Our skin is the outermost protective shield or the first line of defense of our body. Skin covers all parts of the body and has over seven million pores through which the body eliminates some of the wastes produced by it. The skin also holds sensation and it is never possible to perforate it with a needle without causing pain and blood flow inside. A vital function of the skin is to regulate the body temperature. An individual who perspires profusely during the hot summer months is less opposed to heat compared to people who do not sweat freely. In other words, the surplus body heat is removed by means of sweating, which also eliminates some portion of the exhalations from the lungs.
It may be mentioned here that the animals have a warm body that continuously emits heat. The water vapor, as well as sweat, is quite significant and it is enhanced to a great extent when a person undertakes rigorous workouts or during the scorching weather. According to a rough estimate, approximately 100 grains of matter, especially nitrogenous, are eliminated by the body through the skin pores every day. In case this waste matter is held back by the body, it will increase the already heavy workload of the kidneys. On the other hand, if this waste is allowed to remain in the blood stream, it may prove to be fatal for our health as well as life. Hence, it is essential that we take particular care of our skin and keep its pores open to enable it to function without any obstruction.
Hundreds of years ago, Sanctorius, the Italian physiologist who pioneered the study of metabolism, had established that about two-third of the food and drinks consumed by us is eradicated through the skin pores while the remaining one-third of the waste materials produced by the body is excreted by the bowels, kidneys, and lungs. When the process of sweating is blocked for a couple of days, the level of impurities in the blood will rise to an unbelievable amount. This, in turn, will give rise to several diseases as the waste produced by the body is not eliminated through the skin.
Whenever our skin is exposed to a cold environment for a long time or cold is applied to the skin or there is reduced sweating, it is certain to give rise to bowel disorders, irritation, and tenderness in the chest or some other internal organs. In fact, our entire body suffers when the skin fails to perform its routine functions. In such cases, we will experience discomfort in the heart, lungs, liver, bowels, stomach, the brain as well as the nerves. As our blood becomes loaded with toxic materials, our health becomes weak and susceptible to diseases. This puts a great burden on our health and it can only be removed by reinstating the normal functions of the skin. Hence, taking proper care of the skin is of utmost importance for our overall well being.
In order to ensure that our skin functions properly, it is essential to keep the skin pores open. And this can be achieved by maintaining a clean skin all the time. Therefore, the first thing the people ought to do every morning is to take a thorough washing. They may take a shower or a bath and subsequently wipe the surface of the skin with a rough cloth. Doing so serves several purposes that are beneficial to our health. When we rub the skin surface with a coarse cloth, it helps to get rid of the perspired substances that have been released by our body during sleep. If these waste materials are not removed from the skin, they may be soaked up by the body again and transported to the blood system, which will once again become loaded with toxic matter. In addition, rubbing the skin with a coarse cloth also reinforces the process of our nervous system.
You may also dry brush the skin with normal, boar, quill brush or massage it till it becomes reddish and enhances the temperature of the skin. Adopting this process will facilitate eradication of toxins from the skin. Alternately, you may also use the heat from an infra-red lamp or take a sauna as both these methods are exceptional tools to help in eliminating the waste substances from the skin’s surface. In addition, taking foot baths are also helpful in removing cold as well as toxins from the system. For taking foot baths, the water ought to be as hot as possible and used for about 10 to 20 minutes at a stretch. For better results, you should add a tablespoon of dry mustard to the hot water before taking the foot bath. Taking a bath with baking soda and scrubbing the skin well is another excellent way of eliminating toxic substances from the skin. At the same time, for better results, you need to cleanse the base of your feet and wear detox pads on the soles of the feet during sleep. When you wake up, you will be surprised to find a number of waste deposits on the detox pads thrown out through your feet.
As discussed earlier, controlling the body temperature is another crucial function performed by the skin. For instance, when an individual is suffering from fever or is undertaking strenuous physical tasks, he or she perspires profusely. And, this is our body’s own mechanism to lower the temperature. In addition, our skin also shields us from the disparaging substances entering our body and gets rid of several contaminants that get into the body through consumption of food and drinks or through the skin pores themselves. The skin also reduces the workload of the kidneys and the liver that filter out the spin-offs or waste materials produced during the metabolic process in our body.
Interestingly enough, our skin also respires and performs an important function in reinforcing the immune system. In fact, our skin performs numerous functions and the ones mentioned thus far are few among them. Therefore, it is very important to take care of our skin, not only for the external beauty but also for our internal health and overall well-being.
