From The Straits Times    |

The start of a new year is typically when we embark on new ventures, take a new direction, and overhaul what isn’t working. Such shake-ups can apply to many things, including our beauty stash and skincare regimen.

Given all the changes the pandemic has triggered in our lives, we should adapt our beauty habits and skincare routines to keep up with the new normal and all that it entails. Read: prolonged mask-wearing, increased exposure to heat (because we’re no longer in air-conditioned offices all day), longer hours starring at screens, and so on.

In the past two years, we’ve seen an increase in skin sensitivity, eczema and contact allergies because of Covid-related lifestyle changes like working from home, irregular working hours, and frequent cleansing and sanitising.

Dermatologist Dr Coni Liu from DS Skin & Wellness Clinic

Often, these changes lead to skin barrier dysfunction. “Our skin produces ceramides and lipids to protect itself from the external environment, and harsh cleansers or sanitisers remove these natural oils, allowing allergens and bacteria to enter the skin more easily to cause rashes and allergies,” she explains.

Dr Lynn Chiam, dermatologist at the Children & Adult Skin Hair and Laser Clinic, observes the same changes. “I definitely see a significant increase in cases of eczematous dermatitis, as heat and sweat can trigger an exacerbation of skin rash. There are also more patients seeking help for acne or maskne from prolonged mask- wearing, not only in adolescents but also among adults,” she says.

To help skin cope with these stresses of pandemic living, it may no longer be sufficient to rely solely on a good set of skincare products.

Instead, beauty in 2022 and beyond is about taking a more 360-degree approach that involves everything from gadgets to skin supplements and probiotics for both your gut and skin.

“A holistic skincare regimen differs from person to person. It depends on how sensitive, how dry or oily, and how acne-prone the skin is. There is no one-size-fits-all regimen,” says Dr Chiam.

“However, among my patients, I have noticed that a lack of sleep affects the quality of skin, and leads to worsening of acne and dermatitis. So do take some time to destress and follow regular sleep patterns,” she adds.

Here, we show you how to establish a more well-rounded skincare routine that can better handle sensitive, stressed skin, and what you should add to your beauty arsenal.

Add gentler new ingredients to your skin diet

Ever-growing research and improving technology have led to new, buzzy skincare ingredients constantly appearing on the scene, some of which offer the benefits of tried-and-proven stuff minus their downsides.

Among those that Dr Chiam is excited about is bakuchiol, a plant molecule that’s proving to be a gentler alternative to retinol which, until now, has been the gold standard in the field of wrinkle-fighting ingredients.

“Topical retinoids are proven to be effective in delaying skin ageing processes and improving skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. However, they can have adverse effects such as irritation and dryness or retinoid dermatitis, which can actually aggravate some symptoms of the skin conditions they’re supposed to target. Bakuchiol has been studied in recent years with promising results, offering the beneficial effects of retinoids without the side effects,” she says.

Another new entrant you should consider is tranexamic acid. Originally a drug used to treat or prevent excessive blood loss during surgery, tooth removal or even menstruation and nosebleeds, it was found to help lighten dark spots and brighten dull, uneven skin tone when used in topical skincare.

And the clincher, it can be used by all skin types, with reportedly little to no risk of adverse effects like dryness or sensitivity.

And for those looking for a milder, less-stinging way to achieve fresh, smooth skin, enter polyhydroxy acids aka PHAs. Like their more established cousins, the alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), PHAs work by exfoliating dead skin cells. The difference is they’re made up of much larger molecules that work on the skin surface and don’t penetrate as deeply, making them much more tolerable for sensitive and thin skin.

It helps, too, that they’re humectants, which means they help to retain moisture, so skin won’t feel itchy and tight afterwards.

Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum, $69

Blends tranexamic acid with five forms of vitamin C plus antioxidant-rich guava to improve skin radiance and reduce the look of dark spots.

Chantecaille Gold Recovery Intense Concentrate A.M., $551

This power-packed skin rejuvenator is a cocktail of It and premium ingredients, including bakuchiol, tranexamic acid, gold heptapeptides and spirulina-derived enzymes.

Belif Super Drops PHA 5%, $108

Gentle enough for daily use, this exfoliant is boosted with hyaluronic acid and pomegranate-derived vinegar to soothe and hydrate skin.

Support with beauty supplements

You take multivitamins and other health foods to help your body function better and make up for what’s lacking – your skin deserves the same kind of care.

Like health supplements, there are now skin supplements for just about every sort of beauty concern and need, whether it’s sun protection, skin brightening, lack of firmness, fatigue, panda eyes or even breath and body odour.

