It has been said that a person with a good skin is an individual of indeterminate age. This means that other people will always be wondering what his or her age is. You noticed that the term used is “his or her”. This is to stress that it should not just be females that care for their skin; but males should also do the same so that they would have good and healthy skin. A good skin gives extra confidence to the individual and gets admiration from others.
It is also important to mentioned that it does not take too much effort to have a healthy skin; a skin that glows and constantly looks fresh and young; a skin that also feels smooth to the touch. In fact, if we use simple basic skin care approaches as part of our daily routine, we do not need fanciful products that is much hyped up by the big multi-national companies as part of their marketing strategy. In fact, basic skin care approaches can be inexpensive and yet, effective.
What then comprises basic skin care? Here are the few very essential steps:-
- You need to clean your face at least twice a day (morning and night). Instead of using soap and water as our grandmothers do, we now use an appropriate cleanser. As we will see later, you don’t even need to use a scrub. In fact, scrubs are not encouraged.
- Dry your face.
- Apply a good moisturizer. There is no need to use toners, as we will discuss later.
- In the daytime, protect your face from the sun’s rays, using a sunscreen or sunblock product and protecting your face from direct sunlight.
Of course, the biggest problem facing all consumers is “What products do I use; there are many such products around? For you to be able to make an informed choice, it is important that you need to understand some simple scientific facts about skin care products.
Let us begin by understanding the important terms that are used in association with skin care. The term “cosmetics” has different meanings to different disciplines. To most people it implies products that ‘works” on the outside and makes the skin look good. To health authorities, cosmetic products are suitable for use in certain conditions e.g. acne, burns, etc. but they cannot make claims that they are suitable for “treatment” of these conditions. Cosmetic products must be manufactured according to guidelines set by health authorities and need to be approved before they are allowed to be made available for sale to the public. They cannot contain ingredients that are prohibited by the health authorities. The term “pharmaceuticals” are used for products (or drugs) that act on the body, usually as medication to treat a diseased situation. Pharmaceutical products need to undergo clinical evaluations and needs stringent regulatory control by the health authorities before they can be approved for sale. This is because most pharmaceutical products usually make claims that indicate they can be used to treat certain disease conditions. In addition pharmaceutical products do have varying degrees of adverse effects. “Cosmeceuticals” is a new term that has been used in the last few years. Cosmeceutical products are the result of advances in skin science research. Such research has given us new knowledge relating to skin health and skin problems. In addition it has given us new discoveries of active ingredients that have brought about a revolution in skin care. Cosmeceuticals are products that act on the skin BOTH from the outside and from the inside.
With the above definitions, we can now proceed towards an understanding of some basic scientific information of common groups of skin care product, that are essential to help you use skin care products more intelligently.
The contents are carefully chosen from various international scientific publications, including review articles from journals as well as from textbooks written by authors who have vast experiences in skincare research and in cosmeceutics. As far as possible they will help you differentiate between products that are ‘cosmetics” designed to improve external looks from the products who are cosmeceuticals designed to give your skin long lasting effects, both external and internal.
We hope that after reading these articles, you would have a better working knowledge of basic skin care. It is hoped that you will use it to choose products wisely and use them to the best advantage of your skin. In so doing, you will end up with a feeling of wellness resulting from a comfortable skin that looks good, fresh and healthy at all times, regardless of your age.
Soaps & Detergents
The use of soaps as a skin care item spread widely in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Soaps are made from plant or animals extracts, with the active ingredients being a mixture of oils (“triglycerides”). Different brands of soaps have different compositions of triglycerides. Some soap have added colouring and fragrance. Unfortunately, the oil extracts used in soaps are not consistent in their composition. Apart from the difficulty to standardize the chemicals in soap, another problem in the use of soap is that when it is mixed with minerals (as those found in hard water), it leaves soap scum on the skin.
Detergents are chemicals synthesized from petrochemicals. Chemicals can be easily analyzed, modified and standardized. Therefore, the composition and hence the quality of detergents can be controlled. As a result, manufacturers can formulate mild or stronger detergents easily. Detergents, therefore, make better ingredients in washing products as well as skin care products than soap.
