Monday, September 20, 2010

Choose Dewy, Not Oily

Get that dewy complexion,
 without makeup
Adapted from Simply Her, July 2010. By Justina Tan

So, what's the difference?

Oily shine is caused by excessive sebum on skin while dewy shine is a sign of healthy skin, says Dr Jean Ho, consultant dermatologist at Jean Ho Skin and Laser Clinic and visiting consultant dermatologist at KK Women's and
Children's Hospital.

ln excessively oily skin, the build up of sebum results in coarse skin. You'll also have enlarged pores, blackheads, pimples and irregular pigmentation, says Dr Ho. Dewy skin has the right balance of sebum to maintain skin hydration. Dr Ho says healthy skin has a radiant glow because of regulated cell renewal and skin metabolism. lt is smooth, even-toned and generally blemish-free.


Using astringents, foaming washes and mattifying lotions will strip skin of moisture, says Dr Ho. This increases sebum production as the skin tries to replenish lost lipids, resulting in greasier skin. Instead, wash twice a day with an oil-free cleanser with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5.

Especially if you have oily skin. Always choose an oil-free, water-based product. GO OIL-FREE For sunscreen and makeup (particularly blusher and foundation), so as not to clog your pores.

Dr Ho suggests using products that regulate skin renewal, remove dead skin cells and regulate sebum production, and to use mattifying gels in moderation. For long-term oil control, look for skincare with sulphur, zinc oxide, niacinamide, salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), which regulate sebum production and improve skin cell turnover. lf your sebum condition is severe, see your doctor about using contraceptive pills, anti-androgens or retinoids that act directly on sebaceous glands to reduce oil production.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The Straits Times, July 2009
By Dr Jean Ho

Acne is an age-old enemy.

For some, it passes through like a breeze on a balmy evening, barely perceptible and fading into the night. For others, it sweeps over like a hurricane, leaving carnage and destruction in its wake.

Patient TG was 17 years old when he found himself in a desperate battle with acne.

He walked into my consultation room one day, with anxious parents in tow, feigning a cavalier demeanour as boys at this age would. It wasn't long before I discovered the silent anguish behind this facade.

'He has been skipping classes for two months, staying at home all the time. We are very worried about him," said his mother.

Looking at TG, I realised why he had become a recluse. His acne was of the most severe kind.

Click here to know the whole story...

Monday, September 13, 2010

EPF - Anti-Oxidant For The Skin

From Simply Her, Aug 2010. By Justina Tan

Much like how SPF measures the level of sun protection in your skincare, Environmental Protection Factor (EPF) measures how well an antioxidant protects the skin from free radical damage, including damage from UVrays.

The main culprit in premature skin ageing, free radicals are formed through everyday activities like eating, drinking and breathing. Sun exposure, smoking, stress, pollutants and alcohol worsen it by increasing free radicals in the body. This sets off a cycle of free radical formation in the body.

There are several types of free radicals.
Primary free radicals are unstable molecules that are created as a result of exposure to environmental assaults like UV rays and air pollutants.
Secondary free radicals, formed from exposure to primary free radicals, tend to damage the protective lipids in skin. Free radical activity also occurs within surface skin cells. All these result in visible signs of ageing like lines, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, sun damage, loss of firmness and elasticity.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E occur naturally in the body to prevent free radical damage. But when there's a lack of antioxidants, or if the production of free radicals is excessive, cell damage can still occur.

Can You Eat Your Way To Younger Skin?

Consuming antioxidant-rich foods, such as broccoli, berries, spinach and tea, is beneficial to the body. But Dr Jean Ho, consultant dermatologist at Jean Ho Skin and Laser Clinic and visiting consultant dermatologist at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, says that applying antioxidants directly on the skin has a more targeted and concentrated effect. "A good antioxidant serum can increase antioxidant activity in the skin eight-fold, something that can't be achieved by taking an oral antioxidant supplement," she says.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Eczema - Bane of Childhood

19 March 2009, Mind Your Body, The Straits Times
By Dr Jean Ho

It is easy to withstand pain but difficult to withstand itch, so goes an ancient Chinese saying.

