There’s skin, and then there’s “skincare.” In the most basic sense, skin—the largest organ of the body composed of three layers that include the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis—is the protective covering on the body that prevents germs from damaging internal organs.
In addition, the skin maintains the immune system, regulates body temperature, protects individuals by detecting pain and temperature, and produces Vitamin d when exposed to the sun, which is good for the bones and teeth.1
On the other hand, skincare is what individuals can comprehensively to support skin, whether it be avoiding the sun, drinking eight glasses of water a day, or using natural products. Highlighted below is everything you need to know about skincare as well as tips for achieving the healthiest skin possible.
History of Skincare
As you can imagine, the history of skin care dates back thousands of years. In earlier societies, people had to rely on nature for their skincare, such as through the use of essential oils.
In ancient Egypt, skincare was a status symbol for the wealthy, and it was also a way to protect the skin from the sun. Cleopatra, a ruler in the ancient Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom, used essential oils and bathed in milk to benefit her skin.
The ancient Greeks used a mixture of sand and oil on the skin to protect the skin from the sun but to also give it a natural shine before the Olympic games. The Greeks also used oils to heal stretch marks on the stomachs of pregnant women.
The Romans were known to use hot mineral baths, olive oil, and strawberry leaves to cure acne.
Moving into modern times, but before skin care products were mass produced, skin care recipes were homemade and often passed down through families. Today, however, people have a wide variety of choices for skincare.
In the 20th-century skincare companies were born that focused on skincare, especially facial skincare. These products began to appear in drugstores and department stores. They are traditional methods, and they often come with promises of younger, healthier looking skin. Some modern products have shown to do just that, while others have not. Because of mixed results of commercial skin care products, natural methods, similar to those used in ancient times, are becoming increasingly popular today.2,3
What Is a Skincare Routine?
When you take care of the skin, you extend its health and youthful appearance. You help keep it glowing and healthy rather than dull and lifeless. You also protect it from weather conditions, such as winter dryness or exposure from the sun.
There are three types of skin types: dry, oily, and combination. A successful skincare routine takes into account your skin type. For example, products that are not nourishing will take away much needed moisture from dry skin. A standard skincare routine for the face and neck is highlighted below.
A cleanser specially formulated for the face is used, and for it to be successful it has to work with your skin type. The product is applied either with the hands or with a tool, such as a washcloth or facial brush. Because the face is delicate, care is taken not to scrub too hard.
Toners are designed to restore the skin after cleansing and to soothe the skin. They are often applied with a cotton ball. If any step is to be skipped, applying toner is usually the step.
Moisturizers are used after washing or toning to put moisture back into the skin. They are formulated for the three different skin types. A person can benefit most from a moisturizer when it is applied immediately after cleansing or toning when the skin is not completely dry.
Exfoliation and Serums
Additional methods that some people use are exfoliations and the use of serums. When one exfoliates, they remove dead skin and consequently help increase skin cell turnover. This results in clearer skin and smaller pores. Commercial exfoliates and scrubs can be purchased in a wide variety of places. They are typically used after cleansing or instead of cleansing.
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Serums are also products that some people use. They contain ingredients such as antioxidants that help tighten the skin, reduce redness, and improve the texture of the skin. Serums are used after cleansing and exfoliating and before moisturizers or instead of moisturizers. Serums are especially popular with middle-aged individuals beginning to experience lines and wrinkles.
Although sunlight works to facilitate production of vitamin D, the sun’s ultraviolet light is one of the most damaging things for the skin. Therefore, care must be taken to protect the skin from sunburn as a result of the sun’s harmful rays.
One of the most severe cases of overexposure to the sun is skin cancer, including nonmelanoma and melanoma. Therefore, some conditions related to sun exposure are not very serious, while others can be life-threatening. This is why using sunscreen is so important.4
Many conventional moisturizers contain sunscreen, but if not, most experts recommend adding sunscreen to the skincare routine. Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 with UVA and UVB protection. Wearing sunscreen is recommended for all races.5
What Harms the Skin?
