If you have been slathering on moisturiser and sunscreen lotion every day in the hope of getting good skin or protecting your complexion, American dermatologist Zein Obagi has news for you.
Most moisturisers are bad for your skin, he says. And conventional sunscreen lotion is not good enough to protect it.
Dr Obagi was in town earlier this month to launch his ZO Skin Health brand of products, which will be sold at aesthetics and skin clinics here, including Cosmetic Surgery Clinic at 20-01 Paragon, and Assurance Skin and Laser Clinic at 10-22 Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. Prices start from $80 for a bottle of cleanser to $190 for a tube of night cream.
While here, the doctor also conducted a workshop organised by The Dermatological Society of Singapore and The Singapore Society of Cosmetic (Aesthetic) Surgeons. He shared his research on the latest aesthetics procedures - such as his ZO 3-Step Stimulation Peel, which is gentler on the skin surface but has more benefits than regular peels - with 150 doctors.
Based in Beverly Hills, the youthful-looking 70-year-old thinks moisturising is an old concept of skincare. According to him, the skin is made up of water, lipids and protein, and most moisturisers are made of these same components.
"When you apply such moisturisers on the surface of the skin, the body adapts and no longer delivers any more protein, water and lipids to the skin," he explains.
"In the long term, the skin becomes drier and is addicted to moisturiser because the body is no longer delivering the essentials."
He adds that moisturisers stop the skin's natural exfoliation process too.
"The dead cells stick back into place and the skin's ability to regenerate new cells decreases. The skin then becomes thinner and weaker."
In other words, most moisturisers make the skin feel good but do not give it any real benefits. Instead, skin will dry out and age faster.
Dr Obagi also notes that many women start using moisturiser from a young age, which leads to more complaints of problematic and dry skin. In contrast, fewer men report such problems.
As a solution, the doctor says he wants to reinvent one's approach to skincare.
He claims his products are created to work beyond the skin surface, to strengthen and help it to renew and protect itself.
To that end, he has created what he calls a "functioning moisturiser", the Ossential Daily Power Defense ($200) which can help wean skin off regular moisturisers and get the body to pump water to the skin. The formula contains hyaluronic acid, which is naturally present in the body and helps to keep skin hydrated, and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as vitamin E and orange peel oil.
Once your skin stops feeling tight and dry when you do not use the moisturiser, you can stop using it, he says.
When it comes to sun protection, Dr Obagi also proposes a different solution.
"Most brands tackle sun protection either with physical or chemical sunscreens to prevent hyperpigmentation which Asian women are particularly vulnerable to," he says.
"Most sunscreen products are rubbed off in about an hour, leaving the skin vulnerable to sun damage."
To counter that, his Oclipse Sunscreen + Primer ($85) is made of melanin (natural pigments) from aquatic plants, which he claims can stay on the skin for up to 10 hours.
"Four pumps of the formula will act as a UV umbrella for the skin, prevent cells from over-producing melanin and causing hyperpigmentation to occur," he says.
The cocktail also contains both chemical and physical sunscreens, so it "protects the skin from sun damage from three angles".
Born and educated in Syria, the father of eight emigrated to the United States in 1972, where he specialised in pathology and gynaecology. He later served in the United States Navy as resident dermatologist from 1975 to 1981.
"While I was in the navy, I treated people who had keloids and huge scars from bomb shrapnel and other wounds.
"As I had a background in pathology, I studied how the skin renews itself and became hooked on dermatology."
He started his own practice in 1981, now called the Obagi Skin Health Institute.
Since 1987, he has travelled to more than 20 countries to hold workshops and training programmes for doctors.
In 2006, Dr Obagi launched the ZO Skin Health Skincare brand which treats all skin types and comprises two lines. The ZO Skin Health line is made up of regular skincare, while the ZO Medical line of products contains medical grade ingredients, such as 1 per cent retinol (a vitamin A derivative) and 4 per cent hydroquinone (a whitening agent) that must be prescribed by doctors.
The brand is now available in more than 10 markets, including Canada, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
While he declines to give specific sales figures, Dr Obagi says his brand has seen a 200 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue from 2011.
For all his unconventional thoughts on skincare, the dermatologist's advice for a basic beauty routine is pretty orthodox.
"Wash your face twice a day no matter what; never sleep with your make-up on. Do not let the extra oil and impurities sit on the skin because it has to breathe and renew itself."
This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 24, 2013
To subscribe to The Straits Times, please go to http://www.sphsubscription.com.sg/eshop/