Why K-beauty regimens, products aren't working for you
Our hot, humid climate may not be conducive to layering: Aesthetics doctor
Korean beauty and skincare trends, such as glass skin, have taken over the world.
But to Dr Heng Wee Soon, an aesthetics doctor who specialises in pigmentary issues and is the founder of The Ogee Clinic, Korean skincare may not always be the best option for Singaporean skin, with some products even darkening scars, spots or pigmentation.
One major complaint he has heard from patients is how the popular 10-step Korean skincare regimen has "too many steps and too many products".
Dr Heng told The New Paper: "I am not fully against it and do see some people benefiting from it. But just as we know everyone has a different skin type, (this method) is not for everyone.
"Furthermore, because of marketing, these brands encourage shoppers to purchase even more products. The chance of chemical interaction of the various ingredients causing an allergic or irritant reaction is much higher."
He related how one patient, who had concurrent skin sensitivity and acne breakouts, was using 36 Korean products.
He said: "She had to send an Excel spreadsheet of her skincare products to me.
"I told her to go back to basics. Cut to toner, our proprietary pore clarifying serum, sunscreen, and moisturiser at night, while treating her in my clinic for acne breakouts. Fast forward two months and her skin has improved a lot."
Why do K-beauty products or regimens work differently on Korean and Singaporean skin?
Due to higher humidity and temperatures in the tropics, we tend to use products that are light - gel-based or serum-based.
Korea exhibits lower humidity, better allowing for the layering of products and lower temperatures resulting in less sweating, allowing products to stay longer on the skin.
K-beauty products can work on Singaporean skin, but we have to understand the differences in our conditions.
Antioxidants, vitamin C, resveratrol and some peptides are multi-functional active ingredients that help regulate pigmentation formation and stimulate collagen production.
Many people have heard of hyaluronic acid, which binds water 1,000 times its own molecular weight, and companies have used its name as part of their marketing strategy.
The challenge is to find one that works. Not all hyaluronic acids are the same - most cannot penetrate the skin to exert its intended water-binding effect.
Korean skincare ingredients such as bee venom and propolis are interesting, and although we do not know the exact components, anecdotally I know some people who swear by them.
Literally every vegetable you can find in the supermarket, there is a K-beauty product equivalent for the skin.
Careful selection and moderate usage are key. The overarching idea is to keep skincare as simple as possible. If you do not have a major skin condition, I do not see a need to use up to 10 products each time.
What are the main differences between skin types in Korea and Singapore?
Chinese Singaporeans and Koreans tend to have melasma, or brown patches on the cheeks, nose bridge and forehead.
Genetically, Koreans have a higher tendency to have this acquired pigmentary disorder known as Hori's nevus, which can occur at the same facial regions that melasma tends to occur.
This can be found more often in the Chinese Singaporean population as well. This type of pigmentation cannot be treated with skincare, only in-clinic medical laser treatments.
As for Malay and Indian Singaporeans, they encounter post-inflammation hyperpigmentation (PIH) more often and more severely than the Koreans.
They should cut down on acid peels and fruit acids. Sunscreen usage should be increased whenever they have acne breakouts to reduce PIH marks.
They will not be able to go through laser or light treatments that have too high an intensity, lest PIH occurs.
How do we avoid and deal with pigmentation?
Avoid direct sun exposure, and sun protection with a good physical sunscreen should be able to filter out both UVA and UVB rays, reducing the risk of future pigmentation formation as well as skin cancers.
You can try in-clinic treatments that provide pigmentation-removal services, which come in the form of medical laser treatments.
Skincare and tropical medication such as antioxidants like vitamin C and retinoids help the skin regulate pigmentation formation and help reduce existing pigmentation.