Skincare 101: All That You Need To Know About Caring for Sensitive & Acne-Prone Skin
Part I: Introduction

Our skin - being the largest organ in our body, works as our first line of defense against the environment. Not only does it protect us from harmful bacteria and microbes, but it also regulates our body temperature (crucial for Singapore’s sunny weather!) and allows for sensations of touch. That’s why proper skincare is important so that this protective barrier is kept strong and intact.

A good skincare routine is even more important for our face. Unlike the rest of our body which is covered by clothes most of the time, our face is the most exposed to the elements. This puts it at an even greater risk of suffering from various skin conditions such as rashes, acne, cracked skin, etc.

However, it is often difficult to find a good skincare regimen for those of us with sensitive or acne-prone skin. This is because there are a myriad of reasons that cause these skin conditions and it is not easy to apply the correct facial treatments if the exact cause is not determined.

As such, if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, this article shall serve as a guide to help you determine the causes, find the right skincare products, and understand how and which facials can supplement your skincare routine.

Part II: Sensitive Skin - Understanding & Taking Care of Skin That Is Easily Irritated
2.1. How To Determine Causes of Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is a very broad category that refers to skin that is more reactive to external factors than the average skin. Some common reactions of sensitive skin coming in contact with a particular trigger include itching, redness, and burning or stinging sensations.

Before we discuss the common causes of sensitive skin, we need to understand how it happens. If you have sensitive skin, it has to do with the topmost layer of your skin. Also known as the stratum corneum, this layer of skin consists of skin cells held together by lipids (fats) that form a protective barrier against water loss and damaging elements such as UV rays, wind, heat, and harmful chemicals from penetrating the deeper layers of your skin.

If this skin barrier is damaged or weakened, it cannot do its job correctly and will allow irritants to penetrate your skin easily - thus triggering a reaction. This is typically the case for people with sensitive skin.

Moreover, sensitive skin means different things to different people. Some people are sensitive to skincare products, while others are sensitive to their environment. That’s why it is important to pinpoint the exact cause as there are separate treatments for each of them. In general, most triggers can be grouped into 3 categories. They are:

  1. Medical

    In some people, sensitive skin is a symptom of an underlying condition. Such conditions can be eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. These usually result in even greater sensitivity such as extreme redness, painful burning sensations, rashes, cracked skin, or even small bumps that ooze pus. If that sounds like your skin, you may have to visit a dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis and receive medication for it.

  2. Skincare ingredients

    Being sensitive to certain ingredients in skincare products is the most common trigger for many people - especially harsh ones like fragrances, detergents, soaps, certain alcohols, and certain essential oils. These ingredients interact with the stratum corneum in such a way that it weakens the lipids, resulting in the barrier becoming more permeable and triggering reactions such as redness, itching, or stinging sensations. Typically, these reactions will go away once the product stops being used and this is how most people find out their sensitivity to certain chemicals. Do note that if you experience more extreme reactions like hives or rashes, you might be allergic to the ingredient and you should visit your doctor to get it treated.However, this is often the most difficult cause to determine, as most people may only find out their sensitivity after using a product. That’s why many skin specialists often encourage people to patch-test their products first before incorporating them into their routines.

  3. Environmental

    Some people’s skin may become more sensitive due to their surrounding environment, especially in areas where there are low humidity and low temperatures. In such conditions, water from your skin evaporates more easily and your skin barrier has to work harder to maintain hydration. Not only does it result in dry skin, but it also weakens the barrier and makes it more sensitive. This phenomenon is very common in countries that have winter. Although Singapore hardly has such cold temperatures, the long hours many of us spend in air-conditioned offices produces a similar effect on our skin. As a result, office workers have to pay more care to their skin to ensure that it does not become too sensitive.Another environmental factor is ageing. As we grow older, the stratum corneum renews itself less frequently. This means that older, weaker skin cells get replaced by newer and stronger cells at a slower rate. Subsequently, this causes the skin barrier to become weaker and less able to protect your skin from irritants. If you find that your skin reacts negatively to a product when it was fine before, it may be because of this.

2.2. Effective Treatments That Give Sensitive Skin The Care It Deserves

It may feel like sensitive skin is difficult to take care of as the smallest thing seems to trigger a reaction. Nevertheless, as long as the cause can be determined, it should be relatively easy to come up with a routine. There are also a few general guidelines that people with sensitive skin can follow so that they can choose the right skincare products or facial treatments.

  1. Research before buying

    As mentioned earlier, harsh chemicals in skincare products are often the biggest trigger for most people with sensitive skin. Therefore, products containing such chemicals should be avoided as much as possible. One way to avoid such products is to research the ingredients before purchasing them. The good thing is that many websites offer full ingredient lists of many skincare products so that you can buy the right product for your sensitive skin. Alternatively, you can also consult a dermatologist to advice you on ingredients to avoid.

