fake news…except…that I was now desperate. For a panacea….My conscience. It did quiet a little bit.

      At that time, the international dermatology community wasn’t quite into K-beauty yet. So I was careful never to talk about my private meanderings into the dark side. By then I had also tried a K-beauty product formulated with a bunch of botanicals plus oligopeptides (no retinols/retinoids).

      Retinoids ruined my skin and I’m never going back again

      Retinoid Side Effects #1

      Retinoid Lips

      Retinol purging, retinoid purging (they are one and the same thing)

      The theory is that while retinols and retinoids work by targeting comedone formation, it also triggers off inflammation. This is why dermatologists don’t recommend applying retinoids or retinols when you have active inflamed acne bumps. Ditto for acne cysts.

      What happens if you do so? Well your angry pimple gets even angrier. I.e redder, bigger, more painful…and may even develop into a cyst.

      Six months later.

      “Hey, flaky’s been gone for a while now.” Surgeon mocked.

      “Your skin…is glowing…what did you use?”

      (Not retinoids.)

      I wasn’t ready to give up my secret yet — I labelled my ventures as experimental. Almost…homeopathic (utter at your own risk).

      My Obsession With Skin Barrier Repair After Retinoids Ruined My Skin

      Little Skincare Book Skincare Journal
      The Little Skincare Book for Women includes Korean skincare routines for skin barrier repair, skincare routine checklists and retinoid/retinol-free home facial protocols. In the series are workbooks harnessing the science of the brain-skin connection.

      When you hear something repeated often enough, it starts getting stale. When you find yourself repeating something that isn’t true…it soon nauseates you.

      In 2016, I left the private hospital I was working for and started my own practice. I stockpiled just enough tretinoin to soothe my outer dermatologist, but not so much that it would irk the inner medicine woman.

      Getting Out of the Retinoids Cult

      My dabbling soon turned into dipping. And dipping — into an uncontrollable urge. By the end of 2017 I was fully submerged. As dermatologist-homeopathic-in-private-practice, I found little reason to justify my recommendations beyond — it’s safe in pregnancy/breast-feeding. AND it doesn’t cause flaky skin. Why of course, my skin was glowing! Retinoid-free for 2 years!

      Retinoids Ruined My Skin, Repairing the Skin Barrier Helps
      Retinoids ruined my skin and skin cycling never helped, repairing the skin barrier did.

      Retinoid Side Effects #2 Retinoid dermatitis

      Retinoid dermatitis is an eczema-like reaction caused by retinol side effects. The skin barrier is disrupted in cases of retinoid dermatitis. Retinoids improve the quality of skin by exfoliating dead skin cells. But that also means it breaks down the joints between the superficial skin cells, known as corneocytes. This can cause skin to become sensitive, meaning that it reacts easily to allergens and changes in the environment.

      This is also the rationale for skin cycling with retinols and retinoids — popularised by Tik Tok in 2022. Essentially, allowing your skin to break from irritating actives such as retinoids, retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and salicylic acids. Skin cycling refers to alternating retinoids with moisturisers in between usage and reducing frequency of use.

      The Dignity of an Iceberg

      From my research in eastern ethnobotany, I found that selected botanicals were synergistic — targetting the skin microbiome in ways traditional pharmacology was unable to. The disrupted flora in dermatological conditions like acne, eczema and rosacea were responsible for chronic inflammation — and medical therapy like antibiotics, steroids and retinoids did more than just worsen it. Retinoid dermatitis, steroid induced-tachyphylaxis and antibiotic resistance were just the tip…

      By 2021, I went public. My 2 papers on the skin microbiome (maskne was timely) were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and the International Journal of Dermatology. I advocated the use of botanical-based cosmeceuticals and functional textiles to treat the microbiome and microclimate, over skin-sensitising retinoids and always-going-to-breed-resistance-antibiotic creams.

      This is the story of how I broke my decade-long addiction to retinoids. (And also how I think I regained my dignity).

      Skincare Blueprint Newsletter

      I’m a board certified dermatologist with published original research on the acne microbiome and functional dermatology. I adopt a holistic approach to dermatology by integrating functional skincare with a focus on skin barrier repair. My podcast Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty focuses on skin science as well as the psychology and philosophy of aesthetics. Subscribe to my newsletter Skincare Blueprint: Glow Up From Within for free resources on skincare routines and skin science.

