The online and offline marketplaces are full of ‘instant solutions’ for every conceivable skincare need. But in my years of practice as a dermatologist, I still have not come across any true miracle cures that can instantly solve skin problems.
The only thing that truly works miracles is consistent skincare habits. The earlier one starts with a proper skincare routine, the more one can stave off any external interventions in later life. Good skincare is all about habits, and I encourage my patients to start with healthy skincare habits right from their teens.
Before starting on any skincare regimen, the first thing to do is to know your skin type. For example, you have oily skin if your T-zone (forehead, nose, chin) and the C-zone (outer area of the face) are oily to touch or shiny in the morning. On the other hand, if your entire face feels stretched or taut in the morning, your skin is probably dry. Most people, however, have combination skin--when your T-zone feels oily, but the C-zone feels taut or stretched.
The second thing to know is that scientific skincare is based on five pillars that never change: hygiene, nutrition and hydration,protection, exfoliation and restoration. So let us look at them.
What about skin hygiene
Skin Hygiene is a lot more than showering two times a day. People with oily skin and acne-prone skin need to keep their faces clear of excess oil production with the aid of mild cleansers and gentle face wipes throughout the day. This ensures that your face stays clear of any bacterial growth.
A cardinal rule of skincare is that one should never fidget with pimples or boils on their skin. This can lead to the spread of bacteria to other parts and cause serious scarring of the skin. In addition, rubbing the skin with your hands, towels, or tight clothes can lead to serious issues with pigmentation and texture of your skin.
Clothes that do not breathe or retain sweat can lead to skin infections. Always make sure that your clothes and your skin are free of sweat and extra moisture (think damp clothes)
Always pay special attention to the areas in the folds of your body. (behind your ears, your underarms, your groin, between your fingers and toes) These are the areas that are generally easily affected by infections.
Also, as a part of hygiene, one should remember to always clear their skin of makeup before they sleep, as makeup tends to block the skin's pores and can cause complications.
You are what you eat and drink
The single line advice that I give to my patients about nutrition and its relation to the health of your skin is to always opt for a balanced diet that does not favour a particular food group. Fad diets that favour a particular macronutrient tend to have disastrous results on the health of your skin. Like the rest of your body, your skin absolutely needs carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to maintain its health.
As for micronutrients, I recommend that one opt for foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids,recommend that one and antioxidants. This is because the skin's health in terms of its barrier function, its elasticity and its oxidative stress levels depends on the consumption of these micronutrients.
Regarding water intake, the general guidelines that one should try following are consuming about 2.5 litres of water per day for women and 3.5 litres of water per day for men. This is because water consumption plays a major role in the hydration levels of the skin and its biomechanical functioning.
Why protection matters
Moisturiser and sunscreen are your skin’s guardians. The role that a moisturiser and sunscreen play in the health of your skin is much more important than any serum or lotion that you will ever come across.
Moisturisers, in general help, maintain the moisture level in the upper layers of the skin and hence help maintain a smooth skin free of any inflammation or itching. More importantly, a moisturizer slows down the process of wrinkle and line formation.
Meanwhile, a good sunscreen goes a long way in reducing damage to your skin from exposure to UV rays. Such exposure leads to pigmentation issues and premature ageing of the skin.
While I would recommend speaking to your dermatologist to help you select a good moisturiser and sunscreen, as a thumb rule, I would request you never to buy a moisturiser based on the packaging and how it is marketed. Instead,I always recommend that my patients buy a moisturiser from a major, trusted pharmaceutical brand that has been adequately tested for performance and safety.
One should remember that a moisturiser should be applied immediately after showers and then as needed. In addition, every time you step out, you should apply a layer of sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body. Also, remember that no matter what the season, both sunscreens and moisturisers need to be applied.
Exfoliate, but gently.
Rubbing and scrubbing are probably the worst thing that one can do to their skin. Exfoliation of skin needs to be gentle in nature else; it can lead to issues like hyperpigmentation or degrading the texture of your skin. I recommend that one use gentle face washes, toners and cleansers with very mild levels of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs).
If a stronger exfoliation is needed for your skin, it should be done in your dermatologist’s clinic. The dermatologist may recommend chemical peels or microdermabrasion if such a need arises.
Time to restore your skin
Ageing and environmental exposure take their toll on the health of our skin. However, now there are an adequate number of skincare products with ingredients that can help stave off the signs of ageing and skin damage for a long time. Therefore,I commonly recommend serums with the below ingredients to patients above 25.
Vitamin C: This reduces oxidative stress on your skin and increases collagen synthesis. These features help control the melanin formation in your skin and help decrease fine lines and wrinkles.
Retinoids: These are derivatives of vitamin A which encourage cellular turnover and stimulate collagen production. This is often hailed as an elixir for anti-ageing.
Hyaluronic acid: This molecule can hold large quantities of moisture and help it penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, hence effectively making the skin more hydrated and supple.
The sequence of a skincare routine
The products you use are important for your skincare routine and the sequence in which these products are used.
A basic morning time skincare routine can look like this:
Gentle soap for the body
Full body moisturizer
Targeted corrective serums
Light moisturiser for face
A basic nighttime skincare routine can look like this
Cleanser or mild facewash
Targeted corrective serums
Moisturiser for face and body
Things to never try in your skincare regimen
I always urge my patients to stay away from such products as the ingredients in these products are generally not understood by most patients, and some of these can contain harsh ingredients and have steroids in them. These can lead to irreparable damage to one’s skin.
I sincerely believe that if one has an issue and needs a solution, they should go to an expert. But, unfortunately, most home remedies act as placebos, while some can worsen the condition that they were meant to help and should be avoided.
Comparing skincare regimes
As they say, one man’s food is another man’s poison. The same holds for skincare products too. Therefore, it is best to speak to a dermatologist rather than your friend when starting a new skincare product.
Sejal Saheta is founder-CMO, InUrSkn Skin & Hair Clinic.