Caring for the Skin

The skin is the human body’s largest organ and has several major functions, including protecting the human body, sensation, excretion of certain types of waste materials, temperature regulation, enabling movement and growth without injury, as well as endocrine function. It consists of three layers: The epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin that provides a waterproof barrier and creates your skin tone; the dermis, which is located beneath the epidermis and contains things like connective tissue, sweat glands and hair follicles; and the hypodermis, which is made of both connective tissue and fat.

Not everyone’s skin is the same, however, and skin type will vary from person to person. You can have skin that is normal, dry skin, oily skin, combination skin, sensitive skin, and mature/aging skin.

  • If you have normal skin: You will have healthy levels of hydration, balanced sebaceous glands, no obvious pores, skin that feels smooth, and an even skin tone.
  • If you have dry skin: it may be tight, flaky, dull and matte in appearance, as well as be prone to milia. If you have dry skin you are also more likely to age prematurely.
  • If you have oily skin: It will appear shiny, you will have larger pores, have overactive sebaceous glands, and be more prone to things like blemishes, blackheads and pimples.
  • If you have combination skin: You will identify with more than one definitive skin type and will most commonly have an oily t-zone with dry and/or dehydrated cheeks.
  • If you have sensitive skin: It will feel thin and tight, oftentimes appear translucent, be reactive, as well as be prone to broke capillaries.
  • If you have mature/aging skin: It will become drier over time, thinner and sallower, elasticity will be lost, and skin tone will be uneven.

It is important to care for the skin by cleansing it daily. Cleansing is crucial because it removes residue, stimulates lymph flow to help remove toxins, increases blood flow which helps circulate oxygen. The type of cleanser that you should use, however, also depends on your skin type. Those with normal skin can use cream or foam cleansers, while those with dry or dehydrated skin should stick solely to cream cleansers. If you’re someone with oily skin, it’s recommended that you use an oil, foam or clay-based cleansing product. If you have combination skin, it depends on which skin types you identify with, while people with mature/aging skin should use AHA/BHA cleansing products, and individuals with sensitive skin should always make sure their cleaners are free from sulphates, parabens and acid. You can also significantly improve the health of your skin by avoiding things like sunlight and stress, and make sure you’re getting adequate sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating healthy food. Aside from cleansing, it’s also important to keep the skin moisturized (regardless of whether you have oily or dry skin.) Moisturizing will not only prevent dryness, but it can also reduce fine lins, reduce the signs of aging, and keep the skin supple. If you already have mature/aging skin, you may need to use both a day and nighttime moisturizer.

Tip: You should avoid using bar soap on the face, as it can strip the skin and may cause or worsen things like tightness, dryness and flakiness. Makeup wipes are also often full of chemicals and contain preservatives which can not only strip the skin, but cause makeup, dirt and grime to block the pores.

It’s also essential to use an SPF on the skin all the time — yes, even in the winter, as you can be exposed to UV damage even in cooler climates. UVA damage, for example, can cause premature aging, and while it promotes tanning you are also then at risk of developing skin cancer. UVB can cause damage year-round (including the risk of skin cancer) as well as cause things like burning and pigmentation.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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