“Ask my wife how old she is,” whispers Dr Wu conspiratorially. “She is 66! Can you tell?” Meanwhile the fabulous Mrs Wu beams at us, looking at least a good decade younger than her real age. It helps that her husband, Taiwanese celeb dermatologist Wu Ying-Chin, founded the popular Dr Wu Clinical Skincare line that has celeb fans like Barbie Hsu and Hannah Quinlivan (aka Mrs Jay Chou). Their son Eric, 41, a former Wall Street venture capitalist, helps his dad run the business.
The Wu family are in town for a launch event to introduce their revamped Mandelik skincare range, which uses mandelic acid (a type of skin do-gooder derived from bitter almonds) to perk up tired skin. “Mandelic acid is used in chemical peels done in clinics too,” says Dr Wu. “Our Intensive Renewal Serum contains up to 18 per cent mandelic acid to rejuvenate skin.”
Just how big of a deal is Dr Wu’s brand? LVMH (the French conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton and luxe beauty brands like Dior and Make Up For Ever) invested in the Taiwanese company in 2014. “But I still don’t get any discount for buying LV bags!” chortles Dr Wu.
For the record, the good doctor is 71-years-young and has barely any wrinkles on his smooth, supple mien, thank you very much. So we got him to spill insider knowledge about eight common beauty conundrums.
#1 How often should we switch up our skincare products?
DR WU: It’s good to refresh your skincare every two or three years. Your skin develops a tolerance for products after some time. Or maybe your skin condition changes over time, so you can’t rely on the same products when your skin has different needs. But the formulas for skincare products are always improving, so even if you don’t switch your skincare brand or routine, you’d still get an ‘upgrade’ once in a while.
#2 What’s the difference between cream and lotion? Which one should we use?
Dr Wu: Lotion is lighter than cream. Think of a lotion’s formula as oil in water, and a cream’s formula as water in oil. The cream is much richer and locks moisture in your skin better, so it’s good for dry and wrinkly skin. Lotion supplies moisture, and is more suitable for oily skin.
#3 Chinese actress Fan Bingbing famously uses two sheet masks daily. Should we start piling on the masks too?
Dr Wu: I don’t recommend putting on two masks a day. For actresses, putting on sheet masks is more of an SOS measure. They need to wear a lot of make-up for work and spend long hours under harsh photo lights, which is very damaging for their skin. That’s something that most people don’t have to go through, so [Fan Bingbing] is the exception.
But if you really want to use two sheet masks a day, you can’t leave them on for too long each time. The skin gets over-hydrated, and your skin’s protective barrier becomes weak and susceptible to infections. It’s just like soaking your hands in water for prolonged periods of time. Even if you’re using different types of masks like whitening or brightening, they all have the same hydrating function.
ERIC WU: Using a sheet mask twice a week is good enough. It’s a misconception promoted by the sheet mask industry that the more masks you put on, the better. And this is on top of the other products that skincare brands are always asking their customers to layer on. Too much product is no good for your skin.
#4 Storing sheet masks in the fridge — yay or nay?
Eric: Don’t put your sheet masks in the fridge! When we’re doing the R&D for our products, we subject them to a ‘temperature harshness test’, and keep the products at temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius and down to -10 degrees Celsius.
We found out that storing them at room temperature, around 25 degrees Celsius, is the best way [of prolonging the masks’ lifespan]. But since the average room temperature in Singapore is higher than that… Oh well, you can keep the masks in your fridge if you have to, but just don’t put them in your freezer (laughs).
Dr Wu: Cold sheet masks are only good for when you just had a laser peel treatment and want to reduce the stinging on your face.
#5 Does facial mist really hydrate your face?
Dr Wu: There might be some ingredients in the facial mist that might be good for your skin. But overall its moisturising function is limited at best. Facial mist might feel good on dry skin for a few minutes, but as the water evaporates it dries up your skin too. You need to apply a lotion after the facial mist in order to hydrate your skin properly.
Eric: Or you can use facial mist to hydrate your face after putting on make-up. But it’s not a replacement for a dedicated moisturising product.
#6 Some Korean whitening beauty products claim to lighten our skin tone almost instantaneously. Are there any side effects from using such products?
Dr Wu: Oh, those things are no good for you at all. One of the ingredients they use is hydrogen peroxide. It acts like a bleach that lightens your skin upon oxidisation.
Eric: Some whitening products also include titanium oxide particles — the same particles that you find in face powder — to give you the illusion of having fairer skin!
#7 At what age should we consider Botox?
Dr Wu: You can consider doing Botox at 20. Some people are very expressive and like to laugh or frown, so they get expression lines very early in life. But it really depends on how you look at your age and whether you feel you need Botox. Usually, you only really need to consider Botox when you’re around 35.
But nowadays Botox is not just used for wrinkles. There are some people who use Botox to slim down a square face by relaxing the strongly-bound muscles at the jawline. For deep wrinkles caused by muscle movements like frowning, you’d need Botox to get rid of them. But for fine, natural wrinkles due to age, applying a cream is good enough.
Eric: The average age one starts ageing is 25. It’s better to do preventive treatment, so that’s also the age you should start using anti-ageing products. Start earlier so you can freeze your youth! It’s harder to reverse the effects of age.
#8 Some folks are blessed with a youthful-looking face. Is it possible that they might suddenly age rapidly later on in life?
Dr Wu: It really depends on the person’s lifestyle and stress level. And for women, whether they are going through menopause and hormonal changes. Most of the time, a person ages rapidly ’cos of a serious illness, or if they suddenly lose a lot of weight through dieting or exercise. Genes can only help you to look young 50 per cent of the time, the other 50 per cent depends on how diligently you use skincare and the lifestyle you have!
Dr Wu Clinical Skincare is available at all Watsons outlets.
MAIN PHOTO: CHEE YAN