Glowing skin is a sign of health. But even the healthiest people sometimes have skin problems. To tackle these issues, you can use skincare products that address your particular skin type or concern.
A skincare routine is important for nourishing and protecting your skin. Using wrong products or overdoing it can result in irritations, allergies, and inflammation. In this article, we introduce you to the skincare basics based on your skin type.
If you follow celebrities or read lifestyle magazines, you probably have seen some hype about skincare. From big brand companies selling overpriced products to influencers swearing to one magical solution to all your skin problems. But what is skincare, and why is it important?
When advertisements talk about skincare, they usually refer to the face, neck, and décolleté area. But before we can talk about skincare, we must have some more information. Let's begin by defining the various types of facial skin.
Facial skin is categorised into five types—normal, dry, sensitive, oily, and combination. Understanding which skin type you have will help you care for it. And remember, the skin type you have now may not be the same skin type you come to have later in life.
Because ensuring all of these functions takes a toll on our skin, having skin problems now and then is quite common. For instance, you may notice that although your skin type is normal, it feels greasier just before your period starts; this phenomenon is closely related to hormone production.
Read more: How Do Hormones Affect You?
Normal skin. Normal skin looks healthy and clean. It produces regular amounts of sebum to hydrate itself and has a slightly acidic pH (between 4.7 and 5.75). If you have normal skin, you have fine pores and few or no blemishes, dry spots, or irritations.
Dry skin. Dry skin doesn't produce quite enough sebum to fully hydrate itself, resulting in dry and flaky patches, redness, a tight feeling, and fine wrinkles. Such skin lacks the lipids to lock in moisture and build a protective layer. In severe cases, cracks form in the skin tissue, which can cause itching or a burning sensation.
Oily skin. Oily skin produces excessive amounts of sebum, which makes the skin look shiny. If your skin is oily, your pores are probably large and visible, and you may have trouble with blackheads, pimples, and blemishes, or acne. While there are many possible reasons for increased sebum production, it's often because the skin lacks moisture, and the body is generating extra sebum to compensate.
Learn more about acne and how to treat it.
Combination skin. This is probably the trickiest skin type to deal with because some areas, usually the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin), produce too much sebum, and others, such as the cheeks, don't produce enough, which means your skin can be too greasy or too dry or both at the same time. Caring for combination skin is challenging because you need different routines for the oily parts and the dry parts.
Sensitive skin. Sensitive skin can be either dry or oily. What defines it is sensitivity to skincare products and a propensity for irritation, rashes, and allergies. Such skin is more reactive to external stressors and often has a compromised protective layer, making skincare a bit more complicated.
Your skin mirrors the health of your body. Infected or inflamed skin, rashes, and other skin irritations are often symptoms of a root cause that has nothing to do with the skin itself. You may be suffering from bacterial overgrowth in your intestines or a "leaky gut" when bacteria from the gut are being released into your bloodstream; this can cause inflammation and acne, and other skin conditions.
If your skin feels uncomfortable, you can't seem to get rid of your acne, or you are experiencing some other condition such as eczema, consult with your doctor about testing your internal organs to make sure there isn't an underlying problem you aren't aware of. But even those of us who are at our healthiest sometimes experience skin problems. We live in polluted environments, sweat in tight clothing, use makeup, and touch our faces dozens of times every day, disrupting the skin microbiome.
You may have noticed that advertised "skincare essentials" include dozens of different products and quick SPA treatment. Don't let yourself be fooled. Cosmetics companies create products to sell even though our bodies don't need them.
Most of the time, a skincare routine is complete with just these three pillars:
Choose products with a neutral pH so as not to disrupt your skin's acidic biome. Avoid harsh cleansers and soaps because they will be too alkaline. And ditch rough exfoliators in favour of more gentle alternatives such as clay, chemical exfoliators, or natural face masks.
When you have found versions of these three products that work well for your skin, you can always give your routine a boost with additional treats.
Normal skin will do well with a gentle pH-balanced cleanser, a light moisturiser, and a basic SPF cream (SPF 30 or higher). Just remember to choose products that are gentle on the skin and don't disrupt the microbiome.
Dry skin can range from the skin that feels slightly tight to severely itchy skin. If you have dry skin, you want to avoid products that contain alcohol and other drying components. Choose a moisturiser containing aloe vera, lactic acid, or hyaluronic acid that can lock in moisture and provide long-lasting hydration.