      Expert Skincare Routine Steps Taught by a Dermatologist

      May 5, 2023
      Skincare Routine Steps - Double Cleansing

      Navigating skincare routine steps can be confusing. In this article, our founder board-certified dermatologist and author of Skincare Bible Dermatologist’s Tips for Cosmeceutical Skincare shares her blueprint for minimalist regimens. Understand the purpose behind each step and get maximum results. Discover how skin type affects your skincare routine steps, products to use and learn exactly how to build the best regimen for you. Included are tips on selecting plant actives suited for various skin concerns such as acne, hyperpigmentation, oily skin, wrinkles and skin sensitivity. Download your complimentary worksheet here.

      Build a purposeful skincare routine with these steps:

      Skincare Visual Stock Photo

      Skincare Fundamentals With Dr.TWL

      The following is applicable for both day and night skincare routine steps. For night time skincare, you may omit sunscreen, and also add on application of a sheet mask and eye cream. Targeted treatment of spots such as with prescription creams containing retinol/retinoids or hydroquinone should also typically be applied at night in order to reduce the risk of photosensitivity.

      Day and Night Skincare Routine Steps

      Double cleansing

      Double cleansing is a 2 step process which involves first removing makeup and sunscreen, followed by a second cleanse. The first cleanse focuses on oil soluble pigments, sebum, grime whereas the second step is focused on removing the residue. The primary goal of cleansing is to restore the healthy skin microbiome—a balance of good and bad germs. However, it is equally important to respect the skin barrier. An ideal double cleansing regimen should not strip the skin of moisture. Rather, it should cleanse skin and restore moisture levels. 

      Gentle Makeup Remove Skincare Routine Step

      Skincare Routine Step 1 Makeup removal 

      There are two options for makeup removers. The first is a micellar formulation. The second, an oil-based cleanser or an emulsion, sometimes known as a “milk” cleanser. I will go through the pros and cons of each but first let us define some terms. 

      Micellar water works by hydrophobic (water-hating) and hydrophilic (water-loving) properties of a micelle. The makeup residue is attracted to the water-hating aspect, this is best thought of as a ball that is wrapped up which continues to roll on skin grabbing the residual pigment and dirt. To remove the ball which is a micelle, you use a cotton pad. Friction or rubbing is inevitable and this can be harsh for sensitive skin 

      @drteowanlin Best Cleanser for Singapore Weather Skincare TV Ep 1 Should you choose micellar or oil cleansers ? What is the difference between emulsion vs oil cleansers? The benefits of an emulsion are that it is less greasy than pure oil formulations. It is also effective as a humectant if formulated with moisturising ingredients. When you physically rub off the makeup on a cotton pad, the oil component protects your skin. It acts as a barrier between the cotton pad and skin, hence reducing friction unlike with micellar solution. #skincareroutine #skincareactives #skincareactives101 #skincareingredients #skincareingredient #singaporedoctor #dermatologist #singaporedoctors #skincare #dermatologist #tiktoksg🇸🇬 #skincareroutine #skincaretips #skincare101 #bestcleanser #micellarwater ♬ original sound – Dr.TWL Dermatologist

      Pure oil cleansers are often too greasy, my choice is an emulsion or a milk cleanser. Milk cleansers are oil in water formulations, the oil component dissolves makeup pigments and removes excess sebum. The “like for like” principle here is that oil soluble pigments are dissolved in a similar substance—an oil in water emulsion.

      The benefits of an emulsion are that it is less greasy than pure oil formulations. It is also effective as a humectant if formulated with moisturising ingredients. When you physically rub off the makeup on a cotton pad, the oil component protects your skin. It acts as a barrier between the cotton pad and skin, hence reducing friction unlike with micellar solution.

      Barrier Repair Speed Guide
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        Problems with Foam Cleanser 1
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        Skincare Routine Step 2 Second cleanse with a lathering agent

        This step is best paired with a natural emulsifier like honey or soy, or similar botanical emulsifiers. The process of generating a foam can help improve the cleansing experience, so users feel thoroughly cleansed. However, using chemical lathering agents like laureth sulfates can strip the skin of natural moisture and cause dysregulation of oil production. This can sometimes lead to the oily dehydrated skin phenomenon.  Amino acid based lathering agents are also gentler on skin.

