Skin Care Basics

pretty face

Caring for your skin is a very simple process that is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. If fact, most people find that they can perform any routine for healthy skin in only about 5-10 minutes a day. In order to maintain your largest organ, your skin, you need to become familiar with the basic approaches to caring for your skin.

Prior to defining a skin care routine you will first need to determine which type of skin you have. In addition, you will want to take into account any skin conditions that you may have (i.e. acne, rosacea, cold sores...).

Once you have completed the previous steps you will then want to define a skin care routine that meets your personal skin care needs. In addition, you will want to include any special skin conditions that are unique to you, is within your financial budget, and fits your lifestyle and time schedule.

By taking the time to define your personal skin care routine you will ensure that your skin is healthy, vibrant, and projects a confidence that you are comfortable with.

The Different Types of Skin

Normal Skin: Normal skin is defined as skin that is not either too dry or too oily. If you are lucky enough to have normal skin, you do not need to perform much upkeep to keep your skin healthy. You may still have normal skin if you have a small amount of irregularities. Almost everyone has some dry skin, acne, or oily skin.

Oily Skin: Skin that is too oily is this way because of a secreted substance called sebum. Oily skin can be uncomfortable but has its advantages. The excess amount of oil on the skin actually serves as an added layer of protection and a way to keep moisture in. However, most people prefer to not have oily skin as it can make the surface of your body look shiny or unclean. Acne is also more likely to form on oily skin than normal or dry skin.

Combination Skin: Skin that is considered to be a combination has areas that are too dry and areas that are too oily. Many people have relatively dry skin in areas such as the elbows or legs and oily skin on the scalp. The most common case of combination skin is in the face. There are many cases of people having oily noses and foreheads while having dry skin on the cheeks. People with combination skin often have the most complicated skin care routines.

Dry Skin: Contrary to popular belief, dry skin does not necessarily cause blemishes associated with aging such as wrinkles and lines. However, people with constant dry skin should consider a rigorous moisturizing program to alleviate the stiffness and discomfort that dry skin can cause. Causes of dry skin include low humidity living areas, lowering estrogen levels due to menopause, and acidic acne medications.

Sensitive Skin: Even if you have reactions to laundry detergents, harsh chemicals, make-up removal solutions and alcohol based products you may not have sensitive skin. In fact, skin that is actually too sensitive is very uncommon. If you are sensitive to sensations like common chemicals, mild heat and cold, or even wind, consider seeing a doctor to ensure that you do not have a serious skin condition. Treatments for sensitive skin are normally by prescription only.

The 4 Basic Steps to Good Skin Care

There are 4 primary steps involved in maintaining a good skin care routine; cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize, and apply a sunscreen or sun block. The 4th step, applying a sunscreen or sun block, is quite controversial and will be discussed within this article. While each individual will want to follow all basic skin care steps you will need to tailor each step to meet your specific skin type and condition. For example, an individual with oily skin will want to use a different cleanser and moisturizer than an individual with dry skin. Below is a brief description of each of the 4 basic skin care steps:

  1. Step 1 - Cleanse: The intent with the first step is to find a cleanser that is designed to meet the needs of your skin type and that your skin responds well to. A good cleanser can be purchased at the drugstore, through individual distributors (i.e. Avon), and on-line. Avoid bar soaps as they tend to dry out facial skin. In general, consider using a creamy cleanser if your skin is dry and a clear cleanser if your skin is oily.

    In addition, be sure not to cleanse too often. Most individuals do not need to cleanse their face more the twice per day, once in the morning and once at night. When wetting your face always use lukewarm water as hot or cold water can cause surface capillaries to break. Repeat the same process during your nightly cleansing. Individuals with dry skin may want to consider using a cold cream to cleanse their face, in the evening, as they are less drying. When using a cold cream, no water is required; simply apply the cold cream to your face and then wipe off. For individuals that wear makeup, always remember to use an appropriate makeup remover prior to performing the cleansing step.

  2. Step 2 - Exfoliate: In simple terms, exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells at the surface of the skin. Adding a weekly exfoliation step to your skin care routine will leave your skin looking radiant and vibrant. There are several approaches to exfoliating your skin. Three of the more common approaches are microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and retinoids.

    Microdermabrasion and scrubs remove the top layers of dead skin cells that tend to dull your facial complexion. Exfoliating your skin once per week should be sufficient and will keep your skin radiant. When using a microdermabrasion kit and/or scrub make sure to use a scrub that contains small grains or crystals and is gentle on the skin.

