Skincare - Q&A with Dermatology Nurse Paula Oliver


The way we treat our skin often dictates how well our skin fares over the years. If we neglect it or subject it to harsh soaps, sun and heavy makeup, we run the risk of dry patches, wrinkles and spots. 

Skincare has never been a hotter topic; more and more of us are coming to realise that what we use on our skin is important. It’s not about leaving it until there’s a problem; the best skincare regimes are those we can stick with year on year. Saying that, unique issues do come up. Perhaps our skin type has changed as we’ve gotten older or we’re faced with new problems such as the coronavirus. Hand washing has never been more important but all that harsh soap and sanitiser can dry skin like no tomorrow.

We’ve got nurse Paula Oliver to answer all our skincare queries - including how to counteract Covid-19 dryness.

I have very bad combination skin. I often have really greasy patches next to really dry patches. What would be the best product to use across my face to handle both types of skin, and keep my dry skin at bay?

It may be worth trying a moisturiser that is non-comedogenic or non-oily. You can safely moisturise all of your face without feeding the greasier area with extra oil. 

I used a retinoid for the first time and it was supposed to be delicate. The reviews even commented on how it worked on sensitive skin. Mine, however, was red and blotchy. Why?

If you had a real reaction, then you were correct to stop. However, we do know that one of the common side effects of using a retinoid creams/ointments is redness and irritation to the skin so it’s very important not to use too much on the skin and to follow the directions for use very carefully. We often advise using it once or twice weekly initially so your skin can adapt and at the same time, use an appropriate moisturiser.

I have incredibly sensitive skin - especially on my face around my eyes. What’s best to use to deal with a flare-up? Wearing makeup doesn’t seem to trigger it at all.

Think about how you are cleansing the skin. It’s best to avoid soaps or perfumed products if you have sensitive skin. There are some good products on the market that are non-irritating and suitable for sensitive skin.

What is the best facial cream for anti-ageing?

Using a high factor sunscreen is probably the best thing that you could be doing on a regular basis to protect you against photo-ageing, as it’s the exposure to ultraviolet light over a long period of time that can cause wrinkling, spotting and the loss of elasticity in our skin.

 Is there a good barrier cream to use when washing up instead of wearing gloves?

Washing up liquids are most definitely an irritant to the skin as they contain fragrances and preservatives. You can purchase washing up gloves that are cotton-lined. When you’re finished, use a regular moisturiser on your hands.

Although I moisturise my skin well at night I wake up feeling incredibly dry - especially on my lips. I use bio oil, Balneum and Nivea. Advice regarding very dry skin early morning please?

It sounds like you have a very good regime in terms of moisturising already. Have you also tried using soap-free washes in the shower or when you are bathing? Some perfumed products and dry out the skin. It may also be worth using a slightly greasier moisturiser before you go to bed and using a lip balm on a regular basis.

What is the best shower product for removing chlorine after swimming?

Chlorine can be an irritant to the skin. It drys and disrupts our natural skin barrier. However, swimming is a great form of exercise and is important for our general wellbeing. We can help ourselves by showering as soon as we are out of the pool, using ‘soap free’ shower products. Once out the shower, pat the skin dry with a towel and then apply a moisturiser while the skin is still a little moist.

My hands are extremely dry and sore due to the constant hand washing we need to do to protect ourselves from picking up the (Covid-19) virus. I don’t suffer normally from any skin conditions and I really want to protect myself and follow the current public health guidance. What can I do to help myself through this time?

It’s so important that we all follow the very clear advice from the government website regarding Coronavirus. We should all wash our hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water or a hand sanitiser. Washing our hands regularly is the single most important thing that an individual can do. However, frequently washing our hands can lead to sore dry skin. Repeated exposure to water and use of soap, alcohol hand gel and other detergents can cause dry skin and is known as irritant contact dermatitis - a form of eczema. The skin can become dry, sore and red and can sometimes cause painful cracks.

  1. Dry your hands by patting - not by rubbing -them.
  2. Moisturisers (emollients) are an essential part of treating dry, sore hands and hand dermatitis as they help lock the moisture inside the skin and make them soft and supple again.
  3. Sometimes people find that overnight moisturising helps; to do this you just need to apply a plain moisturiser before putting on thin cotton gloves overnight.
  4. If your hands are coming into contact with soaps or detergents such as shampooing your hair or washing up, wearing gloves will provide an effective barrier.
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Last revised: 19 August 2020
Next review: 19 August 2021