Basic skin care Part III: Should I use a Toner?


More popular in eastern culture, toners can be a beneficial, but not a necessary step in the skin care regimen. Astringent is a type of toner that is intended to remove residual oil or dirt left behind by cleansers. However, these products often contain alcohol and causes skin to dry out. Dry or sensitive skin patient should avoid astringents. Even in oily skin individuals, astringents can be overly harsh, and cause skin to produce more oil. Very popular in Asian countries, toners (aka “lotions”) are applied after cleansing before serums as a part of daily skin routine. The right toner can help remove residual makeup or dirt, refresh and rehydrate the skin.  The type of toner selected depends on your skin need. If skin brightening and smoothing the complexion is desired, then picking a toner with Vitamin C and other antioxidants may be useful (Murad, SKII, Origins Perfect world). For those of us that experience harsh winters, a hydrating lotion such as Hada labo HA lotion, Laniege Water Bank Essence can be soothing. When purchasing avoid ingredients with “alcohol” and “propylene glycol.”

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Skin Care Part II: How to Cleanse!


Your cleanser should properly remove oil, dirt, bacteria, and makeup, yet still mild enough that your skin barrier is intact. Today, a variety of cleansers exist on the market. In general cleansers can be broken down into bar soaps vs liquid cleansers.

Bar soap are traditionally made from animal and vegetable fat. However, most “soaps” today are mostly made from synthetic detergents (aka petroleum derivatives). The selection for bar soap depends on one’s skin type; dry skin may prefer superfatted soap as it is less harsh

Liquid cleanser is basically soap preparation but can have additional creams or lotions added. The benefit again is less drying. Whether bar or liquid is merely personal preference.

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Skin care part I: Back to basics


Skin is the body’s largest organ system. The average adult will carry about 20 sq. ft. of skin weighting about 7-9 lbs. Our skin is important not only in keep us together but also act as a shield to fend off environmental damage, retain moisture, regulate temperature, and prevent infections.

The skin is composed of three layers: epidermis, dermis, and subcutis. The epidermis is the outer most layer of skin. It is composed of cells called “keratinocytes” that is constantly being regenerated and shed. Other specialized cells that live in this layer are vital to the immune system in fighting off infections. Skin color is also determined by cells that house in the epidermis, called melanocytes. Interesting darker skin individuals have the same number of melanocytes as a fairer skin individuals. It’s the amount of melanin produced by these cells that determine skin color. Below the epidermis is the dermis, which is the supporting layer of the skin. The dermis contains blood vessels, nerves, and hair follicles. The dermis is composed mostly of collagen and elastin, which has important implications in aging. The subcutis, is the last year of the skin. Containing fat, it helps cushion vital structures and serve as energy reservoir for the body.

Since we wear our skin on the outside, it’s often one of the first things people notice. Problems of our skin can have physical and psychological impact on one’s well being. So how can we put our best skin forward?

There are countless skin care products out on the market these days, which one to use is a common question I always get asked as a dermatologist.

Regardless of your skin type, the skin care regimen should contain 3 to 4 basic steps (in the order of application): cleansers, astringent/toners, serum, and moisturizers. The goal of skin care is to refresh, by removing, sebum, dirt, and bacteria; and replenish by adding in antioxidants and sealing in moisture. In this series, we will review each important step of the skin care regimen, discuss what’s necessary, and debunk some myths.

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