We Got S’pore’s ‘Grandfather Of Aesthetics’ To Dispel Skincare Myths


A few months ago, I had the privilege to talk to ‘grandfather of aesthetics’ Dr. SK Tan and his wife, Mrs. Janifer Yeo-Tan.

Other than their undeniable dynamics, another thing that stood out to me was Dr. Tan’s honesty when it came to talking about the industry that he had carved a decades-long career in.

Holding a Bachelors of Medicine (MB) and Bachelors of Surgery (BS) from the University of Malaya and having trained at the St John’s Institute of Dermatology in London, Dr. Tan had to endure discouraging comments when he decided to go into the more ‘superficial’ aesthetics industry in the 1990s.

With an almost stubborn determination, he ignored the naysayers and pushed through with the firm belief that there was a market for those who want to boost their confidence with better, healthier skin.

“[And] when people want to look good, they don’t want to be sitting next to people with bad rashes, infected skin. [Therefore,] I wanted to introduce this purely aesthetics clinic, where people just came to see me for cosmetic and aesthetic reasons.”

dr sk tan
Image Credit: IDS Skincare

Through his practice over the years, he also realised that patients didn’t have effective skincare products that they could use, and that most of what was available in the market was just “feel good, smell good, and marketing”.

“A lot of people buy products and as long as it doesn’t cause problems, they’re happy. I think our consumers need a lot of education,” he reiterated.

Thus, Dr. Tan and the IDS team develop and produce their own products (that they test on themselves!) in their lab based in the US.

They also have a lab in Singapore that is used for prototyping and simple field tests.

Beyond that, Dr. Tan also makes sure to keep abreast about what patients need, and what competitors are selling.

“When I see a brand coming up with a new product, I see all the marketing hype. Looking at the ingredients and what they want to offer, I reverse engineer it in my head: ‘Does this work? Can I do something better?'”

One of IDS’ newest launches is the inclusion of Neulastin into some of their products.

Dr. SK Tan at the launch of Neulastin

For the unacquainted, Neulastin is a curated blend of highly active ingredients that improve skin elasticity and build stronger skin structure.

Neulastin is then coupled with their proprietary ENHANCE delivery system to ensure that the key active ingredients are delivered to where they are supposed to be in order for the skin to function at its optimum.

In light of the launch, Dr. Tan also sat down to answer some frequently asked questions that Singaporeans have about skincare.

Here’s what he had to say.

“The Term ‘Organic’ Has Been Badly Misused Or Even Abused.”

1. “Does eating oily food cause your skin to be oily?”

“The straightforward answer is ‘no’.”

Dr. Tan explains that oil production by our skin is actually independent from what we eat, so “go ahead and eat your char kway teow“.

2. “Suntanning is bad for you, is that true?”

Dr. Tan says that while suntanning feels good because of how it warms our body up, the sun can also be very damaging for our skin.

Long-term sun exposure without protection may lead to skin cancer,” he warns, so be sure to put on that sunscreen, even on #nomakeup days!

3. “Is a high SPF sunscreen better?”

On the same note, does that now mean that we should be slathering our bodies and faces with super high SPF sunscreen?

“Theoretically, higher SPF will give you better protection,” Dr. Tan begins. “However, the increase in protection is only marginal.”

He added that sunscreens with higher SPF also tend to be “heavier and oilier”, so if that’s a concern, anything with SPF 30 and above should suffice.

4. “Is there any way to shrink large pores?”

To this, Dr. Tan laughed.

“Pore size is actually a reflection of the activities by your pore gland, so if the skin is very oily and the oil glands are active, the pores are large.”

He reveals that the only way to tighten pores is to stimulate collagen production, which isn’t very easy.

5. “Is a product that’s 100% organic better?”

“The term ‘organic’ has been badly misused or even abused,” he sighs.

He explains that when companies put the ‘organic’ label on their products, they are simply saying that the ingredients come from a certified ‘organic’ company.

To him, whether or not a product contains organic ingredients is immaterial, and it’s more important to buy a product that benefits your skin.

Image Credit: IDS Skincare

6. “Do I still need to moisturise my skin if I have oily skin?”

In short, yes, but only because it makes your skin feel better.

“People use moisturisers [because] it replaces whatever water that has been lost from the skin, so by replacing the [moisture], there is a lot of comfort.”

“Moisturisers are a ‘feel good’ product.”

7. “What skincare product is good for me?”

Dr. Tan admits that this is actually a very difficult question to answer, because “every type of skin has different skin problems”.

So instead of reading articles like “10 Must-Have Skincare Products”, it might be better to identify your skin problems, then search for a product that directly addresses it.

8. “Chemical-free products are the safest and the best. Are they?”

To Dr. Tan, the term ‘chemical-free’ simply doesn’t mean anything.

“If you really think about it, water is also a chemical,” he explains. “When someone says ‘chemical-free’, I really don’t know what they mean.”

He challenges: “So does ‘chemical-free’ really make sense? Now you tell me.”

Image Credit: IDS Skincare

9. “Are skincare products with fragrances much better?”

While fragrances might make a product smell better, Dr. Tan shares that at IDS, the team tries not to include them because they may cause allergies.

“Once again, this is a ‘feel good’ thing.”

10. “What’s the single most important thing that someone can do for their skin?”

For Dr. Tan, the answer to this is simple – get that sunscreen on, even if you might not want an extra step to your skincare and makeup routine.

“I always prescribe a sunscreen for everyone.”

11. “Is organic and natural the same?”

“Many consumers equate organic to natural…which is actually not true.”

He explains that ‘organic’ refers to ingredients (typically plants) that have been grown with no synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, while ‘natural’ is often equated to using something made from plant extracts, and not synthesised in a lab.

12. “Is it good to always use cleansers when washing my face?”

Keeping your face clean is a good thing, but Dr. Tan shares that there are some end up developing an ‘obsession’ in washing their faces with cleansers and scrubs.

“I tell a lot of my patients to not be too clean.”

Just like how there’s ‘good bacteria’ in our guts to keep our bowels healthy, there’s also ‘good bacteria’ on our faces to maintain “a sort of a balance”.

13. “Do brands really use the same ingredients? And if yes, what sets them apart?”

“A lot of brands use similar or identical active ingredients, [but] what is more important is the efficacy of the product.”

This is what, Dr. Tan says, sets IDS’ products from the others in the market.

“We incorporate an ingredient called Neulastin. Neulastin is our proprietary blend of ingredients which enhance the efficacy of the other active ingredients.”

“The technology which we use in our IDS products makes sure that whatever active ingredient we incorporate into the product is able to get into the skin where it can work.”

We’d like to thank Dr. SK Tan for his time once again!

  • To find out more about IDS Skincare’s products and services, check out their website here.

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)