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Can you cleanse your face with just water? Korean derm answers often googled skincare queries

We often think that cleansing with soap is the most effective. But it may not be suitable for all skin types. We speak to Korean Dermatologist Christine Choi for advice
 

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We’ve been drilled even as children that soap is necessary, and the drumbeat only gets louder when puberty kicks in and the oils and bacteria in our pores start pushing pimples to the surface. But do we really need to lather up even if we’re not seeing any ill effects from skipping out on it? According to Dr. Christine Choi, a California-based board-certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist, you might want to cleanse your face with just water in the AM, especially if you have sensitive skin.

For more answers to this and other beauty conundrums commonly searched on Google, keep reading.

Do I need a toner and essence in my skincare routine?

Toner and Essences have become very popular especially with the wave of Korean Beauty. Traditionally, toners were used after cleansing the skin with a basic soap-based cleanser. So, toners would rebalance the pH levels of the skin and bring it more towards a naturally acidic pH that is healthy for the top layer of the skin. But nowadays because a lot of cleansers are soapless, they are not as basic. The toners have a different role, targeting skin concerns. Some toners are more hydrating. The Body Shop has lots of toners in their ranges – rose for hydrating and tea tree for blemishes. Toners are a little bit more sophisticated and not just to rebalance the pH anymore.

Essences are really kind of the first step that is preparing the skin to then be hydrated and moisturised. There are some combination toner essences – so they do include ingredients that are like on freshly cleansed and toned skin, preparing the skin to accept hydration.

They do different things, but if you are using a hybrid product (toner and essence) then certainly you could use that.

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What are your thoughts on the 7 skin method (the 7 skin method is basically applying a toner to your face up to seven times) beauty trend?

This method would make sense if you are using a hydrating toner and you want to keep the layers very light. But if you’re using a toner that is actually not hydrating, then you need to follow up with a separate hydration.

I do like layering my skincare products for thinnest to richest (in texture) because if you put a thin product on after a thick product, it’s very difficult for that thin product to penetrate so it does make sense to layer thinnest to thickest but I don’t think there is anything magical about the number seven or doing it seven times.

 

Should I rotate my skincare products?

Absolutely! I think one of the traps that we fall into is having our skincare regimen from 10 years ago and still using the same products because not only does technology get better and skincare products get better, also we change and our skin changes and we evolve. So someone who may have normal skin can become sensitive later on, your hormones may play a role. You might have different health concerns and issues. To adapt to your new skin needs is very important.

How often you switch up your skincare depends on the environment you live in. A place like Singapore, the climate is pretty much consistent the whole year round. You might not need to adapt to different fluctuations in humidity and temperature. If you are world traveller, anytime you travel by air, it could be drying to your skin and most climates might be a little less humid compared to Singapore so you need to hydrate your skin a little bit more when you go outside.

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What skincare products should I use in my 20s/30s/40s?

Everyone is different so I’m not so strict about once you hit 29, you have to change (your skincare routine). But in general, the trend is that your cell turnover is slowing down. Naturally our cells go from the bottom basal layer of our epidermis, they slough off once they get to the top stratum corneum layer. This process becomes a little sluggish and lazy so then we need to use products to gently nudge that process along and exfoliation can be achieved through products like The Body Shop Drops of Youth Liquid Peel or masks that have a little exfoliative polishing properties like the new one (from The Body Shop) for sensitive skin that has almond and oats with gentle particles to exfoliate.

Once you exfoliate, you need to hydrate the skin. The more mature your skin gets, generally with the drop of estrogen, your skin is going to feel a little more dehydrated so adding skincare products with humectants can help attract water to the skin. To keep the water into the skin, cover it on top with more of an oil face product. The humectants in The Body Shop products include honey, rose water, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and Vitamin E. Using something that is more oil based, layering your hydration is a good strategy for when you hit your 40s and beyond.

 

Can you use expired skincare?

I wouldn’t recommend it. Expiration dates are there for a reason. Typically, we do use preservatives in skincare products but nothing is going to avoid the fact that if you are dipping your fingers in, you are transferring potential bacteria and contaminants that over time might change the formulation of your products so they won’t be as effective if they are past their expiration date.

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Is it bad to wear makeup every day?

I feel like if you are using the correct and appropriate type of makeup for your skin, then it’s okay to use it daily. One thing that is extremely important is removing it daily which maybe is not as consistent for some people. With long-wearing or long-lasting products, it’s extremely important to keep our pores clean. I do like incorporating different types of makeup removers like the chamomile butter that is really gentle and following up with a foaming cleanser.

There are also clarifying masks like the Himalayan clay mask and the Japanese matcha mask which tries to clear the pollution, makeup, oil and debris from your pores. As long as you are applying the right makeup and removing it, it’s okay to wear makeup every day.

 

What cleanser should I use for my skin type?

You need to access your skin. One product that you’ve used in your teenage years when you’re a bit oilier may not be suitable once you enter your 30s, 40s or beyond. So it’s wonderful that we have so many different vehicles for cleansers especially if you’re wearing long lasting makeup and you want remove it thoroughly. It’s great to use something like a muslin cloth to help aid in removing the makeup and using it with the chamomile butter that I was talking about.

Then, if you do tend to be blemish prone, you can use for instance the tea tree cleansers. I don’t use the same cleansers morning and night because in the morning I don’t have layers of sunscreen, oil and makeup, so I can use something that is a little more gentle whereas in the evening, I do want to do cleansing in steps.

Photo: pexels 

Can I cleanse my face with just water in the morning?

I do advocate that for people who are quite sensitive. Even a gentle cleanser twice a day might be a bit much. If you had to choose which time of day to use just water, it would make sense to be the morning.

There are many products that are meant to be used overnight like the bouncy sleeping mask and tea tree overnight mask, if you’re using those masks, it might make sense to cleanse them completely off your skin before applying your morning skincare products.

 

How often should I use masks?

I would start once a week and up to twice a week. Some very oily or hardy sebaceous skin types, maybe men, might be able to tolerate doing it more often. It’s not a every night thing unless it is a hydrating mask. If it’s an anti-pollution mask like the Japanese matcha mask or the charcoal mask or even the almond milk mask for sensitive skin that will be launched in September, I would recommend using it gently and not as aggressive. More isn’t always better.

So if you are using a complete skincare regimen, cleansing, hydrating and protecting, you don’t need to mask every single day.

Photo: pexels 

Can I use sleeping mask every day?

If you’re using a sleep mask, it depends on the active ingredients in the mask.

If they are purely hydrating, then it can be used more often but at the same time a lot of masks have different multi-purposes, whether it is brightening or anti-ageing, read the labels but most of them but most of them are not meant to be used every single night.

 

What is the hottest Korean beauty trend right now?

The two most popular things are anti-pollution products as well as multi-purpose products with many different benefits. Anti-pollution is a big concern especially in Asia. We are learning more about the effects of pollution of the skin.

Pollution generates free radical which can contribute to early signs of ageing and blemishes. In terms of multi-functioning product, an example would be The Skin Defense Multi-protection essence. It protects from the sun, SPF 50 (PA++++), and it also has anti-oxidants in it with vitamin C so it’s fighting free radicals.

 

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