        How to Choose Foam Cleanser
        How to Choose Foam Cleanser
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        Skincare Routine Step 3 Serum application

        Serum Application Skincare Routine Step

        Serums deliver high concentrations of water soluble actives such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. The reason why an all-in-1 skincare cream does not work well is because the entire process of skincare layering creates a moist skin healing environment, which is not achieved with the traditional cleanse-tone-moisturise regimen. Important skincare actives to look for: 

        Essential Serums
        Essential Serums
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        Multi-weighted molecular hyaluronic acid has benefits because it can act on multiple layers of skin and activate different targets.

        Stabilised forms of vitamin C include L-ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. L-ascorbic acid is acidic and can cause irritation to sensitive skin. For this reason, I usually recommend vitamin C serum formulations based on the latter ascorbyl phosphate compounds. Sodium ascorbyl phosphate also is effective at lower concentrations. 

        The effects of vitamin C are as follows:

        • Skin brightening 
        • Antioxidant environment to fight free radical stress caused by environmental damage (UV, air pollution)
        • Treatment of acne (reduces skin inflammation by inhibiting lipid peroxidation in acne-prone, oily skin) 

        Skincare Routine Step 4 Emulsion/Lotion 

        The equivalent of a day moisturising cream is a lotion or emulsion formula which is lightweight, feels comfortable on skin throughout the day and is quickly absorbed. 

        The oil-in-water texture is the ideal day moisturiser because it maintains effectiveness while reducing any uncomfortable sticky sensations. Some important active ingredients like ceramides and also water soluble actives like plant antioxidants show increased absorption when in an oil vehicle. The oil-in-water formula is hence ideal.

        Skin Flooding Made Easy

        Skincare Routine Step 5 Facial Mist

        Many consider this to be optional, but it is actually a key step to increase penetration of all the skincare actives. The concept of sheet masking is really wet occlusion therapy which means applying products on damp skin and creating a moist microclimate enhances skincare absorption. The outermost layer of skin known as the stratum corneum naturally impedes absorption of skincare actives, enhancing permeability is hence an important principle in effective skincare routine steps. 

        The ideal facial mist should contain hyaluronic and polyglutamic acid, as these are hygroscopic molecules that help trap moisture under the surface of skin. Ultimately this prevents transepidermal water loss, which is a key problem in dehydrated skin. 

        Skincare Routine Step 6 Sunscreen (always applied last)

        For day skincare routine steps, I will usually wait 2-3 minutes for the facial mist to fully absorb before applying sunscreen. The ideal sunscreen formula should possess the following properties: 

        • SPF 50, broad spectrum
        • Compatible with natural skin color (for asians and other skin of color individuals, a white-cast is unpleasant and will affect compliance. I.e. insufficient product use can lead to lower sunprotection)
        • Lightweight, easily absorbed, cosmetically appealing tor reapply 

        Optional Skincare Routine Step: Face & Eye Cream application

        For daytime, oily and combination skin types will do well with the day moisturiser lotion alone. However dry skin types should use a moisturiser cream formula containing ceramides both day and night. In the case of a day skincare routine, the cream should be used before sunscreen. Ideally, it should be left on to be absorbed for 3-5 minutes to minimise sunscreen or makeup pilling. 

        Little Skincare Book for Women
        The LITTLE SKINCARE BOOK FOR WOMEN combines a skincare planner and barrier repair protocol guide by Dr Teo Wan Lin to help you on on your skincare routine journey.

        For night time, all skin types including oily and combination skin will benefit from using a ceramide based moisturiser. 

        It is also important to use a targeted eye cream to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. The key actives in eye creams can include

        • 4% Niacinamide (skin barrier repair and skin lightening)
        • Phytoceramides (anti-inflammatory, skin barrier repair)
        • Oligopeptides (anti-wrinkle effect)

        Night Skincare Routine Steps: Targeted treatment 

        Actives like prescription retinoids, hydroquinone and OTC retinol are to be used at night. This is to reduce the risk of sun sensitivity. Generally, retinoids can be used over an entire area, avoiding the part around the eyes and lips as the skin is more sensitive. Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent which should only be used on pigmented spots or as per physician’s directions. 

        Holistic Skin Health by Dr.TWL
        Get started on a 30 day skincare challenge and organise your skincare routine steps with Dr.TWL. 

        Weekly treatment routine 

        It is also a good idea to include in your weekly skincare routine steps a day or two for exfoliation and masking. Masking can be done as frequently as daily, although that would also depend on the individual’s preference. I cover some points on exfoliation and masking in this final section. 

