THE VISIT, OR: A RECKONING
The clinic has two branches, both downtown – Novena Specialist Centre and International Building. I opted for the former when making my appointment simply for its clinical ambience LOL. Enter Dr Ian, who warmly welcomed me into his office with a huge light on his head.
Like, literally. At one point, he turned on that light to stare intently at my face.
I was first invited to share my skin concerns. That was hard, because: I don’t know what I don’t know. I only knew that I have an oily T-zone and that I would like to see less blemishes on my face – I tend to have “closed bumps”, i.e. comedones with no heads. He astutely noted that I seem to flush easily (rosacea?), which was interesting because I had never noticed. He was right though: I guess redness is in the eye of the beholder.
He then asked me about my skincare regime.
“Well,” I spluttered, “I apply toner everyday…”
“Serum… once a week?”
I could see PROFESSIONAL DISAPPOINTMENT radiating from HIS face. He proceeded to give me a comprehensive sharing on the importance of a good skincare regime. Keywords that I registered were: antibacterial, vitamin C good, retinoids helpful, blue light bad. He also emphasised the importance of sunscreen, even at home, which was groundbreaking news to me. Without skipping a beat, he declared that it was time for me to begin my long-overdue GOOD SKINCARE REGIME, and rattled off on the list of products he would be prescribing me.
And so, my friends, you can say I was sold.
THE GOOD SKINCARE REGIME
The products listed in order of use are below along with my opinions. Note that many of them feature botanical extracts (e.g. this portulaca oleracea extract) as active ingredients. My day and night routines are equivalent, except for sunscreen that I use only in the day, and the mask that is used once a week.
C3 Cleansing Milk to start as a makeup remover. I took to this one like a bee to honey because I adore its light texture. The box states that the contents are paraben- and fragrance-free, but it has this fleeting, sweet scent that makes me feel super ~luxurious~ when I slather my face with it. It melts into my skin and makes it feel so smooth. Even though I don’t use makeup much, I use it to double cleanse before moving on to the C2 cleanser.
C2 Delicate Cleanser, my bread and butter. It settles into my palms silkily in a dense, thicc blob. I have to add water and rub it between my palms vigorously to make it foamy before I can wash my face. It smells neutral, if not bland, much like how you’d expect a gentle skin care product to smell like. Unlike some previous cleansers I’ve used (here’s looking at you Sekkisei), it doesn’t dry out my skin while leaving me feeling clean. Together, C3 and C2 make for a fabulous cleansing experience.
T2 Delicate Toner. This one comes with a spray nozzle. I spray it liberally all over my face and tap my face to lock all that goodness in. It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, with ingredients including witch hazel extract (mixed reviews) and allantoin. Note that witch hazel is an astringent, which means it can be drying. But T2 also has soothing elements, so I would say it provides a good balance when used in moderation.
Blemish Spray. I was advised to follow up with this antibacterial spray after the toner. It smells sour, which implies to me some underlying acidic elements. I have to wait a while for it to dry off. I later discovered that this along with T2 can be drying, especially for people with delicate skin… like me. (Especially when I had been using them so enthusiastically…!!) The lesson here is that there’s no one-size-fits-all regime, and you need to go through trial and error – preferably with a professional – to figure out what works for you.
PF Pore Formula. I heard this one’s a classic at IDS. It promises to clear blackheads, whiteheads, and blemishes, as well as minimise oil production – essentially my key concerns. The solution is watery yet concentrated. I use it to target troublesome spots (forehead, left cheek, right cheek). There’s a bit of a stinging sensation when I apply it, and sometimes my sensitive skin reddens following use. It contains tea tree oil, which is another ingredient that’s touted for its antibacterial properties. As far as efficacy goes, it seems to do a great job – I only had one(!) major whitehead that erupted this entire month. All other bumps that sprouted were eradicated with ease.
C+ Vitamin C Serum. Highly recommended by Dr Ian as an essential for brightening skin tone and lightening dark spots. It is a transparent fluid that absorbs into my skin immediately upon application – the fastest among all the products. It leaves a sticky finish, but this is not an issue later on with the moisturiser (OM).
