My Encounter with Sensitive Skin for 20 Years

Liew Li Fah - PortraitI have had sensitive skin since I was young. I didn’t realise it at first, having had to battle pubescent skin issues like bumpy skin texture, uneven skin tone and a dull complexion. It was in my 20s when I went for a facial treatment meant to resolve my skin issues. It quickly became a roller-coaster ride from there, from my skin condition worsening, battling highly-aggravated sensitive skin, to it eventually becoming better. Now, I am more focused on maintaining the integrity and health of my skin, which is why I look for only all-natural products.

The roller-coaster ride became my journey to find better care for my own skin.

A turn for the worse

I’ll start with the incident that helped open my eyes to my skin’s sensitivity. At that age, I was only struggling with a dull skin complexion and the occasional freckles.

The chemical peeling treatment that I had was supposed to get rid of the freckles on my face. The way this treatment works is putting a chemical solution on your skin to remove its surface layers, and usually these chemicals are glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and others. By blistering and shedding away the top layer, a new layer resurfaces and this layer is usually a lot smoother and looks supple and youthful.

I felt a burning sensation while I was going through the treatment, but it was meant to feel like that. But due to the harsh nature of the treatment, my skin reacted aggressively and was left red, dry and peeling perennially. The aftermath was so bad that a strand of hair on my face could cause it to become unbearably itchy for me.

Imagine having skin peeling from your face, and cracked lines around certain facial areas and not being able to cover it up with makeup. No amount of moisturizer could help it heal either, as I would feel my skin burning and would stop using the product. I became insecure about the way I looked, and gradually it led to other skin issues. That’s when I embarked on a 20 years’ journey, looking for a solution to my sensitive skin.

My attempt to change my diet

illustration of changing dietLike many office workers in Singapore, I frequent food courts near my office out of convenience. Kopitiam style food is a staple of Singaporeans, but unfortunately such dishes are prepared with excessive oil and salt to better attract customers. When I was younger (and before I had sensitive skin), I wasn’t concerned about consuming high levels of salt and excessive oil. After I had this skin condition, eating unhealthily will immediately show up on my face. I also came across many articles claiming our skin condition is directly related to what we eat.

This was when I decided to give salads a try. The many greens contain a lot of fiber and plant proteins. Most importantly, I cut down on saturated fats and carbohydrates. It turned out very effective because I can see my skin condition getting better. But the truth was I find it hard to keep up eating salads all the time, probably because of my long established eating habits of carbohydrate filled local cuisine. Salads aren’t filling enough, and I resorted to snacking a lot more.

My working lifestyle makes it harder

Being desk-bound, the number 1 enemy for my skin is definitely the air-con. I believe all Singaporeans will agree with me that sitting under it for a good 9 hours a day is really drying. Without the proper protection, such as a moisturizer, I literally feel water leaving my face. Dryness worsens my sensitive skin.

On top of that, spending a lot of time indoors leads to duller skin complexion, as my skin wasn’t getting enough sun exposure. Working at the bank can also become quite demanding and I would occasionally put in the extra hours at work. As a result, I skip on sleep often and that gave me dark circles and bags.

A busy lifestyle (common among working adults in Singapore) also means having a lot of stress on your shoulders, which ultimately shows on my skin.

I built up the habit of exercising

illustration of building up the habit of exercisingAlthough I can’t afford a lot of time due to a busy work schedule, I built up a running habit, and it helps in making me feel fitter and healthier. Running keeps my blood pumping, boosting blood circulation, and keeps my skin nourished and flushed. I run at the park twice a week since I was in my 30s, and each run is about 30 minutes. Normally, I begin sweating within the first 15 minutes of the run, but I continue with it for another 15 minutes, and then finish up my exercise regime with stretching exercises.

From a lot of articles that I read on the Internet, I know that sweating helps to flush out the toxins and waste from the body.

The switch to natural ingredients

Having done various alterations to my lifestyle, I see gradual improvement with my sensitive skin. But the real breakthrough came when I chanced upon natural and organic ingredients made skincare. This is because organic skincare does not contain preservatives, alcohol and parabens. Such chemicals are necessary in conventional skincare because:

  • Preservatives and parabens – make the chemical compound stable with a longer shelf-life. This reduces the cost of the product and manufacturers can sell their skincare with lower price and yet a higher profit margin.
  • Alcohol and other chemicals – attempt to chemically alter our skin structure to produce a temporary result of skin that fits the common consensus of beauty.

Such ingredients are what I can avoid after I switched to organic skincare.

illustration of adding natural ingredients to my skincareIndeed, I found that we have overlooked the power of nature. Just like how TCM had been benefiting from healing powers of naturally found plants and herbs, natural ingredients have miraculous and powerful effects when used in skincare.

Of course, I must be honest that the switch to natural and organic skincare is not a bed of roses.

Firstly, because of the absences of preservatives, the products have shorter shelf life and are definitely more costly to produce. The higher cost result in higher price tags.

Secondly, compared to chemical-based skincare, natural and organic ingredients take more time to see result. This is understandable because ingredients from the nature, even if condensed into the form of extract or essence, has a limit to its concentration. More patience is needed as a new user.

Thirdly, there is a boom of organic skincare recently and the market is filled with many brands. But the truth is there isn’t yet a straight regulation guarding consumers. There may be brands claiming their products are organic but not supported with evidence.

This is when I started to look carefully to safeguard myself. I don’t just buy products that have the labels “natural” or “organic” slapped on them – I analyze the ingredients label on each product. I made sure I took my time in researching these ingredients before I buy them. Because of my skin’s sensitivity, I didn’t want to risk another brutal reaction due to chemicals.