  2. Patch-test

    Even after purchasing a product that is free from harsh chemicals, there may be potential triggers that you may not be aware of. Given that some people's skin has reacted badly even to sensitive skin products, this step is crucial to ensuring that the product does not trigger your skin’s sensitivities.

    Patch-testing involves putting some product on a small area on your face and monitoring it for 48 hours. In case the product irritates, it is advisable to put it on an area that can be easily covered - like your forehead, the underside of your jaw, or even behind your ear. Make sure that there is no other product in that area as well so that you assess it properly.

  3. Always moisturise

    Moisture helps the skin repair itself and maintain its protective barrier. As such, be it drinking plenty of water or using hydrating skincare products, moisturising is an important step in treating sensitive skin.For ageing skin, moisturisation is especially helpful as it can restore moisture and speed up the renewal process. Skin feeling especially dry? Go for hydrating facials! A skincare treatment that contains water-rich properties, hydrating facials will infuse your skin with much-needed moisture and hydration while stimulating your skin cells to boost collagen production and cell regeneration!

Thinking of getting a facial for your sensitive skin? Here are some tips that you can follow to ensure that your skin does not react negatively and that it reaps the full benefits of the facial.

  • Let your facialist know about your skin triggers - That way, she will know what to avoid and customise treatments that are suited to your skin
  • Avoid extractions - For sensitive skin, this can be potentially stripping and irritating. As such, avoid facials that include extractions as one of the steps.
  • Choose hydrating and/or soothing facials - Hydrating facials help to inject moisture back into your skin and offer a much gentler exfoliation as compared to extractions. Soothing facials often use very gentle ingredients that calm your skin while repairing your skin barrier at the same time.

Most importantly, you should always talk to the skin specialist to find out what is involved in the treatment and also let them know what you are hoping to achieve out of the facial. Consequently, that will help you receive the best facial treatment for your skin.

Part III: Acne-Prone Skin - Not Just for Teenagers
3.1. Understanding Acne-Prone Skin - Its Types & Causes

When people think of acne, they often imagine teenagers with pimply faces that clear up once they reach adulthood. However, the reality is far from that and many people still experience pimples well into their thirties.

As acne is often a result of skin follicles becoming clogged with oil and skin cells and the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), people with oily skin are usually more prone to getting pimples. Nevertheless, other skin types are just as capable of developing acne as there are a variety of causes for it. Moreover, it can happen anywhere on the body.

Much like sensitive skin, acne-prone skin has environmental, medical, and skincare triggers. Any of these triggers may cause the development of 2 types of acne- either non-inflammatory or inflammatory.

Noninflammatory acne typically refers to either whiteheads or blackheads. Clogged pores that remain closed are called whiteheads. Blackheads occur when the skin over the clogged pores break and expose the buildup inside to air - turning it black. The most common cause of this type of acne is environmental - such as hormonal changes in teenagers, menstruating, and pregnant women. Such changes may cause an overproduction of oil in the face which results in pores being clogged with it. Luckily, being noninflammatory, whiteheads and blackheads are usually not that painful.

Inflammatory acne refers to any small bumps in the skin that may contain fluid and are often red or white in colour. Some may even feel painful to the touch. The inflammation is the body’s way of fighting the bacteria that spread into the skin tissue when a clogged pore ruptures. Inflammatory acne can be further divided into 3 types based on their level of severity. The least severe are papules - which are small red bumps and the most common representation of pimples. When papules are further infected, they often fill with pus and develop into pustules. Finally, pustules can often harden and turn into cystic acne - the most severe (and often the most painful) type of acne.

Inflammatory acne has a variety of triggers. Some may be caused by hormonal changes while others may be a reaction to skincare and makeup ingredients that clog pores. Certain medications such as corticosteroids (commonly used to treat asthma) and birth control pills may also trigger acne.

3.2. How To Properly Treat Acne-Prone Skin So That It Does Not Come Back

For most people with acne-prone skin, having acne is often annoying and embarrassing. They not only have to deal with the actual acne, but they also need to deal with the scars they leave behind - especially inflammatory acne. Subsequently, there are a few lifestyle changes that they can do to properly treat their acne. Do take note that if you suffer from cystic acne, it is advisable to visit a doctor to get it treated as over-the-counter remedies have limited effectiveness.

skincare products formulated with chemical exfoliants instead. As over-exfoliation can be detrimental to your skin, you should aim to use such products at most 3 to 4 times a week. There are even body washes that include such acids to help those who suffer from acne on other parts of their body.

  • Choose products with non-comedogenic ingredients

    Ingredients that cause pores to clog are known as comedogenic and there are many skincare products and makeup that contain such chemicals. As such, you should buy products that state that they are non-comedogenic as they are less likely to clog your pores. Do remember to patch-test as well.