Health and wellness supplement brand LAC, for instance, offers tablet supplements of French pine bark extract, which is said to be a rich source of antioxidants. Besides countering free radical damage that cause premature ageing, it’s supposedly an immunity booster too.

LAC Masquelier’s French Pine Bark Extract, $46 for a box of 25 tablets

Some supplements deal with more specific problem areas, like Ceramiracle’s Flowerberry Eye Illuminating Supplement. Packed with ingredients like chrysanthemum, goji berry, lutein (said to protect against blue light), and carotenoid-rich kale (which promotes healthy vision), it delivers the exact sort of nutrients needed by puffy, shadowed, dry and tired peepers that have had excessive exposure to digital devices.

Ceramiracle Flowerberry Eye Illuminating Supplement, $84 for 30 capsules

Even companies that don’t traditionally offer supplements have added them to their line-up – a sign of how prevalent the practice of eating your way to beauty has become.

Korean express facial chain Skingo! is one such player, having introduced its own oral supplement that delivers both UV protection and whitening effects.

Skingo! Bio-White, $115

Boost facial care with at-home devices

Although salon facials are back on the table, it’s arguably better for your skin to be getting effective treatments on a consistent, day-to-day basis at home.

Regular masking is well and good, but it’s time to take your home facial up a notch with DIY skincare devices that mimic professional ones.

Take Luna 3 Plus, the latest offering from Swedish skintech brand Foreo, for instance. A cleansing and skin-firming beauty tool rolled into one, it delivers gentle heat for a thorough cleanse, and microcurrents to stimulate and tone facial muscles for a smoother, more lifted appearance.

Foreo Luna 3 Plus, $469

foreo luna3 main

There’s also Dr Dennis Gross’ DRx Spectralite Bodyware Pro, an FDA-approved light therapy device that tackles wrinkles, acne, hyperpigmentation, and even achy muscles and joints with red and blue lights.

Dr Dennis Gross DRx Spectralite Bodyware Pro, $720

Some products fuse the tech with the skincare itself, such as the Revitaleyes Concentrate from local facial chain Porcelain.

A lightweight gel that promises to tackle all your eye woes from fine lines and dark circles to saggy skin, it comes in a tube with a massaging applicator that automatically switches on upon skin contact, delivering microcurrent and high frequency micro-vibrations to boost repair and circulation.

Similarly, Charlotte Tilbury’s Cryo-Recovery Face Mask works cryotherapy and acupressure into the product, which is a reusable silicone sheet mask with metal beads that target specific acupoints, and pockets of cooling gel to firm and refresh skin.

Charlotte Tilbury Cryo-Recovery Face Mask, $114

It’s not just the face that gets to enjoy professional-like treatments. With products like Braun’s Silk-Expert Pro 5, an at home IPL device for permanent hair removal, you don’t even have to head to the salons any more.

Boasting technology that can read your skin tone and adjust the light intensity accordingly, plus three comfort levels, it offers a safe and fast way to de-fuzz in the privacy of home.

Braun Silk-Expert Pro 5, $999

Look after the good bacteria

“The microbiome of the skin is a vast universe of microorganisms that regulate inflammation and prevent the entry of pathogens. In recent years, there has been more and more research into using pre-and probiotics, either topically or orally, to get the microbiome of our skin back to a healthy balance. Probiotics are live bacteria that support the good bacteria in our body, while prebiotics are food for the good bacteria, enabling them to grow,” explains Dr Chiam.

However, she notes that knowledge about probiotic skincare is still evolving. “Even though some small studies have shown that pre- and probiotics may decrease the risk of skin allergies, improve the skin barrier and reduce acne, more research is needed to understand exactly how they work and how best to formulate such products,” she says.

Dr Liu shares a similar view. “Personally, I think probiotics work better through the diet than when applied onto skin,” she says. Even so, pre- and probiotics are increasing finding their way into skincare, often to complement other features of the products.

Home-grown brand Myskinbar recently launched Early Addiction: Rose Edition, a toner-like product that promises to hydrate, rebalance and fortify skin through a mix of Bulgarian rose water, chamomile extract and plant-based probiotics.

Myskinbar Early Addiction: Rose Edition, $88

Major established brands have also added microbiome-supporting elements to some of their key offerings. Lancome, for example, upgraded its best-selling Genifique serum by enriching it with pre-and probiotic fractions to better soothe skin sensitivity and strengthen the skin barrier.

Lancome Genifique Advanced Sensitive Dual Concentrate, $120

And Laneige boosted its best-selling Water Sleeping Mask with a probiotic complex to help restore skin balance.

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask EX, $45

This story was first published in the January 2022 issue of Her World.