As mentioned previously, the skin is the body’s largest organ. Therefore, keeping your skin healthy is necessary to keep you healthy. Here are some of the top things that harm the skin and subsequently, your health.
Drinking alcohol is a pretty popular activity, whether it be for relaxation, in bars, or at events. However, a 2018 study found that approximately 40 percent of Americans drink too much alcohol.6 In addition, as reported by Harvard Medical School, a study found that alcohol intake increases the risk for all three types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
The body’s natural way of repairing DNA caused by exposure to ultraviolet light is impaired by alcohol consumption. However, it is not entirely clear if it is the actual alcohol that increases the risk or if behaviors associated with alcohol consumption and exposure to the sun are the cause. In any case, limiting the consumption of alcohol can improve skin health and overall health.7
Smoking is associated with heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. In addition, smoking tobacco is one of the worst things you can do to your skin. It robs the skin of oxygen, known as oxidative stress. It also gives the skin an unhealthy color: gray, yellow, or splotchy.
Wrinkles, lines and crow’s feet are common among smokers, including what is known as smoker’s lines, which appear on the top and the bottom of the lips. Eyelids can look baggy and the jawline can sag. The texture of the skin can become dry and coarse. Wounds on the skin do not heal as quickly as for non-smokers.
In addition, a smoker is at higher risk of infections and blood clots. Furthermore, smoking increases the risk for the skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma.8
Dehydration occurs when the body functions on a reduced amount of water. Adequate water intake is essential for the bodies to function, digest food, and eliminate waste properly. If the skin is not receiving enough water, it becomes dry and flaky. Dehydrated skin increases the risk of skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema.9
Another major factor that negatively affects the skin is stress. Persistent stress is a significant problem that affects eight out of 10 Americans.10 There are two varieties of stress: short and long term. The short-term variety, such as the stress that occurs when rushing around during the holidays, is often not destructive to the body.
However, the long-term variety, persistent stress, is. Some chemicals are produced in the body to prepare you for short-term stress, but when those chemicals remain in the body for an extended period, as is the case with long-term stress, that is when the body can be harmed. Excess stress can cause sleep disorders, digestive issues, mood disorders, headaches, and changes to the skin.11
Concerning the skin, what is known as telomere length is an indication of cellular aging. Stress shortens telomere length, consequently aging the skin. Furthermore, with oxidation, the body takes in free radicals to repair cells while surrounding molecules are damaged. If there’s more damage than repair, oxidative stress occurs. Signs that your skin is stressed included dark circles under the eyes, bags under your eyes, wrinkles, acne, and skin rashes.12
Something that many people enjoy is getting a tan. They enjoy the color that their skin builds from the sun’s rays, and many report that it makes them look healthier. However, as indicated by the American Skin Association, there’s nothing good or healthy about a tan.
Skin that is tanned contains cells that have been permanently damaged by the sun. The problem comes down to the invisible ultraviolet B rays (UVB rays) and the invisible ultraviolet A rays (UVA rays).
UVB rays negatively affect the dermis, which can cause sunburn, and the epidermis, which can lead to skin cancer. UVA rays, on the other hand, penetrate the skin deeper than UVB rays and can, therefore, do more damage. In addition to contributing to cancer, they can cause wrinkles, sagging, and facial spider veins.13
Therefore, although a skincare routine can help your skin, avoiding habits that contribute to skin damage is also extremely important. Limit your intake of alcohol, don’t smoke, keep your body hydrated, manage stress levels, and avoid prolonged exposure in the sun.
Common Skin Problems
Although thousands of people are diagnosed and die from skin cancer every year, there are also some common, far less serious, skin problems. Highlighted below is some information about the six most common ones.
When the skin is dehydrated, this leads to dry skin. It is a common symptom that affects people of any age. When a person has dry skin, they experience rough, scaly, or peeling skin. Itchy skin is also a common symptom of dry skin, and sometimes the skin can be so dry that it cracks.