    Microdermabrasion is a popular non-surgical skin care procedures that promotes improvements in skin tone and texture. Microdermabrasion treatments (also known as a power peel) involve using a microderm piece of equipment that emits a pressurized stream of crystals onto the skin's surface. Typical crystals used during a Microdermabrasion procedure include aluminum oxide, zinc oxide, corundum, sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, and magnesium oxide. In addition, there are crystal free Microdermabrasion processes that utilize a vibrating paddle. Both Microdermabrasion procedures are designed to gently remove dead skin cells, unclog and reduce pore size, eliminate black heads, and soften and smooth the skin.

    Chemical peels (also known as chemexfoliation or derma-peeling) are an exfoliation technique designed to improve the appearance of the skin and can be performed on the face, neck, and hands. When performing a chemical peel a chemical solution is applied to the skin. The chemical solution reacts with the surface skin cells and causes them to blister and, within a short period of time, peel off. The new, underlying skin cells are typically smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin cells that were removed.

    There are several different types of chemical peels so be sure to follow the instructions in terms of how often you perform a chemical peel.

    Retinoids, Retin-A or Renova (the more moisturizing type) are designed to remove surface level dead skin cells and also promote collagen production as well. As we age collagen production decreases and breaks down causing an increase in wrinkles and pore size. Collagen can be viewed as the skin's structural fiber and is vital to healthy wrinkle free skin.

  3. Step 3 - Moisturize: While there may be a few beauty experts that believe that moisturizers are unnecessary, the vast majority of dermatologists and beauty consultants strongly recommend using a daily moisturizer. A quality moisturizer assists in sealing in moisture within the skin and acts as a defensive shield against wind and other factors that cause the skin to dry. Even individuals with oily skin should use a daily moisturizer, albeit a lighter moisturizer. However, in cases where acne is a concern, moisturizers may be omitted.

    In addition, eye creams are worth considering as well. The skin located around the eyes contain no fatty tissue and are more susceptible to forming wrinkles. To this end, quality eye creams not only add moisture to the areas around the eyes, but also, provide ingredients that thicken the skin located around the eyes as well.

  4. Step 4 - Apply Sunscreen: There is quite a controversy over whether individuals should use a sunscreen or sun block when spending an extended period of time in the sun. Let's begin by discussing how the skin works and how an individual actually gets a sun burn.

    Sunlight travels from the sun to the earth in three different forms: infrared (heat), visible light, and ultraviolet. From this point, ultraviolet light can be classified into three groups:

    • UVA (wave length is 315 to 400 nm) rays are known as black light and is responsible for tanning the skin

    • UVB (wave length is 280 to 315 nm) rays are the rays that cause damage to the skin and sunburn

    • UVC (wave length is 100 to 280 nm) rays are filtered out by the atmosphere and never reach the surface

Suntans and Sunburns

suntanning on beach

Approximately 99% of the UV radiation from the sun, at sea level, is UVA radiation. However, it is the UVB radiation that causes the majority of problems in relation to over exposure to the sun. Although it should be noted that recent research is beginning to implicate UVA radiation as well.

When an individuals skin is exposed to UV radiation and receives a tan, the cause is due to the melanocytes producing a melanin pigment in response to the UV radiation in sunlight. UV light promotes and stimulates melanin production and the pigment acts to absorb the UV radiation from the sunlight in an effort to protect the skin cells from UV damage.

The production of melanin is not instantaneous and requires a fair amount of time to be produced. For this reason, most individuals require several days of extended exposure to the sun to receive a tan. This concept applies only to Caucasians. In other races, melanin is produced on a continuous basis so the skin is always pigmented, to a varying degree.

Sunburn can be described as a marked erythema and pain that typically follows injudicious an extended period of sun exposure. A sunburn is actually a delayed UVB derived erythema due to an increase in blood flow to the area of the skin that received an overexposure to sun and typically becomes noticeable after about 4 hours and peaks anywhere between 8 and 24 hours after the sun exposure.

The root cause of the sunburn is due to the vascular reaction and the direct and indirect damage to the specific cellular targets from photochemical reactions and the creation of reactive oxygen. Damage to the DNA of the cells and the activation of multiple inflammatory pathways, involving prostaglandins are believed to be the catalyst for this reaction. The end result leads to vasodilation and edema. When an individual receives a sunburn evidence suggests a relationship between erythema and DNA damage.

