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  • Simra Hanan

Don’t Let That Acne Stay Rent-Free On Your Face

A Simple Guide To Build Your Skincare Routine

Disclaimer: All views presented should not be substituted for medical advice.

Skincare brands have become ubiquitous and heralded as the gateway to achieve picture-perfect skin akin to a glowy Instagram filter. Advertisements decorate the shop’s facade with celebrities glistening in their element while holding up the latest skincare product that the brand wants to promote to its loyal customers. But amidst the spiraling queues when hyped up brands reach Singapore’s shores to the internet going wild over the 10-step K-beauty skincare routine, what should we make of this ruckus?

As Muslims, we should know that Islam highly encourages self-grooming and cleanliness. In fact, cleanliness is a core tenant of Islam as Allah loves those who purify themselves (The Qur’an, 2:222). Good personal hygiene is so paramount that the Messenger of Allah SAW said: Cleanliness is half of faith (Sahih Muslim, Book 2, Hadith Number 1). Whether male or female, being presentable - for the sake of Allah - is a requirement and an act of ibadah which applies to everyone. Similarly, this guide is for everyone - including complete beginners to skincare and even men. Yes, you read that right! Skincare needs to stop being mislabeled as feminine - it’s just proper hygiene meant for anyone and everyone (please do stay tuned till the end for an exclusive segment on men’s skincare).

Coming back to our main discussion on skincare and the beauty industry, it is important to note that the raison d'être of these skincare brands are just like any other business. They want you to believe that their new formulation - made by extracting nourishing ingredients of fresh ‘beauty’ green tea leaves which is 3.5 times more enriched than the original with 16 kinds of amino acids, provides excellent moisturizing benefits to the skin - is worth your every buck. Now if they market it with some fancy-sounding science terms, you are bound to think that you made an informed decision to purchase their product. However, think again. Did you know there are many different kinds of amino acids but some of them won’t have any effect on the skin? So, let us walk through this simple guide to become more informed consumers who truly understand what lies in their skincare products without falling for the marketing gimmicks.

What Is Your Skin Type?

But, before we dive into the deep end of skin care, let us explore the different kinds of skin types, so that you know which products are best suited for you. A quick self-assessment can be done by washing your face and not applying any products after that. Following two hours, you may observe certain signs that can help you determine your skin type. You may be having one of these skin types according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD):

  • Normal skin:

The skin is clear and not usually sensitive to products.

  • Sensitive skin:

Some products can cause irritation, stinging, or burning sensations.

  • Dry skin:

The skin is flaky and rough, and it may be itchy.

  • Oily skin:

The skin appears shiny and greasy. It may also be acne-prone.

  • Combination skin:

Certain areas, such as the cheeks, are dry, while others are oily. One may just have an oily T-zone, i.e. the forehead, nose, and chin areas.

Building a Skin Care Routine - The Essentials: The AAD recommends the following skincare routine for any skin type:

  1. Gently cleanse the face, apply a nonabrasive, alcohol-free cleanser using your fingertips, and rinse off with lukewarm water. Repeat in the morning, at night, and after excessive sweating.

  2. Gently pat the skin dry with a clean, soft towel.

  3. Apply any medicated treatments such as acne spot treatments etc.

  4. Apply a moisturizer that is best suited for your skin type.

It is also recommended to:

  • Stick to a consistent morning and nighttime skincare routine.

  • Use a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher every day, even on a rainy day with little or no sun. (PSA: sunscreen prevents sun damage and reduces wrinkle formation so your older self will thank you for it!)

  • Apply your moisturiser when the skin is still damp.

  • Ensure all your skincare products are compatible with your skin type.

  • Minimise contact with your face as much as possible (by now, this pandemic should have taught us the importance of hand hygiene).

  • Never pop or squeeze acne (no matter how much you find it as an eyesore).

  • Reduce sugary food intake. (Acne-causing bacteria love that irresistible sugar as much as you do!)

  • Always stay well hydrated! (hydrated you = hydrated skin)

Your skin type plays an important role in ascertaining which products should be here to stay versus those products you should discard or stay away from.

For example:

  • Sensitive skin:

Use products that are fragrance-free and formulated for sensitive skin. You may need to avoid organic skincare products as some natural ingredients, such as essential oils, may irritate the skin. Certain products with active ingredients, such as retinol and glycolic acid, may aggravate your skin easily.

  • Dry skin:

Avoid products with ingredients such as alcohols, alpha hydroxy acid, and retinoids, which cause skin irritation or worsen dryness. Also, avoid over-scrubbing or over-exfoliating your skin as this may exacerbate dryness.

  • Oily skin:

Avoid using a heavy moisturiser as this can result in clogged pores. It is best to opt for lighter lotions or gel-based products. Opt for oil-free, non-comedogenic, and alcohol-free products as these do not clog the pores or irritate the skin.

  • Combination skin:

Apply moisturiser to your dry areas and avoid it on oily areas. Depending on the extent of dryness, you may consider a light gel moisturiser, a cream-based product, or an ointment.

Furthermore, depending on your specific skin needs, you can take things to the next level by adding additional products into your skincare routine. This could range from trying to rejuvenate some serious dark circles from all those nights you stayed up to complete your assignment or to wiping out that acne scar that looks like a mini crater because you could not resist the urge to pull a Dr Pimple Popper move on yourself.

Hyped up ingredients - What Do They Actually Do?

