In Conversation: Richard Parker + Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan

Speaking on the enduring importance of skin health at every stage of a woman’s life, Richard Parker and Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan, of ODE Dermatology, held an intimate event for RATIONALE Luminaries in Melbourne.

When we say Luminous Skin for Life, we mean it. Speaking on the enduring importance of skin health at every stage of a woman’s life, Richard Parker and Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan, of ODE Dermatology, held an intimate event for RATIONALE Luminaries in Melbourne.

On navigating skin health at different stages of womanhood…

Dr Gunatheesan: As women, we have these peak periods throughout life which might include pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause and menopause. In terms of understanding the role each of these play in skin health, you’ve got to really embrace the science behind what is happening in your body at each of these stages.

For example, when a woman is going into perimenopause she might experience spikes of oestrogen and progesterone, so she might actually have more acne breakouts for a period. Whereas during menopause, women often tend to experience more dryness, wrinkling and sensitivity, because the body is no longer producing as much oestrogen and therefore the skin is not producing enough Natural Moisturising Factors.

So your skin really evolves all the time—you can’t use the same products at 50 as you did at 15 and expect them to behave in the same ways. We need to be in tune with these changes, and this is where I think RATIONALE straddles that space between skin health and cosmetic formulation very well.

You don’t need to be on all six [steps of the Essential Six] straight away…it’s a journey. You can introduce new formulations as your skin evolves and as you need them—that’s the beauty of it. You know when you’re glowing, and you know when you’re going through a change and you might need to pay a little more attention to a certain area.

On your skin’s changing needs…

Richard Parker: Skin health is a moving target—you can’t just set and forget your skincare in your twenties. Yes, certain things are immutable, like protecting your skin from the sun; we know that you always need to careful in the sun, whether you’re 5, 55 or 95.

But most other areas of skin health are shades of grey. They need to be carefully understood and directed according to your stage of life, your health, and your goals.

On skincare choices during pregnancy…

Dr Gunatheesan: Some of the main skin concerns I see in women who are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, are a lack of luminosity, pigmentation, and hormonal acne breakouts—particularly along the jawline.

And yet one of the common tendencies during pregnancy and pre-pregnancy is for women to ‘go off’ all of their skincare. It can be a bit of a cold turkey approach: they’ll say ‘I’ll just go off everything… I’ll go au naturel… I’ll stop using my retinol,’ and so on. And I think: ‘Why are you getting off your retinol?’ That’s the most important thing you can use during this time to get your skin’s renewal system working. That’s what’s going to help you not break out when you stop taking the pill, or as you go through other hormonal changes.

We now collectively understand that you can use a topical retinol (like #6 The Night Crème) safely during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and I used it throughout both of my pregnancies. The levels that are actually absorbed systemically are so low that I always say it would be analogous to eating a carrot.

On the importance of mastering delivery systems...

Richard Parker: The concept of ‘bioavailability’ is one of most pertinent things to understand about the skincare you use. Thirty years ago, we were taught that the skin was an impervious barrier, and that its primary function was to keep stuff out. Of course, this is still a very large part of what skin does (in forming a barrier between us and the world), but we now know there’s so much more to the story… We have learned that the skin is able to selectively absorb things that are good for it.

But this is where the devil lies in the details, because you can put Vitamin C into a formulation, but if it’s not engineered to be bioavailable—which means that your skin knows what to do with it, instead of attacking it—then either the formulation is not going to work at all, or you’ll end up experiencing some kind of reaction. So the delivery system and its bioavailability for human skin is one of the most important aspects of formulation science.

On ageing…

Richard Parker: My philosophy on beauty and ageing is that you can’t look young forever, but you can look beautiful at any age. One of the most remarkable things about skin in particular is that it has this incredible capacity to recover. You can actually see when what you’re doing is working. And it’s never too late.

RATIONALE recommends consulting your medical practitioner if you have any concerns about your skincare choices during pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and postpartum periods.