20 Things Dermatologists Wish You Knew

Leave. That. Pimple. Alone.
PHOTO: Kim Myers Robertson

1. IMPORTANT: Know your skin type.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to skin care,” says Dr. Mara Therese P. Evangelista, MD, FDPS, a dermatologist and dermatopathologist at Levana Dermatology Clinic in Quezon City. “A lot of people use the bandwagon approach to skin care—if mama and ate use this, I can use it, too! Unfortunately, your skin may need something else. For example, if you have dry skin, we don’t recommend you use a toner. If you are older, you might need anti-oxidants or medications to retard skin aging. If you have associated skin problems like acne or melasma, then you’ll need additional treatments.”

2. Find out which skin care products you can mix and match.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever piled on the products because, duh, the more you use, the more they’ve got to work, right? Not exactly. “Some of these products are synergistic, but there are those that inactivate the other’s active ingredient,” says Dr. Dumont I. Domingo, MD, DPDS, a dermatologist who currently practices in Batangas City. Yet another reason you should visit a derma: He or she will be able to tell you which products make beautiful music together, and which ones grate on each other like fingernails on a chalkboard.

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3. Go easy on the facial scrubs.

Another mistake women often make: gleefully scrubbing those granules onto their skin—sometimes even daily—to achieve these products’ promise of a healthy, youthful glow.

“Most people think that the more you scrub, the cleaner your skin becomes,” says Dr. Gayle Opada-Villarmea, MD, DPDS, a dermatologist and dermatopathologist at the Skin Doctor Clinic in Dumaguete City. “On the contrary, it can actually irritate your skin and even worsen acne.”

“Some scrubs may be too abrasive and may damage the skin barrier, which in turn worsens pre-existing skin problems,” Dr. Domingo elaborates. He recommends scrubbing just once a week or once every two weeks; there’s really no need to be sandpapering your face off each day.

4. Be wary of antibacterial soaps.

Dr. Evangelista cites a consumer update by the United States Food and Drug Administration that states that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps aren’t necessarily better at preventing illness than washing with plain old soap and water. The report goes on to say that many antibacterial soaps contain triclosan, an ingredient that has been shown to alter the way hormones work in animal studies and has also been found to possibly contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Uh-oh.

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5. Struggling with a breakout? Watch what you eat.

According to Dr. Evangelista, foods that may cause acne are high-glycemic foods—among them white bread, rice, and potatoes—and to a lesser degree, dairy. If acne is a problem for you, Dr. Evangelista suggests keeping an eye out on the foods that seem to draw those buggers out and sharing your observations with your dermatologist to see what foods are the culprit.

6. Pass on the diamond peel if you’ve got a lot of blooming acne going on.

“Diamond peel for pimples should never be done if there’s a lot of inflammatory acne on the face,” Dr. Opada-Villarmea warns. Doing so will just irritate the pimples, making the problem even worse.

7. Avoid applying just any old cream or ointment on your zits.

A common mistake people make is blasting topical steroids like clobetasol or betamethasone on their pimples to clamp down on inflammation. “They do reduce the redness and swelling, but what people don’t know is that a common side effect of prolonged use of these creams or ointments is steroid-induced acne,” Dr. Domingo explains.

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8. Here’s an idea: Just leave the damn pimple alone.

“A pimple is basically a bag of oil, debris, Propionibacterium acnes (the bacterium that is associated with acne), and inflammatory cells,” Dr. Evangelista explains. When you squeeze it, all that gnarly stuff is pushed into the surrounding skin, possibly leading to infection and darkening of the skin. And when the inflammation blows up because you got too pop-happy, you know what you’ll get left with? A scar, which is much harder to get rid of than the offending pimple you had at the start.

But fret not, ladies. “If you leave your pimple alone, it will heal in three to seven days,” Dr. Evangelista says. AND THEN THERE WAS HOPE.

