Like every industry, skincare is prone to trends and fads, star ingredients and total duds. What’s in store for the future? We find out from doctors Lisa Chan and Maryam Zamani.
Let’s talk skin care, the very practice of taking care of your skin, usually on your face, neck and chest (ah, the décolletage). The concept includes everything from clinical treatments to at-home products and even nutrition.
You’re doubtless familiar with the balms and lotions, the acids and tools that all promise to support your skin’s integrity, improve its appearance, and relieve you of distressing rosacea flare-ups, cystic acne, dryness, fine lines and other concerns.
But the plethora of products and formulas on the market can be an overwhelming and difficult sphere to navigate — so we’re taking a closer look at the skincare trends of today and what could be in store in the future.
[Editor’s note: Dr Lisa Chan is participating in this interview feature solely for informational purposes and does not endorse or promote any of the products contained herein.]
Here’s what two doctors think of skincare trends of today and tomorrow
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say skincare has gone mainstream, with a less “cosmetic” angle given to the practice. After all, it’s a science. Today’s products include various options for all genders, ages, skin types and conditions, and there’s simply more awareness and education on the treatments and ingredients one can use.
“A large part is due to the rise of social media,” says Dr Maryam Zamani, a leading oculoplastic surgeon and facial-aesthetics doctor. She pinpoints videos and photos of before-and-after transformations, skincare journeys and reviews. In the last two years, we’ve been living online, one result of working at home, remote learning, general social distancing and outright isolation.
We’ve even seen tech — “beauty gadgets” — making its way into the market. Previously confined to professional spas and clinics, various devices making use of radiofrequency, red/blue light and pulsed light are now portable, user-friendly and ready to buy for the home.
“But we have to be careful”, warns Dr Lisa Chan. The general practitioner stresses not immediately buying into the latest fad, as not all of these gadgets are properly reviewed or evidence-based.
Last year, a common skin concern was clarity — keeping the face free from acne, rosacea flare-ups and perioral dermatitis, all conditions that daily mask-wearing has potentially exacerbated. But a long-established concern commonly cited to both Dr Zamani and Dr Chan is tired-looking eyes — dark circles, puffy lower lids, dehydrated skin and even upper facial wrinkles. These days, the eyes are often all that can be seen in public.
“I’ve also noted an increase in patients asking for hair-loss treatments,” says Dr Chan. “Some of them have a condition called alopecia areata, which can be triggered by stress.”
Actives and other ingredients
The rapid rise of high-strength exfoliants and retinoids on the market is both welcome (they’re highly effective!) and a little worrisome. Dr Chan says that though they have their place in treatment, care must be exercised when it comes to their use, especially for over-the-counter products.
“I’ve seen patients with extremely irritated skin, because they used too much, too fast,” she says. Start with a lower frequency of application, step up concentrations gradually and use as prescribed by your doctor. You don’t want to risk triggering a reaction that can take weeks or months to resolve.
When creating products for her luxury brand MZ Skin, Dr Zamani focuses on filling them with powerful actives that work together synergically. The strength or percentage do matter, to an extent. Clever formulations produce faster and more effective results, with less skin irritation.
Vitamins A and C can be applied in the evening and the morning respectively. As retinoids and antioxidants, they help boost cell turnover, speed up healing, brighten the complexion and protect against ultraviolet and free-radical damage.
“Personally, I don’t advocate trying too many new things,” Dr Chan says. “If you’ve already found what works for you, that’s the best product for you, so stick with it.”
We even saw pandemic-related skincare trends, such as sunscreens with blue-light protection, for people using screens continuously. And Dr Chan says there’s been increasing interest in natural and organic ingredients, which could supplement or even replace high-strength exfoliants and retinoids. Think about betaine salicylate, a fatty acid derived from the sugar beet plant that’s often used as an alternative to beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) in Korean skincare products.
“I think transparency of ingredients has become a big trend,” Dr Zamani adds. As consumers become more educated, brands work to highlight their ingredients, the benefits and to justify their product claims. “Education is powerful and key, especially in skincare,” she says.
So what trends in skincare can we expect in the coming year? Maybe a less-is-more approach, with shorter beauty routines and tailor-made skincare regimens.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what new research will be done regarding Cannabidiol [CBD],” says Dr Chan. “Some studies have shown it has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it interesting for potential use in patients with eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and acne.”
She also thinks we might see more genderless products — in terms of marketing a product wholly based on the efficacy of its ingredients, and not simply targeted towards a particular gender. “I do believe there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the skin, so it’s exciting to see what new products are on the way.”
Dr Zamani predicts the use of probiotics in skincare will continue to rise, as the skin microbiome has been the subject of much recent discussion. This has resulted from the increase in skin problems, such as adult acne, which can be exacerbated by an imbalance in the microorganisms on the surface of the skin.
She explains that bacteria within the skin’s microbiome protect and defend the skin from pathogens, but disruption through over-cleansing leads to a compromised skin barrier. Probiotic skincare — the addition of live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you — may accelerate the healing processes and boost the natural defence mechanism of the skin.
“As a line of defence for the skin, the microbiome — similar to gut flora — is definitely an interesting space to target for next-level skincare,” adds Dr Chan. This leads to an interesting point. If you think of applying probiotics to the face as being similar to ingesting them as antibiotics, what other holistic beauty trends might we see that borrow from the idea of treating the entire body and not just the face?
“I actually have a very holistic viewpoint when it comes to beauty,” Dr Zamani says. “The best routine is supported by a healthy, balanced lifestyle.” She also encourages making your skincare routine an enjoyable and relaxing experience. “During the week, find 20 minutes for a mini treatment. Using at-home masks can help slow you down. I like to have a candle lit, stretch my limbs and use a lovely at-home mask to feel fresh – this will automatically help reduce stress. It’s one of the main reasons I created the [MZ Skin] LightMAX Supercharged LED 2.0.”
And for Dr Chan? “To me, holistic skincare is just about staying healthy and keeping your mind and body in balance: nourishing the skin from inside out, making sure you eat healthily, exercise appropriately, address stress and get sufficient sleep.”
Dr Lisa Chan is a general practitioner whose focus is on aesthetic medicine. The founder of MZ Skin, Dr Maryam Zamani is an oculoplastic surgeon and facial aesthetics doctor who treats a full range of skin concerns.