Oily skin can be challenging to care for. Sebum production makes it hard to find makeup that stays on and products that don't clog your pores. The paradox is that oily skin often benefits from moisturiser—remember, the skin produces excess sebum when it's too dry. Although you may feel as though you need it, it's better to avoid strong cleansers that leave the skin feeling squeaky clean and tight and remember to use a hydrating moisturiser.
Choose gentle products that don't alter the natural pH of your face. People with oily skin also often struggle with acne and acne scars. Acne is an indication that the skin is inflamed, so you be as gentle as possible not to make it worse. Avoid squeezing pimples and blackheads and scratching scabs as this can cause another outbreak.
Some people swear by treatments containing special ingredients such as salicylic acid (BHA) and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) that exfoliate and deep-clean the pores. Another ingredient some people have found that provides good results is niacinamide—a form of vitamin B3 that cleans pores, clears up the skin, and lightens blemishes. Not all oily skin is the same, so don't overdo it with such products. Your safest bet is to test a new product on a small patch of skin to see how it reacts, then try using it for a few weeks to see if it gives you results.
Sensitive skin, like normal and dry skin, sensitive skin benefits from a skincare routine that includes the three basic products, but it is more important to know the ingredients they contain. Sensitive skin might react to silicones, parabens, sulphates, alcohol, and scented products. This doesn't mean you need to stick to only natural ingredients; some natural components can be as harsh as synthetic ones.
Instead, choose a reputable product line created for sensitive skin.
Combination skin. If your skin is oily in some places and dry in others, your safest bet is to integrate two skincare routines.
The state of your skin shows if your body is inflamed and needs more attention, which is why the ultimate skincare routine starts from within.
These days the internet is full of tips on how to have radiant skin by cutting out entire food groups. Sometimes limiting your intake of products such as gluten or dairy can have a very positive effect, but only for those with digestive problems or allergies. Otherwise, there is no need to cut out these foods and all the nutrients they provide.
You might want to avoid excessive amounts of inflammatory foods, such as trans fats and processed sugars. But if your skin breaks out from eating a single candy, this may indicate problems related to digestion.
The best solution is to maintain a sustainable and balanced diet that provides your body with all the nutrients it needs from within. If you are eating sufficient nutrient-dense foods, a treat now and then won't result in a massive breakout or skin irritation (unless you have an allergic reaction).
A skin-friendly diet is full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Eat enough protein, fat, and carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar steady, and drink plenty of water and mineral-rich beverages such as herbal teas, coconut water, organic juice, and smoothies.
Light daily exercise is essential to your well-being and mood, and the health of your skin. When we sweat, our pores release toxins, which clears up the skin. Physical activity boosts cell regeneration that keeps your skin looking and feeling young, elastic, and clean. Spend a few hours each week engaging in sports that you enjoy, and you will notice the benefits in no time.
Cleanse your face of makeup before you work out because when the body sweats, our pores enlarge and are more easily clogged. After exercising, wash the sweat off of your face with lukewarm water, but there is no need to use an additional cleanser if you weren't wearing makeup.
Stress is the leading cause of inflammation, and we already know that inflammation leads to many different kinds of problems. The cortisol our bodies produce when we are stressed alters insulin production and blood sugar levels, which can worsen acne breakouts. When our bodies are stressed, we need to eat more minerals and vitamins to make up for what we have lost, but we are more likely to eat sugary snacks and binge on fast food to get through. Each of us needs to manage our body's stress response, to calm the heart rate and regulate emotion. Taking a break, going for a short walk, doing a few breathing exercises, or sitting for a meditation session are all approaches some people have found helpful. What is yours?
Sleep is the cornerstone of health. Its benefits are endless—from better stress management to younger-looking skin. In the morning, after a restless night, your skin looks five years older. But when we get enough quality sleep, we feel good, and our skin looks amazing because our bodies have had the chance to regenerate on the cellular level. For qualitative rest, each night begin to limit noise, light, and distractions at least an hour or so before you want to fall asleep and give yourself the time you need in bed to feel fully rested in the morning.
There is no one magic recipe for clear, healthy, hydrated skin. We are all different, and you may need to try several different skincare routines to find one that works well for you. If your skin is problematic now, take heart. It doesn't have to stay that way. Our bodies are always reacting and adapting. Make some of those changes you have been meaning to make and keep at it until you begin to feel better.
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