        Weekly Skincare Routine Step #1 Exfoliation 

        Exfoliation Is the removal of dead skin cells from the top most layer of skin, but most importantly, a process that encourages cell renewal. It’s also important to understand the skin cycle here, the entire process from new skin cells moving to the surface and shedding it takes about 27-28 days. Exfoliation helps remove the dead skin cells to reveal younger, brighter and more radiant skin. 

        There are two main types of exfoliation. Physical exfoliation using granules or abrasive beads which I don’t recommend, especially for sensitive skin or those with active inflamed acne. Chemical exfoliation with AHAs, BHAs and lactic acids exfoliate microscopically and can improve skin irregularities.

        Home use chemical exfoliants: the most important aspect is a low concentration that does not irritate skin and also a formulation that has moisturising effects on skin to reduce the risk of irritant contact dermatitis.

        Weekly Skincare Routine Step #2 Masking

        4 Types of Face Masks

        The concept of face masks are twofold:

        1. Creating a micro-climate around your skin that enhances skin healing and stimulates beneficial processes like collagen production and cell talk 
        2. Wet occlusion therapy which increases the absorption of skincare active ingredients by improving epidermal penetration. I.e. the ability of the cosmeceuticals to cross the skin barrier is important for efficacy.

        There are 4 main types of face masks

        1. Sheet masks (reusable or one-time disposable)
        2. Leave on gel masks (high dose antioxidants like vitamin C, skin barrier repair actives like aloe, glycerin)
        1. Dry masks (polymers like silicone, hydrocolloid that create an artificial micro-climate around skin)
        2. Textiles (face masks, pillowcases engineered from novel nanomaterials like copper that exert anti-aging effects on skin).

        I recommend using leave on gel masks together with reusable sheet masks made of polysaccharide for ideal results. Dry masking can be implemented simply by switching to biofunctional textiles for your pillowcase for instance.  

        Subscribe to Skincare Blueprint: Glow Up From Within, the newsletter by Dr. Teo Wan Lin to receive in-depth skincare resources and your welcome gift pack.

        5 Glowing Skin Hacks By A Dermatologist 

        April 27, 2023
        Medi-Facial Science by Dr.TWL

        Glowing skin isn’t a myth. It’s achievable with the right products incorporated into your skincare routine. Dr.TWL’s encyclopedia of skincare routines is a distillation of her expertise as a dermatologist and also chief scientific officer of clinical skincare brand Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals. In this first installment, we cover one of the most frequently asked questions about skincare routines: how do you get glowing skin? 

        Ep 1 Skincare Routines 101: How to Get Glowing Skin

        Science of glowing skin relates to skin health, to overcome pores and dullness.
        The science of glowing skin relates to skin health. The structure of resilient skin promotes skin radiance. In this article, I share my top instant glow tips. I teach you how to organise a day skincare routine for the coveted instant glow up, including options for a 3-step instant glow facial at home. 
        Barrier Repair Speed Guide
        Sign up for our free Skincare Blueprint: Glow Up From Within newsletter to receive our welcome gift pack.

          We’ll begin with the science:

          The anatomy of glowing skin

          This is the key to an instant glow—select skincare products that target strategic layers of skin. Let’s break down what exactly makes skin glow, by first explaining what causes dull skin. With that we’ll understand the anatomy of skin, before we begin to talk about how to get naturally glowing skin. 

          • Epidermis

          The epidermis is the top most layer of skin. Dull skin is due to reduced skin cell renewal rates, which is directly related to skin age. That is why youthful looking skin is described as radiant. This is due to healthy cell turnover rate. The corneocytes are the superficial skin cells which are retained on the skin surface. This results in skin dullness. The moisture content of skin also affects glow—dry skin is due to increased loss of water to the environment. This is also known as trans-epidermal water loss. Hydrating the skin, enhancing healthy cell turnover rate are ways to achieve glowing skin at the level of the epidermis. 

          How to get naturally glowing skin: begin from the inside with botanicals
          How to get naturally glowing skin: begin from the inside. Botanicals are a rich source of antioxidants you should incorporate in your skincare routine for instant glowing skin. Dr. Teo Wan Lin discusses the concept of plant adaptogens in her book Asian Beauty Secrets–a K-beauty guide to an instant glow up based on Korean skincare routines.

          • Dermis 

          The dermis is the second layer of skin and is primarily composed of elastin and collagen. Both elastin and collagen content are also lost with aging skin. On the surface it looks like reduced plumpness and elasticity of skin. By restoring plumpness and elasticity, skin appears taut, lifted and also adds to the illusion of glowing skin from within. 

