Dermatologist Tips on How to Build a Skincare Routine

Ep 30: How to Build a Skincare Routine

Dr.TWL: Hi guys, this is Dr. Teo Wan Lin, accredited dermatologist practising at TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre, and welcome to my podcast Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty. Today I’m going to teach you how to build your very own skincare routine and how you should think about your choice of active ingredients in your skincare, as well as the concept of layering or mixing your skincare ingredients. 

Chelsea: By now, we all should know that the key to having good skin is not just in your genes, but also in your daily habits. But when it comes to skincare, there are so many different routines, rules, products and ingredients that I’m told will give me healthy, glowing skin. With all that overwhelming amount of information that’s available out there,

Can you break down the basic advice on how we can go about building our own skincare routine? 

Dr.TWL: First up, we’re going to start with some skincare routine basics, which I feel everyone should know.

  1. Cleanse your face 

Remove your makeup thoroughly. It’s important to understand that it’s not just the accumulation of your skin oils, dirt, grime, but also dead skin cells as well as environmental particulate matter that settles on your skin at the end of the day. Additionally, before you can apply any products, your skin needs to be clean. On top of that, we do know the role that bacteria plays in acne. Also if you do not cleanse your skin properly, you’re going to limit the efficacy of the topical. 

Chelsea: Ok, so the first and most basic step would be a cleanser.

Are there multiple types of cleansers? How do I know which one is best for my skin? 

Dr.TWL: I would start with a gentle, emulsion based cleanser to remove your makeup. I prefer emulsion over micellar formulations primarily because it’s able to dissolve different types of makeup much better. For example, mascaras and eyeliners with heavy pigments are oil soluble. The next step which should follow is by using a lathering cleanser. Some people say you should avoid foam cleansers. I disagree with that fundamentally. However, the key here is that if your foam is from an excess of SLS in the formulation, then it’s going to be very dehydrating for your skin.

There have been advances in the cosmetic science technologies of cleansers, to allow us to create foam in other ways. For example, amino acid surfactants are much more gentle on skin because of it’s low pH compared to sulfates. There is also the option of using plant derivatives such as soy or honey, which are naturally foaming and emulsifying. A value of a foam is that it is able to physically grab the residual oil, dirt, grime that is emulsified in the oil cleanser. When it’s rinsed off, the skin does feel clean – which is an important sensation for a lot of individuals, especially those who have oily and combination skin.

Sonic cleansing

The use of sonic devices is also something which is worth discussing.  Sonic technology has been proven to be able to dissolve micro particles and reduce pollution induced skin ageing. They do so much more effectively than traditional methods such as manual cleansing.

Chelsea: That makes so much more sense! Well I think we all know the most basic routine of using cleansers, serums and moisturisers. But is there something we’re missing?

How can we bring our skincare routine to the next level?

  1. Use a massage tool

Dr.TWL: Now the second tip I have is in your skincare routine, incorporate a massage tool. I use a jade or rose roller to increase the absorption of skincare, prior to application of skincare ingredients. Skin icing is a trend that has taken over Tiktok and other forms of social media, but you really don’t need a specific cryotherapy ball or device to expose your skin to these extremes of cold temperature. Just a slightly lower temperature than your normal skin temperature can be achieved with a refrigerated natural stone. Natural stones, because of the principles of thermal conductivity, will feel cooler than their environments. This doesn’t happen with plastic or other synthetic materials.

Design of the jade roller
Add a jade roller to your skincare routine

This dermatologist approved Jade Roller Rose Quartz is made of certified 100% Grade AAA Rose Quartz. Use the massage roller before application of skincare to increase absorption and for therapeutic effect.

The traditional Jade roller is designed in an ergonomic way that is easy for the user to handle, and uses very gentle mechanical rolling action. The design of the roller itself can minimise any skin friction. A smooth surface stone, a good quality roller, will be comfortable to use on the skin. The motion itself I find is rather therapeutic, relaxing, and it’s almost meditative. So this is what I usually recommend my patients as a part of their skincare routine. After cleansing, before you apply your skincare products, use the roller to allow the skin to increase the absorption of any serums or moisturizers you want to apply. Using a roller is a form of massage, increasing the local blood circulation.

