A regular cleansing routine is a must. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Some beauty problems are perennial. Acne, blotchiness, whiteheads, blackheads, open pores are issues related to the face and body that are commonly asked about. Dr Lillian Khan, a dermatologist affiliated with Pond's Arabia, says that these conditions can be addressed by a few general guidelines. From OTC (over-the-counter) treatments to medical advice, Dr Khan, who works at the Silky Image Clinic in Saudi Arabia and trained at McGill University in Canada, offers answers to a few common questions. 

Is there hope for those with dark under-eye circles?

Dark circles around the eyes can be attributed to several factors, including genetic in which case they are usually more difficult to treat. If they are caused by lifestyle factors like insufficient sleep and bad diet, they can be easily treated by changing your routine. At times, prolonged work hours, particularly if you are using a computer, could also darken the under-eye area.

Start by getting your recommended hours of beauty sleep and switch to a healthy diet. 

What causes pigmentation or uneven skin tone?

Uneven-looking skin is a common condition in places where the sun is harsh like in the Middle East. Using a good sunscreen with minimum SPF 15 is paramount before stepping out.

Uneven skin tone is often related to specific areas around the mouth, especially among those who have sensitive skin prone to dryness and eczema. The pigmentation could also be the skin's reaction to harsh toothpaste. If you experience a burning sensation around your mouth while brushing teeth or an itchiness around the lips, your skin might be over dry. You should consult a dermatologist.

Remember, it is normal to have certain areas like knees and elbows that are a slightly darker skin tone than the rest of your body. 

Can OTC creams help to even out the skin tone?

First, protect the skin with a sunscreen because sun rays will worsen pigmentation, negating the effect of brightening creams. Cover the exposed area as much as possible.

There are a host of OTC brightening products that can help lighten the skin and reduce unevenness. Look for one that has niacinamide (a water soluble vitamin, part of the vitamin B group) in its formula because it has been clinically proven to brighten the skin by controlling the melanin distribution. Try Pond's Flawless White Visibly Lightening Day Cream that has both SPF15 and the VAO-B3 complex, which contains niacinamide. You can also opt for specialised procedures like chemical or crystal peels or laser treatments. These often enhance the effects of brightening creams. However, these should be done only after consultation with an expert. 

Do you have any guidelines when it comes to facials?

Rule number one: choose a facial that targets your skin problem and is appropriate for your skin type. My patients usually opt for whitening, rejuvenation or anti-ageing facials. Each type of facial has ingredients that help specific conditions. So you need to consult an expert who can suggest the right facial for you. Don't forget your regular cleansing twice a day - at morning and at night.

What are the dos and don'ts for those with oily skin?

I find that women with oily skin tend to over-cleanse using harsh products. Simplify your skincare regime. Use a non-drying cleanser meant for oily skin (no more than twice a day) and use a mattfying cream on the t-zone to control the shine. Don't use oil-based skincare or make-up products and don't use toners more than once a day.

I recommend a vitamin A-base cream for some of my patients. This helps control the sebum production. Again, consult your dermatologist who can recommend a medicated vitamin A cream for your skin. 

Is there a right age to start an anti-ageing skincare routine?

I suggest starting as early as your 20s. Along with good quality day and night creams that have anti-ageing ingredients like retinol and vitamin E, regularly use a sunscreen to prevent sun damage. Also, get your skin type assessed by an expert who will suggest the right skincare regime. 

Why is acne so difficult to treat?

Acne is a chronic problem that can worsen due to factors ranging from medication to weather and hormonal changes. The best course of action is a thorough evaluation by a dermatologist to find the cause and treat it. At home, you can try skincare and facials meant for acne-prone skin. Facial cleansers that contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) can help mild forms of acne or acne that has been controlled with medication. You might also want to consider chemical peels and laser treatment for this condition.

Always buy non-comedogenic cosmetics - ones that do not block pores - and products for acne-prone skin.

Some beauty products are said to contain gold particles. Is this effective?

Gold particles in skincare products help get rid of dull, lifeless skin by giving it an extra glow. Several brands have gold particles in creams, masks and other facial treatments. It's an ancient treatment popularised by Queen Cleopatra of Egypt who is said to have used gold on her skin. Gold is also good to renew skin's elasticity. 

What is the best way to deal with ingrown hair?

Laser hair removal treatment is ideal for ingrown hair, but if it isn't something you want, I suggest an exfoliating body wash with AHA, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid. It would also help if you use a gentle exfoliating cloth as soon as hair starts growing, taking special care not to injure the skin while exfoliating. 

What can one do to treat whiteheads and blackheads?

In medical terminology, blackheads and whiteheads are referred to as comedones. These usually occur around the nose, cheeks, chin and forehead. When it comes to treatment, I have three approaches:

You should purchase soap, gel washes, cream, and toners that are labelled as comedolytic. The active ingredients like AHA, glycolic acid or salicylic acid in these products work to stop the formation of whiteheads and blackheads.

The most effective topical treatment that can be prescribed has vitamin A derivatives that help remove and prevent blackheads and whiteheads. In the Middle East, your dermatologist may prescribe products containing adapalene, tretinoin, azelaic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

You can also try treatments at a medical spa. Some of these include medical spa facials that extract blackheads and whiteheads or the application of professional peels with salicylic acid, AHA and trichloroacetic acid (TCA), which works as a peeling agent. 

Is bleaching facial hair harmful? Does it result in coarse hair?

It isn't harmful unless you are allergic to bleaching ingredients. In some cases, leaving the bleach on for too long can cause redness, irritation and blisters. Ensure you use a reputed brand. Don't forget to read the instructions and do the recommended skin patch test, especially if you are using it for the first time.

As for the long-term effects, no, it doesn't cause hair to grow coarse. In fact, some reports say that regular bleaching could result in permanent hair removal. 

Can open pores be treated?

Yes, there are several treatment options, starting with OTC creams with retinol (try Pond's Age Miracle line of creams), AHA or vitamin C. Exfoliating once or twice a week at home cleans pores and promotes rejuvenation of the skin cells. When done regularly, your pore size will decrease. A dermatologist can also prescribe stronger topical creams with vitamin A derivatives or suggest options such as microdermabrasion or chemical peels.