According to Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan
By Erin Docherty •
In news that surprises absolutely no one, spending money on skincare products you don’t really need, sucks. Big time.
And that’s part of the reason I’m always annoying innocent dermatologists – so we can suss out exactly what we need in our skincare routines and what we don’t.
Because while we all have those non-negotiable staples we swear by, there are actually a whole load of other ingredients that don’t get the same airtime.
And more often than not, these products and ingredients have the same – if not more – benefits than your usual line-up.
That’s why we’ve hit up some of Australia’s finest dermatologists and asked them to give us the lowdown on all the most under-rated products you need to know about.
We’re calling it: Ceramides are going to be the next big thing in skincare.
Not only are they incredible for strengthening your skin barrier and smoothing your skin, but they also have amazing benefits for ageing skin.
Ceramides make up over 50 per cent of your skin’s composition, but due to ageing and sun damage, the quality and quantity of ceramides in your skin reduces. So, this is why it becomes important to replenish them.
They are little-known heroes of the skin barrier, that naturally decline with age, environmental stressors and skin disease. When replenished, ceramides bolster the strength of the skin barrier and aid any anti-ageing technique.
Another quiet achiever? Niacinamide. Whether you’re dealing with acne, sensitive skin, dryness or dark spots – niacinamide is the heavy-lifting multitasker that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
A lot of the ground-breaking research on the benefits of niacinamide came from the University of Sydney.
It helps to combat ultraviolet light-induced DNA damage, tackles pigmentation and fine lines, zaps inflammation, supports the skin barrier, and down-regulates oil gland function (thus improving acne).
Niacinamide has proven benefits in acne and atopic dermatitis.
We know, we know. But it’s so true! SPF is hands-down the most important product you can ever put on your face – so of course it needs more hype.
Many people though still think that they only need high SPF, broad-spectrum sun protection if they are expecting to be outdoors for prolonged periods or likely to be sunburnt.
Importantly, we should always aim for primary sunscreen and not think that the SPF in moisturiser or makeup will be sufficient.
Another seriously underrated superstar ingredient is zinc. Zinc deserves better, you guys!
This guy literally goes above and beyond for your skin – helping to calm inflammation, minimise acne breakouts and promote smooth, even skin. A huge added bonus? It can also be used as a physical block, minimising harmful UV damage.
“Zinc oxide is always thought to be heavy and gluggy, but with the right technology this is a brilliant sunscreen that’s broad-spectrum,” said medical and aesthetic dermatologist Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan from Ode Dermatology.
“It’s got visible light protection, UVA and UVB protection. It’s a strong anti-inflammatory and it’s also an antioxidant so in general I feel it’s underutilised as a sunscreen and in other skincare ingredients,” adds Dr Shyamalar.
Vitamin D would have to be the least-talked-about vitamin in skincare land – yet it’s so darn crucial for healthy skin.
Not only does it work to calm inflammation and protect the skin from environmental aggressors, but it’s also a powerhouse ingredient when it comes to improving cell turnover.
While actives like salicylic and glycolic acid are pretty big names on the beauty streets, lactic acid is a little quieter – but seriously delivers *incredible* benefits to the skin. (Psst… it’s especially good if you struggle with sensitivity and dryness!).
“Lactic Acid is one of the key actives that is going to help with our skin renewal,” Dr Shyamalar.
“It turns on our anti-ageing genes. Lactic acid also provides gentle continued exfoliation of our skin, it increases a very hydrating substance in our skin called natural moisturising factor, and it can also help with overall collagen building and skin luminosity.”
Is anyone else absolutely addicted to using vitamin C in skincare? Please take a seat. We need to talk. Because apparently, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Yes, it’s a fabulous collagen stimulator and brightening ingredient. So, it can be a useful fine line fighting and brightening ingredient. But, vitamin C is one of the most common causes of perioral dermatitis and skin irritation.
Niacinamide and astaxanthin have solid scientific data to show that they do all the same things as vitamin C without the risk of giving you a rash.
“It’s a great active, vitamin A, and certainly the various skincare companies and cosmeceutical industry have utilised the fact that retinol is very important for collagen-building, pigment recalibration and overall good skin cellular turnover,” said Dr Shyamalar.
The issue? It’s not for everybody. And it’s way too easy to go too hard, too fast.
“If you’ve got truly sensitive skin, you don’t want to jump to a higher percentage of retinol, retinaldehyde and ultimately the retinoic acid component.”
“Using a higher percentage can]result in inflammation that can be persistent, so it’s important to find the right retinol for you – perhaps one that is compounded with other stabilising ingredients, one that is slow release.”
Dr Shyamalar goes on to say there are other ways to build collagen, not just introducing a retinol.
Instead, she suggests looking out for antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase (sounds 100 percent jibberish – but have a squiz at the ingredients list on your product packaging!). Ingredients like these will help prevent collagen breakdown without the risk of irritation, as well as promoting overall skin luminosity. Win.
If you’re a gal with sensitive skin, this one’s for you. The most overused ingredient is fragrance.
Many people are sensitive or even allergic to fragrances and do not realise that it is the fragrance in the product causing them problems.
Many people still assume that ‘natural’ ingredients, including natural fragrances from essential oils, are immune from causing problems – but this is far from the truth.
Are you using soap on your face? Please… don’t.
Some people still don’t realise that soap is designed to remove oils and grease and should not be used on dry, sensitive or irritated skin.
And with so many amazing cleansers out there, why would you wanna use soap?
It doesn’t matter what kind of soap – goat’s milk, natural, or moisturising – it should be avoided.
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