Wreaking havoc on your skin
By Nicole Economos • 13 May
Melbourne-based dermatologist Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan says that instead of relying on products at the damage control stage, putting in place preventative measures such as a balanced routine will help you maintain optimal skin.
“Skin health should be adding ingredients and actives to make the machinery (our skin), that is already so well-equipped, work better,” says Gunatheesan, founder of practice ODE Dermatology.
Over cleansing and using the wrong products can cause microtraumas and break down your skin’s acid mantle, an invisible barrier of fatty acids that protect against irritation and infection.
For this reason, Gunatheesan warns of trying to achieve that “squeaky clean feeling” through excessive cleansing and exfoliating.
Unless you have oily skin, the average person should only cleanse at night – Gunatheesan recommends double cleansing – because too much exposure to water and soap can also dry the skin.
Gunatheesan agrees, recommending a creamy cleanser that is rich in ceramides to help moisturise and strengthen the skin barrier.
It may seem like the quickest solution, but instead of risking the spread of inflammation and scarring by picking at spots, Gunatheesan suggests dunking a flannel into warm water with Himalayan salt and placing it over the pimple.
Or, mix over-the-counter Benzac with a touch of salt to make an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial paste to stick on for three minutes.
Alternatively lactic or salicylic acid with a cotton bud can do the trick.
Not committing long enough to a regimen or set of products is also a common downfall. Disrupting your routine regularly brings a risk of skin sensitivity.
Gunatheesan recommends sticking to products for two months, as it takes about 28 days for the skin to rejuvenate from the bottom layer to the top (unless an allergic reaction occurs).
Gunatheesan says it’s important to layer products correctly for the ingredients to be effective.
In the morning, gently cleanse (a splash of water will do) before applying a serum such as a vitamin C or niacinamide, then moisturiser and sunscreen before make-up.
As a general rule, try to leave a few minutes after your serum as your skin needs time for absorption.
Gunatheesan also suggests sticking to using one range. “By using products from the same brand, you can assume they would have formulated the science so they work synergistically.”
While many of us search for miracle ingredients to combat hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone and ageing spots, using an SPF 50+ sunscreen is the best defence against skin cancer and a non-negotiable age-defying skincare product.
Approximately 80 per cent of extrinsic or external ageing is caused by exposure to the sun.
UV light contributes to the degradation of collagen, a protein that provides structure and a vital support network that keeps skin firm and wrinkle-free.
Many of us stay up late binge-watching Netflix, but Gunatheesan says for skin health, it’s ideal to hit the hay by 11 pm (better yet, with a silk pillowcase).
Gunatheesan says going to sleep by 11 pm ensures your shut-eye is deep enough for best reparative results, including the rebuilding of collagen.
You can spend money on many collagen products, but if you’re not getting enough sleep along with eating healthily to reduce inflammation in your gut, reducing stress levels, exercising or smoke, it’s a waste.
“Sleep is when so much of your skin detoxication and repair happens; we are evolutionarily driven to go through the repair process that mirrors melatonin depending how deep your sleep is.”
“Those who have broken sleep are more prone to issues like rosacea and dry skin,” says Gunatheesan, adding that she often sees these conditions in shift workers and new mums.
She adds that training yourself to flip on your pillow throughout the night will mean less pulling on one side of your face as you age.
The urge to hop straight into bed after a late night is understandable, but skin breathability is vital for the cells of our epidermis to turn over. ” Make-up will suffocate it with an artificial layer of debris, rather than working its natural detox,” Gunatheesan says.
“Some make-up has fragrances and botanicals in it, and if you wake up with it, you can sensitise your skin when you venture into the sun.”
To remove make-up, and the grime and environmental pollution that sticks to it, double cleanse with micellar water and a ceramide rich cleanser.
Use a facecloth or microfibre tool only once a week. “As we age, our elasticity and our distensibility are not as great, so if you are stretching your skin out aggressively every night while scrubbing, you will have invisible microtraumas that compromise your skin barrier.”
Make-up brushes and tools should be deep-cleaned weekly.
It’s vital to focus on other areas that become more susceptible as we age, including our hands, chest and neck.
“The skin is thinner so it is impacted by the elements around us. Put a little bit of residue of the products you are using on these areas, and start it early – a lot of my clients wish they did,” Gunatheesan says.
Also avoid spraying perfume on areas exposed to the sun, including the neck, jawline and chest, or risk hard-to-treat discolouring.
Targeted solutions and tailored treatments are offered to fulfil individual concerns of every age. This transcends into a guardianship of long-term, personal wellbeing and an amplification of the skin's innate intelligence.