          • Overall health, blood circulation

          Inside out beauty is for real. Skin is supplied by blood vessels transporting nutrients that feed it. If you are in an optimal state of health, your skin will be too. A plant-based diet rich in antioxidants will ensure that your body has sufficient antioxidant reserve to fight free-radical damage. 

          Formulation of skincare products 

          Skincare products can be understood this way:

          • The vehicle (cleanser, lotion, serum, cream, mask) which determines texture and function 

          Cleansers work at the level of the epidermis. The rest are leave-on products which can penetrate deeper into the dermis and achieve desired effects on skin.

          Asian Beauty Secrets Book
          Discover the secrets of Korean skincare routines that promise glowing skin with Asian Beauty Secrets, the K-beauty bible that spills the beans on behind the scenes medifacial hacks used by skincare clinics.

          Active ingredients for glowing skin 

          Skincare active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid are glycosaminoglycans which penetrate deeper into skin at the level of the dermis. There are multiple biological effects including enhancing skin barrier function, encouraging healthy immune system regulation. These all essential to achieve a glowing skin effect.

          In the next section, I’ll teach you how to get glowing skin with 5 of my best glowing skin hacks, including tips on how to choose the best skincare products for instant glow effects. 

          Build your skincare regimen for glowing skin
          Skincare routine order: skincare layering is an important concept in Korean skincare routines. For example, skin flooding refers to the specific skincare order of using multiple hydrating serums and moisturisers for dry skin. 

          If we had all the time in the world, I’m sure we would be applying skincare products all day long, just kidding. As a dermatologist, I prioritise efficient skincare routines. So here’s the deal, my list of 5 glowing skin hacks crystallises top tips for achieving glowing skin in under 3 minutes, in under 3 steps with 3 products or less. 

          Skincare Routine Steps for an Instant Glow Facial At Home

          Korean Skincare Routines - Nature's Skin Cycling
          With Korean skincare routines, there is no need to skin cycle. The clinical line developed by Dr. Teo Wan Lin incorporates skincare routine products that synergise to ensure optimal skin health. With skin barrier repair products to restore healthy skin function. Instead of retinols or retinoids which cause skin sensitivity and allergies, use peptide formulas as antiaging products in your skincare routine. 

          Cleanse & peel in 1 step for glowing skin

          Glowing skin tip #1:

          I wet my face, apply a pea-sized amount of a brightening cleanser (natural emulsifiers like those honey-based or with soy/botanical emulsifiers work). Then, I use home skincare device with a microcrystalline copper oxide tip for gentle microdermabrasion. It works with vacuum technology and the microcrystalline tip exfoliates skin on a microscopic level, similar to what a chemical peel does. 

          The science behind this is that skin dullness is not just caused by retention of dead skin cells, but also because of surface oxidative stress caused by pollution. Thorough cleansing itself removes the pollutants and instantly restores the glow. The key is to cleanse effectively with the help of technology, I prefer microdermabrasion or hydrodermabrasion over sonic cleansing but you would do well to use both really. 

          Art of Skincare Layering for maximum Skincare Benefits
          Use the mnemonic SLEMM to understand the skincare layering routine. Serum, lotion, emulsion, moisturiser cream and mask. Skincare routine products must be used in the correct order for maximum skincare benefits. For oily acne prone skin, you may choose an emulsion instead of a cream moisturiser. Alternatively, a hydrating facial mist containing glycerin, poly glutamic acid and hyaluronic acid may suffice as a moisturiser for oily acne prone skin types. Glowing skin can be achieved by flooding the skin with moisture, aka the TikTok trend of skin flooding. 

          Best serums for glowing skin

          Glowing skin tip #2:

          Use serums religiously in your skincare routine if you desire to achieve glowing skin. The two best serums for glowing skin are hyaluronic acid and vitamin c serums. Use a vitamin C serum after cleansing, when your skin is slightly damp. This enhances absorption of the serum. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which means it eats up the free radicals generated by environmental damage on skin. UV exposure, PM2.5 pollutants, these directly cause oxidative stress on skin which causes skin to be dull.

          If you have dry sensitive skin, be careful with this though. I would choose sodium ascorbyl phosphate or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate over L-ascorbic acid formulations because the latter can cause irritation due to increased acidity of the skin environment. Don’t mistake skins dryness for dullness—in this case you’ll actually need to repair the skin barrier (see 3.) The best hyaluronic acid is a multi-weighted molecular formula that targets both layers of skin. The epidermis, where it has a humectant function. The dermis, where it targets cell activity and signalling. The latter known as cell talk. 

