Seven things your doctor does want you to know about skin care

Heather Stephen and Dr Anjali Mahto

Consultant dermatologist and Harley Street Emporium SKINtellectual, Dr Anjali Mahto, gives us her top skincare tips.


1. Watch that mole 

“Because of cheaper travel and the popularity of tans, skin cancer rates have increased by over 300% since the late 1970s,” says Dr Mahto from the Cranley Clinic on Harley Street.

“Only five or more sunburns before the age of 18 can double your lifetime risk of developing melanoma so annual mole checks carried out by a dermatologist should be part of your preventative health screening as skin cancer picked up early is easily treatable but left alone it can be potentially fatal.”


2. Ditch the wipes

“A good cleansing routine is vital for keeping skin healthy and preventing disease. A cleanser removes dirt and harmful micro-organisms and improves the barrier function of the skin resulting in an improved overall appearance.

“I don’t recommend alcohol-based toners as these can dry the skin and I think a rinse-off cleanser is the best option for most people – particularly those with sensitive skin, eczema or allergies – as it causes less irritation than a facial wipe or wipe-off cleanser.”

But she adds: “For people with acne, salicylic acid wipes can be useful if you are at the gym and don’t have time to shower as they remove sweat – the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria which cause spots.”



3. Keep exfoliation gentle 

“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 not only makes the texture of the skin look better, but improves age spots and uneven skin tone, as well as allowing better penetration of your serum or moisturiser.

“However, there are only long term benefits if exfoliation is carried out regularly (once a week) as the treatment only affects the superficial layer of the skin.


“You can exfoliate with sponges, facial brushes, and over-the-counter scrubs and facial washes with ingredients such as glycolic acid that are left on the skin to dissolve the dry skin cells.

“Exfoliation is great for acne as it sloughs off the dead skin cells which can clog pores but if you have acne-prone skin you should avoid physical exfoliators like scrubs and abrasive cloths as these can make things worse and push inflammation deeper into the skin.

“Instead, go for the gentler option of gels and masks containing glycolic or salicylic acid and limit treatments to once a week to minimize irritation.

“Exfoliation can be very effective but it is important to bear in mind it can cause dryness and irritation. It should be avoided if you have underlying skin disorders like eczema or psoriasis and should always be followed up with a moisturiser.”


4. Swap creams for serums  

“Facial serums are concentrated, clear, gel-like solutions which have small molecules which absorb quickly, allowing useful ingredients like Vitamin C to penetrate deep into the skin. This contrasts with moisturisers which have larger particles and are designed to hydrate the skin surface.


“Serums are usually water-based which helps ingredients to penetrate and avoids clogging skin.

“They can be designed to contain high concentration of anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C and E, ferulic acid and resveratrol which help your skin fight the damage caused by free radicals. This reduces your risk of wrinkling and sagging skin and may help your sunscreen work more efficiently.”


5. You need sunblock – even when it’s cloudy

“A daily sunscreen is vital part of your anti-ageing armoury,” says Dr Mahto.

“UV radiation causes 90 per cent of environmental ageing so wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.


Dr Mahto says many moisturisers and foundations contain an SPF but it is better to use a separate sunscreen to make sure you have enough coverage. And she warns, don’t let grey skies lull you into a false sense of sun-safe security.

“It is also worth noting that 80% of UV rays will penetrate cloud cover so it doesn’t even have to be sunny to use sun protection.”


6. Night-time beauty 

“Your night time routine should always include retinoids. These Vitamin A derivatives promote collagen production and help treat fine lines, wrinkles and age spots while you sleep.

“They range from the prescription strength retinoic acid, tretinoin, to over-the-counter creams containing retinol. Prescription strength retinoids work more quickly but can irritate the skin so most people tolerate retinol products better.


“Retinoids should only ever be used at night as they are deactivated by sunlight and can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays and burning.”

(Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their doctor before using Vitamin A products.) 

7. Drop the sugar 

“Diets high in refined sugars have been implicated in both premature skin aging and acne,” says Dr Mahto.


“Sugary foods are rapidly absorbed by the body, leading to a spike in glucose levels. This encourages the release of hormones which increase oil or sebum production and cause the body to produce more male hormone known as androgens. And this combination of excess oil and androgens promotes acne development.”



“Sugar in the blood stream binds to collagen fibres causing the collagen and elastin in the dermis to function less efficiently resulting in sagging, lines and wrinkles.”

“Limiting sugar and opting for the classic Mediterranean diet with lots of greens, oily fish and whole grains is best for skin as it has high levels of antioxidants and minerals which fight free radicals “


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