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An Introduction to Skin Care

Skincare - An Article

This is an article about skincare. I have brought this together from various sources including web articles, books and of course, my own views. In this article, I would like to try and explain why skincare is important and why and how you may like to introduce, think about or modify your present skincare regime. I am afraid this is a long article. Everyone tells me that long articles are not possible on the internet and that people do not like them but I cannot think of an easy way of getting a long and involved subject across. I have tried to break it up for you to make it easier to read as for the rest - I can but apologise! May I also stress that it is made up from information and articles from various sources and when I can remember where I have them from, I acknowledge these. Please let me know if I have missed where credit is due, so I can make proper amends!

The skin fulfils many functions, far too many to cover here in any detail. The important point is that it protects our body from what is outside - the harsh environment which we live in today. It helps in regulating our body's temperature, like when we have a fever or we're physically working hard, we sweat and this action is a way of reducing the body temperature. The skin also protects us from harmful substances entering our body, and, like the liver and kidney's plays its part in eliminating toxins - getting rid of the rubbish. The skin also breathes. Our skin does a lot more than just fulfil these functions, but this should be enough to show the importance of looking after our skin as best we can.

Defining "what is skin care" is not easy. We all wash our skin on a daily basis and we may even rub some body cream on it; we often go one step further, say, when we prepare to go out, often using a cleanser and then a moisturiser before applying make-up. But is that really skin care?

The answer is no, it isn't; this is attacking the skin rather than caring for it. Many of the products on the beauty and skin care market are full of artificial colours, stabilisers, emulsifiers and other chemicals, which are supposed to help in achieving the "ultimate look".

Some products are advertising hormones, which are supposed to make your skin re-gain that youthful (no wrinkles) look - but more often than not these 'hormones' are artificial or synthetic and may well cause problems with the hormonal balance of the body.

This is NOT Skin care - this is plain old manipulation and marketing. Next time you are in a large supermarket buying big name "off the shelf" products, ask yourself: Am I paying for useful ingredients or am I paying for a lot of TV advertising, this nice modern building, all the fresh faced staff, expensive tills and technology that means the supermarket owners know how many kids I have (or not) if I am married (or not) and other such details? Has the effort promised in advertising really gone to helping me or has it gone to helping a big company's balance sheet?

his is not to say that all those big name brands are no good - but do not be a slave to media advertising. In my experience, there are many, many much better products around. The main reason I started this website and why I started my online skincare shop was for this very reason: to offer you the great wealth of high quality natural skin care products that are available; that you may never have seen backed by a high spend media budgets (ie on the shelf of your local hypermarket) that leave some of these "popular" brands standing. Some may even be more expensive than the known brands but if that money has been used to produce a better product than a better salary for an executive, then you will benefit. So, real skin care is much more than you think and is more than just skin deep. Your skin is a living, breathing organ of your body. As such, just like every other organ in our body, it needs to be fed from the outside AND the inside - it requires nutrients.

There are 4 basic elements to feeding the inside:

1. Good nutrition:

keep it simple, fresh and unprocessed. That is the best nutritional advice I can give. The simpler the food, the less processing and the fresher your food is, the better it is for you. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain so many of the nutrients we need to maintain our health. Fine, have the odd processed, high in fat meal when you're enjoying a meal out or have to attend a Luncheon or what ever - but make sure you have more natural foods than not. Keep the diet varied - try not to eat the same thing all the time - risk a new veg - one you haven't tried before. I suggest (as I often do) getting out of supermarkets. Try Greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers. You may find tomatoes in a supermarket that are 4.5cms in diameter and have a colour shade of "red22435", but they are more often than not, the nutritional equivalent of eating cardboard.

2. Adequate rest and relaxation:

Don't work yourself to an early grave - it's not worth it. Make sure you get the sleep you need. Did you know that a study in England showed that your IQ (intelligence) drops if you do not have 8 hours sleep per night? Think about it, do you get more work done if you feel well rested? Can you concentrate better if you're not tired? - I bet you can. Invest some additional time into rest and relaxation so that you gain an increase in energy and concentration. You will find you will get more work done in less time if you've had sufficient rest.

