What does your skin do?
The skin provides several important functions.
- Barrier function - the skin protects the internal structures of
our body against injuries, and yet allows exchange of fluids and gases
between the body and the environment.
- Temperature regulation - alteration of the rates of skin blood
flow and sweating helps maintain our skin and body temperature.
- Protection against harmful effects of ultraviolet light through
our pigment cells.
- Sensory organ - through the specialized nerve endings in the skin,
the body is able to perceive various sensations evoked by external
- Metabolism - Vitamin D is produced through the interaction of
ultraviolet light on precursors of vitamin D present in our skin.
- Immune function - the skin cells present in the epidermis protect
the body against external agents.
Basic Skin Care
Good basic skin care is sensible care of the skin. It can be
accomplished without expensive products. The basic ingredients to start
you on maintenance of your skin consists of gentle soap and water,
moisturizer, sun screen and some basic knowledge of when to see your
doctor if you think there are any problems with your skin.
Soaps and Cleansers
Soap is simply any skin cleanser made from the salts of animal or
vegetable fats. Cleaning with soap and water removes most environmental
and natural skin surface substances, such as dirt, cosmetics, oils,
bacteria, sweat and dead skin cells.
For dry sensitive skin, these are suitable:
- Super fatted soaps, which contain extra amount of oils and fats to
reduce the tendency of the soap to dry out your skin,
- "Soapless" soaps, which contain synthetic soaps made from
- Lipid cleansers, which include emulsions of cetyl alcohol,
emulsifying ointment, aqueous creams or bath oils. These leave a film
to moisturize the skin.
Soaps to avoid are strong medicated soaps, abrasive soaps as well as
herbal soaps, especially on the face.
Even mild soaps or cleansers can still be drying to your skin. You
can minimize a soap's tendency to be drying by being gentle with
cleaning and taking care not to scrub excessively. Often water alone is
adequate for skin cleansing.
Moisturizers - When to use them?
Naturally moist, smooth and supple skin results from
sufficient amounts of water, oil and special chemicals called natural
moisturizing factors. Under ordinary circumstances 95 percent of each of
our cell is made up of water. It is the water content of your skin cells
that determines how moist or supple your skin is. Avoiding dry skin is
therefore one of the key elements in good basic skin care. Dry skin can
also make you more prone to scaling, cracking, irritation, eczema and
infections. Factors that cause or aggravate dry skin include harsh
soaps, excessive bathing, low humidity and hereditary factors. Dry skin
cannot be treated by drinking extra water or eating oily foods.
A moisturizer or emollient can make your skin more supple and promote
smoothness. Moisturizers are used to prevent loss of water from the skin
through evaporation, as well as holding on to water. Moisturizers cannot
restore youth, rejuvenate your skin or dissolve your wrinkles. They
should be applied on a daily basis especially after your bath.
Inexpensive, basic moisturizers generally do as good a job as
expensive ones. Be skeptical of wild promises which any product claims;
many such claims are not substantiated by any scientific evidence.
Sun protection - How useful is it?
The sun is responsible for premature aging. It hastens wrinkling and
tanning of your skin, as well as causes the appearance of blotchy
brownish discoloration. It is the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight that
is responsible for suntans, sunburns, premature aging (wrinkles and
pigmentation) and some types of skin cancers.
It is important to avoid excessive sun exposure. The sun's rays are
strongest between the hours of 10am to 3pm. Clothing also has some
bearing on the effects of sun exposure. Cotton fabrics provide superior
protection from sunlight and tightly woven fabrics afford better
protection than loose weaves.
In addition to common sense approaches to sun avoidance, the routine
use of sun screen is an important part of basic skin maintenance. There
are basically two types of sun screens:-
i) physical sun screens contain opaque, physical barriers such as
titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which reflect the light energy,
ii) chemical sun screens, which contain chemical ingredients to
absorb the ultraviolet rays.
The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) tells you the degree of protection
the sun screen offers. Generally an SPF of 20 or more is advised.
As a guide most sun screens should be applied at least twenty to
thirty minutes before going out. You should re-apply after prolonged
swimming or excessive perspiration.
When to seek professional advice?
Good basic skin care also means that you recognize problems that
arise in the skin and seek professional advice early. If you develop a
rash, itch, pigmentation problems or skin growths, see your family
doctor or a dermatologist. Do not attempt self-cures. Specific problems
should be treated by a professional.