Although we engage in some form of skincare everyday, the industry is riddled with so many theories that most of us can’t tell for sure which are real, and which are just myths.
Maybe your mum has always told you that you must wash your face more often to keep it clean, but skin experts have often emphasised that this is not true – in fact, you may be damaging your skin and stripping it of necessary oils instead.
In order to bust these myths and share the most accurate skincare facts with Daily Vanity readers, we spoke to Dr SK Tan, who is the founder and medical director of IDS Skincare. He is dubbed “Grandfather of Aesthetics”, and is widely acknowledged to be one of the foremost physicians in aesthetics and cosmeceuticals in Asia, with expertise and experience that not many can boast of.
Here’s his take on the most common skincare myths:
On acne and pores
1. Eating chocolate or oily foods cause acne to occur.
Diet definitely plays a part. It is commonly accepted by experts that dairy products, when consumed in excessive amounts, will cause or aggravate acne in susceptible people.
Susceptible people refer to people who are already prone to acne. Acne is caused by many different factors, and diet is only one of them. If you are not prone to acne, drinking a lot of milk will not affect you. But if you are already prone and you take excessive dairy products, then you are more likely to face acne flare-ups.
People have started to understand that acne is due to excessive oil production, and some think that if you take a lot of oily food, it will cause oily skin. That is not true. Oil production on your face is independent of whatever you take in terms of diet. So you can go ahead to eat your char kway teow, eat your (food from) McDonalds, it will not cause acne to occur.
2. If we are breaking out a lot, we should be using products formulated for an acne-prone skin type.
If you have a very bad breakout, you should see a doctor instead. I view acne as something that is very urgent. Acne will never kill you – it will go away, but by the time it goes away, you may be left with scars. Scars means that your skin has been permanently damaged, and that is very difficult to treat.
It’s not easy to treat with over-the-counter products. There are some products that help, but may be limited in their effectiveness. So whenever there is a bad breakout, my advice is to go and see a doctor.
3. It is possible to shrink pore size.
Size of pores is a reflection of activity of your oil glands. Let’s say your skin is very oily – that means that your skin glands are very active, hence your pores are big. If you can find a product that can reduce the size of your oil glands, then your pore size will shrink as well. At IDS, we are doing some research and well, we may have a product for that by the end of the year.
4. We do not have to wear sunscreen even when we are indoors (e.g. at home).
Sunscreens are very useful because they protect the skin from what we call UV damage.
The people who need sunscreens the most are those who have preexisting skin problems, for example pigmentation. These people must take extra care to protect their skin from the sun. UV can pass through glass, so my advice is to make wearing sunscreen a routine, even indoors. After you put your skincare, just put a layer of sunscreen.
But for people who don’t have any pigmentation problems, it may not be as necessary to wear sunscreen even if they are indoors.
5. We should apply sunscreen 10-15 minutes before going outside so that it can be ‘activated’.
Traditionally, it is thought that you should apply sunscreen a while before heading out. However, there has been a lot of recent research that sunscreens work almost immediately. It’s a very new research, so not many people know about it.
On cleansing and exfoliation
6. Our skin should feel tight after washing, as it means that it is clean.
No. Tightness is not an indication of cleanliness.
Tightness just means that you have removed all the oil from the surface, hence your skin feels very tight. Removing all the oil from the surface may not be a good thing because it may irritate your skin. You actually need a little bit of oil on your skin for balance.
7. We should exfoliate and scrub our face harder to remove dirt more effectively.
No, never do that, because you are causing irritation to your skin. A lot of people also don’t realise that your skin naturally exfoliates by itself. When you are talking about exfoliation, you are just speeding up the natural exfoliation. If the skin is not ready to exfoliate and you try to scrub it off, you are actually irritating it.
My advice is that you should not do exfoliation too often, because your skin becomes sensitive. How often you should exfoliate depends on the skincare products that you are using. There are certain products which contain ingredients that naturally stimulate the skin. There is also exfoliation that is naturally done by your skin. In that case, you don’t need to do a lot of mechanical exfoliation (physically removing dead skin cells from your skin’s surface).