Massage itself is beneficial because it activates the principals of mechanobiology which leads to increased expression of collagen in your skin. 

Chelsea: I’ve never thought about how much product is actually getting absorbed into my skin when I’m applying my skincare. I think I’ll definitely have to start incorporating a jade roller into my routine.

A good skincare routine is one of the main factors in the pursuit of healthy, glowing skin, but is that it? 

  1. Maintain a good diet

Dr.TWL: The third tip I have is to eat well. Having a good diet – what does that really mean? In terms of skincare tips or a skincare routine, we always think of what else you can apply. That’s true because the skin is a very accessible organ and does absorb topicals very well. When it comes to your diet, I believe that a nutraceutical intervention goes a very long way in one’s overall health and wellness journey.

In skincare formulas we are aware that plant derivates contain potent antioxidants, which is what we apply on our skin. Because, they can help to fight free radical damage and help the skin repair oxidative stress. When these antioxidants are ingested in your diet, it’s also going to slow down biological ageing processes when it’s absorbed. It’s going to be active in your body, affecting of every single organ, including your skin. I personally would increase the amount of plant based foods in my diet. Additionally, minimise the intake of saturated fats which are predominantly from animal sources.

  1. Don’t neglect your neck area

I also want to highlight the importance of treating your neck area. Your skincare routine shouldn’t just end at your face, but should also apply to your neck and your body. If you overall in good health, you have a regular exercise routine, incroporating high intensity interval type of exercises have been proven to improve the activity of collagen producing fibroblasts.

The skin on your neck and body matters too

The rest of your skin, your body, on your neck and your face, will also be impacted by your systemic health. In terms of specific treatment of the neck area, be sure to extend the application of your day night moisturiser. Remember that the way you apply creams also makes a difference. You do not want to be dragging your skin downwards. Rather, you want to apply in a way that is against gravity – a lifting up motion to pat the moisturiser into your skin. Additionally, your skin is able to absorb products much better when it’s slightly damp. Therefore, apply your creams and serums just as you are out of the shower.

Chelsea: Yeah! We’re always trying to maintain the skin on our face, but that shouldn’t be the end of it. The skin on our neck and body is just as vulnerable to sun exposure and environmental aggressors. So it makes sense that we should also be protecting the rest of our skin! 

Moving on, when it comes to choosing a new skincare product, I’ve always heard that it’s important that all the products in your routine complement one another so you can actually see results.

Can you break down the do’s and don’ts of skincare mixing? 

Dr.TWL: I feel that if a brand is marketing a product which you can mix on your own, the basic assumption is that these ingredients are stable in the formula. It’s not that we are expecting some sort of new chemical reaction to occur from the mixing process. Especially one that would render these ingredients ineffective. For example, vitamin C is an ingredient that is very sensitive to environmental exposures which is oxidation.

So, I think I would definitely exclude that from any sort of DIY, self-mixing experience. If you are looking at products that will reduce skin oiliness like astringents such as alcohol and toners, alpha hydroxy acid, salicylic acids, retinols these can all be part of the formula. However, I certainly wouldn’t combine these ingredients because the additive effects. The accumulative effects is that it can cause severe skin irritation. I think for any product that is being marketed as a mix and match experience where you concoct your own skincare product, you really should not have any ingredient that is potentially irritating to skin.

Chelsea: Customised skincare has been an up and coming trend lately. Brands that offer customized skincare allows you to choose your own active ingredients to be put into a formula that precisely meets your skin’s needs.

What is your take on customised skincare? 

Dr.TWL: The key question here is what is the basis for building your skincare regimen? I think it’s a very trendy thing to imagine that you can make your own serum or skincare product. But, it really is not as simple as this. The reason is because there is a lot of chemistry involved. The main function of a chemist that works with a skincare brand is to ensure that the formulas are stable. There should be a certain shelf life that’s intended for a product that’s being sold on the shelves. So if it’s something that you know allows you to mix and match, unless the amount itself is a really tiny volume, there should be clear labelling as to when you need to finish using the product. For example, within a certain time frame.