Indeed, tell a child with eczema not to scratch and all he will hear is the last word: Scratch.

Any eczema sufferer will swear that its itch is mindnumbing, sleep-depriving and dedicated to compel nonstop scratching. 'Relief' comes only when the skin has been scratched off and the sensation of pain overtakes the itch.

L, a bright 10-year-old girl who aces her exams every year, has found it harder to concentrate in school. She has had eczema since pre-school but her parents had resisted medical treatment.

They had heard that medication like steroids were bad and, instead, turned to alternative therapy and traditional healing. The skin over her neck and body darkened over the years because of recurrent eczema. Countless scars remained on her arms and legs where once there were sores and open wounds.

When she became my patient, she was still suffering from repeated and unexpected bouts of red itchy rashes. She would think twice about wearing her favourite skirt or taking part in social activities with friends. Her eyes were downcast as we spoke.

Atopic eczema, in recent years, has seen an exponential rise in numbers and severity. One in five children in Singapore suffers from this condition.

Click Here to read more of the story.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Are Hot Baths Bad For Your Skin?

A warm bath at the end of the day is not a bad thing.

It helps patients with eczema, as the bath cleanses and disinfects the skin by softening and removing dry flakes. However, when the water is 45 deg C or more, the heat breaks down the skin barrier and makes it more prone to irritation and dryness. Keep it close to body temperature – it should never exceed 38 to 40 deg C. Add fragrance-free bath oil for more hydration.

Public bath facilities like jacuzzis should be disinfected regularly. If not done properly, they will encourage bacterial and fungal growth, which can cause nasty skin infections.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Adapted from September issue Simply Her, by Justina Tan

Experiencing second adolescence on your skin isn't all that rare. Dr Jean Ho, Consultant Dermatologist, Jean Ho Skin and Laser Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, Visiting Consultant to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, says that 75% of women she sees at her clinic suffer from acne.

There are two groups of adult acne sufferers: You either have acne from adolescence, or late-onset adult acne, which develops after years of unblemished skin. It's distressing either way, but you don't have to put up with it.

What's the reason it's coming back?
It's a combination of genes, hormones and environmental factors. The sebaceous glands are stimulated by androgens in our system to produce sebum. Increased production of oil causes clogged pores and breakouts. Medical conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) can also cause a surge in androgens in the body.

Stress, lack of sleep and diet?
Stress increase sebum levels, and lack of sleep causes hormonal imbalance. There is scientific evidence that dairy products worsen acne. The testosterone-like hormone in milk influence acne. Fermentation during cheese production also results in increased testosterone production, say Dr Ho.

Foods with high glycaemic index (GI), like polished rice and refined sugar, worsen acne. These are digested rapidly, resulting in a surge of blood sugar levels. This causes a spike in blood insulin levels, which trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.

Skincare of makeup?
Moisturisers, foundation, sunscreens may clog pores and contribute to breakouts.

How can it be treated?
It depends on the severity of the acne.
Mild acne You have blackheads and whiteheads with a few small bumps. Treat with an over the counter glycolic acid or salicylic acid product.
Moderate acne You have many blackheads and whiteheads, and angry red bumps, some with pus. Use a salicylic acid product as well as benzoyl peroxide which kills acne-causing bacteria.
Severe acne Skin is red and inflamed with large nodules. There's risk of scarring if the infections spreads or deepens. You should consult your dermatologist right away for treatment. Do not attempt to self-medicate.

Can acne relapse?
Hormones, pregnancy, stress and lifestyles will have an impact on acne. Dr Ho says that a consistent and well-planned maintenance skin care program is the best way to keep acne at bay.

Skin care tips for sensitive skin

So you have sensitive skin, and finding the perfect skin care has been like searching for the holy grail.