          Dull Skin Remedies with Functional Dermatology
          Dull skin remedies: Glowing skin is achievable with the right skincare products. The best serum for glowing skin contains antioxidants like vitamin C and skin hydrating hyaluronic acid. A skincare routine for glowing skin should incorporate ingredients that repair the skin barrier and fight off oxidative stress. Dull skin on the face is caused by dead skin cells, a lower skin cell renewal rate with age and also disrupted skin barrier function. 

          Use a moisturiser that contains peptides, botanicals and niacinamide

          Glowing skin tip #3:

          If you aren’t in a hurry, apply a palm-sized amount of your favorite moisturiser and let it absorb for at least half an hour (I usually get on with my tasks at home!) Also apply a damp cotton towel over your skin if you’re taking a nap—this will increase the absorption of the moisturiser which will guarantee your skin looks doubly radiant when you wake up.

          Dr.TWL Express Facial - Home Facial for Glowing Skin
          Home facial for glowing skin: Hack your facial skin care routine with facial devices like sonic cleansing devices paired with hyaluronic acid skincare products. Home facial treatments for glowing skin can be effective when correct skincare technology is incorporated. Microcurrent, hydrodermabrasion and microdermabrasion are effective technologies. 

          Spritz on a facial mist that contains polyglutamic acid

          Glowing skin tip #4:

          Facial mists are the most underrated skincare step in my opinion. Face mists are an in between skincare step, which means it can be applied anytime. Unlike the rules of skincare layering which means the most lightweight goes first, i.e. serum, lotion, emulsion, moisturiser/mask. Facial mists can act as a boost to any skincare step by dampening the skin environment which makes skincare absorption more effective. 

          Get Glass Skin, Treat Acne / Pigmentation / Sensitive Skin / Aging
          Glass skin routine: K-beauty popularized the glass skin look which is a variation of glowing skin. The key is for skin to appear translucent and transparent, almost like glass. Glass skin tips are included in Asian Beauty Secrets with product recommendations for at home facial routines and K-beauty medi-facial hacks.

          Polyglutamic acid can hold 5X the weight of water compared to hyaluronic acid, but is less commonly found in skincare because it is more expensive. Botanicals are commonly used in K-beauty facial mists, these help to fight surface free radical damage. I usually spritz on right after cleansing and again after moisturiser before I apply any makeup. I also use it throughout the day to hydrate my skin.

          The facial mist is a multifunctional skincare product I highly recommend, I use it to cleanse my skin for touch-ups—water itself is a solvent and when paired with a micellar makeup remover pad it is sufficient to remove makeup. Makeup wipes are bad for skin and definitely won’t give you a glow. They are usually formulated with harsh surfactants that will disrupt the skin barrier.

          How to get glowing skin
          Home Facial for Glowing Skin Steps: Organise your skincare routine with a skincare planner. Create a skincare ritual you can follow everyday, relax your mind and soothe your skin. Glowing skin from the inside begins with overall well-being plus a healthy skin barrier. 

          Glowing skin also needs a little help sometimes-use a BB or CC cream

          Glowing skin tip #5:

          If you’ve followed all the above steps, you are well on your way to achieving the coveted glowing skin look. But, truth be told, the glowing skin sported by our favorite K-pop celebrities also comes with a little help, in the form of K-beauty makeup. To be clear, I’m not talking about layering full face foundation, loose powder and all.

          What I’m referring to is skincare makeup, also known as the BB and CC creams which contain active ingredients in the makeup itself. The valuable aspect about incorporating skincare in makeup is that it literally boosts your skincare regimen. Your foundation sits on your skin the entire day plus it makes us all a bit more confident when we get to conceal our flaws. 

          Little Skincare Book
          Skin barrier repair tips The Little Skincare Book for Women written by Dr. Teo Wan Lin compiles top skincare tips on skin barrier repair. Includes a skincare routine planner with steps, checklists with helpful skincare tips. Develop a skincare routine order for you to stay organised.
          Heal Your Skincare Barrier

          BB creams and CC creams—we inherited these terms courtesy of K-beauty but the western beauty brands like Chanel and Dior have also caught up in a big way the last couple years. I’ve seen updated formulations from european brands which look a lot more similar to K-beauty CC creams in the last year for instance. My preference is always for skincare makeup that is loaded with antioxidants because they literally brighten your skin by zapping the free radical stress away. 