  • Cleanse

    This is especially important for those who regularly wear makeup. These products often clog pores and should be taken off before you go to sleep. Even if you do not regularly wear makeup, cleansing your face every day is a must in your skincare routine. This ensures that any dirt on your face is washed away and does not have a chance to accumulate in your pores. While most tend to wash their faces once a day, people with oily skin can benefit from washing their faces twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening). Be gentle with your skin as vigorous rubbing can cause your acne to worsen.

  • Go for regular facials

    People with acne-prone skin can further supplement their efforts by going for professional acne facial treatments as they offer more targeted solutions. Some involve gently buffing the skin to reveal newer and fresher skin while others utilise LED light therapy to stimulate collagen growth. Such facials also offer extractions to remove the buildup from clogged pores - perfect for those who pick their pimples often.

For those with back acne, getting it professionally treated can be beneficial as well. As a hard-to-reach area, back acne is often hard to treat on your own. With the help of expert skin specialists, back acne treatments can resolve your issues. As always, you should let the aesthetician in charge of your facial know about your concerns and conditions so that they can customise a treatment for you.

Acne scars are another thing that people with acne-prone skin have to deal with once their acne clears up. This is usually in the form of:

  • Hyperpigmentation - These refer to dark spots on the skin where acne once was. While the exact science is not clear, many researchers think that inflammation can result in melanin being produced - which is what causes the hyperpigmentation.
  • Physical marks - That often occurs when the pimple bursts or is picked apart.

As they take much longer to get rid of, acne scars should be treated preventatively if possible. This is why dermatologists always recommend not to pick at your pimples no matter how tempting it might be. Besides, the chances of hyperpigmentation are greatly reduced when sunscreen is applied every day as UV rays are the biggest cause of melanin production. However, if you still happen to get them, using products with Vitamin C or AHAs can help to fade the spots.

A popular method of acne scar reduction is to go for a micro-needling facial. This involves pricking tiny holes into the skin with sterilised needles. These small wounds will stimulate your skin to produce more collagen and elastin to heal the wounds - including the acne scars. When done by a professional, this method is very safe and has a success rate.

When it comes to treating acne-prone skin, patience and consistency is the key to success, especially with acne scars.

Part IV: Do-It-Yourself Versus Professional: Which Is Better?
4.1. 2 Key Differences Between DIY & Professional Skincare

Whether due to time or money constraints, many people prefer to do skincare on their own rather than go for professional facial treatments. With the prevalence of sheet masks and brands creating ‘at-home facial spa’ kits, it seems as if the experience of a professional facial can be replicated at home. Nevertheless, there are mainly 2 advantages of professional facials that probably cannot be experienced with DIY versions. They are:

  1. Expert knowledge of skin conditions

    Professional facials are usually done by trained skin specialists who have studied various skin conditions and have experience treating them. Sometimes, we may not realise the nuances of certain skin conditions and may end up triggering an adverse reaction with a product. Be it acne or sensitive skin, a trained professional analyse your skin with an expert eye and propose treatments accordingly. Moreover, most professional skin specialists ensure that they use techniques and ingredients that have been well-researched so that your skin concerns are addressed appropriately.

  2. Access to medical-grade equipment

    Procedures such as micro-needling and extractions are best done by a professional who has access to medical-grade equipment and knows how to use them properly. Other equipment also helps to penetrate ingredients deep into the skin so that full benefits can be enjoyed.While there are home micro-needling and extraction tools available on the market, they may not have gone through the necessary quality checks to ensure that they are safe to be used on your face. If you are planning on such procedures, it will be good to approach a trained professional rather than doing them on your own and risk ruining your skin.

However, that is not to say that facials should replace at-home skincare. Consistency is always crucial when it comes to taking care of your skin and its issues. Moreover, facials have been found to improve the efficacy of skincare products. This means that you can probably maintain the benefits of a facial for a longer time if you commit to a skincare routine.

More importantly, facials should only be done every month so that the chances of irritation remain low. This is especially true for micro-needling treatments as they can be detrimental for your skin if done too frequently.

As professional facials can help treat specific skin conditions such as acne, they should be a part of your skincare routine that also includes taking care of your skin daily.

Part V: Conclusion

Sensitive and acne-prone skin may be difficult to treat and take care of, but with a little bit of research, the help of trained aestheticians and dermatologists, some trial and error, the process can be easier. It is also good to remember that achieving good skin is a marathon. As such, whether it is a skincare product or an aesthetic facial, anything touting to be a quick-fix solution is more likely to be detrimental than effective. As long as you commit to a consistent routine, you will be able to see long-lasting results.

Whatever your skin concerns, Ceramique Aesthetics has a team of trained skin specialists in Singapore who are dedicated to helping you resolve them! Contact us today to find out more.

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