I am 22 years old with very dry skin. I am concerned about lines around my eyes which make me look very tired. I would like to start using a tissue-firming cream but have a few questions: how do these creams work? Can they be in any way damaging? Is it ever too soon to start?

Some “anti-wrinkle” creams for the eyes (and face) can temporarily improve the appearance of the fine lines by filling in the outer surface layers with enough fluid to minimize them. Others may contain a mild irritant to induce slight swelling. With some of these there can be the problem of holding too much moisture which may lead to an over-stretching of the delicate tissues around the eyes. If continued over a long period of time, a slight sagging or wrinkling could result.

There are other varieties of creams which claim to have a treatment rather than a cosmetic effect. Primarily they are said to help restore some of the natural functions of the skin i.e. cell regeneration, moisture retention, oxygenation, resistance to pollution and grime. You will find that some of the components of these products resemble components found in the skin, such as the varieties of proteins – collagen, elastin, amino acids – and some vitamins, and minerals.

Some of the creams are going to be more effective than others and only testing will reveal which are best for you. Choose only an eye cream, not a face cream, for use around the eyes. Apply a minimal amount along the crease of the upper lid and just below the lower lid. Eye irritation could result if the cream is applied too closely to the mucous membrane of the eye. The cream should have blended in within five minutes at the most. If not, then you have either applied too much or it is too heavy for you.

In answer to the final part of your question, it is not too soon to start, when you are already experiencing some problems. We begin to lose elastin and collagen fibres from the age of 25, but in some cases it happens as early as 20. This loss slowly contributes to the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. A skin that is inherently dry does tend to show lines a little earlier than does an oily skin. The best preventive treatment for dry skin around the eyes is sensible care and good health habits. Cleanse and apply makeup products with a gentle touch (avoid pulling on the tissues). A good pair of sunglasses will help to prevent the tiny crow’s feet that result from squinting into the bright sunlight.

I have a lot of blackheads. Could you please tell me what is the best way to extract them?

Resist the temptation to pick at blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. Permanent scarring or inflammation can result from improper extraction.

We suggest that you see an esthetician/beauty therapist to have them properly removed. To help minimize the blackheads, you can steam your skin weekly and make use of a clay facial mask.

I am 16 years old and I’m experiencing some acne on my face and a little on my chest. I want to know which soap is better – a sulphur- based one or a medicated one?

The medicated soaps are known for their anti-bacterial properties which means simply that they have the capability to control or kill skin bacteria.

The sulphur soaps, on the other hand, tend to slow down the production of the skin oil. Some may also have a very mild peeling agent to remove the top layer of dead skin cells and thus encourage new growth.

Remember that your acne is not caused by dirt, so wash gently. Since blackheads occur about one- half inch below the surface, they simply cannot be washed away.

Acne can have many different appearances such as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts or in combinations. In some cases, the skin feels thick and oily and yet in others it may actually feel dry. Because of this, we cannot tell which type of soap is best for your skin so we suggest that you see a dermatologist or skin-care specialist for a proper skin analysis and advice.