Ask the Dermatologist

Got a question for a dermatologist? If you have a question you would like answered by a Ministry of health-approved dermatologist, send it to us at This issue your questions are answered by Dermatologist Dato' Dr Ko Chung Beng.

Dato' Dr Ko Chung Beng - April 9, 12:00 AM

I have very sensitive skin that’s prone to redness and breakouts. Most of the makeup that I’ve tried has either not worked for me, or caused my skin to become itchy or splotchy. Since most cosmetics don’t suit my skin, what advice do you have for choosing the right beauty products?
Joy, Subang
Sensitive skin
This is quite a common problem. Many people are like you. They develop skin itchiness and outbreaks of acne and comedones with many of the makeup brands and cosmetic creams they try on their face . Many cosmetics contain ingredients and preservatives that can cause sensitisation, irritation, allergic reactions and blockage of pores which can lead to outbreak of acne and comedones, apart from facial skin redness and itchiness. Beware of products that contain ingredients such as retinols, glycolic and salicylic acids, ascorbic acids , paraben preservatives, alcohol, hydroquinone, and fragrances. My general advice is that you use as few skincare products as possible, and that you add on one product at a time, and give the product at least one week for you to assess if it is suitable for your skin before you add on another product. You may also consider consulting a dermatologist for skin assessment and advice on skincare that is less likely to cause sensitisation and outbreaks to your skin.

I have a brown mark on my thumb that looks irregular. I know it’s not a birthmark because it only appeared recently. From what I’ve read online, irregular marks that aren’t round, and have sharp edges may be a sign of melanoma. At the same time however, this brown mark is not getting any bigger, and has remained the same size for over a year. In your opinion, do you think my mark is malignant, and should I visit a dermatologist?
PW, Section 16
Thumbs down
Yes, for safety I would strongly advise you to see a dermatologist to have this pigmented lesion checked out. It has an irregular edge, and it is a newly appeared lesion, so the possibility of it being a malignant melanoma cannot be excluded. An excisional biopsy can be considered for a more accurate histological diagnosis.
My boyfriend is thinking of getting a large back tattoo, but he also suffers from acne on his back. In your opinion, will it be safe for him to have his skin tattooed since his back acne is still present? Please advise.
Luna, Kuching
Sexy back
I would advise that your boyfriend see a dermatologist to have his back acne treated first before having his tattoo done. The reasons being, firstly, there is an increased chance of infection especially when the tattooing is done on an area of skin with active pustular or infected acnes. Secondly, irregular uptake of tattoo dyes may occur when it is performed over an area of inflamed skin with active acne. Thirdly, subsequent healing and scarring of acne may lead to distortion of tattoo pictures.
I am a 28-year-old professional with normal skin. Since I have good skin, I don’t really pay attention to skincare brands, and use whatever is available, or on sale. While most products have worked perfectly fine, I recently suffered a bout of itchy, red skin after using one of my current skincare products. Because I’m not sure which specific product is causing the sensitivity, I’ve stopped my entire skincare routine till my skin calms down. In your opinion, do I need to always stick to the same types or brands of skincare that work for my skin? If yes, why is this important? 
Bing, Kepong
You have done the right thing by temporarily stopping all your skin care products till everything calms  down. You can then  gradually reintroduce your usual skincare products one by one so that it will be easier for you to know which particular item of skincare product you might be sensitive to. If you have a history of adverse skin reactions to skincare products, then it makes sense to stick to a particular brand of skincare products that has been working well for your skin without problems. Venturing into a new brand with different ingredients increases the chance of having adverse skin reactions. You may consider consulting a dermatologist for advice on skincare with regard to suitable ingredients for you. Skin patch tests for common skin allergens may be considered if you want to have a better understanding of which substance your skin may be sensitive to.

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