Benefits of Sunlight

However, human beings were intended to be exposed to sunlight and there are several health benefits associated with exposure to sun light. In fact, sun light is one of the best healing remedies that can be found in nature. Sunlight from the sun provides the energy that all living organisms require to exist on the earth. To this end, sunlight is responsible for nourishing and energizing the human body.

Sun light plays a vital role in promoting the absorption of the full nutritional value from the foods that we consume. In addition, sun light assists in preventing several chronic diseases like osteoporosis, various types of cancers that affect the bladder, stomach, breasts, prostate, cervix, ovaries, and colon, mental depression, type 2 diabetes.

One of the main benefits of sunlight is that it supplies the human body with vitamin D. By doing so, calcium is absorbed at a higher rate in the stomach and is also transferred across the cell membranes. This process not only strengthens the bones, but also promotes a healthy nervous system by promoting increases in the production of endorphins within the brain.

Additional health and wellness benefits derived from sunlight are as follows:

  • Lowers cholesterol levels in the blood
  • Can prevent the growth of cancerous tumors
  • Assists in the prevention of infections due to viruses, molds, and bacteria
  • Strengthens the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells
  • Increases the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells
  • Lowers the resting heart rate
  • Decreases hypertension
  • Increases resistance to skin diseases like acne, psoriasis, and eczema
  • Stimulates the pineal gland to produce vital chemicals such as tryptamines
  • Strengthens the cardiovascular system
  • Normalizes blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Increases metabolism
  • Assists in promoting weight loss
  • Enhances kidney function and the elimination of waste
  • Enhanced liver functionality
  • Improves the digestive process
  • Reduces and/or prevents anxiety and depression

So if there are so many benefits associated with exposing our skin to sunlight - what's the problem? First, overexposure to virtually anything can have negative affects on the human body. For example, while our bodies require vitamin A to function properly, daily doses over 30,000 international units (I.U.'s) can produce any, or a combination of, the following conditions: blurred and/or double vision, insomnia, headaches, blood clotting issues, microcytic anemia, neutropenia (low white blood cell counts), changes in bone and skin, and liver damage. In fact, while the human body may be comprised of over 66.00% water, consuming too much water can cause serious, even life threatening, conditions.

The controversy over whether or not to apply a sunscreen or sun block lies in the fact that over 84% of the sunscreen and sun block products contain cancer causing ingredients that are absorbed directly into the body through the skin; according to one of the top rated non-profit organizations, the Environmental Working Group. In addition they also stated in their study that over 700 sunscreen and sun block products contain at least 1 toxic chemical.

Below are a few recommendations for individuals that are exposed to several hours of sunlight per day:

  • If you are going to use a sunscreen or sun block always choose a product that is free of any petrochemicals.

  • onsume foods that are high in antioxidants like goji berries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and carrots or foods that contain chlorella, spirulina, astaxanthin. Consuming foods that contain these types of nutrients increase your skin's natural ability to protect itself from UV damage.

  • Limit the number of hours that your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. In other words, if possible, do not regularly overexpose your skin to sunlight.

Adjusting Your Skin Care Routine As You Age

generations of women

While the essential make up of your skin does not radically change as you age, small differences in your routine are necessary to balance the hormonal changes that are associated with the aging process. Below is a list of several of the biological changes that do occur as we age also effect our skin as well:

  • Metabolism

  • The turnover rate of cells

  • The levels of hormones present in your body

  • The amount of damaged cells and molecules present in your skin

  • Increased frequency of skin conditions or irritation

Skin Care in Your Twenties: Most individuals that are in their twenties have relatively dry skin. The reason for this is the normal presence of acne and the high amount of hormones present in the body. Keep these basic skin care items in mind when deciding on a skin care routine when you are in your twenties:

  • Exfoliating routines are generally not as necessary and should be performed with less regularity than individuals that have passed their twenties.

  • Dry skin is not that common in individuals in their twenties since hormone levels are at high levels and the sebaceous glands are still primarily undamaged. For these reasons, moisturizing is not quite as important for individuals in their twenties.

  • Use skin care products that are oil free.

  • Avoid harsher soaps, alcohol based toning products, and chemicals that are designed to dry skin

  • In most instances, the twenties are not the time to aggressively perform wrinkle treatments or procedures that will modify your skin's physiology.

  • Use skin care treatments that involve antioxidants and anti-inflammation products to prevent or delay wrinkles in the future.

Skin Care in Your Thirties: When you enter your thirties you may begin to experience even drier skin than you did in your twenties. In order for your skin care routine to be effective, a much more intense hydration program may be necessary. Keep these basics in mind when deciding on a skin care routine when in your thirties:

  • Ensure that your skin care routine includes a high quality moisturizer.