BC Blemish Clear. Containing salicyclic acid, this one is used to clear pores, combat acne, and lighten scars. Together with PF and C+, I call them the Power Trio. However, its texture is more like a cream than the other two, and it spreads better. I used it to target that one inflamed whitehead and it was cleared by the next day. It also serves to keep acne under control, so I can vouch for it insofar as my breakouts have been limited.
OM Oil-Free Moisturiser. If I could only pick one product from the entire series, I would choose this. It sparks me the most joy. With the application of everything else up to this point, my skin is slightly sticky and reflective. However, once OM glides across my skin, all is right again. It’s a light gel that provides a non-greasy but hydrating finish. Furthermore, it leaves a cooling sensation that helps to calm my skin (the redness from earlier typically goes away shortly). Not to mention that it smells like purity, making it a perfect finishing touch. It contains vitamin B3/niacinamide (reduces inflammation), hyaluronic acid (moisturising and plumping), and ascorbyl glucoside (vitamin C derivative).
S2 Non-Tinted Sunscreen. Another mild, watery concoction that spreads across my skin easily. One issue that I’ve had with sunscreens in the past is that they leave a sticky/oily residue behind or make my skin tone look unnatural. Fortunately, S2 has neither of these issues, making me a lot more willing to use it regularly. Another perk is that despite being non-tinted, it has a whitening effect for my skin making it look naturally radiant under the sunlight.
DM Dermashield Mask. This is my favourite following OM. It comes packaged with a plastic sheet to assist with initial placement on my face, which gets bonus points from me. It’s one of the best masks that I’ve used because of its superior adhesion, and I am not exaggerating (see pic). The cooling sensation calms my skin and lingers for a relaxing experience – perfect for me to lounge in bed reading my book. It has a lot of leftover serum even after 20 minutes, so I just tap it in and go to sleep with no need for additional moisturiser.
Finally, the portion where my fans get to see my BBF in all its glory. All pictures that follow are unedited and without makeup.
Here’s me on the day that I visited the clinic. I consider this the “baseline” condition of my face: maintained with regular cleanser, toner, and nothing else. Front-facing looks acceptable (I GUESS), but note reddish spots and comedones especially on my cheek areas, which are a persistent problem for me.
just woke up too, so flattering
Here, my skin was still getting accustomed to the products, leading to a sparse constellation of red bumps. Here I began to realise I probably have sensitive skin, evidenced by the patterns of redness that appear around my face at night. However, the irritation tended to be less pronounced in the day.
By week 2, the ~magic~ was starting to happen! I was applying the products consistently by this point and the results can speak for themselves. My skin was also less irritated at night after applying the products.
The trend of BBF continued, BUT interestingly I also had a breakout this week. At the risk of relevant oversharing, the breakout occurred near the onset of my period so my hypothesis is that it had something to do with it. I figure it’s part and parcel of things – hormones fluctuate and skin cells renew. The three pictures illustrate how my week went. Notice in the 3rd picture (taken the night after the 2nd) that my forehead was calmer, though some redness persisted.
Sister got a ring light and you know what that means – more pics with fancy lighting to expose all my blemishes! These pictures were taken 1-2 days before my next appointment with IDS Clinic. Observe that my face is less splotchy, with fewer dark and red spots compared to Week 1.
As you have already seen, I’m happy to report that my skin has generally improved since I embarked on this journey with IDS. A summary of the few things that the products have done for me thus far:
- Reduced the occurrence of breakouts.
- Even when breakouts occur, they are cleared quickly without leaving behind scars.
- Evened my skin tone by lightening dark spots and calming reddened/irritated parts.
- Provided me a radiance boost and almost perfectly clear skin on good days.
My greatest takeaway, however, has been an improved knowledge of my skin. In particular, the meeting with Dr Ian was pivotal in transforming my relationship with my face. Using the products and tracking the changes over time provided further insight into the needs of my skin: I’ve emerged with a better understanding of its quirks, and what it could both use more and less of. It’s not an overstatement to say that I couldn’t have gotten here without IDS.
Of course, I’m not touting them as a miracle cure-all service; this is only the beginning. For one, my skin is still prone to irritation, and seems to be sensitive to certain aspects of the products prescribed. Further consultations and research will be required to address this. Next up, I’ll be returning to IDS to review my skin progress and skincare routine, and be treated to one of their raved-about facial treatments. Stay tuned for the next post!