After a calmer, albeit fairly anxiety-filled, two weeks of ‘Lockdown Lite’, PM Lee’s address on 31 May sparked a glimmer of hope describing Singapore as being “on track” to bring the current Covid-19 outbreak under control, and how curbs may ease according to plan, come 13 June.
While we’ve transitioned a lot smoother to WFH this time, the question is: Are we, once again, ready to face our colleagues, friends and the general public? A lot of us have retreated back into our homes, possibly breaking out due to work (with added HBL) stress and the uncertainty of it all, and may—or may not—have neglected doing both morning and nighttime skin routines because well, there hasn’t been a full need to glam up in the AM. This, while others might have gone back to being extra self-critical of their facial features or asymmetry, what with having to stare at ourselves on screen for hours on end, every single day. Or worse, have we been sitting in front of our screens and windows without the appropriate UVA/UVB and blue light protection? Changing into presentable bottoms may be optional but SPF even when indoors isn’t.
All that said, it’s not too late to get back on track and bring our focus back to self-care—specifically, skincare—just like we did during the last Phase 2. Despite being cooped up in our homes last year, Singapore’s beauty market revenue in 2020 shot beyond one billion US dollars, with US$720million of that generated by personal care and skincare alone—and 2021 is slated to surpass that. Doctor Sylvia Ramirez, Medical and Scientific Director of Cutis Medical Laser Clinics Singapore says: “It is clear that the pandemic has increased the demand for aesthetic treatments globally. But you can do much at home to combat dull skin. Apart from regularly cleansing your face twice a day, upgrade your skincare game and efforts by incorporating products with brightening and hydrating ingredients to help you get glowing skin”.
Here’s a beauty to-do list to ensure you head back out into the world with an enviable glow:
Never forget sunscreen, and add some blue light protection for optimal coverage
The general adage may go ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but Dr. Ramirez affirms that applying SPF daily will keep your skin healthy and youthful if done right: “Sun protection is a must, not only when you leave your house but also at home. Though the effects of blue light from our devices are unclear, we know that blue rays penetrate deeper and can potentially be more dangerous than UV rays from the sun. If possible, limit your screen time and enable dark mode on your phone and other devices to limit blue light exposure”.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate…the Korean way
Dry, dehydrated skin or flaky patches are key symptoms of what the industry calls “lockdown face”. This could be due to heightened anxiety, insomnia, and an irregular skincare routine—because good skin loves consistency. To quench your skin’s thirst, try out K-beauty’s toner trick, which involves applying three to seven layers of toner or essence to get you the kind of bouncy, radiant and dewy glow you get after a facial. This “seven-skin method” allows the skin to “drink” up each light, hydrating layer of complexion-quenching nutrients, immediately replenishing and optimising hydration levels to nurture healthier skin function and balance. How you want to do this is to apply a toner or essence on freshly cleansed skin, allowing each layer to sink in till semi-dry before patting in the next; before sealing this all in with your go-to serum and the all-important moisturiser.
Control breakouts by calming and cleansing first
Stress can come in different shapes and forms—like homeschooling, job insecurity or burnout—but its harmful effects all lead to a rise in the hormone cortisol, which is infamous for triggering skin inflammation, sensitivity and excess oil production—a key cause of breakouts. Here is where many can learn from the mistakes of the first Phase 2, where strong (and potentially harsh) ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and AHAs—which help kill acne-causing bacteria—were the first things many reached out for at the sight of an inflamed bump. Take it from skincare and wellness guru, Ole Henriksen, who preaches the priority of calming and pampering erupted skin instead of “treating” it from the get-go: “It is very key when skin is erupted that you calm down the stress and redness—not over treat or over dry the skin. Good skin is about balance—if it’s inflamed, soothe it; if it’s congested, purify it; if it’s tired and dull, energise and brighten it. If your skin is already sensitive, don’t use harsh, sensitising formulas—you don’t want to over do it. Heal, hydrate and calm, step by step”. So instead of reaching for acne-fighters, slather on some soothing, hydrating elixirs to nourish and bring down the inflammation without triggering further damage, focusing on ingredients like Centella Asiatica (aka Cica), green tea, niacinamide, vitamin C, propolis extract, fermented yeast extract (aka galactomyces)—all of which are calming, anti-inflammatory staples of a K-beauty skincare diet.
Accelerate renewal and boost glow with chemical exfoliators
Alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids are chemical exfoliants that refresh and renew skin on two levels: Water-soluble AHAs (like glycolic acid) work on the surface of the skin to sweep away dead skin cells and helps stimulate collagen synthesis; while oil-soluble BHAs (like salicylic acid) go much deeper to unclog pores of a build-up of dirt, impurities and excess sebum. BHAs also boast skin-calming properties and are gentle enough for sensitive skin types, best known for their acne- and bacteria-busting capabilities. Either way, these acids make way for better skincare absorption and cellular function, in turn boosting healthier skin with a smoother, tauter and brighter glow.
Jump on the niacinamide bandwagon (if you haven’t already)
If you’re facing hyperpigmentation, enlarge pores or dulling, uneven skin tone, reach for superstar skincare ingredient, niacinamide—also known as a form of vitamin B3. Dr. Ramirez explains: “Niacinamide is well-known for skin lightening properties as it inhibits the transfer of pigment to the surface of the skin, which helps alleviate dark spots. It also appears to shrink the appearance of pores resulting in smoother skin. In addition, it has been shown to reduce glycation of collagen, which is important because glycation stiffens our collagen molecules whereas niacinamide reduces this. In a 12-week clinical study of a topical niacinamide, a 21 percent improvement in fine lines was seen along with the improvement of skin tone and radiance”.
Fight fine lines with a small, mighty dose of vitamin A
The thing about spending so much time online is, for one, we’re looking at ourselves way too much, or worse, possibly comparing how we look with others. This can then magnify “imperfections” that you barely noticed before, like fine lines, wrinkles, or pesky spots. Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is touted as a miracle ingredient that helps fight skin ageing and fade dark spots by boosting the production of collagen and elastin, increasing skin thickness, and building resilience against future damage. Key rules with retinol usage: Always start slow and sparingly, with just a pea-sized amount once a week at night before increasing frequency; always wear sunscreen during the day as this increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun; sandwich between moisturisers if you have sensitive skin; and only start if you’re comfortable with riding it out for at least four to six weeks including period of purging and shedding.
Strengthen those lashes
Much to your dismay, your set of C or J-curl lash extensions may have fallen out during this time of social distancing. And while above-the-mask beauty services are still permitted, you may still choose to stay safe at home. Enter Revitalash’s Advanced Eyelash Conditioner, the OG of lash care products. The physician-developed formula contains BioPeptin Complex, amino acids, and a slew of natural botanicals such as ginseng to strengthen the hair against breakage and brittleness, while boosting resilience and shine. Trade in your short or sparse lashes for this restorative eyelash conditioner and find out just why one of these tubes is sold every 33 seconds.
Slick on that lifting, brightening eye cream stat
Despite being the first and most vulnerable part of your face for fine lines and wrinkles to form, the eye area is often neglected by many during their skincare routines. Yes, a lot of face formulas can be massaged around that area, but the ultra delicate area around the eyes, which is prone to dark circles, puffiness and drooping skin too, deserves a lot more TLC considering all its multitude of stressors—like squinting at the screen for too long, fatigue, genetics, bad habits, and well, ageing. Focus on deep hydration, lightweight but vitamin-enriched formulas, and stimulating better microcirculation through patting and a light massage.