Caring for your complexion

by By Hector Tan (
published on 22 June 2016

Standfirst: Keep your skin smooth with exfoliation.

You may have read about the benefits of exfoliation and how it can contribute to great-looking skin.

The assisted removal of dead skin cells at the surface of your skin, exfoliation may help to stimulate blood circulation and promote new skin growth.

Dr Shiau Ee Leng, 47, medical director of a local chain of aesthetic clinics, said: “As you age, your skin regenerates more slowly. Dead skin cells start to accumulate at the skin’s surface. This may be hard to remove due to a gluey culmination of your sweat and facial oil. If these dead skin cells are not removed, your complexion may look dull and rough over time.”

There are two main types of exfoliation – mechanical and chemical. The former uses an abrasive material to physically scrub off dead skin cells, while the latter uses chemical peels made up of acids and enzymes to loosen the gluey substance that holds dead skin cells together, so that they can be removed with normal cleansing.

The effects of exfoliants range from mild to heavy, depending on what they are made of.

Dr Shiau said: “Always consult your aesthetician about the right exfoliant for your skin type. If you are unsure, visit a dermatologist to find out about your skin’s health first, especially if you have sensitive or aging, saggy skin.”

Take note not to over exfoliate as this can irritate your skin, and make it dry and flaky.

“In most cases, it is fine to exfoliate your skin every seven to 10 days. Anything more frequent may hurt your skin,” said Dr Shiau.


Common types include natural materials like coffee grounds, salt and sugar particles, pumice, loofahs and apricot or almond shells. Artificial materials can be brushes and sponges.

Body scrubs may also be offered to exfoliate your face.

Ms Jerine Tay, 37, a skincare professional, said: “Body scrubs should be avoided. They are more suitable for skin in other parts of your body. Facial skin is delicate, and a slight miscalculation in applying the right pressure while scrubbing with a body scrub can damage it.”

Ms Tay also shared that there are also more aggressive methods called microdermabrasion, which use stronger abrasives to scrub your skin.

She said: “Such methods should only be used selectively. Skincare professionals who recommend or

perform the procedure must have a good track record.”


Natural fruit enzymes like citric acid and malic acid are often used as the main ingredients for chemical peels. They can also come from vegetables and other plant sources.

Chemical exfoliants also have alphahydroxy acids or betahydroxy acids added, which help to get rid of the gluey substance on your skin’s surface.

Ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid may also be present in chemical peels to help in the cleansing of skin pores.

Ms Tay cautioned: “Never use more than one type of chemical peel at any one time. By putting your skin through the varying effects of different peels, you may end up removing too much of your skin’s protective top layer, and damage it in the process.”


After exfoliation, limit your sun exposure and avoid any other forms of facial treatments, such as hair removal, for at least a week. The heat from the sun and hair treatments can agitate your raw skin and impede its recovery.

Be mindful about the facial products you use.

Ms Janice Wang, 28, a make-up artist, said: “You will need to use a mild facial cleanser temporarily as

the ingredients contained in normal facial cleansers may not be suitable for new and raw skin.”

This includes cosmetic products.

Ms Wang said: “The new skin cells that are gradually forming at your skin’s surface within the first three to five days after exfoliation are still tender and raw. “It is fine to put a light layer of make-up to look presentable for work and social events. But try to use make-up that uses milder ingredients. You want to be as gentle on your skin as you can.”

This article provides general information only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult medical or healthcare professionals for advice on health-related matters.