8. If we leave our masks on for longer, our skin absorbs more moisture and nutrients from the masks.
Any liquid that you leave on the surface for a long time will make skin permeable. A very good example is when you go swimming: you swim for a long time, and you see that your fingers look like prunes. The soaked skin on your fingers is already very, very permeable. In that sense there is some truth to this myth, if you put a mask on for a long time, the skin becomes soggy and things can absorb faster.
However, I don’t recommend that you leave your masks on your face for too long, because your face will look soggy, just like your fingers in the swimming pool.
9. We should chill our masks before we use them, so that our skin can better absorb them.
It’s comfortable, that’s all. But it really isn’t a necessary step.
On general beauty routines and products
10. Wearing makeup everyday is bad for my skin.
No. I don’t think so.
Some doctors think that pores can be clogged up by external things, but I disagree. The pores actually get clogged up by your own oil from the inside. Certain makeup products cause clogging because there is over-stimulation of your oil glands or irritation, that is all. Makeup on its own does not clog up the pores.
It boils down to a matter of hygiene – as long as you remove your makeup properly with makeup remover, it should be fine to wear makeup everyday.
11. There is value in using more products and doing more steps in our skincare routine.
I don’t agree. I think if a person has got fairly good skin, you need a few basic products to maintain. On the other hand, if someone has existing skin problems, then he or she may need more products to treat the skin. People have to distinguish the difference between treatment and maintenance.
In fact, the current trend is cutting down on products used and switching to multi-functional products instead. People prefer their products to have a few benefits, rather than using too many different products.
You may use a lot of different products, but the more important question is, are the ingredients able to get inside the skin? Even you use a lot of very good ingredients, it is useless if the active ingredients cannot get inside the skin. That’s where IDS Skincare makes the difference, because we have a technology that ensures that products can penetrate the skin.
12. Our skin can “get used” to products, so it’s best that we switch them up from time to time.
I don’t think the skin gets used to products, but it does change with time – because of the environment, because of hormones, because of a lot of things.
Hence, it makes sense that consumers have someone to turn to if they need help evaluating and assessing the skin. A doctor or therapist can advise if you need more or less of certain products, so you can adjust your skincare routine accordingly.
13. If we feel a stinging or burning sensation when using a product, it’s a sign that it is working.
It depends on whether the stinging or burning is very transient (just a few seconds), or lasts a long time.
There are some products which have acidic properties, so you will feel the stinging sensation on your skin, but it should not last too long. If the stinging lasts longer or you see redness on your skin, then you are probably allergic or have sensitive skin. When that happens, you should avoid those products that created the reaction.
14. We should always avoid alcohol in our beauty products.
The term ‘alcohol’ is misunderstood. Most people just think of ‘ethanol’ or ‘Ethyl alcohol’ when we talk about alcohol. However, there are actually many alcohol derivatives that are necessary to dissolve certain ingredients in beauty products, but we may not easily identify them.
An example is Propylene glycol. This is an alcohol derivative, so people tend to think that it is not alcohol, but it’s actually derived from alcohol. Alcohol by itself is not dangerous.
That being said, I do tell my patients try to look for toners that are alcohol-free. In the old days, they put alcohol in toners because alcohol cleans off oil very effectively and it’s got a temporary pore-closing action. But that’s no good, because the alcohol dries up your skin excessively
There are also products that don’t contain alcohol, but also have the same negative effects. For example, witch hazel is a good astringent, but you would want to avoid having it in excessively high concentrations because it will dry out your skin. AHAs, which have good cleansing action, are also no good in high concentrations. It’s really a matter of formulating these ingredients properly.
Unfortunately, there’s no fool-proof way for consumers to know what works – it’s basically trial and error. Ingredients by law have to be listed by concentration in the ingredient list. If you see alcohol listed right at the top of the list, it is better to avoid using this product.
15. “Chemical-free” products are better.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a chemical is “any basic substance that is used in or produced by a reaction involving changes to atoms or molecules”. Water is a chemical, and so is table salt. What really matters is that a product contains the right kind of chemicals for your skin.
With that in mind, IDS Skincare formulated Neulastin, which is a unique formulation of highly active ingredients that stimulates elastin and collagen production for effective skin repair. Neulastin does not claim to be “chemical-free” – in fact, it boasts safe, effective and time-honoured chemicals”, such as hyaluronic acid, adenosine, and elastin.
You can find out more about IDS Skincare’s new Neulastin-formulated products here.
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