          Skincare ingredient pairing: Subscribe to Dr. Teo Wan Lin’s newsletter for top tips on how to select skincare ingredients to include in your skincare routine for maximum benefits. She covers acne scar remedies, acne skincare routines that incorporate skincare ingredients that work for oily acne prone skin types.
          Master Skincare Routines Glowing Skin Hacks
          Master Skincare Routines is an online encyclopedia created as an educational resource on dermatology and skincare ingredients and routines by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin. It accompanies her subscriber-only newsletter with skincare blueprints, practical skincare routines and fresh insider tips released each week, sign up for free and get a welcome gift pack.

          5 of My Best Skincare Tips (I am a Dermatologist)

          March 22, 2023
          Honest Skincare Tips

          Welcome to my skin diary! As a dermatologist, you may imagine that I do get asked about my best skincare tips A WHOLE LOT. But if you watched my video on lazy girl cooking hacks, you may have discovered by now that I value efficiency. You know, as a former fencer, speed to me, is really everything (epeeists are also known as the…slowest). So in this series, I decided it’s time to get brutally honest about whether I practice what I preach. I’ve distilled it down to just 5 things I swear by–rain or shine, busy or not.

          (I think you’ll find it interesting).

          Introducing the compilation…The Lazy Derm’s Best Skincare Tips for Everyone

          Cleanse Mindfully

          #1 Cleansing begins with understanding skin types

          Choosing the right cleansing regimen is the most important part of any skincare routine

          1. Don’t just cleanse, cleanse mindfully

          This means using either a very gentle washcloth (unless you have extremely dry/sensitive skin) a reusable soft microfibre pad can help attract the particulate matter settled on skin. PM2.5, airborne pollutants are known to accelerate skin aging and worsen skin conditions like acne. Cleansing is the most important step in any skincare regimen because it directly targets the skin microbiome.

          When the skin microbiome is disturbed, skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema result. 

          How to up your cleansing game: 

          • Add a cleansing device 

          Sonic technology, microdermabrasion are some clinic technologies that have now been adapted for home use.

          Besides being eco-friendly, it’s also a quick and cost-effective way to quickly up your skincare regimen. 

          Facial Essence Skincare Tips

          #2 Best Skincare Tips for Lazy Girls  

          1. Don’t use a toner. Use facial essences instead

          Aren’t they the same?  They may look similar but they aren’t. The traditional cleanse-tone-moisturise skincare mantra is passé. Toners of the past were marketed as being astringents to remove excess oil. However, this is a terrible skincare faux pas. These days, we know that oily skin isn’t to be dehydrated like a greasy wok. Oily skin can be dehydrated as well. It’s a paradox, but not really.

          Here’s the science: skin knows it has to regulate itself. Those who are born with genetic tendencies to develop greasy/oily skin tend to produce more sebum at the onset of puberty. The key is to regulate oil production and not to superficially remove oil like an astringent toner does. Instead, doing so leads to a dehydrated-oily skin phenomenon. A situation in which skin feels greasy from the inside and looks dehydrated, flaky and inflamed on the surface. 

          Dermatologist’s solution

          • Use a facial essence 

          K-beauty inspired facial essences are water-based. Water itself is a fantastic astringent/cleanser on its own—without stripping skin dry. This is why our skin feels cleansed after a bath. For the same reason dermatologists advise applying water compresses to wounds to gently cleanse and remove exudates. 

          • Face mist hack

          I completely eliminate toners in my skincare regimen. Instead, my facial mist is multi-purposed as an on-the-go cleanser, toner and moisturiser. I choose one that is free of potentially irritating skincare actives like AHA, BHAs and retinol. The formulation should include a mix of different hydrating ingredients such as glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, polyglutamic acid and also antioxidants.  In this case, especially in summer climates, I simply spray on my face mist right after cleansing and I’m done!

          Sleeping Mask Moisturiser

          #3 Want to know a dermatologist’s skincare hack?

          The best skincare tips from dermatologists are free, really.

          1. Use your favorite moisturiser as your sleeping mask 

          THE SKINCARE SCAM All sleeping mask formulas are the same as moisturisers, as these are leave-on rather than wash-off ingredients. They work by absorbing onto the skin to produce moisturising effects. 

