#AskADerm: Q&A with Dr. Aegean Chan on General Skin Concerns
Updated: Jul 22
With all that’s happening in the world right now, it’s little wonder that your skin may be acting up or your previously flawless complexion is starting to see the occasional bump (remember to wash and/or replace your masks regularly!). Whether it’s stress from work, routine changes, or the sudden revelation that your skincare is no longer delivering results, we hear you!
We went back to basics and sent a list of common skincare woes to Dr. Aegean H. Chan, MD, FAAD, and dual board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist. The highly engaging dermatologist shares tips and advice around everyday skincare woes that may prove useful to you. Read on!
Q1: Can retinol cause acne?
Retinoids, including retinol, is the cornerstone of any acne treatment. However, in the first few weeks of use, some people may notice increased acne lesions. This is commonly referred to as a "purge." What is really happening is as the retinoids start working to regulate how your skin cells divide, pre-existing clogged pores, or comedones, are coming to a head all at once. I recommend pushing through this phase and continuing to use your retinoid. People usually see improvement and progressively clearer skin at around 6 weeks. — Dr. Chan
Q2: How to stop hand eczema or treat it naturally?
Hand eczema can be caused by a number of factors, but most commonly, especially now, overwashing or use of harsh chemicals is the main driver. Most mild cases of hand eczema are alleviated by the use of a thick hand cream with humectants, like glycerin, and occlusive ingredients every time after washing.
I recommend Neutrogena Norweigan Formula Hand Cream or O'Keeffe's Working Hands.
Use of gloves when doing wet work can also help prevent the worsening of hand eczema. However, more severe types of eczema can be difficult to treat and may require prescription steroids from your doctor.
Q3: How often should I use salicylic acid face wash? Will our skin get used to salicylic acid if we use it daily?
I usually recommend salicylic face wash for people with acne-prone skin, as it preferentially acts as an exfoliant in the pores, helping to clear out dead skin cells that can lead to acne lesions. It is generally well-tolerated by most people and can be used 1-2 times per day. However, if you find that your skin is irritated and dry with use, especially if you are using other acne medications, you may want to cut back and use it once a day.
Q4: Will exfoliating help to reduce pigmentation?
It depends on what is the underlying cause of your hyperpigmentation. If you have melasma that involves the superficial layers of the skin, chemical exfoliation with glycolic acid can help improve the hyperpigmentation. However, if you have hyperpigmentation from a rash or acne scarring, the pigment is too deep for any type of exfoliation to improve it.
I do not recommend physical exfoliation with scrubs and brushes, as it can traumatize the skin and cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Q5: Would you recommend one with sensitive skin to use skincare products containing Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is used for its lightening and brightening properties. If you have mild hyperpigmentation or photodamage, you may see some improvement with Vitamin C products, however, personally, it's not my first-line treatment for those issues. Everybody's skin is different and some people may experience sensitivity and irritation to Vitamin C products, so I recommend trying it on a small area of skin for several days to test for any adverse reactions you may have.
Q6: I’m having atopic dermatitis and it’s so bad. It’s red, tight and inflamed. Have tried doctor’s cream which is a steroid cream and I’m trying not to use it. Is there anything that can help? I’ve hypersensitive skin.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disease that is due to a genetic defect of a protein in your skin called filaggrin. People with atopic dermatitis have skin that has an impaired ability to hold onto water and because it becomes dry more easily, is more susceptible to skin inflammation and rashes. The best way to prevent flares is to consistently practice gentle skincare and use a thick cream at least twice daily to help seal water in your skin.
Once your skin is inflamed, a topical anti-inflammatory cream like a steroid is the best way to restore your skin barrier and resolve any symptoms, like redness and itching. There seems to be a lot of fearmongering around topical steroids, but they are safe when used correctly under the supervision of a dermatologist, and oftentimes, rashes will not improve without the use of a topical steroid or other prescription anti-inflammatory cream.
Q7: What are your top 3 skincare tips for healthy skin?
1. Be kind to your skin. When you get blemishes or rashes, scrubbing or treating it like a dirty kitchen counter will not make it better. Don't use too many irritating ingredients at once.
2. Moisturize your skin.
3. Use sunscreen!
Besides extensive work and research conducted across the dermatology field, Dr. Aegean Chan also frequently dishes advice and debunks skincare myths on both her blog and Instagram page. Looking for a fuss-free, easy, and effective way to discover your skin type and what works best for you? Spend two minutes to take our Smart Skin Analysis and get an instant dose of tailored recommendations—a special combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and real dermatologists’ expertise.
About us: We are Skintelligence, a team focused on a 'skin-first' approach to beauty through artificial intelligence. We match products to you based on your unique skin type and needs. Results are highly accurate and personalized with AI and machine learning. It's fun, convenient, and it works. Try it here.
As featured in Her World, CLEO, FEMALE, Shape, Nuyou, Singapore Women’s Weekly, Daily Vanity, Layers of Skins.