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Dermatologist Recommended Skincare: A Comprehensive Guide

January 4, 2022

Are you looking for dermatologist recommended skincare products in Singapore? This article features an interview with our dermatologist, Dr. Teo Wan Lin, who is also the chief scientific officer of cosmeceutical skincare line Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals. She goes through the key principles of how effective skincare products work. Dr. Teo answers key frequently asked questions such as how long does it take for your skincare to show results, as well as important functions for each of your skincare products.

There are specific functions for each step in your skincare regimen. This article breaks down the criteria that dermatologist recommended skincare products must fulfil for your skincare regimen. These are useful tips for anyone who is searching for a dermatologist’s advice on how to build an effective skincare regimen for themselves. 

Dermatologist-Recommended Skincare Science of Beauty Podcast
Dr.Teo Wan Lin is the host of beauty podcast Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty which releases a new episode every Sunday. It is available on Spotify apple and Google podcasts.

What are the key features of dermatologist recommended skincare products?

Skincare regimens are important parts of dermatological treatment. Skin diseases such as acne, rosacea, eczema are all treated with topical therapy as first line. This includes gentle skincare that is also effective. The public needs to understand the difference with the skin as an organ, in that it is external and hence has the unique ability to absorb what is applied on it. This is the principle behind dermatologic therapeutics.

Oral medications are often required as adjuncts. However, a good skincare regimen will make all the difference in terms of the long term outcome. Dermatologist recommended skincare products are hence very relevant in the treatment of facial or body skin condition. This includes eczema or dry, sensitive skin conditions as well.

Let me explain, we traditionally explain the underlying cause of eczema as an issue with the skin barrier. According to a brick and mortar skin model, the bricks are the skin cells “corneocytes” and the mortar the glue “ceramide” joining these cells together. In eczema, the barrier is leaky. This results in allergens, i.e. environmental dust, pollutants, bacteria, to penetrate the barrier and cause an immune system response.  

Dermatologist recommended skincare products, in this case, have a few basic functions to help eczema recover. Gentle cleansing with antibacterial properties can be beneficial for the skin microbiome. This is because eczema is driven by a super-antigen effect due to the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Skin infection in eczema patients is caused by this.

Moisturisers does not just help in barrier repair. It can also reduce inflammation depending on what active ingredients are present. Ceramides are clearly the key repairing ingredient for the skin barrier, as the skin cells are joined together by lipids. Phytoceramides are plant-derived, from plant seed oils and mimic the natural behaviour of moisturising ceramides present in skin. The role of moisturisers is beyond just repairing the skin barrier.

Dermatology research actually shows that frequent use of a dermatologist recommended skincare moisturiser can reduce reliance on topical steroids. This is critical for eczema which is a long term problem that requires maintainence. The issue is also the effectiveness of topical steroids is lost over repeated usage, a phenomenon known as tachyphylaxis.

A gold standard moisturiser is formulated as a prescription emollient device, a term coined by paediatric dermatologist Dr. Lawrence Eichenfeld. Such a moisturiser has additional anti-inflammatory properties which mimic the function of topical steroids in suppressing skin inflammation. This is achieved with botanical derivatives which have anti-inflammatory properties. 

Use of wet-wraps together with such a dermatologist recommended skincare moisturiser for eczema can be a crucial part of eczema treatment

Moisturising mists based off thermal water or deep sea water have also been studied in limited research studies. These seem to suggest that the composition of natural minerals in these waters can help to stabilise the skin microbiome and also soothe inflammation.

Use of these mists are twofold. Firstly, it is an effective way to deliver extra moisturising ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid which penetrate your skin to the deeper layers. These moisturise the skin but also help encourage beneficial cell talk. Cell talk is essentially cross communication between cells for important skin healing physiological processes to occur.

The second function it performs is as a spray on liquid mist, which enhances the occlusive effect of wet wrap therapy. This increases the skin’s ability to absorb medications as well as skin repairing moisturiser ingredients. Hence, the use of dermatologist recommended skincare products for eczema can be seen as an important part of eczema treatment. 

How long does it take for a product to show effectiveness?

For skin barrier-related concerns, such as dryness and flaking, effects can be seen within three days or even less. For sustained improvement, we always consider at least an entire skin cycle, which is about a month. For targeted skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, I think it is crucial to realize that a lot of over the counter active ingredients actually do not treat the condition. These ingredients marketed for hyperpigmentation are useful adjuncts for prevention.

However, if you truly suffer from melasma and sunspots for example, a dermatologist may recommend combination therapy with prescription creams or lasers. That does not mean that one should not use such skincare, as there are a lot of additional benefits from cosmeceuticals that can be seen after years of use as they help to reduce photoaging and oxidative stress. 

Do dermatologist recommended skincare products always show visible results on the skin? 

The key here is that “visible” is not necessarily the most accurate assessment of whether a product is doing its job for your skin or not. The reason is if you suffer from an existing dermatological condition, be it eczema, rosacea, perioral dermatitis or acne, these are medical conditions that need to be treated with therapeutics. These are often prescription medications.

The role of dermatologist recommended skincare products is to support the treatment process. It should not aggravate the condition. By this, it has to have minimal irritation potential, hence dermatologist recommended skincare products are often associated with suitability for sensitive skin as well. This is known as tolerability.

Effective and safe skincare can actually be suited universally, for all skin types. It should also have over-the-counter, nonprescription based functional active ingredients that can treat the condition. An example would be the use of botanical actives in managing acne. Chlorella vulgaris, argan oil and berberine are examples of active ingredients that we identified to have promising properties as natural acne treatments.

With the advent of maskne, botanicals are increasingly researched because of its low irritation potential when applied under occlusion. These also do not have the problem of antibiotic resistance, which is a common side effect of traditional acne treatments involving topical antibiotics.

In the case of acne and pimple treatments, dermatologist recommended skincare products generally do target the pimples and spots to bring down inflammation quickly. These results can be seen in a short time as well. For eczema and dry skin sufferers, an effective moisturiser should not sting when applied. This is a common problem with moisturisers as when the skin barrier is deficient, it can cause stinging when there are certain preservatives present in the formulation.

Skin should also look instantly smoother. This is because an effective moisturiser for eczema  works to repair the gaps in the skin barrier that cause irregular skin texture and roughness. In addition, the best moisturiser for eczema should be able to bring down the sensation of itch as well. 

These broad principles form the key premise of dermatologist recommended skincare products, which means it is able to work effectively across the entire range of skin types.

What are we looking out for for dermatologist recommended skincare products like cleanser, versus toner and serum or moisturiser?

For cleansers and toners, I think it is important to make sure that your skin does not feel dehydrated from their use. A good cleanser and toner is meant to deliver moisture to your skin and at the same time remove excess oil, enhancing the stability of your skin. For serum and moisturizer, I think the base result is it should not cause any irritation.

If you are attempting to use these to treat your skin problem like acne, rosacea or eczema for example, you must realize that these are actually cosmetic ingredients which can help in the treatment of certain disorders. They are however by no means should replace the treatment itself. Therefore, if you have an active skin concern, get evaluated first by a dermatologist. These cosmetic ingredients can be an accompaniment to your treatment regime. They can help you in terms of maintenance and that is what has been done for my patients.

When will we know if a product isn’t working? 

I think that for serums and moisturizers, if you have mild dry skin or eczema, within a day or two, you will definitely see an improvement in terms of your skin texture as well as your symptoms. If you are not better, it does not necessarily mean that the product is not working. It could simply mean that you probably need medications. Your skin barrier, in the case of eczema, is failing. In addition, due to consistent inflammation, it is not sufficient for just barrier repair via moisturisers alone.

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