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Ask A Dermatologist: Dr Jason Thomson’s Skincare Routine

Today, The Dose is talking to Dr Jason Thomson, Head of Medical at Skin + Me. Read on to learn how Dr Jason first became interested in dermatology, the impact of teenage acne on self-esteem and his holy grail moisturiser

How did you become interested in dermatology?

I became interested in dermatology pretty early on in my medical career. When I first started working as a doctor I was thinking about where I wanted to go with my career, and for me, I really wanted to practise a speciality that had lots of variety and dermatology is probably the most varied of all the medical specialties. There’s no other speciality where you get to treat the whole cross-section of society, ranging from babies, all the way through to elderly patients and everyone in between, so it was an important point for me to be able to treat everybody.

Also, the skin, our largest organ, has thousands of different diseases that can be diagnosed and treated ranging from deadly skin cancers to inflammatory conditions such as acne and eczema. Treating the skin is also really varied, as dermatologists we’ll prescribe medicines and also perform surgery on skin lesions – no day is the same, and you’re constantly learning new things. It’s also a very collaborative specialty and there’s lots of opportunity for research. Skin cancer is something I’m particularly interested in and have been researching alongside my clinical training.

Another big positive about being a dermatologist is that you have the potential to make a massive difference to people. Skin conditions will often have a big impact on people’s confidence, self-esteem and general mental wellbeing and being able to treat skin conditions holistically means you can make a big impact on people and really help them to feel better within themselves when you treat their skin. I had my own experience of having acne when I was a teenager and I went to see a dermatologist and was prescribed a treatment that cleared it within a few months and I’ve never had issues since, so that’s a really powerful memory for me and it gave me a lot of respect for the speciality.

How did teenage acne affect your self-esteem around your skin?

I had acne, like most people do, during my teenage years and I had it bad enough that it was covering a lot of my face. This was at a time when I was already under a lot of stress just being a teenager which made it really tough and it did have a big impact on my self-esteem too as I remember being conscious that people were often looking at my skin. I think having that experience has been really important in my dermatology practice and I hope it means that I truly empathise with my own patients who come to me with acne. 

What does your current daily skincare routine look like?

In the morning I wash my face with a gentle cleanser; I use Skin + Me’s Cleanser and Moisturiser full routine products or CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser which I like because it’s gentle and hydrating on my skin which is what I need as I use a prescription retinoid. It cleanses the skin nicely but doesn’t feel like it’s stripping too much moisture from the skin which I find happens with foaming cleansers. 

After that, I apply a vitamin C serum; I’m currently using The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF serum. It actually uses a derivative of vitamin C called ascorbyl glucoside which is more stable but less potent and probably less effective but I find it easier to tolerate than ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C) products so I’m willing to accept this trade off. It’s also great value for money for a vitamin C serum. The reason I use this in my routine is because vitamin C and its derivatives are antioxidants which means they can protect the skin from environmental stressors and the potentially skin damaging free radicals they create – ideal for people who live in busy, polluted cities like London, which is where I live.

After that I will use my Skin + Me Soothe and Smooth Moisturiser. Another favourite moisturiser that I’ve been using for a long time is Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream. I think it’s got a great texture and it suits my combination skin type- a bit oily in the T-zone and dry on the cheeks.

After that I will apply the all-important sunscreen, and my go-to sunscreen is the Altruist Face Fluid SPF 50. Altruist is a great sunscreen brand created by a UK dermatologist – their sunscreens offer very high protection against UVB (which causes skin cancers) and UVA (which causes photo-ageing) and their products are excellent value for money and you can buy them from Amazon. They also have a wonderful mission to make sun protection available for everyone and donate money from their sales to charities that help people in Africa with albinism (a genetic condition that causes very high rates of skin cancers).

I’ll top-up throughout the day, depending on what I’m doing. Even if I’m inside I’ll use it, but I’m also often cycling to and from work, and it’s important to reapply throughout the day, especially when I’m going outside. 

In the evening, I cleanse again with my Skin + Me Cleanser or CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser.

Then I will wait about ten minutes, so I’ll brush my teeth, floss, and wait for my skin to fully dry, and then I’ll apply a prescription retinoid. I use a Tretinoin-containing treatment and I dot that over my face. Sometimes I do get a bit of tretinoin dryness and irritation around my eyes, so I will put some moisturiser on there before I apply my treatment. Then often I apply my moisturiser after as well. That’s my routine! It’s kind of exactly what we advise people to do when they come to Skin + Me as well as in clinic, so I do practice what I preach – the only addition is the vitamin C serum which I’ll often recommend to people.

Do you have any holy grail products that you swear by?

Apart from our own products, it’s got to be Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream. I really rate it and I’m always recommending it to people who are looking for a light and hydrating moisturiser. It contains hyaluronic acid, a humectant that attracts water to the upper layers of the skin and has a great texture that works really well with my combination skin type as well as helping me tolerate my prescription retinoid.

Is there a piece of advice you give to every patient?

It’s probably similar to most dermatologists – wear sunscreen! Sun protection is one of the most important, and beneficial things you can do for maintaining your skin’s health. UV damage is the biggest contributor to skin ageing (around 80%), so regularly applying a high factor (at least SPF30), broad spectrum sunscreen everyday is essential to reduce premature photo-ageing and crucially reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. We diagnose and treat a huge amount of skin cancer as dermatologists – melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal carcinoma are all common skin cancers, and some can be deadly. The incidence of these skin cancers is increasing and sun protection is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself – regardless of your skin colour.

There’s a fair amount of controversy and misinformation currently around chemical sunscreens and some advocate using mineral sunscreens instead. The key thing is to find a sunscreen that you like and to wear it consistently every day. 

Sunscreen is only one part of your armory against UV and it’s important to remember that other behaviours can help protect your skin – such as avoiding the strong midday sunshine, wearing wide brimmed hats and protective clothing.

Medical facts checked by Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Jason Thomson 

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