Basically, there are three major elements that need to be nourished in order to take proper care of our skin. Here is a brief discussion on each of them.
- Things you consume should be simple, fresh and natural or unrefined. Remember when you consume simple food, your body will require doing little or no processing at all saving plenty of energy. Similarly, the fresher the foods you intake, the better it is for you. In fact, fresh fruits and vegetables enclose most of the nourishment’s we require to remain healthy mentally and physically. You may certainly have some processed and high-fat foods at times when you are eating out or attending a lunch or some other time. However, it is essential to ensure that you consume natural and unprocessed foods most of the time. At the same time, experiment with your diet and change it at times. Don’t always stick to the same food habits and always try something new – maybe a new vegetable dish.
- Ample rest and recreation
- Try not to overwork you. Exerting a lot of pressure or taking more than sufficient workload is neither necessary nor desirable. In fact, when you exert yourself beyond a certain limit or suffer from exhaustion, it may prove to be detrimental to your health and, at times, even turn out to be fatal. Therefore, it is advisable that you spend some of your time resting or in recreational activities so that you are able to regain the energy and concentration that is lost during a hard day’s work. Remember, your body requires adequate rest for it to reinforce its organs.
- Drink enough water
- This is perhaps the most important aspect of remaining in good health as well as for our overall well-being. Our body requires enough water in order to function properly. In fact, water is essential not only to prevent the body cells from dehydrating but also to get rid of the toxins and wastes produced during metabolism. It is, therefore, essential to drink at least three liters of water every day. When you drink less water, you don’t perspire and the body is unable to eliminate the toxins and wastes through the skin. In addition, deficiency of water will also cause your urine to become dark and smelling. These are only a few conditions that deficiency of water may cause. You may experience several other conditions, most of them not perceptible until it is very late if you do not drink enough water regularly.
If you fail to drink a minimum of three liters of water daily and regularly, you are certain to suffer from dehydration. In such an instance, either your body will fail to function as it should, or it will acquire fluids from any place it can. You may already be familiar with the symptoms of dehydration – dry scaly skin, parched mouth, dark urine, and cracks on your tongue, dry lips, and untimely wrinkles and so on. Now, the choices are up to you – either you drink water and remain healthy, or shrink from dehydration!
Know About Skin Types And Basic Skin Care
Our skin is not a single layered structure; it comprises of three layers in the main: the outermost layer is called the epidermis, the middle one is called the dermis while the innermost or the deepest layer is known as hypodermis. Hypo-dermis also contains a layer of fat beneath it. All large blood vessels and nerves pass through hypo-dermis.
Sebaceous glands, hair shafts, smaller blood vessels as well as nerves are found in the dermis. Sebaceous glands produce an oily substance known as sebum, which is then secreted into the hair shafts. Through hair shafts, sebum comes out on the outer layer, that is, the epidermis, and spreads all over it, making a protective layer. A small amount of sebum can effectively protect the skin from external irritants, like allergens. However, excessive secretion of sebum can make the skin oily and may cause acne and pimples.
Epidermis further consists of many sub-layers. New cells are born at the innermost layer of the epidermis, from where they move to the topmost layer, and fall off the body when they are dead. The process is a continuous one and forms a very important defense mechanism for the skin. Any harmful invading particle or irritant into the skin is taken out by this process and removed from the body.
We learn to walk before we can run. We need to be well-versed with basic mathematical operations before going into advanced mathematics. However, when it comes to skin care, this basic fact is often forgotten. We start using sophisticated skin care programs even before we have learned basic skin care measures. In fact, if you are not familiar with basic skin care measures, your advanced skin care programs are going to be of little use, or even harmful to your skin.
As epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin, most of the basic skin care measures are focused on it, and henceforth when we refer to skin, we will basically be referring to this layer of skin.
The models of a skin care program designed for you will invariably depend on your skin type. However, there are some basic skin care measures that should be undertaken by everybody regardless of their skin type. These are:
- Cleaning or washing
- Protecting from the sun
Of these, cleansing and moisturizing are most common and frequent. Cleansing and moisturizing twice daily works well for most people. However, if your skin is dry or otherwise sensitive, cleansing once a day and moisturizing twice or thrice, should be enough. Some experts suggest including exfoliation also in daily basic skin care routine. However, exfoliating daily may cause irritation to many people, and doing it once or twice every week is normally enough. Protecting the skin from the sun is a continuous process and requires avoiding moving out in the sun, or using a sunscreen when it can’t be avoided. Toning, on the other hand, is an optional skin care measure and would depend on your skin type.
