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For the latest in our In Highlight series looking into the lives of women who love beauty we talk to Dr Justine Kluk, a Consultant Dermatologist and skincare expert with boutique private clinics in Hampstead and Harley Street. She is the “go-to” London dermatologist for breakouts and rosacea and is also renowned for her light touch when it comes to skin rejuvenation and anti-ageing.
My grandmother was an incredibly glamorous lady and I was absolutely fascinated by her as a little girl. I remember sitting on the edge of her bed watching her get ready for the evening at her dressing table. The whole sequence seemed very opulent and exotic to my young eyes and I was completely transfixed. First, there would be layers and layers of delicious smelling serums and face creams, and then a transformation would start to take shape as she applied her make-up. I’ve never known anybody since with so many brushes and sponges, powders, palettes and potions! I was spellbound and have been excited about beauty and skincare ever since.
One of the earliest lessons I learned from my grandmother about skincare was to stay out of the sun. She would wear one of those enormous wide-brimmed floppy hats and a silk scarf around her neck on sunny days and she would never leave the house without applying sunscreen. Her skin looked 10 years younger for it.
I have always loved the idea of working closely with other people and helping to make their lives better so a career in medicine was on the table from a very early age. My interest in the skin stems from my own personal experience with breakouts and acne from the age of twelve right up until my late twenties. As a qualified doctor by that stage, I was determined that others shouldn’t endure the embarrassment and loss of self-esteem I suffered so I doubled my efforts and secured a place on the highly competitive dermatology specialist training programme so that I could become a Consultant Dermatologist.
These days, I am in the privileged position of being able to look after people with similar experiences to mine. It is enormously satisfying to be able to reassure people with skin concerns that there is treatment that can work and to watch the change in demeanour as their skin improves and their confidence returns.
As both a medical and cosmetic dermatologist, I am lucky to be able to see my patients through their entire skin journey. This means that I may treat somebody for acne in their teens or twenties. When this is under control, we may decide to tackle any scars or discolouration left behind. They may then come back to me down the line for advice about stretch marks or skincare after pregnancy, to treat eczema in their little ones or to discuss options for reducing wrinkles and preventing premature skin ageing later on.
I’ve had a very mixed relationship with my skin. Having suffered with acne for so many years, there was a very long time in my life where I tried very hard to ignore my skin or to cover it up. I am much more comfortable in my skin nowadays, and I’m proud to show it off, but I am also very strict about adhering to a good skincare routine, keeping things simple, picking a few key products and sticking with them because I know how easily it can all go wrong if you play around. I am also fastidious about keeping out of the sun. Not only does sun avoidance decrease your risk of skin cancer, it is also the single most important measure you can take to prevent your skin from looking old too soon.
As well as breakouts, rosacea, pigmentation and scarring, many of my clients come to see me for anti-ageing advice. My approach for all of these things is to get the skincare routine right from the outset. Prescriptions and procedures can be transformative, but people need to be given the tools to maintain the results themselves at home. On the subject of procedures e.g. wrinkle relaxing injections or dermal fillers, I am a big believer in subtle tweaks and “less is more”. I’d far prefer people to say that my clients look fresher or more rested or that their skin is glowing, rather than noticing that they have obviously had “work”.
Exciting new products on the horizon
Something that’s been on my radar for a little while, but looks like it might finally make an appearance in 2018 is a non-invasive topical treatment for undereye bags known currently as XAF5. Still in clinical trials, this product was originally used as a glaucoma medication, but people using it also noticed an incidental improvement in the bags under their eyes. Applied to the lower eyelids at night, XAF5 is said to penetrate the skin and acts on fat cells to shrink undereye bags. This could be a really exciting alternative for people who have prominent eyebags that don’t respond to multiple eye creams, but don’t want to go under the knife to improve them.
In terms of skincare, I continue to advise sunscreen, antioxidant serum and retinol (or its prescription counterpart retinoid) for anyone looking to slow down the signs of ageing as there is oodles of evidence that these ingredients reduce the breakdown of collagen. We’ve also heard about alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for brightening and smoothing the complexion. Newer kids on the block include peptides such as matrixyl and growth factors. It may be worth incorporating a serum, moisturiser or eye cream containing one of these into your skincare routine as well.
When to start seeing a dermatologist
Collagen levels decline by 1% every year from the age of 25 onward! If you want advice about slowing the signs of ageing, I would suggest making an appointment with a dermatologist in your mid twenties to get started on a good skincare routine and discuss lifestyle measures that may also be beneficial. Addressing these issues earlier on may delay or reduce the need for more invasive interventions down the line. Furthermore, many of us are sucked in by clever marketing tactics and end up spending a fortune on beauty products without any real science behind them. Getting straightforward, unbiased, evidence-based advice from a recommended dermatologist can save you time and money in the long run.
Health and fitness?
I eat a healthy, balanced diet and I exercise 3 or 4 times a week. Of course there are weeks when I overindulge or miss a couple of workouts, but committing to eating well and following a fitness routine most of the time makes me feel healthier and more energised and also enables me to let myself off the hook occasionally without feeling guilty. I do also strongly believe that when you feel good about yourself, you look better too. The same goes for looking after your skin.
For me it’s all about having a great canvas to work on and I love Chanel Vitalumiere foundation. Although a matte finish looks really beautiful on some people, my skin tends to be quite dry over winter so any sort of matte foundation ends up looking quite obvious and a bit too ‘done’ for my liking. This means I’ve had to try lots of foundations over the years to find one that gives me a luminous dewy finish. This is one of my all-time favourites. It has a lovely, light creamy texture, is easy to distribute evenly onto the skin and feels really hydrating and comfortable once it’s on. As far as coverage goes, it’s light to medium which suits me perfectly as I prefer a more healthy, natural look.
My daily skincare routine goes a little bit like this…I use a gentle cleanser like La-Roche Posay Effaclar H twice daily. I then apply a vitamin C serum every morning after cleansing and layer a sun protection moisturiser on top before applying my make-up. I apply a retinol or retinoid product to my face, neck and chest after cleansing at night and then allow a 15 – 30 minute pause before layering on my moisturiser and eye cream. I am currently loving Filorga Time Filler moisturiser at night and Neostrata Bionic eye cream.
I get small rough bumps on my upper outer arms from time to time. This so-called “chicken skin” appearance is due to a common inherited skin complaint called Keratosis Pilaris. My sisters and I are all prone to this, and mine tends to be more bothersome at this time of year when my skin is generally drier. I cannot recommend Ameliorate Skin Smoothing Body Lotion enough. I apply it to my arms and any other particularly dry or rough patches on my body once daily and have always been pleased with the outcome after using it regularly for a week or two at a time. It works best in combination with regular gentle exfoliation so I either use the body polish from the same range or a Buf Puf in the shower for this.
Lots of people I meet swear by coconut oil. I know that there is a trend for applying it as a moisturiser to the face and body, but I for one would be very nervous about doing this as it is highly occlusive, meaning that the potential for pore blocking and breakouts is off the scale. Coconut oil has, however, been used for many years to soften and condition the hair and to soothe red, flaky, itchy scalps. In fact, dermatologists often prescribe a mixture containing coconut oil for treating psoriasis of the scalp so using coconut oil as a hair and scalp treatment overnight once or twice a week is definitely derm approved!
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