SIMPLE SKINCARE IS a thing of the past. Nowadays, our skin gets just as stressed as we do. Red cheeks, greasy or parched skin and pimples are often the bane of women faced with the pressures of modern life. If you need more than a simple cleanse, tone and moisturise routine to improve your skin, learning about how to treat some of the more common conditions could be the first step to saving face. Rosacea Rosy cheeks may be the lady-like ideal, but rosacea is not so glamorous. Often called acne rosacea because it looks similar to acne, rosacea is usually in women up to middle age, but can also affect men. 'Rosacea is a type of chronic inflammatory facial dermatitis,' says Ho Lai-yung, a Hong Kong-based dermatologist. Rosacea mainly affects the forehead, cheek and chin area. Early symptoms include frequent flushing, blushing and redness. In more extreme cases, broken blood vessels and pimple-like rashes appear, says Ho. Unfortunately, the cause is unknown, but those experiencing early symptoms should avoid trigger factors such as hot drinks, alcohol, spicy foods, stress and extreme temperatures. If you think piling on makeup is the answer, think again, says Laura Cummins, head of skincare at the Body Shop. 'Products can help disguise or enhance the appearance of skin affected by skin conditions, but should not be used as treatment for the more serious forms of skin diseases,' she says. The usual treatment for rosacea is a course of antibiotics but in mild cases, creams and gels prescribed by a dermatologist are effective. Blotchiness If pigmentation problems are standing in the way of a glowing complexion, your time in the sun could be to blame, says Ho. Excess melanin production, environmental factors and stress also contribute to an uneven skin tone. The solution? 'Avoid excessive sun exposure and use sunscreen or sun block. That is crucial,' Tang says. Chemical peeling and phototherapy (the use of light therapy, by a dermatologist) may be considered for severe pigmentation problems, Tang says, but mild cases may benefit from using skincare products labelled 'brightening' and 'lightening' as they're designed to smooth out patchy skin. Acne So, you thought spots would disappear the day you turned 18? Not so. Pimples can pop up at any age. According to Hong Kong Department of Health dermatologist Tang Wai-ki, about 80 per cent of us will experience spots at some point in our lives. A common skin complaint, acne comes in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, red spots and in more severe cases, boil-like nodules. Although the exact cause of acne is unknown, excessive oil production in the sebaceous gland is a factor in the development of acne, Tang says. Certain foods, overwork, stress and environmental factors are also said to aggravate the condition. Although over-the-counter treatments effectively zap the odd pimple, severe acne breakouts shouldn't be left untreated. Simply waiting to outgrow acne is also big no-no. Tempting as it may be, don't prick or squeeze the pimple. 'This causes even more damage to the skin,' Tang says. For a natural alternative, use a pimple ointment containing tea tree oil, which is particularly good for blemished and oily skin, Cummins says. 'Tea tree oil is a natural ingredient known for its powerful properties to heal and treat skin blemishes, cuts and infections,' she says. If you have a breakout but can't bear to go without makeup, try to use water-based, oil-free cosmetics sparingly, she says. Eyeliners, mascara and lipstick can be used, but remember to remove all traces of makeup before bed with a cleanser and toner, and finish off with a slick of good quality, oil-free moisturiser. Oiliness Shine in the right place is a good thing, but if it's coming from your T-zone, it's more likely to be grease. Shiseido senior training manager Mandy Leung says oily skin can look rough because of enlarged pores. Although all skin types produce sebum or oil, the amount varies between people and, left untreated, over-active oily pores result in acne. There are a lot of products that claim to soak up excess sebum, such as T-zone gels, clay masks and peels. But don't overdo it. Over-drying the skin will just lead to more oil being produced. 'Skincare for oily skin should be as simple as possible,' Ho says. 'A good cleanser may be enough. Oil-free products in a moisturiser or makeup have to be used.' Dryness If your skin feels tight after showering, has a slight redness and is itchy or flaking, you could be suffering from dry skin, or xerosis. 'The skin looks dry, rough and scaly, and in more serious cases, inflamed,' Tang says. Factors such as using harsh detergents and soaps and frequent bathing are known to exaggerate the condition. You can help your skin by increasing water intake, using generous amounts of moisturiser after showering and swimming, wearing gloves when washing the dishes and turning off the air conditioning if possible. Cutting back on moisture-zappers such as caffeine and alcohol will also visibly improve the look of the skin. Sensitivity People are either born with sensitive skin or develop sensitive skin later in life due to environmental factors such as extreme temperatures, humidity, dust, plants, animals and certain fabrics. Leung says most people are aware of what irritates their skin and simply avoiding the substance is the best remedy. 'However, if the source is unknown, a dermatologist should be consulted,' she says. If you're using a new skincare range and are worried you may be sensitive to the ingredients, always test the product on a small patch of skin first, which will indicate whether you have an allergy to it or not. Cummins says sensitive skin is best suited to products that are preservative-free, colour-free and fragrance-free. 'Products containing aloe are particularly good as it helps minimise and soothe sensitive skin,' she says. Fine Lines Regardless of how much money is spent on wrinkle creams, lines will eventually appear. First, the skin should be adequately moisturised throughout the year to decrease fine lines, Ho recommends. And age-old advice about eating your greens and taking vitamins still holds true. 'Antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and E help neutralise free radicals,' she says. But above all, avoiding the sun is the most effective way to prevent early ageing and reduce fine lines. 'UV causes skin dehydration and deterioration of the collagen and elastin - the two major substances that contribute to the flexibility of the skin.' Cummins agrees that a good vitamin E cream is a must for all beauty cases. 'It moisturises and protects against premature skin ageing,' she says.