The most common places where dry skin occurs is on the feet (such as the heel), the hands, the arms, and the lower legs. There are many factors that can contribute to dry skin, including cold temperatures, a house that is heated by a furnace where moisture is taken from the air is not replenished with a humidifier, frequent and long hot baths or showers, harsh chemicals in soaps and detergents, specific medication, certain skin conditions such as eczema, aging, smoking, and more.14
Oily skin is the opposite of dry skin. It happens due to the sebaceous glands producing an overabundance of oil. Experts conclude that the diet of a person probably does not play a part in the existence of oily skin.
Instead, it appears that a person’s hormones and genes are the factors that affect skin type.15 Oily skin is more prone to clogging than dry skin, and if it is not cleaned on a regular basis, it can result in clogged skin. When the skin is clogged, that can result in skin conditions such as pimples and acne.
Oily skin can also give a person a greasy appearance and can negatively affect the appearance of facial makeup. Regarding the advantages of oily skin, its natural surface is softer than dry skin and usually does not require the same amount of moisturizer. The aging process of the skin may slow down due to the oil contributing to fewer fine lines and wrinkles. Finally, oily skin is a natural barrier against factors like wind, air pollution, and sun and require less protective shields as a result.16
Acne is a skin condition that is common among teens but that can affect people of all ages. The appearance of acne can negatively impact the skin in ways that make it a socially uncomfortable skin condition for some, especially if the acne is so severe that permanent scarring occurs.
Acne happens when hair follicles get clogged with dead skin cells and oil, causing pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, red bumps, and puss-filled lumps in the most serious cases. It can also happen when there is an excess of oil production, an overabundance of bacteria, or when hormones are irregular. Factors such as stress can worsen the appearance of acne.
Acne often shows up on the face, shoulders, upper back, and chest. It can appear during certain times, such as right before a woman has her menstrual period or be present all the time.
Acne is the kind of condition that can be treated successfully with self-care, but in some cases, the condition requires the help of a medical doctor. Although there is no cure for acne, it can be successfully controlled, and in some cases controlled so that it never appears again.17
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a non-contagious condition marked by various kinds of skin swelling, and there is no known cure for it. The disease falls under multiple categories, such as atopic dermatitis (typical with infants), contact dermatitis, and more.
Eczema typically includes rashes that are dry and itchy. The condition usually appears on the inside of the elbows, hands, feet, behind the knees, and on the face. As reported by the National Eczema Association, over 30 million Americans have the condition.
In addition to being physically uncomfortable, it can also be a socially uncomfortable condition due to its appearance. It is tempting for people with eczema to scratch the itchy rashes, but this is the worst thing an eczema sufferer can do, and scratching just makes the condition worse.
Unlike other kinds of skin conditions, such as acne, the cause of eczema is unknown. However, experts believe it is tied to environmental and genetic factors. It is a long-term condition that can get better over time but can also get worse over time. Side effects of the condition include developing asthma or hay fever.18,19
Another common condition is psoriasis. It affects approximately 7.5 Americans. The disease happens when the life of a skin cell is sped up, creating an overabundance of skin cells. As a result, those extra skin cells turn into red, scaly, itchy patches.
Like acne and eczema, when a person has psoriasis, not only is it physically uncomfortable, but it can be socially uncomfortable due to its appearance on the skin. As with acne and eczema, there is no cure for psoriasis. It typically comes in cycles. A person will experience a psoriasis flare-up that will last for a few weeks or months, and then it will go away.
Sometimes, it comes back, and sometimes it goes into complete remission. The condition occurs in many different varieties such as plaque or nail psoriasis. There are triggers said to be associated with psoriasis which include stress, infections, smoking, alcohol consumption, vitamin D deficiency, and more.
In addition, those with the condition are at a higher risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, obesity, eye conditions, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and more.20,21
Moles are a condition that is very common, and almost every adult has at least one. Moles are so common that they are considered normal in most cases. Moles are pink, tan, or brown spots on the skin that can be flat or raised, and they typically begin to appear when a person is a child.
