Experts say

Dr. Tan Toh Lick

Obstetric & Gynaecology,
Thomson Women's Clinic

Dr Tan graduated from King’s College London in 1997 and undertook his specialist training in London and Kent, UK. He worked in London as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist before relocating to Singapore in 2013.

Dr Tan is on the UK’s General Medical Council and Singapore Medical Council’s specialist registers. He is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and has RCOG special skills accreditation in minimally invasive surgery, gynaecological ultrasound, subfertility management and medical education. Apart from practicing, he enjoys teaching and currently runs medical education programmes for general practitioners and specialists.
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Erin Chen

Sexual Wellness Advocate,
Sex & Relationship Counselor

Erin is an advocate for the inclusion of sexual wellness as part of everyday healthy living. She holds a Masters degree in Sexual Health Counselling from the University of Sydney, and helps people discover and confidently explore intimacy and pleasure within oneself or with another.

Her career in sexual wellness began with the founding of Lila Sutra, a company that has disrupted sexual taboos in Singapore. In 2017, she launched SPARK – Asia’s first sexual wellness festival that brings together entrepreneurs, advocates and the general community to advance the modern conversation on intimacy, sexual health, and gender.
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Dr. Felix Li

Aesthetic Medicine,
Dr Felix Li Thomson Wellth Clinic

Dr. Li earned his medical degree from the National University of Singapore, and is accredited by the Aesthetic Practice Oversight Committee of the Singapore Medical Council in aesthetic procedures.

He regularly attends local and international conferences on aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine, as well as advanced anatomy workshops and masterclasses to keep abreast of the field’s rapid advances.
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What are common causes of dull skin on the face and body?
The appearance of dull skin is a result of poor light reflection off the skin. This is in turn due to uneven skin surface – rough or saggy skin, acne scars, prominent pores, fine lines and wrinkles; and/or uneven skin tone – blemishes, hyperpigmentation, blotchy or sensitive skin.

Healthy, hydrated, firm and clear skin reflects light evenly, giving the appearance of radiant and glowing skin. 

Dr. Felix Li
28 April 2019
What ingredients and claims should people with sensitive skin look out for in products?
Seeking a skincare range that is both effective and gentle can be a frustrating, expensive, or even painful process for individuals with sensitive skin. As a general rule, avoid products that contain ingredients that dry the skin – such as acids, retinols, and astringents; as well as ingredients that can irritate the skin – such as alcohol, fragrances, paraben, sulphates, and other chemical preservatives. If in doubt, seek your Doctor’s advice!

Dr. Felix Li
26 May 2019
How does activated charcoal detox the skin?
Activated charcoal draws dirt and other fine impurities to the surface of the skin, so that they may be cleansed off more effectively. Additionally, activated charcoal also has a mild anti-bacterial effect, which is helpful for acne prone skin.

Dr. Felix Li
28 April 2019
I’ve seen many products for dry skin that contains Sodium Hyaluronate, but in different concentrations and different molecular sizes. How should I select one that would work best on dry skin? Does the smallest molecule equate to the best?
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring substance that promotes collagen synthesis in our skin. HA is well established as a cornerstone of skincare, due to its effect to help strengthen the collagen matrix of the skin, and improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture – which in turn improves skin elasticity, texture, and the appearance of fine lines.   

HA of different molecular weights penetrate the skin at different depths, and influence the inflammatory cascade at different points. The claim that low molecular weight HA penetrates the deepest and is therefore the most beneficial is essentially a marketing gimmick. For example, high molecular weight HA that does not penetrate the skin at all remains on the surface of skin, forming a protective barrier, and keeping the skin’s surface hydrated. Therefore, the ideal HA product contains a combination of HAs of different molecular weights, each selected for optimum benefit at the layer where it acts.

Dr. Felix Li
18 April 2019
Ascorbyl Glucoside (Vitamin C) is best known for its antioxidant and brightening effect. How is the ingredient different from other forms of Vitamin C in brightening and adding a glow to the skin?

The benefits of Vitamin C on skin is well studied and clinically proven – its anti-oxidant effect cleans up free radicals from sun and environmental damage, protecting the skin from these stressors, and slowing down the process of skin aging – which in turn improves skin tone, skin texture, and the appearance of blemishes and hyperpigmentation.

Multiple forms of Vitamin C are used in skincare. Ascorbic acid is the original form of Vitamin C, while Ascobyl – or – Ascorbate are the esterified forms, which is essentially a compound added to slow the natural degradation of Ascorbic acid. The benefits of the various forms of Vitamin C are all the same. However, as Ascorbic acid is very unstable and degrade spontaneously, while the esterified forms, while more stable, still degrade over time, and especially when exposed to direct heat or light (notice how most of your Vitamin C products come in dark coloured bottles?), they tend to lose effectiveness over time.

A “second generation” Vitamin C product, or a Vitamin C precursor, that is stable in the bottle, and is converted into Ascorbic acid only when applied to the skin, is the best solution against the intrinsically unstable nature of Vitamin C.

Dr. Felix Li
9 April 2019

What are the common causes of dry skin and what’s the best way to treat it?
Dry skin is often a result of aging or damaged skin’s lack of ability to retain moisture. To make matters worse, dry skin is also more susceptible to sun and environmental damage, perpetuating the problem. Moisturisers address dry skin directly by trapping moisture in the skin, while treatments such as Rejuran – that increase new collagen production in the skin and strengthen the skin’s collagen matrix – help improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture, keeping it hydrated from within.  

Excessive use of or inappropriate skincare products is another common cause of dry skin, skin irritation, redness, and peeling. Common culprits include products containing acids, retinols, or hydroquinones. More is not always better – avoid complicated skincare regimes. And do give the products time to work. Multiple daily applications will not give faster results, but may increase the risks of side effects. Seek a Doctor’s advice if you are unsure which products are suitable for your skin, and tailor make a regime that is specific for you.   

