FACE WARS: RETURN OF THE NERDY
I’ve noticed that my skin condition is worse in the morning. Despite the overall improvement, my cheeks were reddish, and I had a minor breakout on my forehead on the day of my appointment. (See below for pics of my face during the facial that followed.) After staring at my face with his Big Light, Dr Ian made similar observations, commenting that my skin appeared dry and sensitive. What a combo! I let him know that the PF Pore Formula, while effective in eradicating my breakouts, tended to lead to redness after use. Besides that, my skin responded well to the other products.
He looked thoughtful before dispensing his advice – cut down on using the T2 Delicate Toner, Blemish Spray, and PF to once at night instead of twice a day. Essentially, due to their antiseptic properties and concentrated formulation (especially for PF), these could dry out my skin and cause irritation when used in excess. To further promote my skin’s hydration levels, he prescribed a new product: the ultimate MB Moisture Boost. Just as a slither of excitement ran down my spine at the idea of Trying Something New, he said MB would replace my existing moisturiser (the OM Oil-Free Moisturiser). Nooo!!! And just like that, my favourite product from the line-up was disqualified… albeit for something more fitting.
One thought that occurred to me as I left the clinic on my first visit was that I had rather eye-catching eye bags. I mean, what student at this age doesn’t have eye bags? In particular, when I smile, my eye bags will “curl up”, making them more pronounced (this is a misconception – read on). This came together with the noticeably darker region under my eyes. Before I left Dr Ian’s office, I capitalised on the opportunity to share my concerns. Blinking, he launched into an exposition about the importance of sleep hygiene. Of course…
Halfway through, he drifted to the implication that eye bags are not the same as the lower eyelid fold (the “curl”). I perked up – now that was something I didn’t know. To surmise, people genetically differ in the amount of fat distributed in their lower eyelids, with some puffier than others by default. So it wasn’t my sleeping habits after all! In addition, the “puffy lower eyelid look” is popular in Japan and Korea (aegyo sal, or “cute fat”). It’s even a trend for ladies to go for plastic surgery to create the fold.
Anyway. Dr Ian’s sharing was so informative I even felt somewhat happy about all my lower eyelid fat. At least I can comfort myself knowing it is a socially approved beauty trait I already possess. (Social norms are a powerful thing.) Nonetheless, to target my concern about dark eye circles, he prescribed me the ER Eye Rescue.
F FOR FACIAL, F FOR FABULOUS
Following the consultation, I was ushered to the adjacent IDS Aesthetics for the next skin blessing: a facial treatment. I was assigned a consultant and led into a cosy private space where we got down to business. Dermatologists generally recommend that people should get a standard facial once a month, in line with the length of the skin cell turnover cycle – i.e. the rate of replacement of old skin cells by new ones. While it may not be feasible for everyone (including myself) to go monthly, it’s definitely beneficial to schedule them a few times a year.
When performed by a trained professional, facials are an excellent time to purge your skin of impurities and simultaneously imbue it with nutrients that promote renewal. Not to mention that the “clean slate” you get following a facial promises that you’ll look fantastic for a week or two after recovery.
I was prescribed the Hydro-Therapeutics Treatment (HTT). This specific facial treatment is designed to unclog pores, refine skin texture, and promote cellular regeneration. It included the following steps in order:
Double cleansing. Similar to my daily routine, two different cleansers were used in succession to ensure that my skin was thoroughly cleansed. One of them was a luscious milk/cream-based cleanser (I love these), which left my skin feeling soft and supple. The consultant was also very gentle with my skin throughout, making for a relaxing experience even as I snapped pictures every 30 seconds. LOL.
MDX (microdermabrasion). The next step involved using an exfoliating tool to sand away the outer layer of my skin cells and unveil smoother skin underneath. Microdermabrasion targets minor imperfections arising from ageing and exposure, reducing the appearance of acne scars, dark spots, and enlarged pores. The combined effect makes one’s skin tone and texture more even. As the name implies, the abrasive action of the tool may irritate the skin capillaries, leading to temporary redness. However, this wasn’t an issue for me – I was back to the blemish-free look with no sign of redness by the next day.
Ultrasonic cleansing. Functionally similar to microdermabrasion, but touted as less aggressive. Instead of scraping skin away using friction and suction, ultrasonic exfoliators utilise the vibration of high-frequency sound waves to cleanse the skin thoroughly. Bzzzzz…
Extraction. It is common knowledge that people should avoid popping their pimples at home, because we risk using excessive force with our fingers (an awful tool) and leaving the wound susceptible to infection and scarring. Extractions during facial treatments minimise this risk because the experts are knowledgeable about the appropriate amount of force to use and come equipped with sterilised equipment. Unfortunately, extractions hurt (I used to cry getting them because they can be so painful). While there was some pain, the consultant did her best to be gentle. For the record, I did NOT break out in tears. I was also impressed to see virtually no bleeding following the extraction.
Ultrasonic penetration of Vitamin C. When using ultrasonic cleansers, a liquid solution (e.g. water) is spread over the face so that the tool can glide over the skin smoothly and infuse skin cells with the solution. You can see how that would be an excellent opportunity to bring in some delicious skin nutrients. The consultant repeatedly slathered my face with Vitamin C solution using a paintbrush while stimulating my skin to soak in all that goodness. I felt like the Mona Lisa. Vitamin C is essential for skin repair and the synthesis of collagen – one of the key ingredients in maintaining plump and youthful skin.