Skin Care for Normal Skin
Normal skin is usually soft and has an even tone with a smooth texture. Unlike oily skin, it has no visible pores or greasy patches. Unlike dry skin, it has no flakes falling off. All it has is a blemish less, smooth and supple surface with a fine texture. It radiates with a glow arising out of clear blood circulation and good health in general.
People gifted with normal skin don’t usually have acne. However, in some women, due to increased hormonal activity just before menstruation, sebaceous glands may become overactive giving rise to occasional pimples.
Normal skin is ultimate in beauty. However, it still requires care for this beauty to last. Otherwise, it may show early signs of aging, like wrinkles. If you have this type of skin, you need to follow the following skin care routine.
- Cleaning and toning
- Wash your skin twice daily with a mild soap, preferably baby soap, and water. After every cleaning, apply a mild freshener, like a low alcohol content astringent. This would remove all traces of cleanser still clinging to skin pores. In addition, it would close the pores and keep them tight. Apply a mild natural toner, like rose water, after cleaning and freshening, to tone the skin.
- Apply a thin coating of mild, preferably home-made, moisturizer before going to bed. This would maintain the normal moisture balance of your skin. Cover your skin with a thin layer of mild, oil-based moisturizer before applying makeup. This would help in retaining surface moisture.
- Sun protection
- Direct sun has a drying, aging effect on your skin. So, avoid going out in the sun as far as possible. Not just the sun, avoid direct heat of any kind, like that of blow-dryers, on your face. Use a sunscreen, or makeup products containing sunscreen when going out.
- Essential oils
- Other measures
- Use a non-drying mask every two weeks. This would smooth your face and improve blood circulation in the area. Whenever you notice your skin becoming oily, or dry, in any area, check it by following skin care measures for these particular types of skin, as given below.
Skin Care for Oily Skin
Oily skin can be easily recognized by enlarged pores and a greasy shine which are the result of overactive sebaceous glands and high levels of sebum. Because of high levels of sebum, dust and dirt particles tend to stick to the skin which often causes acne and pimples.
Sometimes oily skin may be hereditary, but more often it is the result of the abnormal hormonal activity. Such abnormal hormonal activity is more common during teenage years, and so, it’s mostly teenagers who suffer from oily skin, acne, and pimples. With age, the hormonal activity stabilizes and sebum levels decrease, rendering the skin less oily. However, it is not uncommon for oily skin to continue even into adult years.
Some areas of the skin may be more oily than others. For example, the area around the nose is more likely to develop blackheads. This is because there are more sebaceous glands around here.
Oily skin may also result from other causes, like the use of some particular type of cosmetics, or even birth control pills.
- Cleaning oily skin
- The first requirement for those having oily skin is to keep it clean to remove excess oil as well as kill bacteria that cause acne. Use a good exfoliation agent at least once a week to unclog the skin pores. Frequency of exfoliation may be increased depending upon the severity of condition. Gently massage the skin with upward or outward motions while exfoliating. Wash the face at least twice daily with a cleanser, rather than a harsh soap, and warm water. Warm water helps remove excess oil.
- Cosmetics for oily skin
- If you have an oily skin, make sure that the cosmetics and makeup products you use are water based. Oil-based products can aggravate the condition and cause blemishes. Avoid the temptation of using harsh chemical products for removing excess oil. They may dehydrate the skin and lead to ‘reactive seborrhea’ – a condition in which sebaceous glands are stimulated to produce more sebum to compensate for the loss, and things are back to square one.
However, you can use anti-bacterial cleansing lotions or mild acne medication after cleaning. This will have a drying effect on the skin and help it keep acne-free.
- Essential oils
- Roman & German chamomile
- Treatment for oily skin
- Oily skin can’t be transformed into normal skin overnight. It requires a holistic treatment that takes into account your overall health. If you are following overall health care measures and adhering to the basic cleaning routine given above, the following treatments will go a long way in curbing the oiliness of your skin and keeping it blemish-free:
- Clay or mud masks are excellent for oily skin. Unlike harsh chemicals, they remove the excess oil of the skin without depriving it of essential oils or making it excessively dry. White and pink clay masks work well on slight to moderately oily skin. Stronger, dark brown clay masks are more effective on very oily skin. Choose a mask according to your needs and apply it twice or three times a week.
- Oils used in aromatherapy, as lemon, cedarwood, or rosemary oil, have been found to be effective in removing oiliness of the skin. Mix a few drops of any of these with lanolin and massage your skin with it twice or three times a week.