Other simple tips - wash your face twice a day, and after sweating heavily. More frequent cleansing will only wash away the natural protective barrier of the skin. Apply spot treatment products such as pimple creams only over pimples, and de-pigmenting creams only over hyper pigmented areas – not the whole face.  

Dr. Felix Li
9 April 2019
Are there any preventive measures that can be taken to treat wrinkles?
An immediate and effective way to correct wrinkles is thorough Botox injections to relax those specific muscles. It is an effective way to reduce the appearance of dynamic wrinkles, and may also reduce the rate and severity of recurrence, especially in individuals who habitually have repetitive facial expressions, such as frowning.  

Try to keep the skin hydrated so as to improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Skin treatments including lasers, energy based devices, and skinboosters can help stimulate the body’s natural repair mechanisms and increase new collagen production in the skin, keeping our skin healthy and more resilient against extrinsic aging.

Dr. Felix Li
9 April 2019
What are wrinkles and what causes them?

Static lines, or fine lines that are visible on the surface of the skin at all times even without facial expression, is a result of dry and damaged skin, that has lost its intrinsic elasticity, and ability to retain moisture.

Dynamic wrinkles, or lines that appear with facial expression, such as frown lines, forehead lines, and crow’s feet, are due to over-activity of the small facial muscles responsible for the corresponding facial expressions.

Dr. Felix Li
9 April 2019

What is the best way we can prevent or delay our skin from aging?
While we cannot reverse “intrinsic aging”, or the natural process of aging; we can minimise the effects of “extrinsic aging” by reducing free radical and other external damage to the skin, while enhancing anti-oxidant and other repair mechanisms in the skin.

Sun protection – including oral and physical sunblock, sun avoidance – is key to minimise free radical damage to the skin. Stop smoking if you do, avoid second-hand smoke and polluted areas as much as possible. Regular exercise is a great way to improve blood circulation and enhance the body’s natural ability to repair. Maintain a balanced diet packed with antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables.

A good and complete skincare regime including antioxidants and moisturisers will help clean up free radicals, keep the skin hydrated, and improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Skin treatments including lasers, energy based devices, and skinboosters can help stimulate the body’s natural repair mechanisms and increase new collagen production in the skin, keeping our skin healthy and more resilient against extrinsic aging.

Dr. Felix Li
9 April 2019
What is your view on the subject of Labiaplasty or the notion of a “perfect” vulva?
Labiaplasty is surgery on the inner and outer lips of the vulva. It is often discussed in the media in a narrative similar to plastic surgery, where we think that women are getting Labiaplasty because they want a nice-looking or a “perfect” vulva that’s similar to what we see in porn. This might be the reason for some women, but according to recent research, many women have Labiaplasty for reasons others than aesthetics. Some do it because over time, their labia have elongated and are causing physical discomfort. For example, they might experience tugging during intercourse, find tight pants uncomfortable, experience twisting of the labia, and are nervous that their labia could become exposed in bathing suits. These physical factors can then impact how a woman feels in her body – she may feel more self-conscious or less attractive and less able to feel intimate with their partner.

While this recent research was done within small groups of women, it does show that the Labiaplasty procedure had a positive impact on their physical comfort, self esteem, sexual confidence and their sexual enjoyment. Many women who are choosing to have the surgery are not striving for the perfect vulva – they’re striving to make their lives easier, more comfortable and to feel better. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual woman’s reasons for wanting this surgery. And as with any elective surgery, informed consent and autonomy are important!

Erin Chen
18 April 2019
Can hormonal changes / skin issues on vulva be treated by topical application of intimate care products? 
Some skin conditions can be treated using over-the-counter products. However, others may require prescription-only medications. It would be prudent to see a family doctor for an assessment before self-prescribing treatment.

Dr. Tan Toh Lick
1 May 2019
Can the vulva be affected by common skin issues such as folliculitis, dermatitis, dehydrated skin, scars & blemishes etc.?

Yes, the vulva can be complicated with common benign skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis. Like skin on other parts of the body, malignancy can also occur.

Dr. Tan Toh Lick
10 April 2019

Can hormonal changes in your body affect the health of the vulva (i.e. Menopause / pregnancy etc.)?

At puberty, fatty tissues deposit around the vulva increasing the size of the labia majora and mon pubis. In some girls, the pink labia minora may become darker. Pubic hair also starts to appear around this time. The vulva then remains similar until pregnancy.

During pregnancy, the vulva can become engorged and varicosities are common. Pigmentation of the vulva, as with other areas of the skin, can be significant. During a vaginal delivery, the muscles and ligaments supporting the vagina may be damaged. As the baby is delivered, perineal tears or episiotomies may further affect the appearance of the vulva. The return of the higher oestrogen hormone level after breastfeeding will generally improve the elasticity and lubrication of the area.

After menopause, the labia majora lose its substance and become less full. Like the skin on other parts of the body, it becomes thinner and loses its elasticity. Hair greying, loss and reduced growth are also observed.

Dr. Tan Toh Lick
10 April 2019

Is the skin of the Vulva the same as the skin of the rest of the body or is it more sensitive in comparison?
The skin of the labia majora and the perineum are covered with skin just like on the rest of the body. In contrast, the labia minora are lined with a mucous membrane, whose surface is kept moist by fluid secreted by specialised cells.

The area is often moist from normal vaginal discharge, sweating and in some women, incontinence. The combination of being close to the germs from the anus and being moist increases its risk of being infected. This is particularly so during the menopause when skin pH rises leading to less antimicrobial defence of the skin. Further, lipid production is reduced after the menopause which slows the healing process.

Dr. Tan Toh Lick
3 April 2019