How does a dermatologist look after their skin?
Top dermatologist, Dr Anjali Mahto shares her skincare secrets
One of the joys of being a dermatologist is combining years of medical training and experience in skin with my love for beauty and skincare. Very few of us are lucky enough to be genetically blessed with perfect skin. The majority of us need all the help we can to diminish imperfections and iron out signs of ageing!
As a dermatologist, a question that I frequently get asked is what do I personally use on my skin. Does the expense of the product matter? So for my first Cedars blog post, I’m sharing the skincare products that I could not live without.
Firstly, the good news: you do not need to spend an absolute fortune to have an effective skincare routine. There is nothing to suggest that luxury products are any better than those that are more reasonably priced. The difference often comes down to the packaging and PR. Positive results are usually related to the ingredients used.
Here is a list of my favourite products I’ve used over the last 12 months. I spend a lot of time trying new things and am also given a large number of samples through thenature of my work so this list may change over time. My facial skin tends to be on the oily/blemish prone side that is prone to blackheads so these products are a reflection of this.
A good cleansing routine is vital for keeping skin healthy and preventing disease. One of the main functions of skin is to act as a barrier to the outside world. Skin barrier function can easily be disrupted or damaged by noxious chemicals such as pollutants in the environment, cumulative sun damage, or even products that are deliberately applied to the skin for their anti-ageing effects such as retinoids. In addition, to this, as skin ages, it becomes increasingly dry over time. Using a cleanser will remove environmental dirt and micro-organisms as well as potentially improving the barrier function of the skin. This in turn will result in an improved overall appearance.
Avene cleanance cleansing gel
This is a great rinse off cleanser for oily skin. It leaves my skin feeling squeaky-clean. I use this twice a day and find it regulates excess oil production well.
Bioderma Sensibio H20 micellar water
I usually double cleanse with a micellar water. I tend to wash my face first with a rinse off cleanser then remove any excess residual grime on the skin surface with this product. As it is designed for sensitive skin, it does not cause irritation and reassures me that my skin is thoroughly clean before I start applying any other products.
Whilst my skin is oily, it still requires a good moisturiser as oils do nt equare to hydration. Moisturising the skin will maintain the integrity of the barrier function of the skin and is vital for good skin health.
My choice (face):
Skinceuticals Metacell B3
This has a distinctive fragrance so may not be to everyone’s taste – personally I like the way it smells. The formulation is of a light gel so sits well on my skin and has quickly become a new favourite this year. It contains 5% niacinamide which has the potential to improve signs of sun ageing.
It seems impossible to go wrong with this firm favourite over many years. The skin on my body tends to be dry, particularly in the winter months. This can be a common problem for many people and aggravated by cold weather and central heating. Aveeno manages to hydrate the skin without leaving a sticky, residue on the body. It is my recommendation of choice in those suffering with dry skin conditions such as eczema.
Facial serums are concentrated, clear, gel-like solutions applied to the skin that are made up of small molecules. This means that they are absorbed quickly and penetrate deep into the skin. This contrasts with a moisturiser which has larger particles and is designed to hydrate the skin surface.
Serums are usually water-based. They do not contain occlusive, moisturising ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil. They have a high concentration of active ingredients such as anti-oxidants, vitamins, and peptides.
Serums are not suitable for everyone. They are ideal for oily skin types due to their non-greasy finish. They can potentially cause irritation if there is a problem with the barrier function of the skin such as eczema. For others, that have dry skin, a serum may be needed in conjunction with a moisturiser.
Skinceuticals Phloretin CF
This one is not cheap but if you can afford it, a worthwhile addition to your skincare routine. It contains a number of antioxidants (2% phloretin, 10% pure vitamin C, and 0.5% ferulic acid) that can reduce the damage caused by free radicals. It is also suitable for oily prone skin.
Exfoliation is a vital part of the anti-ageing skin care routine. It gives an instant improvement to the appearance of skin by removing the dull, dry layer of upper skin cells. Superficial exfoliation will not only make the texture of the skin look better, but will also improve age spots and uneven skin tone, as well as allowing better penetration of your serum or moisturiser. The long term benefits, however, will only really be gained if exfoliation is carried out regularly as the treatment itself only affects the superficial layer of the skin.
Exfoliation can either be physical or chemical. Physical exfoliators refer to sponges, facial brushes, and scrubs. Chemical exfoliators are usually acids e.g. glycolic acid, AHAs, BHAs, that are left on the skin which work to dissolve the dry skin cells. Both chemical and physical exfoliation can be effective and the preferred method is largely dependent on how sensitive an individual’s skin is to the product being used. It is also important to bear in mind that even simple exfoliation has risks and may not be suitable for everyone, particularly if there are other underlying skin disorders.
