ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SKINCARE
I was 19 when I first heard about moisturiser. Before that, the only times I had ever thought of my skin were when I hated my teenage spots and when I washed my face. I was never given any tips on skincare apart from "make sure to wash your face at least twice a day and try to never touch it" and knew nothing else. The idea of having to moisturise your face and body every day, seemed absurd to me. Where would a teenager who had nothing to do except go to school possibly find the time?
The more I learnt about people's skincare routines the more I was shocked: cleanser, scrub, mask, serum, eye cream, moisturiser, day moisturiser, nighttime moisturiser, sunscreen, the whole thing seemed excessive and ridiculous. Where did these people find the time, and most importantly the money to afford such a lifestyle? I put my dry, flaky skin down to my lack of care for it and moved on. At least I tried to.
Since then, I've moved from 3 step (that's the farthest I could ever go) to 1 step skincare regimens, and to be honest, have never really seen any major changes in the condition of my skin. And now, dealing with the flakiest, driest skin I've ever had, to the point that I was unable to put on makeup without deep scrubs every single day, I decided to deal with this problem the one way I know: research. This is what I learnt.
The epidermal barrier is our outmost layer of skin.
The epidermal barrier represents a collection of specific diverse functions:
- Maintenance of water content and balance,
- Prevention and responses to invasion by microbial organisms and antigens
- Reduction of the effects of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- Mitigation of the effects of oxidative stresses.
TRANSEPIDERMAL WATER LOSS AND COMPROMISED SKIN
By maintaining proper cutaneous water balance and mitigating exogenous environmental and microbial stresses, normal desquamation and skin elasticity is maintained. Although transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is an essential physiological process to maintain the water balance in the body, if it is excessive, the epidermis becomes dehydrated, which can lead to irritated, dry or itchy skin.
This is essentially the difference between healthy, glowing, nourished skin, and dry and flaky skin.
There will always be exogenous factors that increase the transepidermal water loss such as:
1. IMPROPER SKIN CARE
2. EXPOSURE TO CUTANEOUS IRRITANTS
3. APPLICATION OF CERTAIN TROPICAL AGENTS
4. LOW AMBIENT HUMIDITY
5. ABRASIVE SKIN CLEANSING
6. UV RADIATION
Unless these factors are adequately countered by the self-repair mechanisms and/or moisturization, the skin becomes overstressed, leading to decreased skin elasticity, increased skin rigidity and epidermal proliferation.
In some individuals, underlying skin status and disease states may predispose them to increased TEWL, and when adversely affected by the aforementioned exogenous factors, the magnitude of compromise is further compounded. In such cases, it is more difficult for the self-repair mechanisms to normalise function.
Now, onto what to actually do:
WHAT IS CONSIDERED PROPER SKIN CARE?
The use of a gentle skin cleanser and a well-designed moisturiser or barrier repair formulation can contribute to improvement of skin condition.
This seems a lot less than the steps your favourite beauty-guru may have suggested, but many studies show that these are the two most important steps to good skincare. (1, 2)
Although there are now so many products that promise to exfoliate your skin to leave it silky-smooth, such as face clean brushes, exfoliators with granules in them, mud-covered sponges and even electrical face cleaning brushes, it seems that such products may cause more damage than good. They can cause micro-abrasions to the skin, and also contribute to pore-clogging and acne formation. It is suggested to use gentle soaps, preferably without alcohol, perfumes or salicylic acid as these end up further drying the skin.
It is suggested to use lukewarm water when cleansing the skin, washing your face or showering, as hot water removes the natural oils of the skin more easily. If you already have dry skin, try cleansing it just once a day, before using moisturiser.
If you have ever felt your skin to be excessively dry after a hot shower, or in cold, dry weather, this is because of transepidermal water loss due to the dryness of the air. Moisturising should be thought of as a "lock-in" of moisture into the skin. Therefore, always after washing the face or body, moisturiser should be applied as soon as the skin is lightly tapped dry, to lock in the moisture and minimise transepidermal water loss. Furthermore, lips should always be moisturised with lip balm, and licking them when outside in cold weather should be minimised, as this increases water loss from their skin. Those who work in jobs that require frequent hand-washing should try to moisturise their hands as often as possible after washing them.
Many different studies, in both newborns and adults have shown the effectiveness of different types of moisturisers on the skin. (1, 2)
DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE SUN
Skin damage due to the sun is progressive, you will see the effects of playing outside as a child and your seaside summer-holidays as a teen when you grow older.
The way that UV radiation affects the skin is by breaking down collagen and the collagen forming system in the skin, which is what gives your skin it's youthful, plump form and glow. Although collagen loss is normal with age, excessive and unprotected sun exposure increases its loss.
More importantly, UV radiation may damage the genetic material of constantly-dividing skin cells, the first step in cancer formation.
It is therefore essential that the skin is protected at all times from the sun, be it a 5 minute trip to the store on a cloudy morning, or a day spent on the beach. Most sunscreens can also double as moisturisers and they must be reapplied during the day. On another note, UV radiation is also essential to Vitamin D production by the skin, so do make sure to supplement with a daily dose of vitamin D.