Compounding your own products

The very process of compounding your own products would expose the final product to the environment, the process of oxidation, and also the risk of bacterial contamination. If the base formula is going to be determined as one that is moisturising, for example, in a face mask. That’s the fundamental function of a sheet mask. Additional active ingredients that are being added should also be compatible in this base. It’s not so tricky in this respect because regardless of how you want to customize it, the basic function remains. Which is that it should moisturize your skin.

If it doesn’t even contain a basic moisturiser, then it’s going to be ineffective as a vehicle. Common emollients would be glycerin, which is a humectant and prevents water loss to the environment. This is commonly found in sheet masks. Additionally,  molecules which are hydrating includes sodium hyaluronate, polyglutamic acid. All these are able to be absorbed when applied and also functions in cell processes at that level.

Can I use customised skincare for skin diseases?

Dr.TWL: From a contemporary perspective, in the beauty landscape, it has been popularised by these customised serums which allow the user to add in the ingredients which they think is going to be beneficial for their skin. I think this is firstly, a little bit of marketing.  Because, at the end of the day, an effective serum or a cream that should be applied on skin contains antioxidant ingredients which are well tolerated by all skin types, which include individuals with sensitive skin.

If you actually have a specific skin problem like acne rosacea, which is a condition where your face gets very red, or dry flaky skin which is a form of dermatitis or eczema, no amount of over the counter mix and match active ingredients is actually going to make a difference to your skin. Therefore, for individuals who suffer from these conditions, it is essential to first be treated by a dermatologist.

Chelsea: I guess that all good skincare, regardless if customised or not, should meet these basic rules for it to be able to really do what it claims to do for your skin.

Well, I would say I have pretty normal skin, can I still use customised skincare? What sort of formula should I look out for? 

Dr.TWL: The mask bar system is appropriate for individuals who have mild to moderate symptoms of either facial eczema, acne or even rosacea. Because, it uses predominantly plant-based over the counter ingredients with a body of evidence that supports its use in the treatment of these conditions. It also comes with an AI algorithm that picks up moderate to severe disease, and advises the consumer when they actually need to see a dermatologist.

The Mask Bar is a gender neutral self-care concept centred on a universal compact Home Mask Bar System, with hyperpersonalised cosmeceutical essence vials delivered on a monthly subscription basis to your home. 

So at the end of the day, we should prioritise skin health. Public health education and brand marketing should also communicate this message responsibly and clearly. Definitely not at the confusion that your skin problem can be treated with any sort of topical cream that is over the counter. I think the messaging so far is rather mixed. It’s a complex industry so it’s important for beauty influencers, especially in the era of social media, to also be responsible and defer to the authority of a qualified medical professional – dermatologists.

Chelsea: That is so important! Especially in this era where anyone and everyone is talking about skincare.

Is there a certain type of ingredient or skincare formula that works for everyone? Or is that a myth?

Dr.TWL: The skincare that would universally benefit all skin types is essentially one that is well tolerated. With minimal irritating or sensitizing ingredients such as retinols, alpha hydroxy acids. salicylic acids. Because when these are present in a leave-on product formula, in an equatorial climate like Singapore where there is a lot of UV exposure, this can cause hyperpigmentation and skin irritation, especially in skin of color and pigmented skin. Formulas should have a moisturising, antioxidant effect. They also should not have fraudulent claims, such as claiming to treat or cure moderate to severe types of disease, which have to be treated with medications.

Chelsea: Well that’s it for today’s episode. We’ve spoken about the basics of building a skincare routine, a few must-know tips that are key to healthy skin, as well as the importance of non-irritating ingredients when it comes to layering your skincare. Thank you guys for joining us, you can follow Dr. Teo on her Instagram for the latest podcast update @drteowanlin and also visit us on our website at of

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