Dr Karen Soh, medical director at Prive Aesthetics, tells us why we may still suffer from acne despite adopting proper cleansing habits and what to look out for in a lip balm to effectively moisturise your lips.

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Dr Karen Soh, medical director at Prive Aesthetics, tells us why we may still suffer from acne despite adopting proper cleansing habits and what to look out for in a lip balm to effectively moisturise your lips.

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I’ve never had acne throughout my teenage years, but zits started to appear on my skin when I was in my early twenties. Now, I’m in my mid-twenties, and despite proper makeup removal and cleansing, I still suffer from breakouts. Is this problem associated with genes, and what can I do to prevent acne? – Zenda Tan

Genetics do play a role, but there are also other factors affecting acne development.

These include diet, cosmetics, the environment and stress, as well as hormonal fluctuations that can increase sebaceous gland activity, resulting in excess sebum. The inflammation of clogged pores caused by the bacteria trapped in them can also cause acne – and the fact that acne-prone skin sheds dead skin cells more quickly than normal skin does exacerbates the problem by further clogging up pores. These factors work together or separately to cause acne.

Treatment depends on the severity of the acne. Over-the-counter acne products can be effective for mild blemishes. Topicals such as retinoid and salicylic acid can be applied to help regulate sebum production and skin cell turnover.

For superficial acne, a combination of mild chemical peels and microdermabrasion can help unclog pores.

As for severe acne, laser treatments can help reduce the activity of overactive sebaceous glands and stimulate collagen production to help heal acne. Chromotherapy, a procedure whereby the skin is exposed to red and blue lights, is another option – the blue light kills acne-causing bacteria while the red one stimulates collagen and elastin production.

If required, oral medication such as Oratane, or antibiotics may be prescribed.

I have dry, chapped lips even though I regularly drink water and use lip balm. What else can I do? – Nisha Verma

Some lip balms can further dry out your lips. This happens when there are only humectants and no occlusive agents in the formula.

While humectants such as hyaluronic acid draw moisture from the air into the outermost layer of the skin to keep the skin hydrated, they also draw moisture out from the deeper layers of the skin to its outermost layer, where it then evaporates.

Occlusive ingredients such as beeswax and shea butter can create a physical barrier on the lips that help prevent moisture loss. So when picking a lip balm, be sure to choose one that has both humectants and occlusive agents. And avoid those with ingredients such as parabens, artificial fragrances, menthol, alcohol and salicylic acid, which can irritate skin. In the day, wear a lip balm with SPF to protect against skin damage.

Another possible reason for your dry lips is a vitamin deficiency. So ensure you have a balanced diet, and eat foods rich in vitamins B2 and B3 to help boost the skin’s ability to retain moisture.

Also, if you have a habit of licking your lips, stop. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that will thin the skin on your lips, making it more vulnerable to environmental stressors.

I read that as compared to chemical exfoliants, physical ones – such as face scrubs with microbeads – are bad for the skin because they’re too rough. Is this true, and how do I choose what to use? – Jomaine Tang

Physical exfoliants with microbeads or natural exfoliating agents such as sugar, jojoba beads and finely ground nutshells can effectively eliminate surface dead skin cells.

However, if you have thin skin, they can create small tears in the skin, leaving it vulnerable to bacteria infection. This could also happen if you over-exfoliate, which can cause skin inflammation that can in turn result in skin issues such as hyperpigmentation.

Physical exfoliants can also strip away the natural protective oils produced by the skin. If your skin is dry, look for a scrub with a hydrating base.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, go with a chemical exfoliant, which works to unclog pores and break down dead skin cells with acids such as salicylic and glycolic acids, or natural fruit enzymes.