Now for some of you, this may seem like we are entering a no-go zone. But, fret not my dear reader, for you are about to gain some real insights on the stars of the skincare products - the active ingredients! These insights will revolutionise your understanding of skincare, make you a more informed consumer and in the long run - transform your skin for the better InshaAllah. And perhaps to demonstrate your newfound knowledge the next time you meet your beauty guru aunty or friend - we all have that person in our lives. Here are some popular ingredients that have made it into skincare products.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is known to be a useful remedy to solve hyperpigmentation and smoothen the skin’s surface to reduce dullness. Ultimately, it gives the skin a natural and youthful glow.

Research has shown that topical application of vitamin C reduces melanin production, the pigment responsible for your skin colour. This is particularly helpful to fade dark spots to help you achieve that dewy glow.

Note: Packaging and formulation for vitamin C are key. Go for products containing vitamin C derivatives such as L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, to ensure your serum stays viable for longer. Also, ensure that the product has a water-free formulation and the bottle should be opaque and airtight. If the serum appears brownish - that’s when the vitamin C has been oxidised and should go straight to the bin. Also do remember to wear sunscreen when using vitamin C in the daytime to prevent skin sensitivity!

2. Retinol

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that’s skin-friendly. It can be used to target acne and pigmentation. It can also reduce signs of ageing and sun damage. It works by speeding up cellular turnover to keep pores unclogged and reduce acne breakouts. Retinol also boosts the skin’s collagen production to achieve its anti-ageing benefits. Note: When starting off, it’s advisable to use a lower concentration retinol product (~0.2% retinol) preferably at night. Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s essential to wear sunscreen. Additionally, those with sensitive skin should be cautious when using retinol as it may lead to skin irritation, dryness, and peeling.

3. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid (or hyaluronan) is naturally produced by your body to aid in water retention to lock in your skin’s moisture, giving it a plump and hydrated look. You may have heard whispers about collagen, but hyaluronic acid is actually where it’s at. However, the natural ageing process and exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, tobacco smoke, and pollution can decrease its amounts in the skin. Hence, topical applications of hyaluronic acid-based moisturisers can help to prevent water loss and anti-ageing of skin. It is also known to act as a wound healer.

4. Collagen

Collagen has been one of the most talked-about ingredients in the world of skincare. However, dermatologists have stated that the topical formulas (and ingestible formulas too) do not have much of an effect on your skin. This is because collagen is a huge molecule that doesn't penetrate through our normal skin barrier and thus cannot work its anti-ageing miracles when taken topically or orally. Instead, dermatologists recommend using retinol, vitamin C, vitamin B, and peptides to alleviate those anti-ageing concerns.

5. AHAs / BHAs

AHAs (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acid) are types of hydroxy acids found in several products to exfoliate the skin. Depending on the concentration used, these products may remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, or they may remove the entire outermost layer.

AHAs are water-soluble acids derived from sugary fruits. AHAs peel away the uppermost surface of your skin so that it can be replaced by newly generated and more evenly pigmented skin cells. After using AHA products, the skin usually feels much smoother. AHAs target mild hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, surface wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. Common AHAs include glycolic acid and lactic acid.

Conversely, BHAs are oil-soluble and unlike AHAs, BHAs can penetrate deeper into the skin’s pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum. BHAs are mainly used for acne and sun-damaged skin. These products work by drying out excess oils and dead skin cells to unclog pores. Therefore, BHAs are most suitable for combination to oily skin. Common BHAs include salicylic acid and citric acid.

Note: Just as with some of the previous ingredients, it is important to wear sunscreen as AHAs and BHAs can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Skincare for Men - Is It Any Different?

When it comes skincare, there is no such thing as one -size - fits - all. For instance, there are plenty of physiological differences between men's and women’s skin such as men have greater sebum production, higher collagen production (so slower ageing than women’s skin), and larger pores (to name a few). According to a dermatologist, men can use the same tools and ingredients that women use but in varying ways.

Sunscreen will be the most important part of your skincare regimen to protect against skin cancer and future wrinkles. Also, acne tends to be a common skin concern for most men in their twenties. As such, they should go for facial products with a thinner consistency (sunscreens and moisturisers) in lotion or gel form. Men should also opt for cleansers that contain active ingredients to reduce sebum, enable exfoliation, and control acne-causing bacteria. Some ingredients to keep an eye out for include salicylic acid and AHAs.

A major difference, which can be a perk, between men’s and women’s skincare products is their characteristic smell - or lack thereof. Men’s skin-care products are often fragrance-free, which is particularly helpful for men with sensitive skin as fragrances can trigger skin irritation and drying. However, it is important to note that products targeted at women will work for men too.

What Makes Skincare Or Cosmetic Products Halal? According to the director of Halal Hub Division Jakim the following criteria need to be fulfilled before a product is deemed as halal i.e. permissible for use by Muslims:

  • Does not contain human parts or its derivatives

  • Free of ingredients derived from animals prohibited under Islamic law or animals not slaughtered the halal way

  • Does not have ingredients from certain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are deemed najis i.e. unclean according to Islamic practice

  • Did not have any contact with non-halal material during the preparation, processing, or manufacturing of the product

  • Product should also not be harmful to customers

With this guide, InshaAllah, I hope to have made one thing clear… your skin. May your skin glow brighter than ever before with the noor (light) from your good deeds - and a solid skincare routine. Amin.



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