The Top 3 Questions I’m Asked About Skincare as a Pharmacist
Do I really need to use sunscreen every day? Are natural products safer to use than those containing synthetic chemicals? I totally get that there are 101 questions that one may have when it comes to skincare. Sometimes it can truly feel like a minefield trying to find the right information. As a pharmacist, I get asked a lot of questions about skin concerns and how ingredients work. Here are my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
QUESTION 1: Should I be wearing sunscreen every day?
The answer is 100% yes! Whether it is a sunny summer’s day or a cold winter morning, you absolutely need sunscreen. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, which can cause skin cancer, sun damage, pigmentation and premature ageing are always present throughout the year. The weather temperature and clouds do not block these rays from getting to your skin.
When looking for a sunscreen, choose a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and formulas that are ‘broad spectrum’. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against two different types of UV: UVB and UVA.
UVB: penetrates the skin more superficially in comparison to UVA rays and can cause skin cancer, tanning and burning.
UVA: reaches deeper layers of the skin, where they can damage collagen, elastin and DNA by producing free radicals*. UVA is mainly responsible for premature ageing and also plays a significant role in the development of skin cancer.
Now that we have established that SPF is needed 365 days of the year, let’s clarify the use of SPF in makeup and whether it can keep your skin safe from the sun.
It is very common for makeup brands to add SPF to their foundation products. However, for sufficient UV protection for the face, you need to apply around a quarter of a teaspoon’s worth (excluding ears and neck) of SPF. When using a foundation containing SPF, the same rule applies. Most people do not use that much makeup and are therefore not applying enough SPF. A separate sunscreen applied before your makeup will guarantee the best sun protection.
QUESTION 2: Is a moisturiser necessary if you have oily skin?
It may sound counterintuitive to wear a moisturiser when your skin type is considered oily or acne-prone, but let me explain why a moisturiser could actually benefit your skin. A lack of moisture in the skin can cause an increase in oil production which may lead to breakouts and congestion. The aim of using a moisturiser is to hold water in the superficial layers of your skin to help it stay hydrated. Moisturisers can attract water to the upper layers of the skin using hydration-boosting ingredients called humectants. They also prevent water from evaporating and keep the skin smooth using occlusives* (e.g. shea butter) and emollients* (e.g. ceramides). For oilier skin types, I recommend looking out for lightweight and gel-textured formulas that contain hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin and glycols.
QUESTION 3: Is medical-grade skincare better than over-the-counter skincare?
‘Medical-grade skincare’ is a term applied to products that claim to have better formulations and more effective ingredients in comparison to pharmacy skincare. Therefore, they tend to be sold at a higher price point, are less accessible to consumers, and are mainly only available to buy from skin clinics. Even though this sounds very promising, it’s misleading.
The term ‘medical-grade’ is predominantly used in marketing to imply that the product can have not only cosmetic but medicinal benefits as well. However, from a regulatory perspective, a product cannot be labelled as a cosmetic and a medication simultaneously. There are no current guidelines in place that beauty brands need to follow for their products to be classified as ‘medical grade’ either. A product can be labelled as medication or a cosmetic, but never in-between. Your skin care’s effectiveness is not determined by it being ‘medical-grade’ or not, but by how well it is formulated and more importantly, whether it works for your skin type and concerns.
*Free radicals – unstable atoms that can damage cells
* Occlusives - moisturising agents that work by forming a protective layer over the surface of your skin, creating a barrier to prevent moisture loss
*Emollients – soften and smooth the skin by improving barrier function
Follow Morayo @morayo_
Qualifications - MSc Pharmacy & VTCT Level 2 Facial Massage and Skincare
Yaar M. and Gilchrest B.A. (2007). Photoageing: mechanism, prevention and therapy. British Journal of Dermatology, 157(5): 874-87.
Draelos Z. D. (2018). The science behind skincare: Moisturizers. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 17 (2): 138-144.