3. Sufficient water intake:

This is a key issue. Most people (irrespective of were they live) will utilise around 3 litres of water per day and many medical texts say so. Our body simply needs water to function. If you do not drink at least this amount, your body will either not function well (on some level) or your body will take it from wherever it can. This is called dehydration. Dry lips, dry flaky skin, parched mouth, cracks on you tongue, premature wrinkles are all examples of dehydration. Please don't go the other way. though. Water is essential, too much water just means a lot of visits to the toilet.

4. Fresh air and sunshine:

Take a deep breath of air. Good, fresh air is the stuff of life. Fill your lungs with it. Many people do not know how to breathe properly. A visit to the seaside or the country may not sound that sexy and exciting as part of a skincare programme but it is nonetheless part of the "holistic" care needed for overall good health. By sunshine, by the way, I mean sensible sunshine.

The cells that make up your skin need the right nutrients for proper development and growth. You can help your skin by using good quality skin care products, but you have to support this from the inside as well. Only in that way can you expect to get good results from proper skin care. Recognize that what happens on the inside, on both a physical and emotional front, truly does show up on the outside. That's because the ageing you see in your skin is biological, not chronological, and can be delayed or possibly even reversed with a holistic, natural approach that includes optimal diet, lifestyle and product choices. The old maxim holds good, even with skin care - garbage in, garbage out!

There are, as well, 3 basic elements in external skin care:

        1. Cleanse and Condition

        2. Hydrate and Tone

        3. Moisturise and Revive.

Cleansing the skin seems obvious and I know, you do know how to use soap - wrong (probably)! This is one certain way to make your skin dry-out quicker. Most soaps remove the natural oils of the skin, change the natural pH levels and do nothing to remove the dead layers of skin, which can block your pores and lead to blackheads. The skin produces oils and acids to help it function, to protect it from loss of excessive moisture and to form a barrier. So please do not use soap or detergents unless it is necessary.

Using a loofah or a gentle exfoliator will remove the dead skin cells and this in turn will promote better blood circulation and help your skin to breath. But beware of the word "scrub".

The next step is to hydrate and tone the skin. When you have removed the dead skin layers by rubbing the skin with a loofah and or a specially formulated cleanser, now it's time to remove the residue, sooth the skin and prepare the skin for getting a good feed of nutrients from the moisturiser.

Preparation of the skin prior to putting on the moisturiser is not dissimilar to preparing a surface about to receive a new coat of paint. You wouldn't just paint over a wall that hasn't been cleaned and prepared for the new paint and good skin care is the same. You first get rid of the old layer of paint, than you give it a primer and finally the top-coat. If you already use a moisturiser, that's a step in the right direction. But, have you looked at the ingredients? Are they natural, or are there numbers and words you don't recognise on the label? If so, then consider that your body absorbs these substances and if they are not useful, (preferably of a natural kind) then the body has to eliminate them. In some cases, the body actually can't eliminate these substances and has to store them. This is a potential problem and could cause health issues down the line. Pure essential oils, or herbal extracts are usually good ingredients to have in your skin care products.

Cosmeceuticals are skin care products designed to go beyond strictly colouring and adorning the skin. These products may improve the functioning of the skin and be helpful in preventing premature aging. Examples are alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid, and beta hydroxy acid such as salicylic acid. These hydroxy acids increase skin exfoliation (the removal of dead skin cells) making ageing skin appear smoother and feel softer.

Some vitamins, such as Vitamin A (Retinol), may improve the appearance of aging skin by making the skin function better, but they may be drying or irritating and must be used appropriately. Sunblocks prevent photo-aging and photo-carcinogenesis (cancer from the sun) and should be the cornerstone of any skin care regime. Conventional wisdom tells women to brace themselves as they age: get ready for your looks to go downhill and your skin to head south.

What is "skin"?

"The skin is the largest organ in the body, comprising about 15% of the body weight. The total skin surface of an adult ranges from 12 to 20 square feet. In terms of chemical composition, the skin is about 70% water, 25% protein and 2% lipids. The remainder includes trace minerals, nucleic acids, glycosoaminoglycans, proteoglycans and numerous other chemicals."