- Ask your dermatologist about topical vitamin derivatives containing tretinoin or isotretinoin. These have been found helpful in treating sensitive oily skin.
- Your dermatologist may also suggest you Benzoyl Peroxide products to unclog skin pores and remove bacterial infection.
- Antibiotic lotions or creams, containing erythromycin or clindamycin, can be used to treat blemishes on the skin.
Skin Care for Combination Skin
Combination skin, as the name implies, is a combination of both oily and dry skin. Strange though it may appear, it is a commonly found skin type, requiring those who have it to use skin care measures for both the skin types.
Combination skin results due to the fact that sebaceous glands are not evenly distributed on the skin. They are denser in what is called the T-zone, that is, an area comprising the middle part of the forehead, the nose, chin and the cheeks. So, often these areas tend to be more oily and are affected by acne or pimples, while other areas, which are drier, may become flaky.
Combination skin can’t be treated as one unified type. The skin care measures, or cosmetic products, that are good for the oily and acne prone areas, will not be appropriate for the drier parts like around the eyes or jaws. If you have this type of skin, you need to use the separate set of measures and separate products to take care of different areas of your face. That’s the only way to make your whole face truly look and feel good.
Once this fact is accepted, and the basic skin care routine adjusted accordingly, care of combination skin is not difficult. The keyword here is ‘balance’, balance in both the types of skin on the same face, which can be achieved by taking measures appropriate for oily skin where it is oily and dry skin where it is dry. The skin care products must also be chosen and used accordingly.
Thus, the skin care measures for combination skin are also a combination of skin care measures for all skin types. However, keep in mind the keyword ‘balance’ and don’t go overboard with any one set of measures. For example, using overly harsh or abrasive products even on oilier parts will worsen the dual nature of combination skin by rendering dry areas even drier and giving a rough, reddish look to oily areas. Remember, as described above, harsh treatments do not correct oiliness or improve it in any way.
- Basic combination skin care routine
- Wash the face twice daily with a mild, water-soluble or gel-based cleanser. Avoid products that leave the face feeling taut or dry.
- Don’t be tempted to use bar soaps or cleansers even if they claim to be gentle or residue free. The ingredients used in a bar soap or cleanser to keep it in bar form may clog skin pores. Even the cleansing ingredients in these products are much harsher than those of gel-based or water-soluble cleansers.
- A toner can be used all over the face if it is not oil based, or does not have ingredients that would increase the oiliness of the oily areas. Water or glycerine based toners would be ideal. It would be even better if they have antioxidants, water binding agents, and cell-communicating ingredients in plentiful quantity.
- Use a sunscreen every day, round the year, because it is not possible for anyone to avoid going out in the sun completely. For best results, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide, or titanium oxide, or avobenzone as the UVA-protecting agent. If you want to use a cosmetic product containing sunscreen, choose a foundation or pressed powder rather than a moisturizer, as a moisturizer would worsen the condition of oily areas on the face.
- Exfoliate the skin regularly, at least once a week. Choose an exfoliation product with beta hydroxy acid or salicylic acid. These ingredients exfoliate not only the outer skin but also work inside the pores and improve overall texture and appearance of the skin.
- Use a moisturizer containing plenty of antioxidants and water-binding ingredients over the drier areas, including the area below the eyes. With regular use of these products, you can get rid of dryness over these areas. Pay special attention to the packaging of these products and choose only those that come in airtight and opaque containers to prevent antioxidant loss. Jars are an absolute no-no in this regard.
- If your work routine involves over exposure to the sun, in addition to using sunscreen you can also consider using a tretinoin product in your night time skin care routine. Avita, Renova or Retin-A are some such tretinoin products that act as cell-communicating agents and help generate new, normal skin cells. They are available in different bases like gel, cream or lotion. However, you need your dermatologist’s prescription to buy these products.
- Essential oils
- Rose Geranium
Skin Care for Dry Skin
Dry skin is characterized by low sebum levels and is often sensitive to external influences, like allergens. It is unable to retain moisture and, as a result, has a parched look. It usually gives a tight and uncomfortable feeling after a wash, and use of a moisturizer or skin cream becomes necessary. Extremely dry and dehydrated skin is prone to flaking, chapping or cracking that may be painful.
The condition of the dry skin is worsened by the wind, air conditioning, or temperature extremes. All of these may cause it to feel tight, or to become flaky, chapped or cracked. Dry skin is tightly stretched over the bones and looks dull, particularly around the eyes and on the cheeks. These spots, and the corners of the mouth, often acquire tiny expression lines, called crow’s feet, that do not look good.
