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Interview conducted by Lim Jia Ying

Sunday Riley recently dropped a new serum, promising to as good as a medical-grade retinol (or vitamin A) product that you can get without a dermatologist’s prescription and sans all the side effects that you typically get with doctor-prescribed retinol cream. Retinol has been considered as the gold standard anti-wrinkle product by dermatologists for a long time, so this sounds like good news to beauty enthusiasts who crave for a potent but convenient solution to their skincare woes.

Skin Vitamins Sunday Riley Retinoid

And they’re not the only brand that has products that claim to have an effective product that sound like what you can usually only get in clinics. We’re seeing more and more over-the-counter brands releasing products that are made with high percentage of vitamin C, glycolic acid, and vitamin B, just to name a few.

Skincare Vitamins The Ordinary

The Ordinary is a Canadian skincare brand that has a range of affordable products with high percentage of vitamins and pure ingredients. (Photo: Cult Beauty)

There’s certainly one question on everybody’s mind: What are there differences between these products and the ones prescribed by doctors? Are they really as good as they sound?

To find out, Daily Vanity asked a dermatologist to give us the low-down.

Do these products really work?

Dr. Tan Kian Teo, dermatologist from Loke Skin Clinic says that these product work.

“These products do work to a certain extent and it is good that consumers have ready access to these products for skin care,” he said. He specified that retinol and glycolic acid are both great products for anti-ageing.

“These products which are available over the counter are generally quite safe. However, they are not as efficacious as the ones that require prescription,” he added.

Although they are generally safe, Dr. Tan advises that consumers still do a patch test to make sure they have no reaction to it.

“Try them on a small area of the skin first to make sure that there is no adverse reaction. Some (people) can have very sensitive (skin) that can react even to the mildest products.”

Dr. Tan said that while these off-the-counter products tend to be milder and gentler than the ones that doctors prescribe, they aren’t as effective. On the other hand, products described by doctors are more likely to have side effects like irritation.

Skincare Vitamins

If you’re already seeing a dermatologist and using prescribed products, it’s recommended that you check with the doctor before adding the products into your routine.

He clarified that while many products can be used together, “using two similar products like retinol and tretinoin may potentially cause more irritation and may not be advisable”.

Skincare Vitamins 2

TL;DR version: These over-the-counter products that claim to use ingredients typically prescribed by dermatologists are definitely great additions to your routine albeit a milder version of what you can get from a dermatologist clinic. But if you have a serious skin condition and find that over-the-counter products aren’t helping, it’s probably time to visit a dermatologist to sort it out.

New products with ingredients that you typically see in doctor-prescribed drugs for skin

Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Serum

Skin Vitamins Peter Thomas Roth Vitamin C

Taking a step up from traditional vitamin C, this new serum from Peter Thomas Roth uses THD Ascorbate (tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate), which is said to be 50 times more powerful than vitamin C.

THD Ascorbate is a stable form of oil-soluble vitamin C that helps to improve the look of uneven skin tone and texture, firmness, fine lines, and wrinklesDespite its potency, it is non-irritating and works for most skin types.

Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Serum retails at SGD149 and is available in Sephora and Lazada.

Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

Skin Vitamins Sunday Riley Retinoid

This serum contains a 6.5% solution of stabilised retinoid blends and retinol-alternative extracts, making it an advanced-strength retinoid serum. Gentle enough on skin, it can be used daily and without the need to stay away from the UV exposure. Besides anti-ageing benefits, the serum also helps make complexion look more even.

Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum retails at SGD128 and is available in Sephora and Shopee.

Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment

Kate Somerville Treatment

Exfoliation is always the first step at every facial treatment at the Kate Somerville Clinic, because removing dead surface skin cells help transform skin and aid the absorption of skincare products.

This newly launched product is the nightly leave-on version of Kate Somerville’s bestselling intensive exfoliating treatment, and is a 10% AHA and fruit enzyme-powered solution.

Note that the acids may increase skin’s sensitivity to sun, so you’re advised to wear a sunscreen in the morning when you’re using this treatment.

You may also experience skin flaking, which means you need to let your skin acclimatise. Simply reduce usage to every other night and then slowly increase it to nightly use.

But if you can get over these issues, you’ll find that your skin glows, look more even, and is softer and smoother to touch.

Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment retails at SGD95 and is available in Sephora and Lazada.

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum

Drunk Elephant B Hydra Serum

This is an ultra-hydrating serum that is formulated with pro-vitamin B5 and pineapple ceramide. A lightweight serum with pH 6.6, this can be used on all skin for intensive hydration.

It doesn’t just promise to moisturise your skin, but also that it will deliver steady hydration throughout the day. You can look forward to skin that looks healthier and more illuminated.

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum retails at SGD74 and is available in Sephora and Shopee.

Alpha-H Multivitamin Super Cream

Alphah Multivitamin Super Cream

Alpha-H is well known for pioneering the use of glycolic in their formula. Their new Multivitamin Super Cream continues to push the boundary of skincare for being a non-AHA treatment that contains a potent cocktail of vitamins A (reduces wrinkles and firms skin), B (builds moisture), C (brightens skin tone and reduces redness), and E (promotes healing and repair).

This is the product to go for if you hoping to boost your skin’s general health and to protect it against air pollution, which is a cause of many skin issues including pigmentation and inflammation.

Alpha-H Multivitamin Super Cream retails at SGD81 and is available in Sephora.

Allies of Skin Vitamin C 35% Collagen Rebuilding Serum

Allies Of Skin Vitamin C Serum

While most vitamin C serums contain between 15% and 30% of vitamin C, Allies of Skin has created one that has 35%. It is also supercharged with Superoxide Dismutase + Gluthathione, a next-generation antioxidant complex that strengthens the potency of vitamin C.

Use this daily to repair skin while protecting it against UV damage and pollutants. The result? Brighter, firmer skin that’s smooth and clear.

Allies of Skin Vitamin C 35% Collagen Rebuilding Serum retails at SGD160 and is available in Sephora.