Dr Karen Soh, medical director at Prive Aesthetics, explains how lip balm can worsen chapped lips, and why it’s best not to pick at ingrown hairs.

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My Reading Room

Dr Karen Soh, medical director at Prive Aesthetics, explains how lip balm can worsen chapped lips, and why it’s best not to pick at ingrown hairs.

My Reading Room

This reader wins a set of Prive Skinworks skincare, comprising a White Lightening Wash worth $73.80, a White Lightening Toner worth $73.80 and a Triple Action Skin Defence SPF50 worth $62.

I often get ingrown hairs after shaving. How should I deal with them, especially those in hard-to-reach areas, without causing scarring? Dianne Koh.

The important thing is to never pick at or try to extract ingrown hairs, which can occur when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells that hinder hair growth and force hairs to curl back into or grow sideways in the skin. If bacteria enters a pore, infection and inflammation may occur.

To prevent that, see a doctor, who will adequately disinfect the area before tackling the problem using well-sanitised equipment. Antibiotics and a mild corticosteroid may be prescribed to hasten healing. To reduce the risk of ingrown hairs and razor bumps, shave using a sharp razor and with a lubricating cream or gel.

After shaving, hydrate and soften the skin by applying a moisturiser. Once or twice a week, gently scrub with a sponge or loofah, or exfoliate with a cream that has mild acids, such as alpha-hydroxy acid and salicylic acid, to reduce the build-up of dead skin cells. Another costly but permanent option: hair-reduction treatments such as intense pulsed light and laser therapies, which would help reduce the number of hair-producing follicles.

Can one be genetically predisposed to large pores in the T-zone? What are the products or treatments I can use or go for to make them look smaller? Amanda Loh.

While genes do play a part in pore size, there are also other reasons for large pores. These include sun damage, hormonal changes, dehydration or oiliness, improper cleansing, overuse of makeup, an improper diet and puberty. That said, it’s common to have large pores in the T-zone as this area has the highest concentration of sebaceous glands in the face.

Products such as exfoliators, toners and pore-refining masks can help play down the look of large pores. As for treatments, you can consider ablative and non-ablative lasers. The former involves the removal of the top layer of the skin, while the latter stimulates collagen production.

Ablative lasers offer more definitive results, but the non-ablative ones have less downtime. Chemical peels, too, are an option. Pick those with beta-hydroxy acids such as mandelic acid and salicylic acid to help reduce oiliness. Diet-wise, try to cut down on foods that can trigger the release of androgens (hormones that stimulate sebum production), such as butter and fatty meat. For more serious cases, hormone blockers such as spironolactone and lowdose isotretinoin may be prescribed.

I have dry lips and some lip balms worsen the condition. Why is this so? Florence Tan.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but some lip balms do exacerbate dryness, making the peeling and chapping worse. The key lies in the ingredients used. An effective formula must have both humectants (moisture-preserving ingredients such as glycerine and hyaluronic acid) and occlusive agents.

That’s because humectants can only effectively replenish moisture in the lips when occlusive agents – such as beeswax, shea butter, jojoba and mineral oil – are present too, as the latter creates a physical barrier to prevent water loss. Without occlusives, moisture leaves the lips quickly, leaving them drier than before.

Also, avoid lips balms with ingredients such as parabens, artificial fragrances, menthol, camphor, alcohol, salicylic acid, aloe butter and vitamin E, as they can irritate the lips . And since the lips can age and burn just like the skin on other parts of the body, get a lip balm with sun-protective properties to guard against free-radical damage from sun exposure.

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