The Top Ten Rules a Dermatologist Lives By

Find out Anjali’s expert skincare secrets.

The Top Ten Rules a Dermatologist Lives By

These top tips have evolved after years of reviewing the science and a combination of trial and error to get the perfect daily skincare routine. 

1. Daily Sunscreen

My first rule is that I never leave the house without an SPF 30 on my face – I tend to mix this up and sometimes it is in the form of a plain broad-spectrum sunscreen, other times it may be a BB cream or foundation that contains the equivalent factor.

Sunscreen has an important role to play in your anti-ageing armory.  Regular use will limit damage by UV radiation and help protect against fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and pigmentation leading to uneven skin tone.

Make sure you pick a sunscreen that is at least an SPF 30.  Ensure this offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays

2. Night time Retinoid cream

I never fail to use a night-time retinoid product.  Retinoids are compounds derived from vitamin A.  Retinoid creams can help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, and fade the appearance of pigmentation or age spots.  They work by helping to promote surface skin cell renewal.

There are a large number of available retinoid products available and these are not all the same in their potency.  Products enriched with retinyl palmitate, retinol and retinaldehyde can be found over the counter; adapalene, tretinoin, isotretretinoin, and tazarotene are prescription only from a dermatologist and are stronger treatments.

Retinoids are best used at night after cleansing the skin.  Ensure you carefully follow the instructions for use on the retinoid product packaging. There are a large number of retinoid products available and they are not all the same in their potency.

3. I recommend to exfoliate weekly or twice a month

My skin tends to be normal/oily and prone to breakouts so I exfoliate once a week.  If your skin is dry, you may need to do this less often.   The great thing about exfoliation is that it gives an instant improvement to the appearance of your skin by removing the dull, dry layer of upper skin cells.  This can improve your general skin tone and allows for better penetration of your moisturiser or serum.  The long-term benefits are only really seen if you carry this out regularly as the process only affects the superficial layer of the skin.

Exfoliation can be physical or chemical.  Physical exfoliators refer to sponges, facial brushes, and scrubs.  Chemical exfoliators are usually acids e.g. glycolic acid, AHAs, BHAs, which are left on the skin which work to dissolve dry skin cells.  Both chemical and physical exfoliation can be effective, and the preferred method is largely dependent on what best suits an individual’s skin. Exfoliation may not be suitable for everyone, particularly if there are other underlying skin disorders or problems with sensitive skin.

4. Using a serum

Has become a regular part of my routine in more recent years, particularly since getting into my 30s.  Serums are clear, gel-like solutions applied to the skin which are absorbed quickly and penetrate into the skin.  They are usually water-based and often contain high concentrations of ingredients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and peptides.  My daily serum contains a vitamin C ingredient.

5. I advise to treat potential spots early

I have always had a tendency to break out and still suffer with the odd spot, especially around the time of the month.  This is a common problem for many women, well past their teenage years, and I’m certainly seeing more of this in my clinics.  I tend to zap spots and use a spot targeting cure that has a drying, anti-inflammatory effect.  Many of the skincare products that I use are targeted specifically for acne-prone skin.

6. I would recommend not smoking!

Not only is it bad for your general health, smoking is no good for your skin either.  Smoking causes vasoconstriction or narrowing of the small blood vessels reducing blood flow.  This leads to reduced oxygen and nutrients being supplied to the skin.  Smoking can cause premature ageing, delayed wound healing, and is associated with a number of skin disorders such as psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, and discoid lupus.

7. Eat a balanced diet

Next I would recommend a healthy, balanced diet will help you look and feel good.  Whilst the hard research is still lacking, there is plenty of emerging scientific evidence to suggest that foods rich in antioxidants (e.g. blueberries, wholegrains, and dark coloured grapes) may have a protective effect on the skin.  

Diets that are high in processed or refined carbohydrates have been linked to a number of detrimental effects, including those on the skin.  Ensure that you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Keep the takeaways to a minimum and try to prepare meals from scratch at home.

8. Get plenty of sleep and learn how to de-stress

It’s important to get plenty of sleep and learn how to de-stress. Some people seem to need far more sleep than others, and I definitely fall into that category.  Lack of sleep makes me look and feel miserable.  Make sure that you try to get a full 8 hours of sleep a night to promote your skin health.  
The body goes into tissue repair mode whilst we sleep.  Chronic loss of sleep will result in lack-lustre skin, dark circles under the eyes and a sallow complexion.  This can be extremely difficult if you work shifts or have small children but if you are in the fortunate position that this can be achieved, don’t neglect how important sleep is to the well-being of your body’s largest organ, your skin.

Similar concepts apply to stress.  Stress can cause the production of chemicals and hormones that promote inflammation in the skin.  This may trigger or make pre-existing skin conditions such as rosacea or acne worse.  Try to take some time out each day to reduce stress, either by means of exercise or meditative mindfulness practice.  What works to reduce stress is different from person to person.  I took up yoga some years ago and if I miss a practice, I feel the negative effects very quickly.  Remember that if you feel good on the inside, it can’t fail to show on the outside.

9. Take your make up off every night – don’t forget to cleanse!

Don’t forget to take your make up off every night and cleanse your skin.

This one is such a basic rule and the fact that it is this far down the list doesn’t make it any less important than the others.  No matter how late you get in, or how tired or lazy you’re feeling, you must take your make up off every night!  Make up left on overnight will clog your pores resulting in potential imperfections.  A good cleansing routine is vital for keeping skin looking healthy.  One of the main functions of skin is to act as a barrier to the outside world.  Skin barrier function can easily be disrupted or damaged by environmental factors. The skin should be properly cleansed morning and night.  I rarely forget to cleanse twice a day, otherwise I usually pay the price the following day.

10. Clean your smartphone

Like most people, my phone goes everywhere with me.   Studies have shown touchscreens contain large numbers of bacteria on their surface.  Pressure created by placing your phone against your cheek may result in activation of the oil producing glands.  When this is combined with heat generated from the phone and bacteria present on the phone surface, imperfections may occur.  If possible, try to use earphones and regularly wipe your smartphone surface clean.  I carry wipes in my handbag to keep my phone as clean as possible.

Written by our Dermatologist, Dr Anjali Mahto.

This article reflects the opinion of Dr Anjali Mahto and is intended as general advice only.  You should seek advice from a professional before altering your diet, changing your exercise regime or starting any new course of conduct.

Anjali MahtoConsultant Dermatologist