Your dermatologist can help you plan a non-irritating skin care routine that will ensure that the skin barrier is not compromised while at the same time debris, excess oil and surface organisms are removed.

Follow these easy steps to healthier skin:
1. Cleanse facial skin twice daily with tepid water splashed on the skin surface.
2. Use non-perfumed, gentle soap-free cleanser – gently massage onto the skin surface with fingers.
3. Do not use cotton pads or scrubbing pads – it is unnecessary and potentially irritating to rub skin vigorously during cleansing.
4. A rest period of up to 30 minutes should be taken before applying topical medications. This time can be progressively reduced once the skin has gotten used to the creams.
5. Apply medication as a fine film with single movement of finger pad.
6. Moisturiser or sunscreen should be applied after topical medications.
7. Avoid excessive use of moisturising creams. This can result in over dependence on moisturisers, and may also contribute to yeast infection.
8. When removing eye makeup with makeup remover, dab gently with a cotton pad. Do not rub.

Dos and Don’ts of Cosmetics for Patients with Sensitive Skin

Did you think that cosmetics were taboo for sensitive skin types? Well, think again. You can use cosmetics safely by following a few simple steps.

Dos of cosmetics

1. Use powder cosmetics with matte finish
2. Use new cosmetics
3. Wear light earth tones for eye shadow (tan, peach)
4. Apply a separate sun-block after topical medication and before cosmetics
5. Avoid cosmetics containing formaldehyde, propylene glycol, alcohol, toners
6. Use a brush applicator
7. Use facial foundation with matte finish
8. Wear only black mascara
9. Use pencil forms of eyeliner
10. Use mineral make up which has less chemicals and artificial colourings

Don’ts of cosmetics
1. Don’t use cream/liquid cosmetics
2. Don’t use old cosmetics
3. Don’t wear deep eye shadows (blue, purple, green or pink)
4. Don’t use cosmetics containing perfume
5. Don’t apply makeup with a sponge
6. Don’t massage creams into skin
7. Don’t use peeling “rejuvenating” agents
8. Don’t use light reflective powders
9. Don’t use nail polish
10. Don’t use waterproof eye cosmetics as they need to be removed by solvents, which can be irritating.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dr Jean Ho's Footcare Tips

Indulge in a DIY foot spa at home

In my practice, I see patients with various problems on their feet, from warts to corns, and cracked heels and toenail infections.

As we spend most of our waking hours on our feet, they deserve some serious pampering.

1. Always keep feet clean and healthy.

2. Proper footwear. For men, thin cottony socks and padded leather footwear are best. For ladies, 3-inch heels kill your pads, by forcing the body weight onto the front of the feet. So swap the punishing stilletos for mid-heels or ballerina flats, which are so IN now.

3. Wear footwear even when at the beach or padding around the pool. Nasty things like viral warts lurk on moist public areas.

4. Moisturizing the skin on the feet regularly is important, especially in persons with dry skin. The best time to do this is right after a shower or bath. Look for a moisturiser with high lactate content, which hydrates and gently exfoliates at the same time.

5. Avoid hot water, as it removes the naturally occuring skin lipids and aggravates the cracks. Instead use lukewarm water for bathing or soaking.

6. As with everything else, skin condition deteriorates with age. One problem is gradual thickening of the hard skin and callus. Keep the soles of feet in prime condition by filing away dead skin after a shower, and moisturising after.

7. Treat yourself to a DIY foot spa. These are available at departmental stores or hypermarts. I got one for $39. If it pleases you, use it with bath salts too.  

8. For very stubborn cracked heels, use a foot cream in the night and cover feet with socks or cling wrap. Remove in the morning. Do this for several nights in a row and you will be rewared with baby soft skin.

9. Deep painful fissures or itchy blisters may be signs of disease such as eczema. You should be treated by a dermatologist.

10. Examine your feet regularly. This way you will detect any problem like toe nail infection or warts and get them sorted early.

Happy feet!