It is well established that individuals differ in skin types. Therefore, not every person will find a single cleanser to be suitable. In addition, for a single person, a different cleanser may be needed for different purposes. The main aim of cleansers is to remove dirt and dead cells. A good cleanser, therefore allows us to achieve this aim while not removing the natural oil made by our skin or the “glue” that hold our skin cells together. A mild cleanser that contains a water soluble detergent is suitable for this purpose. Rigorous cleansing may make you feel “clean” but it may not be necessarily good for your skin.
Some individual like to use scrubs. They feel that scrubs really clean the skin and prevent acne because they believe (wrongly) that acne is caused by dirt. Scrubs remove more than dirt. They actually also remove the skin “glue”, thereby stripping the top layers of the skin and exposing the skin more to the harmful effects of the environment including the lethal sun’s rays.
An important question then is “How do I choose right cleanser that is suitable for my skin?” There are hundreds of cleansers on the shelf to choose from. Finding the right cleanser for your skin will probably need a bit of trial and error. In general, you will probably need to cleanse your face two or three times a day; a mild cleanse in the morning, another cleanse while you shower and a slightly stronger cleanse at night to remove make-up, etc.
Note that some cleansers that are sold contain various “goodies” added e.g. aloe vera, etc. Naturally, they cost more. Remember, however, cleansers are applied on the face for a very short time and are washed away; the dead cells, dirt and all the goodies found in the cleanser. You are therefore, flushing the extra money down the drain.
Note also using too much cleanser or cleansing your face too many times can make your skin more irritable, dry and feel tight. It is also not necessary to have lather to while cleansing your face. Some brands add anti-microbial substances in their cleansers. They are meant to reduce the microbial count on the skin. Remember that microbes are an essential feature of our skin. They protect our skin from harmful microbes from external sources. Removing microbes may temporarily make the skin more vulnerable. In any case, the microbial population will return to normal eventually. Note that some anti-microbials can irritate the skin and cause it to become dry as well. They are not necessary nor are they good for the skin. Even for people with acne, antimicrobial cleansers only remove bacteria from the surface; they have limited penetration into the skin to solve the acne problem.
Toners were introduced when soap was widely used for cleansing the face. They are meant to “close” pores to prepare the face for the make up. Initially, toners were used to complete the cleansing process. It was aimed at removing the soap scum. However, with the use of detergents as cleansing agents, this need does not arise any more. Instead toners are still use to “close” pores. These type of toners are known as “astringents”. They usually contain one or more ingredients such as alcohol, acetone, boric acid, alum, witch hazel, rose-water, peppermint, menthol, eucalyptus and fragrance. Astringents cause the skin to be dry by removing the moisture from the skin. They are also skin irritants, causing the skin to swell (and, therefore, closes pores). These toners should be avoided. Toners should actually act as moisturizers. Therefore, instead of using toners, choosing and using a good moisturizer is the key to good skin.
A quality moisturizer makes dry skin moist and comfortable, nourishes the skin and gives the skin a healthy glow as well as a young look. Previously, moisturizers are formulated to prevent moisture from leaving the skin. They do this by using a layer of oily product (glycerin, mineral oil or petroleum products) to shut the water in. These types of moisturizers are still around. Unfortunately, their moisturizing effects do not last long as they are quickly absorbed and the skin will become dry again in a short while.
The next generation of moisturizer uses a wide variety of plant extracts. These consist of a mixture of the pulp (cellulose fibres) of the plant, aromatic ingredients as well as some base such as cream, lotion, gel, etc. After the product has been applied, the aromatic extracts will evaporate leaving behind the fibres. These act as “humectants” i.e. they retain the moisture. Usually these products do not have long lasting effect and are short-term basic moisturizers.
Today, good moisturizers should, not only absorb water, but more importantly, stimulate the skin to improve its internal barrier (ceramides) by preventing loss of water from the inside of the skin to the environment. In addition, a good moisturizer should also “feed” the skin with essential nutrients, including vitamins and omega oils. It should also have anti-inflammatory or soothing properties to play a role in skin repair. Finally it should contain powerful anti-oxidants to slow the aging process of the skin. This is why, good quality moisturizers, although priced higher than simple moisture-retention-only moisturizers, they also give the skin the young fresh and healthy glow thus giving you a feeling of well-being that comes while also having a comfortable skin.