Herworld (Singapore)


Now that we understand what is happening in our skin, it’s time to learn the dos and don’ts.


How can I tell that my skin microbiome is compromise­d?

Healthy skin should be clear, and free of blemishes and skin conditions like atopic dermatitis. Skin flare-ups, acne breakouts or skin that becomes dry and/ or sensitive, all point to a microbiome imbalance.

Many factors can disrupt this balance: age, your gender, hormones, genetics, environmen­tal aggressors such as UV and pollution, stress and your diet. So, too, can overexfoli­ation and using harsh chemicals on the skin.

Dr Tan says a balanced skin microbiome “helps to maintain a healthy skin barrier and skin moisture, which is important in protecting skin against inflammati­on and infection”.

Can you use too much pre- and probiotics skincare?

Yes, you can go overboard, but not for the reason you think. “Although the use of topical ‘-biotics’ has not been reported to cause adverse effects, many of these are formulated together with other ingredient­s that may irritate skin when used in excess,” says Dr Kong.

In addition, Dr Gladys Teo, head of R&D at Est.Lab, says you should keep your skincare routine simple when using microbiome products. “Most of these tend to be multifunct­ional, consisting of other key ingredient­s for additional benefits, such as antioxidan­ts, anti-ageing, anti-inflammato­ry and anti-bacteria. So, there is no need to pile on too many, especially if you have sensitive and/or acne-prone skin.”

What should I avoid?

Dr Kong says to avoid using scrubs and harsh chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in your cleansers. “These tend to strip the skin of its native microbes,” she says. Also, opt for a moisturise­r with a pH level of 5 to 7 to protect the beneficial bacteria on the skin.

What key ingredient­s should I look out for?

Look out for prebiotic actives like plant sugars (xylitol and fructoolig­osaccharid­es), amino acids and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and sulphur, says Dr Kong.

Dr Teo adds that these provide the right nutrients for the microorgan­isms on your skin, which in turn indirectly regulates their growth, restoring balance to the microbiome.

As for probiotics, there’s lactobacil­lus (similar to what you get in Yakult), bifidobact­erium and vitreoscil­la; for post-biotics, opt for lysate and ferment actives. These, says Dr

Teo, “can influence positive ‘communicat­ion’ among skin microorgan­isms and block negative signals of bacteria and viruses that can contribute to the developmen­t of skin disorders”.

Should I use my pre- or probiotic skincare at a specific time?

What’s more important, says Dr Teo, is to choose skincare that contains both pre- and probiotics. These actives complement each other: Prebiotics are the nutrients for living bacteria (probiotics), to keep the skin microbiome balanced.

Can I toss my anti-ageing/antiacne skincare then?

There is no hard and fast rule since many factors, internal and external, affect the skin. Instead, Dr Teo advises that you look for products that combine microbiome-boosting ingredient­s, and complement­ary key ingredient­s that can defend skin from external aggressors like UV rays, delay the physical effects of ageing, and even cleanse and detoxify the pores for a holistic skincare ritual.

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