The skin is a complex, multi-layered and dynamic organ. It is the first layer of defense against the external environment. It not only protects us from extreme climatic conditions but also from harmful germs and bacteria. The skin regulates body temperature and serves as a conduit for understanding sensory information like pain, heat, and cold.
Genetics, healthy food choices, hormonal balance as well as lifestyle habits, all impact the condition and life-span of our skin. Versatility might be the skin’s forte, but this tough cookie requires constant TLC to stay in top shape. Implementation of proper skin care practices will help achieve a healthy and glowing complexion long term.
Skin Sense – Understanding your Skin Type
It is very important to get to know your skin type intimately for better understanding of your skin’s individual needs. Skin type is primarily defined by genetics, although other factors like natural aging, the external environment and general health play a role in the overall phenotype of your skin.
What are the types of skin?
Scientifically called eudermic, normal skin has just the right dynamics, it is neither too oily nor too dry. Ideally this skin type should adapt well to most skin care products since it is not very sensitive. Normal skin has fine pores, good blood circulation and a smooth surface with almost no blemishes, though natural aging will eventually result in dryness.
Dry skin looks flaky, feels tight and can be rough to the touch due to an imbalance of fatty acid and ceramide ratio leading to an abnormal shedding of epidermal cells, and resulting flakiness. Dry skin will be deficient in surface lipids that are responsible for locking-in moisturize and maintaining a healthy barrier. That is why dry skin often becomes sensitive as the barrier has been compromised. Our focus here is to maintain optimal hydration at all times, avoiding harsh cleansers, using lipid rich formulations (mainly oil in water emulsions) containing fatty acids, squalene, ceramides, urea and glycerin.
In this skin type, the sebaceous glands are working overtime. Oily skin can be attributed to factors like genetics, hormonal imbalances, junk diets, excessive sugar intake, medicinal side effects or a stressful lifestyle. Oily skin is generally shiny and is susceptible to blackheads, whiteheads and acne. Skin care for oily skin will focus on normalizing oil production, balancing oil levels and controlling blackhead formation that can result in acne. Avoid lipid loaded serums, creams or lotions and select cleansers that are designed for oily skin. Don’t over cleanse as this will result in over production of sebum. Products that are labelled ‘non-comedogenic’ are most advisable. Moisturize oily skin with humectants containing glycerin and urea that have water retaining properties and will hydrate your skin without smothering it with oils.
This skin type is a combination of oily and dry skin, oily in the T-Zone (forehead, chin and nose) and dry in other areas of the face. The sebum imbalances across different areas need a targeted approach. Combination skin is treated a lot like oily skin with almost the same treatment objectives, with a focus on the T-Zone. Oil-free moisturizers work best for this skin type.
Sensitive skin is caused by an irritation of nerve endings in the top layer of the skin. This can be caused by a compromised skin barrier, pH imbalances (skin pH is 5.5), and dryness. People with sensitive skin need to refrain from using harsh exfoliants and peels. With the right skin care regime, sensitive skin can be managed successfully and calming can be achieved by using various good quality products that are free from toxins, perfumes and alcohol. The eyes and nasolabial folds are particularly sensitive spots on the face.
Discovering your Skin Type- DIY Guide
The 30 Minute Rule
Cleanse your skin thoroughly and pat dry. Do a self- examination of your face after 30 minutes. Check for any shine on your chin, cheeks, forehead and nose. Relax for 30 more minutes and evaluate if the skin feels parched when you make facial expressions. If the skin feels tight you have dry skin. If there is noticeable shine on your nose and forehead, the skin type is normal or combination. If the entire face has a shine, you have oily skin.
Blotting Sheet Trick
This method is very quick and differentiates oily and dry skin types. Gently pat your face with blotting paper. Hold the paper to the light and determine how much oil is visible. If the paper picks up no or little oil, you have dry skin. If the blotting sheet shows oil from the forehead and nose you have normal or combination skin. If the blotting paper is saturated with oily residue, you have oily skin.
Sensitive Skin Detection using the CERIES Scale
- Type 1 – redness related to diet or alcohol consumption, stress or emotion, or climate changes.
- Type 2 – redness and a sensation of tightness and scaling related to sunlight exposure, cold weather, and air conditioning.
- Type 3 – redness and a sensation of tightness, stinging and rashes when washing with soap or using certain cosmetics.
- Type 4 – rashes that break out during the menstrual cycle.
Get back to the Basics
Once you have identified your skin type, it makes sense to get back to the basics. Do remember meaningful re-alignments in your dietary choices, lifestyle patterns like consistent sleep and rest periods as well as a daily skincare routine that will make all the difference.
Don’t forget to check weather conditions while framing your skin care program. What’s happening outdoors will have an effect on the state of your skin. Winter means intense hydration, masks, exfoliation and nourishing serums along with sensitive skin care. Hot summer months will require optimal suncare, oil control and barrier fortification.
