A checklist for your skin care products

Here’s a list of must-have skincare products and how to choose them

Woman applying face cream to man

The skin care section of a hypermarket is literally blitzkrieged with anti-wrinkle serums, skin purifiers,  pore minimisers, skin lifters, blackhead removers, ‘magic wands’ and what-have-yous. But is a thousand buck skin cream worth it and necessary? Here’s a guideline to help you decide what tools you really need.

  1. Make-up remover This is not just for women using make-up but also for men who use concealers or foundations to hide spots and blemishes. Correct and complete cleansing at the end of the day helps to open out skin pores and avoids blackheads and white heads. Also certain long wearing cosmetics do not come off with soaps or cleansing lotions and require specific remover pads. Eye make-up requires a little extra attention as skin around the eyes is very sensitive and delicate.
  2. Soap-free skin cleanser The basic and most essential yet, sadly, the most neglected aspect of skin care is using the correct cleanser. Soaps dry out the skin, hastening the ageing process. They also make the skin more prone to bacterial infections by changing its pH or chemical balance to alkaline instead of its normal acidic value. So a soap-free deep cleanser is a must for all ages and both sexes.
  3. Exfoliant Though not a daily use product, it is a wonderful way to keep off dead cell build-up that takes away the glow from your skin. Use a coarser one for the body and a gentler one with synthetic, rounded granules for the face and neck. Use these not more than twice a week for 5 – 10 minutes each time. You could also use scrubs that contain small quantities of salicylic acid for acne prevention or alpha hydroxy acid for skin rejuvenation.
  4. Sunscreen The single most important skin care product needed in a tropical country is a sunscreen or a sun block. It should be used from childhood onwards, everyday, always. The main aim here is not to just prevent a tan or sunburn, but to avoid the deleterious effects of sunlight on the skin like wrinkling, ageing, sun spots, pigmentation and, most importantly cancer.
  5. Skin toner A dab of this highly underrated product after every face wash ensures a protective mantle on the skin that guards against infections. It also tightens up the pores, thereby controlling excess oil secretion and maintaining a steady moisture level for many hours. However, it’s not for those with normal or dry skin.
  6. Moisturiser Choosing the correct one for your skin is easier said than done. You need a non-comedogenic one for acne prone skin, one with ceramides for dry skin and a hypo allergenic, perfume free one for sensitive skin. Thankfully, many good quality moisturisers fulfil most of these requirements. A moisturiser helps the water to enter the upper layer of your skin, plumping the cells and making the skin look smooth and shiny. So they are best used frequently, over damp skin to lock in the moisture.
  7. Under eye cream Skin around the eyes is very thin making it one of the first areas to show signs of ageing, be it wrinkles, crow’s feet, puffiness or dark circles. A good under eye cream, preferably one that contains vitamin K and deep hydrators is a must.
  8. Night cream Again, the options of which one to choose are endless. Since night creams get an uninterrupted 8 – 10 hours to work on your skin, it’s very important to get the right one. Once you’re over 40, creams with retinoic acid work very well for fine lines and wrinkles. An added bonus is the presence of fruit acids like glycolic or mandelic acid which help to clarify pigmentation. You may also pick one with added ingredients like arbutin, liquorice or berry extracts which all help to reduce pigmentation.
  9. Vitamin C serum This vitamin is one of the best things in nature that can do wonders for your skin. It helps to build collagen which prevents sagging, it protects from the sun, it strengthens the tiny blood vessels in the skin, thus preventing age spots. But before you dash off to rub an orange over your face, know the facts. It needs high concentration of vitamin C, 20 per cent or more, to show effects. Creams that contain less than five per cent are practically useless. Also it is an unstable vitamin, so most serums need to be stored properly and used quickly after opening the bottle. Serums containing stabilised vitamin C are also available and though usually very expensive they are worth the spend. Use it daily before applying sunscreen.
  10. Peptide creams Protein does wonders for the body, whether taken orally or when applied to sagging skin to tone it. Collagen and elastin are the two proteins present in lower layers of skin which are responsible for its tautness, smoothness and youthful appearance. With age, they diminish, leading to sagging and wrinkles. Peptide creams are formulated with special micro-sized protein chains and carrier molecules to transport them to deeper layers of skin where they can revive and replenish the existing collagen. Thus, they take years off from your appearance. These can be used overnight in addition to or as a replacement for your regular night creams.

Last but by no means the least, one thing you need in your skin care armamentarium is a good pillow—nothing rejuvenates the body like adequate sleep—make sure you get plenty of it.

This was first published in the November 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Parul Kolhe
Dr Parul Kolhe, MBBS, DDV, is a cosmetologist, hair specialist and dermatosurgeon. She runs her own cosmetology clinic, 'Tvacha' at Bhandup, Mumbai. She has won national acclaim for her work on chemical peels for acne, pigmentation and skin rejuvenation as well as skin grafting for vitiligo. She is an avid trekker and writes poetry in her spare time.


  1. Parul, I loved the systematic way you have written. As my face is quite sensitive, I avoid using any commercial brands on my face. I use coconut milk, aloe vera or yoghurt. Coconut milk penetrates deep into the skin moisturizing it well and leave the skin soft, smooth, young, blemish-free and glowing. Try it yourself for a few days to see the results.


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