  • Skin care routines that include exfoliating should be performed as necessary. However, avoid exfoliating so often that you irritate your skin.

  • Wrinkles and fine lines often begin to appear during this period of age (i.e. your thirties).

  • To reduce and minimize wrinkles and fine lines consider using products like retinoids (vitamin A) and vitamin C

Skin Care In Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond: At this point in your life, you will experience a drastic decline in the production of certain hormones and an increase in the dryness of your skin. In addition, inflammation can become more of an issue as you age as well. Keep these basic skin care principles in mind when deciding on a skin care routine that will work best for you:

  • Properly hydrate your skin each time you perform your skin care routine

  • Use retinoids (vitamin A) and vitamin C to treat wrinkles and fine lines

  • Consider using products that contain estrogens and progesterones to bolster sex hormone levels that have diminished over time. Topical products of this type improve skin hydration, increase cellular reproduction, and reduce wrinkles. However, since small levels of topical estrogens will be absorbed into the bloodstream, treatments of this type should only be performed under the guidance and approval of your medical physician.

  • Within this age bracket, the epidermis (i.e. outer skin layer) typically becomes noticeably drier and thicker due to the skin cells being replaced at a decreased rate. The end result is skin that looks dull and may have dry, uneven texture. Adding a periodic exfoliation step to your skin care routine can assist in restoring a more youthful feel and look by eliminating the excess dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.

  • Skin pigmentation concerns like age spots, blotchiness, and uneven skin tone become much more prominent after forty and are typically caused by abnormal chances (normally an increase) in the production of melanin (provides pigment for the skin). Topical skin lightening products that inhibit the synthesis of melanin are often used to treat age spots, blemishes, and uneven skin tone.

  • Seek medical attention for any serious or painful skin conditions that may develop.

Sunscreen and Sunblock

Natural and petroleum free sunscreens can be used to shield your skin from the sun. Wearing sunscreen will not completely prevent tanning. Remember that sunscreen is not enough to protect you for long periods of time in the sun. However, applying more sunscreen will not add more protection. Consider wearing a hat, sunglasses, and utilizing the shade whenever long periods of sun exposure are expected.

Choosing a sunscreen depends largely on the outside activity that you will be performing. Factors that influence sunscreen selection are:

  • Always use an SPF level above 15 for all outdoor activities.

  • Sunscreen should have UVA and UVB protection.

  • If swimming, use water resistant sunscreen products.

  • Higher SPF sunscreen products may be necessary for individuals with lighter skin, eyes, or hair.

While sunscreens will absorb UV rays and prevent them from penetrating skin, sun block actually reflects the sun's rays away from the skin. Use a sunscreen is you are tanning and sun block if you are planning on spending an extended amount of time in the sun. While sun blocks can reduce the amount of the suns rays that penetrate the skin, remember that an increase in the SPF rating is not proportional. For example, SPF 15 blocks approximately 93% of the sun's rays while a SPF 30 product will only block 97% of the suns rays.

Sunscreen Tips

  • Apply sunscreen to skin that is dry and not yet wet (prior to swimming). Apply the product to all exposed areas. These include bald spots on the head and ears.

  • Do not forget to protect your lips.

  • Use enough sunscreen to thoroughly cover all areas that will be exposed to the sun.

  • Remember that even cloudy skies allow the sun's rays to reach the surface of the earth.

  • Always read the ingredients before purchasing a sunscreen or sun block to ensure that there are no petrochemicals, and if possible, only contain natural ingredients. In addition, make sure that you understand the rate at which you should re-apply the sunscreen and/or sun block.

Basic skin care for individuals without any serious skin conditions is really quite simple and does not require a lot of time to perform. For individuals with a skin condition, or individuals that are considering any of the surgical and non-surgical procedures that are available, we have devoted an entire portion of our skin and beauty section to topics of this nature.

beautiful face

Radiant, healthy, and vibrant skin is not only important for self-esteem, but also for self-confidence, mental stability, and a positive attitude. Healthy skin projects youthfulness and can even assist in maintaining a youthful outlook on life.

In addition, radiant and vibrant skin go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of physical fitness, and the consumption of a healthy and nutritious diet.

For these reasons, make sure that you treat your skin care routine with the same priority and comprehensive approach as you do your fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being.

By doing so, you will put together a well-balanced lifestyle that will address all aspects of living a healthy, prosperous, and long life.