Himalaya Herbals Neem scrub used once weekly
Enerpeel mandelic acid peel
The one product every dermatologist will swear by is sunprotection. This is one of the most important things that can be done to keep skin looking youthful. Ideally, sunprotection should be at least SPF 30 and broad-spectrum, providing cover against UVA and UVB radiation. The sun is the biggest cause of early development of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
My choice (face):
Sunsense tinted face or Clinique super city block
Both of these are good products that rub in well into the skin. They also don’t aggravate spots so it takes away the fear factor of breaking out for me. My skin is pigmented so many products can leave a white sheen on the skin but if your skin is fair then other good options include Eau Thermale Very High Protection sunscreen and Heliocare advanced SPF 50 gel.
My choice (eyes):
Skinceuticals mineral eye UV defense 30
One of my favourite products ofthe year, this product has a tinted formulation, so not only protects the delicate eye area, which usually shows the first signs of ageing, but also provides a degree of cover. This is one that has to go everywhere with me.
My choice (body):
Vichy Ideal Soleil, Sunsense ultra SPF 50
Most sunscreens, provided they have the right SPF are suitable for use on the body. These are my personal choices, mainly based on the way they smell, consistency, and how easily they rub into the skin.
Targeted Spot Treatment
Being a dermatologist, unfortunately does not mean that I don’t get the occasional break out. When this happens, it is important to get a product directly onto the acne spot as soon as possible to dry it out and reduce inflammation. Prescription treatments from a dermatologist that contain topical antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids can make a huge difference. Dermatologists are also able to inject large acne spots with steroid if you need your spot to go down quickly e.g. for a wedding or party. However, there are some good cosmetic products you can buy.
Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Spot Treatment
This contains salicylic acid and is good at drying out spots quickly. You just need to take care to apply it to the spot only and not on surrounding skin, otherwise you may find it can cause burning and irritation.
Looking after your lips
I have always been prone to lip dryness and winter weather, specifically cold, windy air can chap them further. I also frequently prescribe isotretinoin for acne (and have had multiple courses myself) so am aware of the extreme lip dryness and soreness that can occur as a side effect.
Elizabeth Arden eight hour cream intensive lip repair
Hands are prone to dryness more so than other parts of the body for a number of reasons. We tend to wash our hands more frequently than other parts of the body and they are usually also more exposed to the elements – everywhere else is often protected by clothing. I always keep a hand-cream in my handbag and top desk drawer at work.
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Concentrated Handcream
L’occitane shea butter hand cream
My make-up choices have changed every few years in terms of products and formulations. I rarely go without it after many years of acne as a teenager leaving its long-term damage. The ideal make-up for me is colour-matched, does not aggravate acne, lasts all day, and contains some sun protection. Depending on the level of cover I feel I need, I rotate between a heavier foundation and lighter BB cream.
Vichy Dermablend – Sand 35 – this provides an excellent degree of coverage without looking unnatural
My choice (BB cream):
Vichy Normaderm medium shade – if my skin is going through an oily period this controls shine well
Clinique BB cream – this is heavier in texture and better tolerated when my skin is more dry e.g. in the winter months
Retinoid products are a group of chemicals that are closely related and derived from vitamin A. They are one of the few agents shown to have anti-ageing effects by increasing cell turnover, improving collagen production, and fading pigmentation that develops with age.
Not all retinoid products are the same. This cannot be emphasized enough. There are different types of retinoid products available containing retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinaldehyde, or retinoic acid (tretinoin). Products containing the first three agents are not as effective as retinoic acid for anti-ageing effects. So, personally, I use a prescription agent product only.
Isotrex 0.05% gel
A dermatologist will be able to discuss your skincare concerns in much more detail as not one size fits all. A skin expert will guide you through the multitude of products available to pick the ideal treatment for your skin type in both health and disease.
Dr Anjali Mahto is a dermatology consultant at the London North West Hospitals NHS Trust. She works privately at the Cadogan Clinic and Highgate Hospital and is happy to consult on any skin, hair, and nail disorders in adults and children. Anjali has trained in dermatology at some of UK’s leading teaching hospitals including Imperial College Healthcare and the Royal Free Hospital. She is a spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation and expert dermatologist for Vichy Laboratoires UK.
If you’d like to find out more about our skin treatments in Harley Street please contact us on 020 7307 7467 or fill out our contact form over on our website and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.