Aesthetics physician Dr Anna Hoo from Anna Hoo Clinic debunks popular skincare myths and misconceptions.

Instagram and Tik Tok have made skincare tips more accessible to the average consumer. The downside, however, is that consumers often experience information overload, and find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.

In this article, Dr Anna Hoo, aesthetics physician at Anna Hoo Clinic, explains basic skincare do’s and don’t’s, and puts to rest some popular myths.

Myth 1: Basic skincare is complicated

There are only five items that are absolutely essential to one’s skincare routine, says Dr Hoo:

  1. Cleanser – cleanses the skin and removes impurities. Ideally, cleansers should be formulated to be gentler on the skin than soaps, causing minimum disruption to the skin’s barrier and natural pH levels.
  2. Toner – prepares the skin to absorb post-cleansing products such as moisturiser. It should refresh one’s skin without stripping it of its natural moisture.
  3. Serum – face serums are lightweight liquids that contain a higher concentration of active ingredients such as resveratrol, CoQ10, hyaluronic acid, mandelic acid, and vitamin C, compared to moisturisers, and are effective in tackling specific concerns such as acne, pigmentation and wrinkles.
  4. Moisturiser – hydrates the skin by retaining water in the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin. Moisturising the skin daily can regulate the its moisture levels.
  5. Sunblock/Sunscreen – protects the skin from harmful UV rays, and prevents premature ageing. The main difference between sunblock and sunscreen is the way they protect the skin from UV rays. While sunblock blocks UV rays by forming a physical shield on your skin’s surface, sunscreen contains chemicals that absorb UV rays before your skin can.

Myth 2: I don’t need to apply sunblock or sunscreen when indoors/the sky is overcast

Dr Hoo suggests using sunblock or sunscreen during the day regardless of whether you are spending your time indoors or outdoors. Sunblock contains mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, whereas sunscreen contains organic chemical compounds such as octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, and ecamsule.

Whether you use sunblock or sunscreen depends on your day’s activities.

“If you are planning on water-based activities such as swimming or one that will result in continuous perspiration, I suggest a water-resistant sunblock. If you expect to be in an air-conditioned environment indoors, I recommend a non-water-resistant, hydrating sunblock to protect and hydrate the skin.”

Dr Hoo recommends generous applications of sunblocks/sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or 50. For outdoor activities or activities which result in continuous perspiration, Dr Hoo recommends reapplication of sunblock/sunscreen every two hours or so.

Myth 3: Exfoliation – the more often I do it, the better

Dr Hoo cautions against exfoliating too often; weekly exfoliation is ideal, while daily exfoliation is not recommended.

“Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from your skin’s surface using a chemical or granular substance, or an exfoliation tool. Exfoliating can traumatise the skin, and if you do it daily, you’re not allowing your skin to heal properly,” she explains.

She breaks down the essential steps in a skincare routine as follows:

  1. Daily – cleanse, tone, moisturise and protect
  2. Weekly – exfoliate, intensive hydration using mask/ampule/serum
  3. Fortnightly or Monthly – facials, laser treatment, superficial chemical peel
  4. Occasionally – HA treatments for skin hydrating

Myth 4: Skincare is expensive

Your skincare budget depends on your skin type and health. Most people with healthy, normal skin require a simple skincare routine which involves cleansing, toning, hydrating and sunscreen.

Patients with specific skin issues such as acne or pigmentation may need to spend on skincare products which target their skin issues.

“Expensive products aren’t necessarily better, but if you wanted to splurge on one treatment, I would suggest Juvederm® Volite, which delivers hyaluronic acid (HA) directly into the skin to improve its hydration and elasticity, while reducing the appearance of fine lines,” says Dr Hoo.

The results from a single treatment of Volite can last for around nine months.

Myth 5: Products that contain all-natural ingredients are better than products whose ingredients are made in a lab.

Generally, this boils down to personal preference and what works best for one’s skin. Dr Hoo personally prefers products that have more beneficial ingredients, such as vitamins C and B3, resveratrol, fullerenes, and ferulic acid.

“As aesthetic physicians, we prescribe products according to the condition of our patient’s skin. For dull, dry and wrinkled skin, we may prescribe skincare with CoQ10 to tone, ferulic acid to hydrate and reduce fine lines, and vitamin C to brighten the skin.”

Dr Hoo advises consumers to exercise caution when purchasing skincare especially online, and to not be tempted by products that promise a quick fix or dramatic results in a short time.

“For example, skin whitening products often contain controlled ingredients such as hydroquinone or harmful ingredients such as inorganic mercury, which inhibits the formation of melanin. The prolonged use of such products can cause adverse effects such as allergic reactions, skin irritations, neurotoxicity or even kidney damage.”

These harmful effects may not be easily undone, and in some cases are irreversible.

Dr Anna Hoo, aesthetics physician at Anna Hoo Clinic


All images by Shutterstock.
Dr Anna Hoo photo courtesy of Dr Anna Hoo.

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