9. Steer clear of whitening products that contain hydroquinone.

While this is an effective lightening agent, Dr. Opada-Villarmea reveals that hyroquinone can actually result in rebound hyperpigmentation or dark gray spots when used for a long period of time. So much for skin whitening.

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10. Lay off on using calamansi or lemon juice as skin whiteners.

You’ve probably heard from a friend that citrus fruit juices like calamansi or lemon work wonders when it comes to skin whitening, but Dr. Domingo cautions against using these. “The concentration of such acids may vary and may have unpredictable results, such as allergies or sunlight-induced reactions,” he says.

11. Really want to get whiter skin? Step away from the pharmacy counter or grocery aisle and just let a derma help you out.

Dr. Domingo reveals that rebound darkening after using over-the-counter peeling and whitening solutions is actually a common complaint among patients. If you’re serious about seeing results, he suggests you go for chemical peeling by a trained dermatologist who is able to recognize adverse reactions and give early intervention as needed.

12. Want to keep wrinkles at bay? The solution is sunscreen, plain and simple.

Ask any derma what vital skincare step you need to take to fight wrinkles, and the answer will always be sun protection.

“Exposure to ultraviolet light, whether UVA or UVB, from sunlight accounts for 90% of the symptoms of premature skin aging, including wrinkles; therefore, the most important skincare product available to prevent wrinkles is sunscreen,” Dr. Evangelista explains.

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13. Even if you do wear sunscreen, are you wearing enough, though? (Probably not.)

No matter how high your SPF goes, if you’re not slathering enough of the stuff, you’re not getting enough protection. Dr. Evangelista shares that people normally apply only about a third of the recommended amount of sunscreen, which cuts the SPF they actually get to about a third of the value as well.

14. If the only reason you’re passing on sunscreen is because it’s greasy, you should know that it also comes in gel form.

Dr. Opada-Villarmea suggests using gel sunscreens which are water-based, non-greasy, and will be your best friend in this tropical weather.

15. Don't take your moisturizer for granted—you’ll be thanking it later on.

Dr. Domingo reminds us that skin hydration is also very important in keeping skin supple for longer, so moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Just find a moisturizer that best suits your skin type, of course.

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16. Petroleum jelly is a miracle worker.

For those with very dry skin, Dr. Opada-Villarmea swears by petroleum jelly, which she says will seal in moisture for a longer time compared to lotions.

17. Pay attention to what your skin is telling you—a skin problem could be a sign of something more serious.

“Some pimples or what appear to be rashes may seem ordinary, but are actually part of a constellation of signs of another condition,” says Dr. Domingo. Some diseases these skin signs could point to: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), diabetes, or lupus. Yikes.

18. How often you need to see a derma really depends on your skin.

Dermas don’t require regular visits unless they feel the need to do so. But for patients who have just begun treatment for a skin complaint, more frequent visits are scheduled at the start. “It is important for us to monitor compliance, progress, and whether there is a need to adjust the medications that were initially prescribed,” Dr. Domingo explains.

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Plus, with different skin colors come different skin concerns. Dr. Opada-Villarmea cites the example of her Caucasian patients, who are more prone to skin cancer and as such are advised to drop in twice a year for a whole body scan.

19. Even if you think your skin is perf, it won’t hurt to still see a derma.

“If the patient has no skin conditions, I suggest that she should still see a derma to determine her skin type so that the proper skin care regimen is prescribed,” Dr. Evangelista says. “Prevention is always the best treatment, and the right regimen can prevent breakouts, retard skin aging, and generally just give you better-looking skin.”

20. Save your skin, pump up your self-esteem.

Dermas know all too well how skin problems can cause someone’s self-esteem to plummet. “Some of my patients have been rejected from work due to bad skin,” Dr. Domingo reveals. And once those skin woes were zapped? Domingo observed a surge in these patients’ happiness and self-esteem. And hey, anything that hikes up happiness, we’re all for.

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