I came across this Japanese skincare

I came across BLACK PAINT’s store in Raffles Place. I have passed by it a number of times on the way to lunch but never stepped foot into the store. Out of curiosity, I did a background check and found that the brand originated from Kyoto, Japan. The Japanese are stereotyped with their dedication to the perfection of their products and their workmanship. It is their honour and pride. Such suggested to me that Japanese quality will give me a peace of mind.

What finally pulled me in was the friendly smile from their beauty advisor, JP. She was knowledgeable and helpful. She listened to my skin concern patiently but not in a hurry to close a sale. I was in awe at the range of products they have, targeting different skin problem.

I meticulously checked their brochure and their list of ingredients. To my surprise, BLACK PAINT products are made in Japan BUT the founder doesn’t singly used ingredients conveniently sourced within Japan! She made the dedicated effort to source for the best ingredients all over the world and it turned out that most of the organic ingredients are from the best sources in Europe, all with proper certification of course.

Because of that, I decided to give it a try.

Maintaining my current skincare routine

Ever since I started using BLACK PAINT, I have been seeing lasting results. My skincare routine surrounding BLACK PAINT now includes the 5 basic skincare products. These are the White Paint soap, Best Water toner, Oil Water Rose, Ostrich Balm and the Water Cream.

These products are a curated solution to my sensitive skin problem. The order is arranged in the following regime:

Cleanse: White Paint soap

White Paint Soap 120g with Human Microbiome - frontI begin with this soap because it specifies skin dryness as one of the suitable skin types. It helps to cleanse my pores and brighten my skin at the same time, and it doesn’t dry out my skin further. The White Paint soap works great at removing the dirt and grime from my skin after a long day, and the best part is that it is effective in the anti-aging department! I was able to see a significant improvement in the fine lines and small creases in my face after a while.

With this soap, I let it sit in warm water for a while so that the surface becomes softer as it melts. I then directly apply the soap to my face (quite like painting, the instructions said!) and I massage the soap on my face for 30 to 40 seconds.

Tone: Best Water

BEST WATER SILVER Ag with Human Microbiome 100mlAfter cleansing my face, I tone my skin and help it rebuild the skin barrier by using Best Water. This toner doesn’t contain any alcohol, and I like that it retains my skin’s moisture levels, because its minerals are stripped away due to the washing. It contains over 30 different types of minerals, which left my skin feeling soft.

With Best Water, I apply 2 pumps on my face and massage it onto my skin. I repeat this step 2-3 times to achieve maximum hydration for the skin!

Nourish: Oil Water Rose

OIL WATER ROSE PREMIUM 100mlThis is a facial essence, and it boosted the White Paint soap in minimizing visible pores on my skin. Each drop of Rose Oil cost 2000 petals to produce! Rose oil gives a tightening effect, and it’s a bonus point that the oil has anti-inflammatory properties.

It is suitable for sensitive skin, and I use two pumps of these (about the shape of a 50-cent coin) and massage it on my face after applying toner on my skin.

Moisturize: Ostrich Balm

OSTRICH BALM with Human Microbiome 25gThis is the key savior for my sensitive skin. My sensitive skin originated from the chemical peel I had intended to remove my freckles. It turned out that the chemical was too harsh and it peeled off the protective layer of my skin. Without that layer, my skin is reddish because the capillaries and nerves are exposed to the outside environment. My skin is thus easily irritated and loses water faster, making it sensitive and dry.

The main ingredient of Ostrich Balm is Ostrich Oil. Not only does it contain a high content of unsaturated fatty acid that the skin needs, Ostrich Oil’s composition is very very close to human’s skin composition. This results in a seamless replenishment of our skin layer, nourishing and strengthening it. Beyond that, the types of vitamins it contains include Vitamin F, A and Provitamin A. All these are essentials for my skin repairing itself and maintaining its strength.

I use the balm every time I feel dry. It feels very moisturizing, and it does the trick in restoring my skin’s moisture levels after nourishing it with the Oil Water Rose.

Moisture Lock: Water Cream

Water Cream Platinum 100g with Human Microbiome - frontEven after moisturizing my skin, the Water Cream helps to seal the moisture in. Its non-sticky texture is a great advantage, too – it makes my skin feel smoother and works well as a makeup base! I read that the reason it is able to “lock” in the moisture is because one of its key ingredients is argan oil. Argan oil is known for its ability to retain moisture on the skin, and on top of the other skincare essentials that I use, this has helped tremendously in maintaining my skin’s moisture level.

I apply a small amount and place dots over my face on targeted areas (forehead, cheekbones, chin, nose). Instead of massaging it onto my skin as I have with the earlier skin care products, I use my clean fingers to evenly spread the cream all over my face.

A slow but effective process

The pure organic ingredients in the products that I use on a daily basis has helped my skin recover and repair itself, gradually achieving its natural strength. My skin is only as strong as I make it to be, and that means it needs its essential oils and nutrients that makes up its barrier and helps it function well.

Being in my mid-40s, of course, there are times I wish I had taken better care of my skin 20 years ago. In your 20s, girls (and boys) should focus on a great skincare routine and that does not necessarily mean buying expensive skincare products or going for fancy facials that cost a bomb.

I’d like to end off on a good note: Patience is indeed a virtue. If you want fast results, best believe that those results may not be long-lasting. Even so, they may be very costly as opposed to resorting to natural and organic remedies and treatments. I learned this the hard way, but I feel better now because I’m happy with my skin, and I want others to know that it is possible to achieve healthy-looking skin. You just have to be patient with it, and feed it only the good stuff (organic ones), and you’ll be on your way to better and healthier skin for a long, long time.