Soothing mask. Three types of masks are available under the HTT – whitening, soothing, or anti-acne. I was given the soothing one to calm and hydrate my skin. I noticed that it was thicker than my all-time favourite at home, the DM Dermashield Mask. I proceeded to lay there for 20 minutes contemplating life and scaring my followers with my pictures.
We finished off with a light moisturiser (might have been OM) and of course… sunscreen!
Throughout the session, the consultant was patient with my questions and offered me advice that was consistent with Dr Ian’s. Specifically, she shared her tips for using PF in a way that could manage its potency. Instead of beginning with the forehead like I usually did, she would begin by spreading a small amount under her bottom lip before working upwards. She would continue with the two sides of her nose, before spreading the remainder on her forehead and cheek areas. I was convinced, because her forehead was clear as day.
THE REGIME, REFINED
Touted as the “superstar”, MB Moisture Boost is designed as an all-rounded moisturiser suitable for all skin types. (Not to mention I did some research and found that the product falls within IDS’s Prestige range, so sign me up for that Luxury Living YEET).
It’s creamier and less watery compared to OM. Like OM, MB contains hyaluronic acid (HA), a substance naturally present in the body and renowned for its powerful moisturising potential. However, MB’s composition further includes cholesterol and ceramides, which are lipids (fat molecules). When spread over the skin, they add to the protective skin barrier and promote moisture retention over the day. The inclusion of such ingredients is probably the driver behind MB’s intensely hydrating effect.
ER Eye Rescue. This unique blend strives to reduce the appearance of dark eye circles, under-eye puffiness, and wrinkles! It has a “balm-like texture”, i.e. slightly less than oily and very smooth when applied to the skin. I usually take the opportunity to massage the dark areas around my eyes to promote blood flow around the area when using ER. However, I have to be careful to avoid getting it into my eyes – it happened a few times, which led to a stinging sensation. As there is somewhat more cleanup required in the morning when I use ER, I use it only when I know I can sleep in.
MY SKIN’S PROGRESS
Week 1: Readjustments
My skin condition had ups and downs this week. I can think of a few causes, though I have no definitive answer. It might be that my skin was in the midst of reorienting itself to MB. It might be my skin purging itself following the facial. It could very well be due to natural causes too, such as hormonal changes. Either way, fluctuations are inevitable.
That being said, I went out the next day to collect my graduation certificate. We had a mini-photoshoot session too, and I looked veritably fabulous.
Week 2-3: Resistance
The next two weeks were followed by a peculiar phenomenon. It wasn’t so much a breakout as it was a persistent flush. There would be red spots that clustered together, but they had no “heads”. I’d say stress factored into this presentation quite a bit, as this occurred during a very hectic period for me. The end of my internship was approaching, meaning I had to work overtime for a 10,000-word report and corresponding presentation on top of my other responsibilities. I also had to make preparations for my upcoming research conferences where I would be presenting. And my professor wanted to meet me, so I had to come up with new ideas for research!!!
Furthermore, as I was reporting to the office more often, I would wear a mask for hours. This could have exacerbated my condition. That being said, my skin condition was consistently worse on the left side. It also led to a confusing pimple-like blemish that refused to develop a head no matter how much ointment I dabbed on it, and which took a long time to fade. Very frustrating stuff. My best explanation is that I tend to sleep on that side.
I still looked pretty good outdoors though.
Week 4: Return to Normalcy
After a grueling month, I could finally relax and take some time off work. My skin responded accordingly. By the end of the fourth week, most of the troublesome rash had dissipated: my right cheek was clear again, though some roughness persisted on my left side. It took a while, but I guess this counts as “closing the loop”. My regular use of the DM Dermashield Mask was helpful in calming my skin during this period.
Compared to the first month following my initial visit, there was less visible improvement from Week 1 to 4 this time. If anything, rather than an upward trend of improvement, it seemed that my skin was working hard to find a state of equilibrium. As I’ve described, there were many extraneous factors that could have come into play – stress, hormonal changes, the transition to new products, and outdoors exposure. While the use of skincare products can indeed be useful to stabilise users’ skin conditions, it is unrealistic to see it as a panacea.
That being said, the regular use of IDS’s products has led to a deeper understanding of my skin’s quirks and unique needs. In particular, I suspect that I have some underlying condition that makes my skin sensitive and flush easily, which means that it may not respond well to products that are more aggressive. Keeping this in mind when choosing skincare products in the future will benefit me.
I kept my faith throughout the process, trusting that IDS and Dr Ian had the expertise and experience to bring me closer to my ideal BBF state. I think of the skin much like the stock market – immediate results are not guaranteed. There will be short-term volatility, but as long as you invest in good foundations, there will be long-term growth. Indeed, this faith seems to have paid off, because this is how my skin looks like two months following my second visit:
Next up in the third and final post of this series, I will share my experience undergoing a laser treatment at IDS, and report the final results of my skin condition since embarking on this journey. (Spoiler alert: it’s been going very well.) Well then – I’ll see you guys soon…