Dr. Celine Leong: Can acne be treated without medication? Aesthetic myths debunked 

Whether you’re looking to control your acne or stave off the effects of ageing, it is easier than ever to fulfill your skin rejuvenation needs today due to the plethora of aesthetic treatments available.

In my experience, many patients often make the mistake(s) of;

  • Choosing a treatment that’s not suitable for them (just because it works for a friend doesn’t mean it’ll work the same for you too – this is especially true for conditions like acne or melasma)
  • Prolonging seeing an aesthetic doctor because they’re “still young” or their condition is “not severe enough” 
  • Believing inaccurate information from unreliable sources 

It is never too early to start your journey of beauty and wellbeing. Neither is there a standard, one-size-fits-all solution; a well thought out treatment plan includes asking about your medical history, lifestyle and even genetic tendencies. 

Aesthetic treatments don’t have to be complicated. Here are the five most common myths I regularly come across. 

Myth 1: Aesthetic treatments are lifelong

While it is true aesthetic treatments require maintenance, they do not necessarily need to be lifelong. This is especially so for pigmentation treatment, where treatment can be once off and maintained with regular sunblock use. 

Conditions like melasma require more attention. Still, depending on the severity of your melasma and treatment choice (whether it’s lasers or microneedling radiofrequency), the frequency of these procedures are usually done 2-4 weeks interval which is very doable for working adults. 

Today, many anti-ageing and skin rejuvenation treatments are designed to be extremely efficient. Take energy-based devices like Ultherapy, Sofwave and HIFU for example – they only need to be done every half a year or yearly depending on the individual’s condition.

While aesthetic treatments do not necessarily need to be lifelong, your skincare routine will be. This includes making sure to use sunblock especially with Singapore’s hot climate or topical applications to ensure that the results of your aesthetic treatments will last for a long time.

Myth 2: Acne treatments are useless without oral medication

If you suffer from recurring acne, you must’ve been told that oral medications like Oratane(isotretinoin) are necessary. This is hardly surprising, since oral antibiotics[1] are usually used as frontline acne treatment in Singapore

However, not all patients may be suitable for or even keen on this method and it is not necessarily true that all acne treatments must incorporate oral medications.

Contrary to popular belief, treating acne is more straightforward than you think. 

Depending on the severity of your acne, it is possible that your condition can 

dramatically improve with a dermatologist-formulated skincare routine. This is 

typically the case for those with mild acne while those with moderate to severe acne 

might consider a combination of oral medication such as antibiotics and oral isotretinoin (for cystic acne) and a good skincare routine for the best results. 

Myth 3: Laser treatments cause melasma to worsen

Laser treatment for melasma

Melasma is a skin condition where uneven brownish patches develop on the skin due to factors such as sun damage, pregnancy and even stress. To be clear, melasma cannot be cured. But it can be managed and lightened to a significant extent that the hyperpigmentation is no longer visible. 

One way of doing so is through laser therapy. 

Naturally, some patients may be concerned about laser treatments, especially since laser therapy involves exposing the patient’s skin to heat, which may potentially cause pigmentation to worsen. 

That is not wrong – when treating melasma, we need to be extra careful not to overdo it or expose the patient to high heat and/or high energy lasers as they can potentially worsen the appearance of the melasma.

Studies[2] have shown that pigmentation and melasma is very treatable with lasers – the key is to choose the correct laser(s) and tailor the treatment to the patient for maximum safety and effectiveness. 

Because melasma is a stubborn pigmentation, I prefer combining different treatments to improve the outcome. 

Myth 4: You will look worse than before after your botox and fillers wear off

Lady receving injectable treatment

Many patients who stop their botox or fillers treatment tend to worry that they might look worse than before. 

For example, they see more fine lines and wrinkles that previously weren’t there. 

That is a given, considering neurotoxins and fillers are treatments used to fight signs of ageing – naturally, once stopped, these age lines will reappear as they should and not because the treatments caused them to age faster

Most individuals are used to their improved image with fillers and toxins. They might find that they look “worse” than before, but it is mostly psychological as they are happier with the result produced by the treatments. 

The good news is most anti-ageing treatments including btx and dermal fillers promote collagen production, so many patients enjoy youthful skin months after their treatments wear off. 

Read: Are you choosing the correct anti-ageing treatments? 

Myth 5: Collagen-containing skincare products are enough

“Collagen” is the buzzword these days – we see it everywhere from skincare products, aesthetic treatments and even food. 

It’s true that collagen is a building block for youth – and it is ideal if your skincare product contains collagen ingredients. However, just relying on skincare is not enough to fully replenish collagen in the skin effectively. This is because the collagen molecule is too big to penetrate the upper surface of the skin, so it cannot be effectively absorbed into the skin. 

It is best to combine treatments using energy based devices like Ultherapy and sofwave, or cold rejuvenation like Rejuran or Profhilo with a top-tier skincare routine that incorporates hyaluronic acids or ceramides.  

Do you have any questions, or myths you think should be debunked? Feel free to drop me a message! 


  1. Eichenfield, D. Z., Sprague, J., & Eichenfield, L. F. (2021). Management of Acne Vulgaris: A Review. JAMA, 326(20), 2055–2067. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.17633
  2. Trivedi, M. K. (2017, March). A review of laser and light therapy in melasma. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from International Journal of Women’s Dermatology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5418955/