If an adult experiences new moles or moles that seem to be changing, it’s always good to get them checked out for melanoma. This most severe kind of skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early.22
Natural Approaches to Skincare
In the 21st-century, there’s an increasing emphasis on natural ways to care for the skin. Applying harsh chemicals and other toxic ingredients that are harmful to the skin are falling more and more and more out of favor. Even companies that relied on these chemicals are offering natural alternatives to their standard products, even though many of these alternatives are not as natural as the real thing.
Wayne State University reports that women put approximately up to 200 chemicals on their bodies daily while men put approximately up to 85 chemicals on their bodies daily. The reason these toxins, such as parabens, oxybenzone, talc, and phthalates are bad for the body is that they can seep through the skin and enter the body. Once inside the body, they can negatively impact health, such as by worsening allergies, negatively affecting hormone production, etc.
Many chemicals have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anti-bacterial properties, but many natural ingredients have them too without causing any damage to the body. Furthermore, natural ingredients are much better for the environment.23
Natural Facial Skincare and Cosmetics
Taking the standard skincare routine for the face and neck that was mentioned above, it is possible to take that routine and substitute natural ingredients:
You can cleanse your skin with a mixture of strawberries and honey. Massage the mixture into your face, and then rinse with warm water. 24
Take cucumber juice and add it to a cotton ball. Apply the juice to the face after cleansing.
An avocado and honey mixture applied to the face and neck is a good natural moisturizer for dry skin.
A natural way to exfoliate is with plain coffee grounds. Exfoliate your face and all areas of your body with the grounds. Keep in mind that coffee grounds have the potential to clog your drain, so care should be taken to avoid this.25
Natural cosmetics are not as popular as other kinds of natural skincare, but their popularity is growing due to their plant-based and non-synthetic ingredients. Some brands that are considered natural included Pur, Larenim, Raw Minerals, Weleda, Zia, Korres, Honeybee Gardens, Monave, Jane Iredale, and Glow.26
Caring for the Skin Through Massage
Another natural way to care for the skin is through the use of massage. Massages include pressing, rubbing, or kneading the skin to heal it and reduce pain. They reduce tension, relax muscles, and encourage circulation and blood flow.27
A person can give themselves a massage or visit a massage therapist. These are typically licensed professionals who work in spas, hotels, fitness centers, doctor’s offices, or hospitals.28
Massage for the general body can take many different forms including Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, hot stone massage, reflexology massage, and more. One unique form of massage that benefits the face and that aids in beauty is facial massage.
One of the benefits of a facial massage is it makes the skin look brighter and appear to have fewer wrinkles. It fits in with the goal of facial skincare and cosmetics for many people. Although there is no cure for wrinkles, facial massage has been shown to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. A facial massage will help firm the facial tissues and bring blood to the surface of the facial skin.29, 30
Essential Oils for Skincare
Of the natural ways to take care of the skin, essential oils are one of the methods. When the pure substances of herbs and plants are extracted, these are called essential oils. These oils have been an important part of skincare dating back thousands of years. There are two main ways to benefit from essential oils in skincare:
Dropped Into a Warm Bath
A few drops of essential oil of choice into warm water is a proven way to benefit the skin. The essential oil or blend nourishes the skin, and the added benefit is the ability to breathe in the essential oils as you relax.
Used for Aromatherapy Massage
This is the method that is most commonly used for facial massage and overall body massage. For this, an essential oil, such as lavender, tea tree, rosemary, is mixed with a carrier oil and then applied to the skin.31
Natural oils, called carrier oils, are used to dilute essential oils because essential oils on their own can be irritating to the skin because of their potency. Examples of carrier oils include olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, rosehip seed oil, hazelnut oil, and macadamia nut oil.32
The most popular technique used for facial massage and overall body massage is the Swedish massage method. This is a method created by Pehr Henrik Ling that is designed to release tension, increase circulation, and warm the muscles.