"There are three basic parts to the skin. The outside layer, or epidermis, the middle part, or dermis and the subcaneous layer. The epidermis is the topmost layer of the skin and is the first barrier between you and the outside world. The epidermis consists of three types of cells: keratinocytes, melanocytes and Langerhans cells. Keratinocytes, the cells that make the protien keratin, are the predominant type of cells in the epidermis. The total thinkness of the epidermis is usually about 0.5 - 1 mm. At the lowermost portion of the epidermis are immature, rapidly dividing keratinocytes. As they mature, keratinocytes lose water, flatten out and move upward. Eventually, at the end of their life cylce, they reach the uppermost layer of the epidermis called stratum corneum. Stratum corneum consists mainly of dead keratinocytes, hardened proteins (keratins) and lipids, forming a protective crust. Dead cells from stratum corneum continuously slough off and are replaced by new ones coming from below. The skin completely renews itself every 3 - 5 weeks. Most mild peels work by partly removing the stratum corneum and thus speeding up skin renewal"

Important Notice: Some or all of the quotation mentioned was written collaboratively by visitors to WikiAnswers. You should consult your chosen Healthcare professional to confirm any of the above!

Whoever wrote the above (excellent) answer in the wikipedia neatly sums up a definition of what protects our body and indeed, helps hold us together. It is the first defence against anything the envoirnment chooses to throw at us. The skin also helps in communication, both to others we meet as well as for own our benefit. Hence we blush or feel flushed when embarresed, we sweat when we are hot (or bothered) and our skin tingles if we are afraid. It is indeed a living and communicating organ; it is the ultimate advert for self. It is for these reasons that it is important to keep our skin looking great, if we look good, we feel better; not only for our own benefit but also to help advertise ourselves, even down to the lowest primordial instinct - that of attracting and keeping a mate.

We can find problems with our skin on two levels, chronic problems, which may be defined as problems that develop slowly and last a long time, (ie persistent and ongoing) for example, (as far as the skin is concerned) premature aging, certain types of acne, rosacea and forms of dermatitis. Chronic problems can come about for many reasons, they may be genetic or may be brought on by the way we live and eat, stress, (lifestyle!) amongst other things, can also bring these on. Many chronic conditions will stay with you all your life but nowadays, much can be done to mitigate the problems.

An acute problem, typically starts suddenly and is short lived. Common examples are colds, flu and getting hit by a bus. Some acute illnesses, eg those caused by some viruses, will go away by them selves or with good home care; while others can be cured by antibiotics or other medical treatment. Exampls of acute conditions, are hives (urticaria) certain types of herpes, fungal rashes and shingles These are well outside the scope of skincare and must be treated by your Doctor. It is interesting, though, to note that many of these can be caused by various "triggers" and it is useful to be aware of these. That said, the "trigger" is not always found, so professional advice is required.

Some known triggers include:

Allergies: for example, Food allergies such as allergies to nuts, strawberries, citrus fruit, egg, food additives, spices, chocolate, or shellfish. Sometimes you can develop an allergy to a food even if you have eaten it without any problem many times before. Allergies to insect bites and stings. Allergies to medicines such as penicillin, aspirin, anti-inflammatory or painkillers, etc.

Viral infections: such as a cold or 'flu can trigger a rash in some people. (You 'react' to the virus.) A mild viral infection which causes few other symptoms is probably a common trigger of an rash that develops without an apparent cause.

Skin contact: with 'sensitizers' causes a local area of rash in some people. For example, chemicals, latex, cosmetics, plants, ointments, nettle stings, etc.,

Physical urticaria: This is when a localised rash appears when the the skin is physically stimulated. The most common is called dermographism when a rash develops over areas of skin which are firmly stroked. Sometimes an urticarial rash is caused by heat, cold, emotion, exercise, or strong sunlight.

As you can see, we can really only talk about the chronic issues (though not as bad, perhaps, as this word makes it sound) and how this will affect our skin care programme. How we can work towards maintaining as good a complexion as possible, at the same time being aware that this is not just a matter of covering up flaws in our skin but also of being aware of the problems that are around us (the "free radicals") and how we need to adopt an overall (or "holistic") approach to the care of our whole body - and so our skin.

Part 2 "Ageing Skin and problems"