          Are overnight masks more effective?

          It really depends on the formulation. Overnight masks are really just moisturisers. Sleeping masks could possibly be  more effective because it contains richer active ingredients that repair the skin barrier. It also has to do with the amount you apply. Directions to use for sleeping masks usually involve applying much more than your regular moisturiser.

          Leaving a topical on the skin for more than 12 hours for example, it would be important to first ascertain suitability of the ingredients, preservative and vehicle, including concentrations and types, and all of the components being intended to be applied on the skin for an extended period and not as a wash off. It is really a good marketing invention, because this encourages people to apply the proper amount of moisturiser, which is a really liberal amount, overnight, as during the day they may not be as inclined to because of whitish cream residue that may be seen under makeup.

          If the active ingredients contain irritating substances such as lactic, salicylic, glycol acids or retinols, one could actually develop skin irritation or skin allergies from masking over an extended period. Most topicals would be fully absorbed into the skin within a couple of hours, so it’s not necessary to leave something on overnight. It is more important to consider that a liberal amount of a good moisturiser is used during sleep, as that is when the skin repairs itself. 

          Beauty Sleep

          #4 Beauty Sleep is Seriously Underrated

          I am obsessed with sleeping 8-9 hours a day. This dermatologist says: do not disturb (my sleep). If you need a takeaway from this article, this is it—the best of all skincare tips I have for you is to SLEEP. It’s essential to being alive, by the way. And I don’t meant to sleep at 2 am and wake up at 2 pm. To be beautiful (and healthy) you need to follow the circadian rhythm. Like the cicada…you know? Bugs?

          1. Beauty Sleep 

          Is beauty sleep real? I guarantee it. During the sleep cycle, skin cells work to repair damaged DNA. We all know about the sunscreen doctrine—how it prevents UV rays from damaging skin cells by preventing oxidative stress. But did you know that skin does repair its own damaged DNA? This is why the older you get, the higher the risk of developing skin cancer. Biological and chronological aging slows down the DNA repair process. Sleep helps to rejuvenate cell mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of skin cells. There is scientific evidence that backs up skin dullness and lack of radiance in sleep-deprived skin—and it isn’t psychological. 

          How I wake up with good skin

          • Sleep by 9 and wake by 6 am

          Your biological clock follows the circadian rhythm—which is the sun rise and sun down pattern. Our body’s physiological processes follow that too. This ensures your cells are optimally rested and can focus on fighting the bad guys (pollution, stress, UV damage) in the daytime.

          • Choose cooling bedlinen

          If you live in tropical humidity like I do (Singapore, land of crazy hot), you know your body heats up when you sleep. Pure cotton works well, choose higher thread counts which are gentler on skin. Your pillowcase makes a difference—use silk pillowcases or in my case I use one with copper silk which gives extra anti-aging skin benefits. 

          • Consider sleeping without A/C

          This may be heretical for some—I used to be an aircon worshipper too. But it’s also true that A/C is bad for those with allergies, asthma and eczema. It dries out the skin barrier and it’s no different when you sleep. Sleep with a fan—that’s better for your skin and healthier for the environment too. Your skin will wake up feeling more moisturised (without sleeping masks, it’s free!).

          FUN FACT ABOUT ME: I have a sleep journal 

          I am an avid dreamer—and I think that also means I sleep deeply. I have wacky dreams most of the time, and it also gives me insights into problems I face in the day. But more than that, I look forward to sleeping every night—it’s like catching up on a new episode in dreamland!

          Heart Care is Skin Care

          #5 Get Your Heart Pumping 

          That rounds up my list of my best skincare tips. If you have no time for serum, facials or mists—I understand, just don’t forget to keep your body in good shape. Your heart does a good job of caring for your skin and plays a big part in my skincare tips. 

          1. Exercise everyday 

          Most people wrongly assume the best skincare tips involve skincare products/facials. Skin is an organ, much like any other organ of the body. When you are healthy, your skin will be too. Twenty minutes each day isn’t too much to ask for, especially if you are already committed to a skincare routine. The post-workout glow is real—the increased blood flow benefits the entire body and also stimulates the cell powerhouses. This is one way to instantly anti-age your skin—it does work, according to studies!

          (For those who suffer from dermatological conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, medical therapy may be necessary. This post talks about general skincare tips for those seeking to maintain healthy skin.)

          Did you enjoy my compilation of the top 5 skincare tips on my radar? Do leave a comment below and let me know! 

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