A variety of strokes are used to properly do the technique which includes gliding, kneading, and tapping.33 With a facial massage, the massage therapist combines essential oils, a carrier oil, and the Swedish massage technique to achieve the ultimate goal of rejuvenating the facial tissues and the appearance of the face.
Highlighted below are some of the most popular essential oils and carrier oils to use on the skin to improve its appearance.
Rosehip Seed Carrier Oil
This is a carrier oil that includes a variety of vitamins including vitamin A, E, and C and comes from the rose plant. It’s also filled with essential fatty acids and antioxidants that help with wrinkles and fine lines.
Carrot Seed Essential Oil
If your skin is dry or wrinkled, carrot seed oil improves the appearance. It is also good for brightening the appearance of dull skin.
Lavender Essential Oil
This essential oil is popular and plentiful. Because it’s so well-known, it’s a good essential oil for those just getting started with aromatherapy. This oil comes from the lavender plant and is good for skin that is dry or acne-prone because of its soothing and healing properties.
Pomegranate Seed Essential Oil
When was the last time you bought a pomegranate? Well, its essential oil revives the skin’s outer layer, reversing most damage to that layer. The result is skin that looks more youthful.
Sandalwood Essential Oil
Derived from the sandalwood tree, this essential oil is good for those who experience dry skin and is a great natural alternative to conventional lotions.
Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil
This is another essential oil that contains lots of antioxidants. It comes from the ylang-ylang tree found in locations such as Indonesia. This essential oil helps to repair and rejuvenate the skin.
Cinnamon Essential Oil
This is an essential oil that comes from the cinnamon tree. What is unique about this oil is that it’s good for healing certain skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. In fact, a wide variety of skin rashes can be aided with the use of this essential oil.
Frankincense Essential Oil
This essential oil comes from an African tree. It has healing properties that are good for reducing the appearance of scars and stretch marks. As with other strong essential oils, mixing it with a carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil, is the proper way to apply it to the skin.
Peppermint Essential Oil
This is an essential oil that has a scent that is familiar, particularly around the holidays. Peppermint is actually a hybrid mixture of watermint and spearmint and originated in the Middle East and Europe. Because the oil contains menthol, it’s very soothing for the skin but should always be mixed with a carrier oil due to the strength of the menthol. This essential oil is a great toner and natural antiseptic.
Lemongrass Essential Oil
The perennial lemongrass is found in Asia. This essential oil has detoxifying and regenerative properties that are ideal for skin that needs rejuvenating.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
This is an essential oil that is becoming more and more popular. It’s produced by the Australian tea tree and is being used more and more frequently in spas across the globe. This is a versatile oil that is especially good for people with sensitive skin due to its healing nature. For people who are experiencing acne breakouts, tea tree essential oil can help with the condition and help reduce the spread of the bacteria.34,35
The concept of skin care dates back thousands of years, beginning with natural methods such as essential oils, progressing into conventional methods that incorporate synthetic ingredients, and then moving back into a focus on natural methods as a rejection of synthetic fragrances and other potentially toxic chemicals.
A typical skincare routine, whether conventional or natural, follows basic steps which includes cleansing, toning, moisturizing, exfoliating, applying serums, and using sunscreen. Skincare products can be purchased in drugstores or in department stores, but they can also be made naturally at home. Essential oils and aromatherapy are natural ways that can benefit the skin, including through facial massage. Skincare cosmetics, however, are difficult to make at home, but natural alternatives can be found, especially online, albeit their price tag will generally be higher than conventional cosmetics.
Using skin care products and cosmetics is not enough for healthy skin, however. There must also be an emphasis on aspects like diet, not smoking, keeping the skin hydrated, and avoiding long exposures to the sun.
Skincare is an important part of a person’s lifestyle and can extend the life of one’s skin for years and years. No matter if you choose conventional or natural methods, make sure that you are using the right ingredients for your needs.
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