- Skin care routine for dry skin
- Dry skin also needs thorough cleaning even though people with such skin tend to avoid it because of the tight feeling it gives. However, dry skin requires some extra care during and after cleaning. A regular care routine, taking into account the following, can help restore glow and suppleness of dry skin:
- Don’t use soaps or any detergent based cleansers for dry skin. Instead, use non-detergent based, ph-neutral products, specially made for this skin type.
- Avoid using tap water for washing dry skin. The deposits it leaves have a further drying effect on the skin. Instead, use mineral water for washing, or just for freshening it up. For example, you can spray your face with mineral water in the morning, using a plant sprayer (not that which has been used to spray insecticides).
- Don’t rub your skin dry with a washcloth, the rough texture may irritate and cause more dryness. Instead, lightly pat it dry with a soft cloth.
- Always use cold water to wash dry skin, never hot water as it may deprive the skin of essential oils.
- You can double cleanse your face using a cream and leave a thin, light trace of it after the second cleaning.
- Always touch dry skin gently while cleaning it; never rub it vigorously.
- Dry skin requires generous quantities of moisture and oil after a wash. Use a good moisturizer and stimulate the blood circulation with a massage. This will increase the moisture content of the outer skin layers and give it a soft, supple look.
- Apply some baby oil after every bath or shower.
- Massage the face with a generous application of moisturizer or nourishing cream, preferably homemade, before going to bed. Be especially liberal with the cream over the areas affected by expression lines and crow’s feet.
- Avoid bringing any alkaline product or drying ingredient, like detergents or washing sodas, into contact with dry skin.
- Essential oils
- Clary sage
- Roman chamomile
Skin Care for Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin is often unable to tolerate some environmental conditions like heat or wind, or some products containing particular chemicals. Exposure to these often results in reddening or blotching of skin with irritation. We may say that sensitive skin is not a particular type of skin; it is only allergic to certain things. It is mostly dry skin that is prone to sensitivity, and so basic skin care measures for dry skin remain applicable to sensitive skin also. However sensitive skin requires an overall approach for proper care which would include avoiding exposure to the things that trigger the sensitive reaction.
Skin sensitivity may differ in degree from people to people. Some people may show the very severe reaction to some environmental conditions or products, others may have a less severe, mild reaction or no reaction at all.
A sensitive skin can be very uncomfortable. The sudden eruption of red, itching blotches can affect our work and may even lead to embarrassment. Avoiding everything that causes such a skin to react so violently may be really annoying.
Skin care for sensitive skin is a particularly tricky affair as many chemicals used in cleansing products or cosmetics can cause it to flare up. Therefore, natural skin care measures are the safest and most effective way of caring for sensitive skin as natural skin care products are much less likely to trigger the sensitive reaction. Here are some natural measures that will effectively take care of such a skin:
Pay attention to your diet, it can play a big role in controlling sensitive reactions. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can increase the tolerance level of the skin apart from giving it a glow that comes from good health.
On the other hand, there may be some particular foods that may trigger a sensitive reaction. Pay careful attention to your diet to find out if this is the case, and avoid these foods. It is usually hot and spicy foods that cause such reactions.
Drinking adequate water is an essential step in general health care, and particularly useful to people with sensitive skin. Well, hydrated skin is healthier and more capable of fighting off skin irritants.
Avoid using chemical cosmetics if you have sensitive skin. Instead, use herbs or herbal products. There are so many herbal products that can provide the complete range of skin care without causing undesirable reactions which are often triggered by chemicals. Try some of these remedies if you have sensitive skin:
- Almond or jojoba oil is a good cleanser for sensitive skin
- Comfrey soaked in water is a good toner for such skin
- Grapefruit mixed with oatmeal can be a very good exfoliate
- Fruit pulps, like papaya pulp, can be used as very good masks
- Cucumber and yogurt can make general purpose cleansers, toners as well as masks
- Licorice is very good for sensitive skin. Use products that contain it.
- Use green tea as your favorite beverage. Its anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the severity of sensitive reactions.
- When a reaction breaks out, apply aloe vera juice or pulp. It will not only soothe red, irritated skin but also increase its tolerance level.
However, even natural products may not be hundred percent safe for people with sensitive skin. Therefore, check any new product you intend to use on a small area of the skin and don’t use it if it appears to be triggering the sensitive reaction symptoms.
- Essential oils
- Chamomile or yarrow
- Roman and German chamomile