Most importantly choose products that tick all the right boxes based upon skin type and product action. For example, antioxidant content can be a good value proposition for a quality skin care product. Do your research on product focus ingredients and be sure to identify the needs of your skin correctly as this will determine the short and long term outcome of your skin care regime. Selecting the right product and applying it correctly will save you thousands of dollars on expensive skin procedures and reward you with an energized complexion for years to come.
Let’s Delve In
Clean Skin is Happy Skin
Air pollution, excess oil, dirt, pathogens, make-up, and chemicals clog pores, introduce toxins and damage the skin barrier. Therefore, cleansing is the holy grail of your skincare routine regardless of your skin type. Once you’ve identified your skin type, the job is an easy one. Just look for products designed for your specific skin type and be careful not to be over zealous in your cleansing, since you want to remove dirt and excess oil but not strip the skin of vital water locking and protecting oils that are naturally secreted by your oil glands.
Identify problems and treat them using either prescription or OTC products. There are great acne spot treatments that you can simply blot on and leave. Spot treatments for pigmentations, acne, dark circles, eye bags, wrinkles, and the T-Zone work really well as you are only treating the area of concern without involving the rest of the skin.
Cream de la Cream
Remember all skin types need moisturizing. Dry skin will require deeply hydrating lipid rich moisturizers, oily skin will require oil-free humectants like glycerin, and combination skin will require a combo of both. Apply moisturizers after cleansing and treating, best when skin is damp as this will ensure extra moisture lock-in.
Repair and Revitalize
- Red or hypersensitive skin: Studies indicate that Vitamin C esters show great benefit in calming irritations and reducing sensitivity. Look out for products that contain skin calming proven botanicals like Centella, Green Tea, and Marine extracts. Stay away from products containing Arnica, rosemary, sandalwood, and chamomile. These botanicals have been known to cause an allergic contact dermatitis. Formaldehyde, benzoic acid, parabens, lactic acid, cinnamic acid, propylene glycol can all cause increased sensitivity.
- Acne prone skin: Products (especially cleansers) containing Salicylic acid are proven actives that work well to help you manage oily skin. There are host of products in the market so read the labels and try ones that work for you. Try light based devices (especially blue light) to manage acne breakouts. Avoid products containing lanolin, mineral oils, isopropyl myristate, coconut oils, and squalene.
- Pore minimizing: Products containing retinols and fruit acids both help in pore reduction. Pore minimizing masks and spot treatments are very helpful in unclogging pores, so add a mask to your skin care regime for maximum benefit.
- Wrinkles and sagging skin: There are some pretty high tech formulations that are specifically designed to banish wrinkles topically. Neuropeptides in combination with retinols, DMAE, hyaluronic acid, anti-oxidants, kinerase, copper peptides, stem cells, growth factors, and plumping compounds will all help in short and long term wrinkle, sagging skin and photo-damage management. Another novel addition can be light based treatments and facial exercise products to improve circulation and stimulate collagen formation.
- Pigmentation: Arbutin, Kojic acid, Licorice extract, paper mulberry, vitamin E, fruit acids, Soya and vitamin C work wonderfully in combatting hyperpigmentation. Look out for products containing these specific ingredients.
- They main goal of daily skin care is long term skin health and skin longevity. This will involve a global approach with lifestyle measures and a nutrient rich diet. Remember, you can’t isolate the largest organ of your body (your skin) from everything else. It is all intricately connected via sensitive and complex pathways. With this mind, be sure to nurture healthy practices and adopt a pro-aging lifestyle. This will reward you with overall pristine health and radiant skin health.
- Look for good quality products containing a host of scientifically backed anti-oxidants. Here is a quick list. Products containing Vitamin E, Co-Q10, alpha-lipoic acid, glutathione, vitamin C, green tea extracts, marine peptides, centella asiatica, DHE and selenium. There are many high quality products containing various other ROS scavengers, so keep a look out for them.
- A broad spectrum sunscreen ideally 30 plus is highly advisable to prevent skin cancer and premature aging. Along with a sunscreen, wearing appropriate clothing and exercising sun safety from an early age will ensure healthy skin in the long run.
- Avoidance of smoking is essential if you want to prevent premature wrinkles.
- An anti-inflammatory gut healing diet will definitely lead to glowing and healthy skin.
- Adequate water intake.
- Anti-pollution skincare (our next topic).
So there we have it. Once you get used to a daily skin care habit that is tailored designed to your skin phenotype, you are ready to step out into the world without much make-up or worry. Well -functioning skin will require nothing but your smile to exude confidence and inner harmony.
Hope my tips help you achieve your goals.
Stay happy, stay informed!
Founder of Cuticonscious